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Kate Matsudaira (GeekWire Photo: Annie Laurie Malarkey)
Kate Matsudaira (GeekWire Photo: Annie Laurie Malarkey)

When an athlete goes down with injury, the mental frustration and stress that comes with being off the field can sometimes outweigh any physical pain.

It’s similar to how Kate Matsudaira felt after she got pregnant 12 weeks ago. The Pop Forms founder and former GeekWire Geek of the Week who “defines herself by her work,” recently shared how much she’s been affected by being pregnant.

“I seriously feel like someone dropped me on my head and now I am an ordinary person (no more 12 hours of pure productivity, now I am lucky if I get 8),” she wrote. “All of my planning, plotting and strategy fell out the window once symptoms started showing.”

In fact, she almost said goodbye to the startup world.

“The thoughts of throwing in the towel and just getting a ‘real job’ seemed so appealing,” wrote Matsudaira, who’s expecting a baby in May. “Being an entrepreneur and responsible for everything is overwhelming.”

But the former vice president of engineering at Decide.com figured out that she “needed to get rigorous about my priorities, and cut out the things that aren’t adding value.”

So Matsudaira made a list of what was important, and what was not, given her situation.

“The key here is that I am doing things that work for me,” she says. “Instead of fighting against my body and my mind, I am listening to it.”

Here are a few things she tried. Whether you’re pregnant or not, these strategies are probably good to keep in mind anyways:

  • Eliminate anything that doesn’t clearly add value: We took a break on publishing the TLN (since it is questionable on the value it actually adds to popforms – which is my main focus anyway).
  • Slow down on serendipity meetings: I started saying no to coffee meetings. All of them. At least for a few months anyway.
  • Rethink your email: I already used an autoresponder to my email letting people know it would take a while to reply, only now it really does take me a long while to reply. I am slower on email and social media than I used to be, but it allows me to use my work time to focus. Email is someone else’s priorities, not my own – so I started treating it that way.
  • Restructure your day: I work well in the morning when I first get up. I can be super productive the first few hours of the morning. I also tend to get a burst of energy after I work out. However, I am super slow after lunch. I started setting up my schedule and meetings to accommodate my new rhythm. This meant blocking out time on my calendar, and letting the people around me know when I need time to work uninterrupted.
  • Enjoy your down time: When I didn’t feel like working I would sit and feel guilty. I would struggle to write a blog post because I thought I should be writing a blog post. I was suffering from a case of the “shoulds.  Now when I am tired, I curl up with my puppies and take a nap. When the ideas aren’t flowing, I get up from my computer and do something else (which has meant a lot more leisure reading and phone conversations with friends).
  • Fuel your body: When I eat well (fruits and vegetables, not candy) I feel better. My mind works better. And it makes sense. Taking the time to think about what you are eating actually does help a lot. Exercise does too. When I don’t feel like working I search for recipes on Pinterest or go to the grocery store to stock up on some healthy ingredients.

Finally, Matsudaira said she has been trying her best to simply let people know what’s going on in her life.

“We are all people,” she writes. “We aren’t resources, or robots, or simple cogs in a machine. People have hiccups.  People need extra time. If you don’t open up though, no one is going to know why you have slowed down – and that isn’t a good thing.”

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