Take Your Space

As Head of Product at IdeaScale, I need to collaborate with and serve team members on the East Coast, the West Coast, and in Bangladesh. Together, those work hours equal a full 24 hour day.

Naturally, I want to be as helpful as possible. I feel my developer's pain when they're stuck on projects because no one is awake to discuss requirements. I feel my east coast account managers' frustration when they're trying to help customers with problems and no one is awake to discuss solutions. I feel my sales teams' frustration when they have unanswered questions about how features work and how they factor it into their sales pitch.

Flashback to My Youth..

I had a Nigerian soccer coach from London who'd scream at us at soccer practice. He made us cry because he was a passionate guy who tended to shout when we made mistakes. "Why are you crying?!" he'd say. "Crying doesn't make you better at soccer." The funny thing is, he was right. Eventually we stopped crying, took feedback objectively, and realized we could improve our soccer skills faster if we nixed the crying, listened to feedback, and changed our behavior accordingly. That's how he coached the boys. He insisted that he coach us the same way.

Dave also taught us how to take our space. We'd step in front of people, grab their wrists and pull them off balance to create a protective bubble around the soccer ball so no one could take it away from us. If we took our space, we'd never lose possession, and we'd inevitably win the game (assuming our passes and shots were just as pristine as our dribbling skills).

I haven't played soccer in 6 years but I did work two 12 hour days last week. I worked normal US hours and then stayed up 'till 2am to communicate with my team in Bangladesh. Following my two day bender, I fell asleep mid day and spent two days recovering from sleep deprivation and too much screen time. My brain was foggy, I felt miserable, and my boyfriend reported I looked like a crazy person.

Following my recovery, I came to the realization that I seriously failed at what my soccer coach had trained me to do. I failed at taking my space. If my happiness and creative spirit were a soccer ball, it would have been stolen from right under me.

I needed techniques to create space for myself. Here's what I came up with. I call it, The Startup Survival Guide.

  • Work from home at least once a week to provide more flexibility, quiet time, and brain space
  • If you work 'till 2am, you should wake up late. Work days should be 8 or 9 hours. If those hours are during the day and late at night, you need replace some of those work hours with free hours-even if others are working.
  • Amp up the self care. Sleep 8 hours. Go to yoga. Get a massage (if you can afford it). If you're going to work really long hours and your hours make you disoriented being both during the day and at night, you need to take extra care of yourself to maintain a happy equilibrium. Aggressively veg during your nonworking hours. 

Hold your sleep and personal time sacred just like a soccer ball. It'll make you a better, more dependable worker and it'll prevent a preemptive burn out.