Lacking the tools for a healthy work-life balance

Isn't it annoying to realize no one educated you on a valuable subject to overcome a life scenario you came across? I recently experienced it when trying to manage my energy levels, particularly at work.

Soon after the pandemic started, Shopify became a remote company. What sounded exciting, mainly because I had seen many people talking about its benefits for years, turned out to come with challenges I was not prepared for.

Shopify is a large company, which means a lot is going on, so it's easy to find myself in many streams of work and feel overwhelmed because of my personality:

  1. I'm a people pleaser. I rarely put a No in my mouth, which is an apparent mistake on my side.

  2. I don't know how to prioritize or delegate well, so work feels like a treadmill.

  3. I get very excited about product ideas, but it turns into frustration quickly when they throw me into never-ending alignment discussions.

The feeling gets worse in the remote setup where there's no physical boundary between the work and your life. I work in the same place where my life happens. As a consequence, work invades life and the other way around.

As I mentioned earlier, I wish I had been given the tools to overcome this, but since I was not, I went ahead and looked for the tools myself. The first one is to say No more often. When something comes my way, I take it on if it's the most impactful thing I could be pouring my time into. If not, I either delegate or let it go. I started using the Eisenhower Matrix for that, and I applied the same methodology to Slack messages, either private or in public channels, and emails. My attention is limited, so I'd better protect it.

To deal with excitement leading to frustration, I'm starting to hold opinions way more weakly. Interestingly this is a Shopify value, so we are aligned. A thought that helps a lot with this is thinking that it's not my company. I meet my responsibilities, do my best job, and share my ideas. Still, I set a limit that I'd better not cross to ensure a healthy long-term relationship with the company. The stance is different in Open Source projects that I maintain because the relationship is different. Those projects become part of my identity.

I'll soon start reading Sink, Foat, or Swim, a book from Tignum, a company whose CTO is a good friend of mine and offers coaching around the issues I'm describing in this post. Here's a fragment of the idea they present in the book:

In the business world, there are Sinkers, Floaters, and Swimmers.

Sinkers are overwhelmed, overworked, overtired, and nearing a crisis or burnout. They keep trying to work harder (rather than smarter), and they are unaware of the physical and mental signs that they are one breath away from going under.

Floaters are too often comfortably numb as they fail to realize that they have untapped potential, but they lack the energy and strategies to make it happen. They are just trying to stay afloat, to make it through today's meetings, this week's deadlines, or this quarter's goals.

But there is a better way – to swim.

I want to stop being a floater and become a swimmer.