⚖️ #18 Thoughts on Work-Life Balance
Physical spaces, symbolic boundaries, newsletters I like, books I've been reading, thought provoking podcasts and stock update
Here we are: February. Is 2021 flying by super fast for anyone else?
We have a new president, outdoor dining has re-opened in SF, COVID hospitalizations are now on the decline, the sun is shining and the stock market is up. I’m cautiously optimistic that more good news will keep coming our way this year.
Before jumping in, I want to welcome the new subscribers. Turns out a lot of people found my stock predictions post and chose to follow along. Thanks for joining!
Some thoughts on work/life balance
I was interviewing a candidate this week who recently graduated from college. She asked me about the work/life balance in our team and I responded with the most honest thing I could think of: I’m not sure anyone has a good work/life balance right now, given the work from home situation.
Back in the summer of 2012, me and my class of 70 first-year investment banking analysts attended an open Q&A panel with a handful of our new colleagues who were a few years ahead of us on the job. I asked if any of them figured out a way to have a good work/life balance and the entire panel started laughing.
Over the following several months, I learned that the lack of work/life balance in finance was driven by the need to literally be at the office for 80 hours per week. You couldn’t have a life outside of work because the office was your life.
Almost nine years later, I’m not feeling a lack of work/life balance as much as a complete blending of my work and life settings. My career is being built in one room and my personal life in the other. I’m feeling like that’s really missing is a variety of physical boundaries.
Physical boundaries allow us to fully transition from one symbolic environment to another. The office is a space for work, the home is a space for family, the gym is a place for exercise, the temple is a place for spirituality, etc.
Our homes have become the singular container for all of these activities. For a lot of us, our smartphones bring work-related communication to us even when we’re on the go. If you use Twitter or LinkedIn (or Clubhouse) you also have career/work related topics coming into your head disguised as consumer social media. The boundaries are blurry.
But there’s some good news: the beauty of the current situation is that each of us has the ability to decide where we want the boundaries. The lack of physical boundaries gives us of us the freedom (and responsibility) to set up our own symbolic boundaries.
Closing the laptop can be a symbol for being done with work for the day.
Making my morning coffee can be a symbol for the workday beginning.
Leaving my phone at home when I go for a dog walk can be a symbol for going into thinking time.
I think it’s all about balance, moderation, and doing whatever feels right. Sometimes I get a lot of excitement from working over the weekend. Sometimes I need the whole weekend off to just take a break from work. Sometimes I enjoy working a bit after dinner and sometimes I like to pick things up the next morning.
In an age where our attention is being manipulated constantly, it’s important to remember: we each have a choice. So let’s not be passengers in own own lives.
Gib Biddle’s “Ask Gib” newsletter, in which he answers questions about product management throughout the week. Gib was our interim head of product at Life360 back in 2014-2015 for a period and I learned a ton from him in that brief time. He continues to add a lot of value to me and other product people on a regular basis. Thanks Gib!
Ken Norton’s Bringing the Donuts, an excellent product management newsletter.
The Skip by Nikhyl Singhal, a strong tech career management newsletter.
Perspectives by Deb Liu, a newsletter from a thoughtful Facebook product leader who is about to join Ancestry as CEO.
I’m listening to Elon Musk biography (published 2015) which has been inspiring gives me a whole new appreciation for what he has accomplished
Rhythm of War (Book 4 of Stormlight Archive) is bringing me back to the fantastic world inside Brandon Sanderson’s head — the guy is a wizard storyteller
Stories I Only Tell My Friends (Rob Lowe’s memoir, narrated by Rob Lowe himself) was a surprisingly good listen full of interesting stories and lessons
Lex Friedman hosted Matthew Johnson, a psychedelics researcher at Johns Hopkins for a wide-ranging discussion over the course of 3.5 hours. I’m very interested in psychedelics and believe that psychedelic-assisted therapy is the key to solving many of our society’s mental health problems. YouTube or Spotify.
Joe Rogan hosted Travis Walton (Spotify), whose personal alien abduction story inspired several documentaries and films. It’s a fascinating episode that continues a string of compelling interviews like this one with Jacques Vallée & James Fox from December, this one with Bob Lazar and this one with Commander David Fravor.
We’re only a month into the year so it’s way too early to determine where my predictions were right and wrong (for reference, at this exact time last year we hadn’t even started talking about COVID as a serious thing that could impact the U.S.). We have the whole year ahead of us for things to unravel.
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