Episode 5 | Boundaries & work-life balance with Mehan Jayasuriya

Episode 5 May 03, 2023 00:30:53
Episode 5 | Boundaries & work-life balance with Mehan Jayasuriya
Remote Culture Club with Alix Dunn
Episode 5 | Boundaries & work-life balance with Mehan Jayasuriya

May 03 2023 | 00:30:53


Show Notes

Boundaries, they’re not just for your in-laws…

In this week’s episode, Alix talks to Mehan Jayasuriya, Senior Program Officer at the Mozilla Foundation, about creating and sticking to boundaries in remote work.

Alix and Mehan dig into the perils and possibilities of working remotely as parents of young children, and Mehan shares practical advice for working across timezones, setting clear expectations with colleagues, and making progress (even when your toddler didn’t sleep last night…).

You can find Mehan and say hello here.


For more, check out our website or follow Alix on Twitter.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:06 Sometimes people feel like they need to be overly performative in their job because otherwise they feel like somebody will not know how hard they're working or how much they're doing, showing up to every meeting, doing the most, always typing in the meeting whether or not you have anything to actually say. Right? And just like always being like, Hey, I'm here, I'm here, I'm here, I'm here. Right? You know, if you're doing your job and you're doing it well, you should actually have the confidence that that's enough. It's enough to just do your job. You don't have to also be like kind of performing it all the time. Speaker 2 00:00:32 Welcome to the Remote Culture Club podcast. On this show, we inspire and equip leaders to build remote culture that works. I'm your host Alex Dunn, and even though I've been leading remote organizations for over 10 years, I'm always learning more. It's really nice to have you here. And without further ado, welcome to the show. Speaker 2 00:00:53 In this episode, I'm talking with Mayhan Jaa Suria, who is a program officer at Mozilla Foundation. He is based on the west coast in the us, which means he has some issues when it comes to making meetings, scheduling his time, juggling his parental responsibilities, while also being a good teammate, working with colleagues around the globe. So we talk about how to set good boundaries, both as an individual and as a team, what it looks like when you're doing a good job, what it looks like when you're doing a not so good job, and specific techniques he uses to block his time effectively, to maintain his boundaries, but also communicate effectively with his team and his collaborators. So without further ado, Mayhan. Speaker 2 00:01:39 Hi everybody, this is Alex. And I'm here with Mayhan Ja at Mozilla Foundation. Um, and today he's gonna talk to us a little bit about, um, the way that he manages sort of things about and enforces boundaries in remote work. It's a topic that's come up a bunch, um, as people try and navigate making themselves available, but not so available that they end up sort of burning out or having horrible home lives. So, Mayhan, do you wanna introduce yourself, sort of starting with the work that you do now, how you come to remote work, that kind of thing? Speaker 1 00:02:08 Sure. Yeah. Thanks for having me, Alex. Happy to be here with you today. My name is Mayhan. I am a senior program officer at the Mozilla Foundation. I've been here for a little over six years now. Um, and I basically run programs that, um, make awards to, uh, folks in the open source community. So over the years I've worked on a, in a variety of d different kind of spaces in the opensource world, um, networking, hardware, software, kind of everything in between. Yeah, I've been remote working for Mozilla for all the time that I've been here, so I'm a little over six years. And then, uh, before that I had a very brief and disastrous remote working experience. Um, where I, um, tried to bring my New York job was me across the country and, uh, tried to work remotely, um, with a team that was all in the office, uh, at a totally different time zone that didn't work out that well. Um, but before that, I was always, um, a hundred percent in the office at every job that I, that I had. So I, I really have not been remote working, um, with any, you know, significant experience beyond what I've done so far with Musil in the last few years. Speaker 2 00:03:08 That's cool. Can you describe a little bit your sort of setup in your remote working life, just so people have a sense of what it looks like? Speaker 1 00:03:16 Yeah. So I live in a house, um, which I share with my wife and, um, two young kids. And at the present moment, I'm in the basement of our house. Um, so this is a, a relatively new thing for me this year. It's also a big upgrade. Um, so we now have a room in our basement that's basically like our, our shared office space. So I have a desk here. My wife has a desk here. Um, so when she works from home, she works at her desk. I worked for my desk previously. I was in the living room of our previous smaller apartment. Um, and that was not as good of a, so this is nice if there's other