The secret thoughts of a woman in tech: What my job taught me about Self-Care

Today is the last day in my end of year vacation. A long 3 weeks holiday that involved hiking, sightseeing, amazing food, new cities & countries but also massages and poolside juices.

The plan for today is to read, write, enjoy the pool and rest. Oh, a balinese massage and flower bath are also planned.

This is so new for me. This whole business of doing nothing, resting and slowing down.

Younger me would be using every single second to do more. Such a fool! But my present self thinks differently.

My present self values our body, wellbeing, wellness and time more. My present self values self-care.

This may surprise you but this is partly due to the nature of my job (and getting bloody old).

My job? I’m a developer advocate.

I love the variety and flexibility I get from my job. As a developer advocate, I could be sitting home writing code (Yay for remote work!), preparing for a talk, writing a tutorial or hopping around the globe speaking in conferences.

My job is awesome. My job is stressful. My job is tiring. My job is really awesome &I love it.

To have an online presence sharing knowledge and trying to help other developers as well as doing public speaking is to expose myself to the good, bad and ugly of the Internet. Luckily for me, it’s been mostly good.

To be out there in front of an audience is a sign of bravery, self-confidence & all until I hid in my hotel room to cry & feel vulnerable & be overwhelmed. ( I may be over-dramatising things. I hid in my room, eat junk food and watch Netflix. That’s what really happens).

It’s stressful. I’ve done about 20 conferences this year, you’d think one get used to it, I get nervous every.single.time.

To add to the mental fatigue, there’s the physical fatigue.

To be able to attend conferences over all the world, I need to fly (until teleportation is a thing). That’s a lot of time spent in airports, train stations, airplanes & trains. I also need to deal with jetlag sometimes and be on top of my traveller game. That’s tiring. Not just mentally tiring but muscle-ache tiring.

All of this made me aware of self-care and the importance of having time to myself to recover and actually be able to do the job I love so much. Because:

  • Broken me is an unproductive me

When it comes to productivity, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. You can spend hours trying to achieve a task but if you are tired, if you can’t think properly, there’s no point.

The more your body and soul get the rest they need, the more productive and efficient you are.

I learnt this lesson the hard way but eventually I learnt.

  • No one wants to deal with unhappy me

Unhappy me is an ugly angry woman. You do not want to deal with unhappy me. I, myself, can’t stand unhappy me.

With the hectic life-style I have (by choice. By all means, I’m not complaining here), it’s easy for me to forget to take care of my health mentally and physically wish could lead to serious problems such as depression and stress.

I learnt that in order to excel in my job, I should come first.

Self care is not just face masks and massages (Although I highly recomment those), it’s a series of techniques and lifestyle changes that will help you looking after yourself.

Here’s how I look after myself:

  • Exercising

I don’t just try to find free time to exercise. If you do hope for free time to exercise, you’ll never have that time.

Instead, I include my exercise into my weekly schedule. I make sure that I have slots on my calendar for the gym.

  • Mental declutter

Nothing is harmful or stressful more than the mental burden. Thinking about tasks, meetings, deadlines, priorities, etc… could be overwhelming.

To keep on top of things, I follow the mental declutter technique. I try to be mentally organised and make space in my brain by religiously using To-do lists, prioritise tasks and tackle them accordingly.

I’m also half way through mastering the art of saying no and yes wisely. It’s important to know when to use these 2 magical words (No Jennifer, I won’t do your job for you. Yes James, I’d like to own that piece of work and take full credit for it).

This is also known as wisely budgeting my fucks.

  • Making time for the people I care about

With all the travel I have to do, maintaining a social life is challenging but I try my best to have one.

I’d usually be sitting in an airport waiting for my home bound when I text friends and family to arrange meeting them.

It’s important to stay connected to the people we love and by all means, disconnect yourself from negative influence.

  • Making time for the activities I care about

There will be always work that needs to be done. There will be always a deadline. And they all can wait.

As someone who works remotely from home, the line between work and my personal life can easily get blurry. So it’s really important to have time for hobbies so my work is not my life. I’m not my job.

Switching off is important.

  • Slowing down

I’m slowly learning how to slow down (good pun, right?) , live in the present moment and disconnect from the hectic digital world from time to time.

I find nature and mindful walks very therapeutic.

  • Eating healthy and drinking water

I try.

 

By all means, you don’t have to do what I do. But know that you should take care of yourself. Be selfish about your wellbeing & wellness.

 

 

 

 

The secret thoughts of a woman in tech: Motivation, productivity & keeping up with all the Beckhams Instagram stories

Previously on The secret thoughts of a woman in tech… 

Earlier this week (3 weeks ago now when I started drafting this post), I posted on my Instagram story ( I luuuuv Instagram. Go ahead and judge me.) how I wake up early (6AM FTW which is way too early by my standards), went to my gym session and did not break any nails while lifting weights. Oh yeah.

A friend pinged me to say how cool I’m (totally agree on that one) and how she’s struggling to find the motivation to wake up early and exercise.

The truth is I don’t just wake up early and go to the gym, in the same way I don’t just eat healthy and drink water or most importantly I don’t just sit in front of my computer and magically am productive. It’s a whole process that I’m applying to try to descipline myself to find the motivation to do all the things I want to do and be productive.