people home, um, you know, I can always kind of close the door and, and work in here if I need to. And, uh, yeah, I can, I can get some kind of quiet to be able to focus, which is, it's really nice. I highly recommend having a dedicated office space if you're able to swing in. I was not able to swing in for many years. Um, but it's, it's a great thing to have. Speaker 2 00:04:05 I feel like I have been on calls with you and there has been a refrigerator immediately in the background, which I feel like maybe was your last, uh, office setup. Speaker 1 00:04:12 Yeah, there's like a television like three feet behind me, maybe <laugh> like a fridge over here. And yeah, it was, uh, it was a little chaotic. It was a little chaotic. This is much better. Speaker 2 00:04:21 It's amazing too, like what that does to our ability to be present when there's sort of traffic behind us. I mean, I find a, this is, I'm working from an office space that's dedicated, coming from a home office setup this evening, and it really makes a huge difference in terms of the ability to kind of focus, get things done, and then be in a separate zone for sure. So congratulations on your basement. Thank you. Speaker 1 00:04:42 Thank you. Yeah. Speaker 2 00:04:43 So when we talk about boundaries, most people I think immediately go to what happens when we don't have good ones in remote workspace. And I'm wondering if you could reflect just a little bit on what you think poor boundaries brings about and sort of what it looks like to you. And then we'll talk a little bit about what you think good looks like. Yeah, Speaker 1 00:05:00 So I mean, I think, you know, remote work and working in the office are different in so many different ways, right? But I think there's different expectations sometimes around availability, around showing up around, you know, kind of how you, how you show yourself doing the work or how you kind of perform the act of doing the work versus the actual doing of the work, which sometimes could be two different things, right? And I think in the jobs that I had in the past, right? I would go and sit at a desk for eight hours every day and my boss would see me sitting in my chair for eight hours and they'd be like, oh, Mayhan came to work today. Look, there he is sitting in this chair, right? Um, and it didn't matter if I was like, you know, working really hard or like reading Buzzfeed or whatever people do when they have downtime, right? Speaker 1 00:05:37 If I was like physically planted at that desk, it's like, okay, he's here today. And remote work is different, right? I think that sometimes people get stuck in their own head a little bit about how do I like show myself sitting in a chair for eight hours a day? And there's different versions of that. I think they can represent themselves as being unhealthy. I mean, one of them, um, certainly a Mozilla that I feel a lot is, um, you know, we live in a world, and I think a lot of other people do too, where we're communicating across various time zones, right? I mean, you're probably like six hours ahead of me or something like that right now. And so there are meetings 24 hours of the day that you could be going to right to with people all over the world or that you might feel pressure to go to. Speaker 1 00:06:14 Um, and I think sometimes people get caught in that availability trap where they feel like they need to be taking calls from five 30 in the morning until nine o'clock at night. Um, and that's certainly not healthy, right? Um, but we've all been there. I mean, I've had, you know, jobs where I was physically in the office until nine o'clock at night, right? There's, it's not exclusive to remote work, right? There's different versions of that, but I think that's one. I think another one is sometimes people feel, they feel like they need to be overly performative in their job because otherwise they feel like somebody, you know, probably their direct supervisor or something like, will not know how hard they're working or how much they're doing. So like showing up to every meeting, doing the most, always talking in the meeting whether or not you have anything to actually say. Right? It just like always being like, Hey, I'm here, I'm here, I'm here, I'm here. Right. And I think sometimes, I mean, my philosophy about it is actually, you know, if you're doing your job and you're doing it well, you should actually have the confidence that that's enough. Um, and unless you feel pressure right from your direct supervisor or somebody, which you might, you know, it's, it's enough to just do your job. You don't have to also be like kind of performing it all the time. Speaker 2 00:07:13 You've used the word pressure a few times, which makes me wonder sort of the difference between the way that systems, um, reinforce poor boundaries versus the way that individuals kind of allow them to take hold and stay. And I'm wondering if you could reflect a little bit on that when you think about sort of the source of the problem. Not to say it's either the organization, the manager, the team's problem, or the person who's being attempting to sort of perform this, um, availability. So could you start talk a little bit about that sort of where you think some of the responsibility lies and sort of the, um, the, the perpetrators of some of this and how you think about it? Speaker 1 00:07:50 Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, I can only kind of look at this, you know, I can answer this from my own shoes, right? And I think that other people probably feel different kinds of pressure in different ways, but I do think, you know, I'm a person who works from home. I don't leave the house very often, right? Like I kind of, I get stuck in my own head about this stuff a lot. Um, and I'm sure a lot of other people probably do too. And, you know, when you're in the office, right, it's kind of easier to like informally check in with your boss or kind of, you know, you get that high bandwidth connection with them in person, even outside of meetings or even outside of like, work conversations. And so you can kind of be like, oh, like how are we doing Alex? Speaker 1 00:08:22 Oh, okay, we're good, right? And then you might not kind of be always wondering in your head, right, what's my relationship with Alex and, and how does she feel about my quality of work and how much I'm working, how hard I'm working? That kind of stuff. So I think when you only see people in meetings and it's only over video and you don't have any other kind of connection, you never have an opportunity to just like informally kind of chat with somebody or, or kind of just like talk to them about stuff outside of work. Um, it's easy to kind of get in your own head right about like, oh, like do they think I'm doing enough? Do they think I'm working hard enough? And so I think that that's like, for me, that's, I think where a lot of the pressure comes from. Of course, it's not to say that there's no onus on the side of the organization or on the side of the manager to also address that, right? Speaker 1 00:09:00 I think that good managers make it really clear to you, right, that like they don't actually care how many hours you're working, or maybe they don't care if you take the 6:00 AM meeting or they don't care if you take the 9:00 AM 9:00 PM meeting, right? I think a good boss will actually lay out for you, like, these are, this is what success looks like in this role. These are the things that I care about, right? And to me, like a good supervisor is somebody who's basically like, here's the core responsibilities of your job. I want you to execute these responsibilities really well. If you do that. I don't particularly care what hours you work or how many hours you work or, or whatever, right? As long as you're getting these things done and kind of delivering a high quality work product. And so I think clear expectation setting can be a thing to kind of help mitigate, um, those voices in your head, right? But I think it's like, especially for those of us who work from home, it's very easy to just kind of get lost in your own head about this stuff. Speaker 2 00:09:44 Yeah, I think that's a really common challenge of the lack of depth of information in our remote spaces that you're looking for cues and projecting into that lack of information, all the things that could be going on in your head. And I think there's also a, uh, an attempt not to be annoying in remote spaces so you don't wanna nag and ask for more context, is this meeting really that important? Is this meeting really that urgent? That kind of thing. And I feel like, um, that can be really, uh, if managers aren't attentive to the kind of information that provides enough context for people to be able to like meaningfully make choices, um, it can lead to all kinds of sort of, yeah. It's like people psych themselves out <laugh> and I think get really stressed about things that, um, might surprise the people that manage them, that like, they're actually stressed about that. And it's really amazing how you can like kind of spiral <laugh> if you don't get, um, some sense of feedback. Okay. Well that, I mean, you're hinting at I think what good boundaries look like, but do you wanna talk a little bit about what you think it looks like if it's going well in terms of boundary setting? And then I'd love to hear sort of personally how you manage your own boundaries. Yeah, Speaker 1 00:10:49 For sure. And I think maybe I should start by saying I'm also a person who has had bad boundaries in the past around this stuff, right? All of the things that I'm identifying is problematic behaviors or whatever. These are all things that I've done personally, right? And I've had to kind of live and learn with all this stuff. I mean, so rewinding to before, I'm, I've worked at Mozilla, you know, I had a job, um, before I left New York where I was working with people all over the world, right? I had people I was working with in Sydney, I had people I was working with in Singapore, and then I had, you know, tests that I was running that happened after the workday. And so it was actually very normal for me in those days to like wake up, have a meeting, you know, call at six in the morning from my house, take the subway