By all means, I’m not one of those self-help gurus (or whatever they are called), I’m just going to share with you some tips and hacks to win at life or simply survive…I guess, based on my own experience.

Chances are my line manager, the boss of my boss and my teammates are reading this, so it’s wise not to mention anything about distraction or my struggle to focus.

First of all, I never pretended to be wise.

Second of all, I’m lucky (until this is the norm for everyone as it should be) to work with an amazing group of humans that values…humans. I don’t have to pretend, I can openly go to my boss and say that I’m struggling to focus, that I can’t find the motivation to do this piece of work or that it’s taking me forever to finish a task. Even better, I get some tips from them on how to deal with it all.

It does happen. To all of us (don’t try to hide, I can see you over there. It’s alright, come join us).

Now, buckle up, things are about to get serious!

Motivation:

I must clarify that there is a difference between not feeling motivated to go to the gym once in a while and not liking your 5 to 9 , 7 days a week job.

I’ve been there, for both the gym & the job.

I found (notice the past tense 😉 )  myself twice in jobs that I hated.

That resulted in me being a very unpleasant person loudly and publicly expressing my hate for the job …in the office. I don’t think I was despressed as rage took over any other kind of feelings but I was definitely unhappy.

My motivation to get up every morning to go to that job was to pay my bills ( I was late most of the days, we had a fairly flexible hours so technically I wasn’t late).

My motivation not to murder anyone on that job was the fact it is illegal and I could go to jail. I do not want to go to jail.

Was that enough motivation for me to stay? No.

In my own experience, unless you’re motivated to do something, you’ll never be able to do it. Maybe you will but as a result, you’ll end up with a done task and a very miserable depressed human being, that’s you.

Doing things without love is not sustainable, eventually something will fall apart.

So here’s my first valuable tip for you :

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Paying the bills is not a good enough motivation to be stuck in a job you hate. Some of you may shout “We have mouths to feed”. I understand but that still doesn’t make it a good motivation.

But hear me out, when I left the job I hated , I didn’t just suddenly leave. I had a plan.

I actually turned that shitty situation into my new motivation to find a new job. Instead of ” This is a shit job but it pays the bills” , my brain was telling me ” This is a shit job that only pays the bills. It’s time for us to look for another job”.

So we did.

Last year I gave a talk entitled Keep Climbing in which I state lessons learnt from Climbing and how to apply them in my professional life as a woman in tech.

The first thing I mentioned was my motivation to start climbing in the first place as I’m scared of heights.

I do climb to beat my fear actually ( I’m still a pretty rubbish climber but who cares? I’m still doing it. I’m actually going climbing tomorrow) .

This is how important having the right motivation is! You can beat your greatest fears for the right motivation. ( I’m also scared of rope bridges but I did cross one in Morrocco because that was the only way to reach the restaurant where we were having lunch…the power of food).

Now, for the gym, in November 2016 I suddenly decided to start exercising. I joined something called BootCamp which is basically a small group of people exercising with a Personal trainer.

As this wasn’t surprinsing enough for myself and everyone who knew me, those bootcamps are early in the morning. They start at 6:45AM which means I have to wake up at 6AM. What’s so unsual about that? I DO NOT WAKE UP EARLY.

Guess what, since November 2016 I’ve been going to my bootcamps 3 days a week. I did miss few sessions because of work or laziness but I did not give up. Why? Because If I ever make it to the age of 60 or 70, I want to be healthy and active.

This is what Sarah Knight call the power of negative thinking in her books.  I imagine a future me out of shape, unable to go hiking and really miserable. That’s the future me I do not want, that’s my motivation to go to the gym.

The positivity of negative thinking. This sounds similar to !False = True , doesn’t it?!

Basically, find what makes your heart beat , it doesn’t have to be the job or the gym but whatever you do or want to do , think why you want to do it? What motivates you? And this will massively help you move to the next step : Doing the thing.

Productivity

I don’t know about you but I had days when I had all the motivation of the world and all these amazing plans and yet couldn’t achieve much.

The first step towards being productive is knowing when you’re not (which shouldn’t be that hard) and trying to fix it.

In the era of social media and increasing mental health issues, it’s easy to get distracted or loosing focus.

You think you’re only spending 5 minutes to check Victoria Beckham latest Instagram photo but she tags David, Brooklyn, Cruz and Romeo and you end up checking all 5 profiles for hours!!

Here’s what I did/am doing in order to be productive and it’s fairly working :

  • Adios notifications : I don’t think it’s FOMO but I really hate notifications. The moment I see or hear one, I have to check it out. I can’t stand having little notifications on my screen. I get emails, slack, facebook, Messenger, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp notifications. That’s simply a lot. Checking all of them is definitely a huge distraction and waste of time. That’s why, I disabled all notifications on my phone. Since then my life is much better. I do still check emails and Slack on my phone but on my own terms, same thing for Instagram.
  • To-do lists, To-do lists, To-do lists: I love those, I always did but I’m applying them more to my daily life after reading Sarah Knight’s book Get Your Shit Together. Every morning, while having my breakfast, I’ll spend half an hour writing down my To-do list.
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I do need to remind myself to floss. Do not judge.
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I asked Sam, the best barista in the entire world, if he wants to be on the blog and that’s the answer 😀

Now that I finished this post, I’m going to treat myself to a short break and checkout the Beckhams on Instagram 😀