into work, be at work all day, then from six to 9:00 PM I would be like running a test at work, right? Speaker 1 00:11:29 And then at like 10 o'clock or something, I would leave the office and like eat dinner and go home and sleep. And that was actually like a fairly normal day for me when I lived in New York, right? Horrible. But you know, in hindsight right, you're kind of like, oh yeah, that was not healthy at all, but everybody else around me was doing it. Everybody else in the company was kind of doing that stuff, right? And so it kind of, it felt like that was, that was what you needed to do to kind of show that you weren't working hard or to show that you were, you know, putting in as much shepherd as possible. You know, I moved to Portland, uh, six years ago, I guess a little over six years ago, and, you know, so a lot changed for me, um, including starting to work from home. Speaker 1 00:12:02 And so I think that was an opportunity to kind of rethink boundaries and rethink, um, my relationship to work. Um, but even so, you know, the first few years of being here, I, I think I felt a lot of that pressure to like perform my job that I was talking about, right? And to like say yes to everything, volunteer for things, do all the optional things, right? To like really show up and like show that I was like, you know, full of energy and excitement and like, you know, ready to go and ready to do this job. I think the big thing for me, honestly, that changed my perspective on this is having kids, um, because that was really all of a sudden I had anything other than work that required my time and that was like, as important or I would argue more important than work. Speaker 1 00:12:39 Um, and then all of a sudden I had a thing that I needed to balance against work and, you know, the, the skills just hold very different, right? And so I think the, um, you know, the thing that was really hard for me to figure out initially was, um, you know, I, I'm very lucky that I get to work from home. I'm very lucky that I have a flexible schedule. I'm very lucky that like when I was talking about like negative things that, um, you know, supervisors do, I'm very lucky that I have a great supervisor and it's very clear with me that like she does not care what hours I work. She does not care how long I work. Like she knows I'm doing a good job. She wants me to produce a good work product and that's it, right? And just kind of keep the lines of communication open and be in touch. Speaker 1 00:13:13 So that's great. Like, I'm really lucky in that way. Um, my wife works at healthcare. She has to be in the hospital. She works nights and weekends, you know, if she was working from home. So she's working night shift, right? Um, so she doesn't have flexibility. And so once we had a kid, you know, it was really on me to be the person who was like driving the kid to daycare in the morning, picking the kid up from daycare. At the end of the day, you know, you have a kid, Alex, you know, all of this stuff, right? But it's like, you know, if your kid gets sick at school, you gotta drop everything and go pick them up. If there's a covid outbreak, all of a sudden you have no daycare for two weeks, you know, yada yada yada, right? There's so many things that can happen where you just have to make yourself instantly available. Speaker 1 00:13:48 Um, and so I had to kind of really radically rethink my relationship to work in like my boundary setting and, and things like that. So, you know, one of the things that I did was I basically blocked out on my calendar the time that I dropped my son off at school, the time that I picked my son up at the end of the day because I just got so tired of, you know, people would try to schedule with me. They'd always try to schedule for those times. I would have to go back and forth and say, Hey, actually I'm really sorry, but I can't, you know, take a meeting at 7:00 AM or 8:00 AM or whatever. Um, and um, I mean, you know, my oldest son now is three and a half years old. I mean, I still on a weekly basis, right? Have to tell people, I'm sorry, I can't take a call that early. Speaker 1 00:14:21 Um, but it's just, you know, you set a boundary and you just hold it and you reinforce it, right? And I think that it's made it really hard because I've had times where I'm doing work, um, you know, with team members or, um, fellows or people in Africa. I'm not working on a project that's focusing on India like I am kind of, this is the, the downside of it, right? I'm in the position where I'm always forcing other people to get on calls at nine o'clock at night or whatever, which I feel bad about. And I'm, I'm certainly, I'm part of the problem in terms of like bad boundaries. Um, but I also personally, like I don't really have a choice, right? Like, I'm getting my kids ready for school at seven in the morning. I can't really take a meeting at that time and I'm sorry. Speaker 1 00:14:55 And you know, I always try to kind of work with people to figure out another way to, you know, maybe it can be asynchronous, maybe can be an email, maybe we can chat over Slack or something. It doesn't always have to be a synchronous email, especially when the time zones are that far apart. But, you know, I would say that's kind of one of the main things that I've done in terms of boundary setting. Um, yeah, the other thing is, you know, I really, I try to hold like a nine to five workday. Um, and that's really just kind of, um, you know, I'm, you know, my life is kind of dictated now as much by the hours of my daycare as it is by anything else, right? And so that's kind of, those are the hours that I could hold that I could like reasonably say that I'll be on time for something. Speaker 1 00:15:32 Occasionally I'll be pressed to go to an 8:00 AM meeting or an 8:30 AM meeting and like very frequently I'm late for those meetings, right? Because if I'm driving my kids to daycare and I get stuck in traffic all the way back, I'm just not gonna be on time. And so I always try to be clear with people like, you know, if you really want me to get on a call that early, there's either gonna be screaming children in the background or I'm gonna be late. Like those are like, those are your best options, right? But yeah, I also, you know, I feel much less pressure, and maybe this is, comes from like the seniority of having been at Moz for six and a half year, a little over six years. There's longer than I've been any job literally ever. You know, I don't feel like I need to say yes to everything. Speaker 1 00:16:05 I don't feel like I need to show up for all of the optional things. I don't feel like I need to show up for every single meeting. If a meeting is scheduled outside of my working hours, I'm just kind of like, okay, cool, I guess I'm not gonna go to it, you know? And if it's really important, somebody will fill me in on it or somebody will tell me about it later. Um, I don't feel like I always need to be stretching myself to do all of the things. I think Mozilla also is a place where there's so many things you can get involved in. There's so many optional things. There's so many community things you can get involved in. Um, you know, the first two years of working here, I said yes to all of that stuff. And I think I got a really good sense of what all is out there. Um, but I'm just at a stage in life right now where like, you know, I don't really have the time to be able to do that stuff anymore. So, you know, if you're 26 and you don't have kids and you just started an organization, you're trying to meet everybody. You're trying to kind of, you know, build a reputation for yourself in the organization and kind of get to know how everything works. That's a good way of doing things. But I just, for me, it was not sustainable to do that forever. Speaker 2 00:16:57 It's interesting though cuz it kind of means that that period you described where you worked from basically 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM in New York, that that maybe becomes a necessary step for people in that phase of their career, pre-kids, pre reputation, pre-work, pre sort of confidence. And it makes me wonder like, do you think with Covid, with the way that remote work has eaten large parts of sort of knowledge work environments, do you think that that's always gonna be the case? Or do you think that, cuz I agree, like having a kid, there's nothing quite like having a boundary that you can't move teach you that that means there's probably other boundaries that you could set <laugh>. Like, it's like teaches it like literally trains you how to have a boundary because immovable. Um, but it makes me wonder if like, if actually the fact I didn't have nearly as many boundaries when I was younger is a core part of me being able to build a meaningful career. So like do, when you think about age and boundaries, do you think necessarily the younger people are the less likely they are gonna have the privilege and the sort of comfort with boundaries? Or do you think we're kind of moving more towards something different? Speaker 1 00:18:08 I hope it's what you said and that actually this is an opportunity for us to rethink our relationship to work and rethink boundaries. Um, you know, and I hope people who are younger than us actually have a better and healthier way of setting this set. I mean, the thing that you said, do you think that like, you know, working New York hours is like a prerequisite to kind of setting yourself up, self up in your career? I mean, I hope not, right? Because I don't actually think that that's useful. I don't actually think that's healthy. The other thing I'll say is, you know, out of that, you know, whatever, 14 hour workday or something, I mean there, you know, there's hours in that day probably that I was just like reading Twitter or something too, right? Just like wasting time in between meetings, right? Or in between things. Speaker 1 00:18:44 So it's also not an efficient use of tag, right? And I think that it's not that I work less than I did in those days. I think I'm actually much more efficient in and like, in how I used to. I guess that's the other big thing about having kids is, you know, I feel like I used to waste a lot of time. I can't afford to waste time anymore. I don't have time, right? Every minute of my day. Like, I've gotta be doing something, I've gotta be doing a task, right? There's just not time in the day to be reading Twitter or whatever, right? So I'm like, I'm much more focused and directed with my time, but I don't, I don't think I'm actually doing less work per day. Right? I think it's just kind of, it's much more concentrated and it's way more focused. Speaker 1 00:19:18 And I think you can be just as productive that way, right? And so I, I kind of hope young people and, and especially folks who are working from home have figured that out, right? That like, when you're working from home, if you get to set your own schedule, if you get to kind of set your own boundaries, you could figure out how to do your job and do the best version of your job, but to kind of fit it around your life, right? And to kind of sit, here's responsibilities other step I have to do in life and I'm gonna kind of figure out how to, you know, do as many hours of work as I need to do and kind of fit around there. Whereas, you know, when I was in Europe, it was totally the other way around, right? If I needed to eat a meal that had to fit around my work schedule, right? I, like everything in my life was kind of put to the side for work. Um, but I think now, you know, instead of reading Twitter for five minutes, I'll go like, put a load of laundry under something. Right? That's the upside of, of working from home, right? You could kind of, you can be, uh, you know, you can be productive of multiple ways simultaneously, which is kind nice. Speaker 2 00:20:07 Yeah. Be like adult machines. Like I've, I sometimes, like I have three minutes and 10 seconds <laugh> what I won't get to do at this time. Speaker 1 00:20:16 I do that all the time. I'm like, what test can I accomplish in 120 seconds? I had my kitchen cutters like completely lined with post-its of different tests that I could do, right? So anytime I have free time, I go up there and I just, yeah, like a, like I'm going to like a sprint track where I just assign myself a task and I'm like, all right, I'm gonna do this. Speaker 2 00:20:33 I, I ca I call it podo parenting cuz it's true. Like you literally, there just isn't enough time in the day. But this also, um, makes me wonder a little bit about your setup cuz I, so I'm a huge fan of the non-linear workday. Um, so like I work when I want outside of sort of commitments, time, synchronous commitments. I will work when I have energy to work. Um, and I am wondering, I would find it incredibly claustrophobic to know that I was working exactly nine to five, but I presume that it's because of childcare con like reasons that that's your option and that the simplicity and focus of that is actually really rewarding. Cause you're not regularly thinking how can I fit these little pieces in. But how do you feel about that? Um, as like a, I don't know, like a different way of working or is it just something that doesn't work for you either because that's not how you work, or cuz your setup doesn't allow for it, or I don't know, what do you think about that? Speaker 1 00:21:27 I mean, certainly the daycare thing is the factor and it's probably like the biggest factor, right? Like I'm imagining having this conversation with you right now, and it then imagine the same conversation with a three and a half year old and a five month old in the background. My focus to you would be like 1% of my attention, right? So it's like, yeah, it's impossible to get anything done with young kids at home. And so I feel, you know, I, it's, it's kind of, it's not even like pressure, right? Like I feel lucky when I have the space of the day to focus. I'm like, okay, I can actually get stuff done. I can actually, you know, be attentive. I can be present if I'm having a conversation with somebody else, blah, blah, blah. And then when my kid, my kids come home, I can switch a hundred percent and just be attentive and be present with them and not be looking at my phone or answering slack messages or any of that kind of stuff, right? Speaker 1 00:22:06 So I do like having that kind of clean split. I think that's, at least for me, in terms of my quality of attention, I think that's the best way to do it. Um, you know, my day does get kind of split up kind of naturally, I think based on how time zones work. So most of the people on my team are in Europe or in Africa. Most of the folks I work are not in my time zone. I'm on Pacific Time, which is one of the latest times of the day, I think for Mozilla and for the communities that we work with. Uh, and so my morning meeting slots are the hottest commodity, right? It's like that 9:00 AM slot is the one that everybody's trying to get. So my mornings are always gonna be full of meetings. And so that's kind of how my day goes. Speaker 1 00:22:39 You know, once the kids are at daycare, I'll make myself some coffee, sit down and I usually have two or three hours of meetings first thing in the morning. And then after that I usually, unless there's, you know, something else or another meeting or something like that, usually I have my af afternoons like free as kind of focused time. Um, and so if I need to work on a document, if I need to, um, you know, deal with a problem, answer a bunch of emails, um, you know, solve something, you know, prepare for something, whatever, that's usually the time that I'm doing that kind of like focused attention. And so I think it, you know, my day tends to have kind of a natural rhythm to it. Um, that's not really anything that I've designed, but works fairly well for me, right? I kind of, you know, the kids go to school, I sit down, I have a bunch of meetings, you know, by the time those are done, it's usually about lunchtime. Speaker 1 00:23:21 So I'll like go upstairs, make myself lunch, come back down, and then I'm kind of like, all right, like, what, you know, what am I gonna do with this time that I have today? Right? And it's usually two or three hours if I'm lucky, right? What I have this focus time, what can I get done? You know, of course I have days where I have more energy or less energy. Um, I try to, you know, actually similar to my like post-it notes of all the things I need to fix in the house, right? Like I kind of like, I have at all times for work a bunch of different things, right? I need to write some documentation. I need to go and deal with some grant reports. I need to go and do some legal paperwork or whatever it is, right? I'll kind of pick the right size task and right size, not just terms of time, but in terms of the kind of energy that I have. Speaker 1 00:23:58 Um, and you know, I mean as a parent it's really kind of like, how tired am I today? And like what, what do I feel like I can do at this level of tiredness? Like this is, this is gonna sound very weird, I think to people who are not parents. You may understand this, Alex. There's actually like, there's different levels of tiredness and there's different tasks that you can do at different levels of tiredness. And the thing that I found that's really weird is there's actually like, there's levels of tiredness that are optimal for doing certain tasks that are better even than being totally awake for some reason. Like if I'm like writing documentation, it's actually like, it's great if I'm like 30% tired because then I don't have the energy to get distracted. I can just like sit down and focus and like do the thing. And so that's like a weird science, but I kind of worked that out in my head too, right? Kind of like, how much time do I have? What are my deadlines? What are the tasks in front of me? And I just kind of pick one that I think I can kind of knock out or at least like make enough progress on, right? That I can like walk away at the end of the day and feel like I did something that's Speaker 2 00:24:50 Really funny. I feel similarly about like administration. Like I step into a day and if I'm shattered, um, because of a poor night's sleep because of a sick kid or whatever, yeah. I'll just plow through a bunch of the most menial tiny things and I don't have the mental energy to be, to complicate it. Um, so my brain is always complicating everything. Um, and yeah. And it's way more efficient and actually deeply satisfying and you feel like you're moving forward with something and you're not also wasting sort of good brain time on something that doesn't deserve it. Um, so I can very much relate to that, but I hadn't really thought about it until you said that Speaker 1 00:25:28 You have those days, right? Where it's kind of like you'll have a million of those things to do and you keep putting it off, burning up, burning off, and then yeah, for whatever reason you wake up one day and you're just like, today is the day and you just do all of the things faster than you ever imagined you could do them. Such a satisfying feeling. Speaker 2 00:25:43 Yeah. And I think it's because you're not, um, you're, you don't have brain drama cuz you don't have brain energy, so you're just, if you don't Speaker 1 00:25:51 Have a brain <laugh>, you're just Speaker 2 00:25:52 Like robot, robot. And I feel like it does, it works really well. Um, yes, it's satisfying. Cool. Okay. Well I feel like to close, are there other, I really like this idea of locking slots in your calendar for something that you just know you're not gonna be available during that time and also acclimating everyone to that fact by having it consistently as a standing block for something like daycare. You also mentioned that you recognize and navigate the fact that sometimes when you say no to calls, that it pushes the onus on other people on your team to be up at different times. But I'm assuming that you go at that and have those conversations and talk through that with your colleagues. Are there other, um, specific techniques you would recommend to start asserting boundaries and any other sort of closing thoughts? Yeah, Speaker 1 00:26:36 So I do time blocks also, not just for daycare and stuff like that, but for work commitments and like work products as well if there's something that I need to get done, right? So I think that, you know, if you live in a place that has a meeting, heavy, heavy culture, and especially if you live in a place where there's like a culture of openness around the calendar and people feel free to just kind of put stuff on your calendar, you'll sometimes get locked in the cycle where you're like, oh, I really need to do x, y, and Z tests, but like every morning you wake up and your calendar's full, right? So I will actually just block out three hours of time or whatever, right? I was talking about the, that like focus time I have in the afternoons if I have a big thing I need to get off the ground, like I'm launching a new program or I have to review applications or something like that, right? Speaker 1 00:27:13 I'll literally block out those afternoons, you know, two or three days in a week or something like that and I'll, I'll literally write out there like, you know, review m TF applications or um, you know, write call for proposals or whatever it is. And that actually, like, that serves two functions. One is it blocks out my calendar so it doesn't fill out what's beatings. And so, you know, I, I have the time I hold that space to do that work, but it also kinda up holds me mentally accountable in a weird way, right? Because I wake up in the morning, I look at my calendar, I'm like, oh, right, that's the thing that I'm going to do today. And then if I make it through my day and I don't get that thing done, I'm gonna look at the calendar and be like, oh, I said I was gonna do that thing and I didn't do it. Speaker 1 00:27:47 Now I need to move that block to another day and I need to fill up another day with that time. And so it actually, like, it's a good kind of dual purpose way. Like it holds you accountable but it also holds to your team accountable is maybe not the right word for it, but it, like, it, it forces your team to kind of hold that space for you do that task. That's, you know, it's not a sophisticated technique probably, but uh, that's something I use all the time and that's, you know, when you're up against deadlines, it is, you know, there's no way right? If you just have an open calendar to be able to carve out the dedicated time of focus on something like that. So I do that all the time if I have a big project or something I'm working on, Speaker 2 00:28:19 Yeah, I do that too. And I find it actually calms my mind when I'm nervous about something. Like if there's a multiple steps to something big, knowing that I'm gonna get that done on Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 PM and knowing that that's gonna happen and it's gonna build to that next thing. And that like, I don't need to stress until that time arrives <laugh>. Yep. Yep. It's really, and I, cuz I find that actually we've been trained so much with meetings that I think we're used to that performative nature that energizes us and gets us oriented on a particular topic because we have to show up to a conversation. And if you can actually do that for yourself for a task <laugh> Yeah, I, I I think that's a great suggestion and I think people can go overboard with it. Like, I've seen some calendars that I'm like, wait, every minute of every day, you know exactly what you're doing. You're lying to yourself <laugh>. That's just not how that works. Um, but I think it's a really good way of thinking about, um, tackling the open space on your calendar rather than having that be sort of just kind of slipping away in terms of unstructured, um, tasks and things. Speaker 1 00:29:17 Totally. Yeah. You're probably like me. I mean, I usually have a week before something is due, right? I have the like, oh shit moment where I'm like, oh, I haven't done that thing and I'm running outta time. And then I look at the calendar for the next week and I block out time the next week where I'm like, okay, here's my, and it's basically I'm putting together my own plan for how I'm gonna chunk up the work and get it done over the course of the next week and then I can stop worrying about it. Right. And even if I have a calendar full of meetings, the current week that, that I'm in, I could just focus on what I'm doing because I know that I've held the space and reserve the space to do the thing. Right. Whereas if you're not able to do that, you're constantly gonna feel like you're fighting to find the space to work on the thing. And that's, yeah, it's a very stressful way to live. Speaker 2 00:29:54 You also think about it multiple times in a way that isn't productive, um, and doesn't help you step into that space, which I think takes us full circle, which is basically the focus is trying to create boundaries so you can be present in whatever thing you happen to be doing. So sort of being intentional with your time being structured and how you communicate it to yourself, but also other people and being firm when you actually need boundaries that sort of create that structure and space for yourself. Mm-hmm. Speaker 1 00:30:19 <affirmative>. Yeah, I think that's exactly right. Speaker 2 00:30:21 Cool. Okay. Well thanks for coming and talking Speaker 1 00:30:24 A fun conversation. Speaker 2 00:30:25 Yeah, I appreciate it. I'll talk to you soon.

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