I am the mother of two lovely children – a girl of four and a boy of eight years old.
I wake up every day before the sun comes out and my day is structured like a Tetris game. Every day is divided into an uncountable number of pieces, with some pre-set blocks falling minute after minute, but most of them falling unexpectedly with chaos as the only constant variable.
Still, at the end of everyday I have to take stock and make sure I moved our startup to the next level. I ask myself, “how can I guarantee that as a new born company we are working hard, working fast and working smart, but most importantly, working humanly everyday?”
When I started the adventure of creating MyDidimo (Techstars Class 78) I knew I needed a strategy to fit every piece of my day into the correct place due to the complex logistics of my schedule. How would I do this?
What fascinates me about the Tetris game is its simplicity and intuitive way of playing where the magic relies on the way it is played. I theorized that if I could establish a set of clear rules in my everyday life, I would be able to transform my chaotic daily activities into a deterministic set of actions. I would be able to execute my everyday activities faster and react to unpredictable events in an organized way.
Theoretically, I was not going to stress about controlling daily events as I would have a path of action previously designed in my mind. But, that needed logistics, training and a deep self-analysis of how I organize my day.
In June 2016 it all suddenly made sense, thanks to my kids. I told my son we were off to London for four months for Techstars, and it was then that he asked me why I created the company and why we needed to go to London. I tried to keep it simple and told him I won a prize.
Son: “But they will still make you work after winning? Why?”
Me: “I will work because I believe that what we are creating will make a difference in the world.”
As the questions went on, without realizing it, my son was becoming the first champion of our company and the best person with whom to explore and practice how to describe the vision of our company. He trained me for investor meetings with all his rhetorical questions, if he couldn’t understand, no one would!
So for any mom or dad who is juggling a family life with a newly formed startup, I want to share my top 10 tips:
1. Make sure your priorities in life are clear, then you can start balancing correctly. Knowing what things you will not give up makes it much easier.
Personally, I will not give up picking up my kids from school. That is the moment they share their excitement of the day with me and I share some of my own challenges with them. I am amazed by how many times my kids have given me the answer to my own complex problems.
2. Develop techniques to refocus fast. My day is split up in so many different types of encounters and events – some work, some personal – that to maximize my productivity I have created my ‘on hold’ activity pad, a simple piece of paper where I write keywords of my last thoughts and actions before I put an activity on hold.
Thus, getting back to the last action is straightforward. Our brain is a structured labyrinth and I am giving it the path to find my sequence of thoughts.
3. Clear expectations, develop extra patience and always be kind. These apply at work and at home. My kids have taught me how important it is to take the extra time to explain what I’m doing, why I am doing it and the impact my work will have on someone else’s life.
I include my kids in the process of thinking and execution. They remind me of the importance of always keeping up with a promise and that managing expectations is crucial to building lifelong relationships.
4. Get your kids involved – I shared my life dreams with them, I made them a part of it, and I teach them to love what I love. Therefore, when it comes to actually getting things done, I ask for their help, and give them tasks to do.
It can be as simple as asking them for a drawing or helping me study a new speech. They sit by my side and write or draw and sometimes the greatest ideas develop while we are all working together.
5. Describe how you would like to be communicated to. Why should someone have to guess what I like or I dislike or how I would like to be treated? I learned that the faster and clearer I describe what makes me happy or frustrates me to my kids, the easier it becomes for everyone to be in a peaceful environment.
This principle can be applied in our work teams, thus communication becomes fluid, direct and transparent.
6. We are their best example to follow, no errors allowed. My kids, like all children, often request individual and personalized attention. They expect that we make no mistakes. Thus, I learned the power of apologizing and recognizing our errors and how important is to realize that we all make mistakes and always come back from them.
Kids learn to treat others exactly how we treat them. What is amazing is that a hug and true love brings back any smile to their face. So I wonder what if we could replicate these loving behavior into a work environment so they become the core culture values of the company?
7. Always be a dreamer; share this dream. Since I was little I was always concerned about other kids that were not able to go to school, I would spend hours asking my dad why this was the case. A few years ago I realized I could help every child in the world to learn. And that is my dream. I am a dreamer and with my kids I dream even higher, they push my imagination and creativity to the limit. My kids know my dream and share every bit of it.
One day they will have their own dreams, in the meantime I make sure I remember every day why I created MyDidimo, the long term vision that might become a reality when my kids are teenagers.
8. Say goodbye to your own calendar, understand it! When you get a call from the school telling you that your son has cut opened his head and needs to go to the hospital, you drop everything. Being able to act quickly and with clarity by delegating and executing actions becomes key.
It took me a long time to train myself to act like this in both serious and less serious scenarios. But it only works if the people you are surrounded by support and understand your lifestyle. This is all about building a working environment with a high level of trust and empathy between each other.
9. Time is priceless. My lovely daughter used to repeatedly come towards me and ask me to close my laptop and play with her. It took some time until I realized that her childhood would one day be gone, and there was no way I would miss one minute of playing with her.
Once I understood I could not be everywhere at the same time and applied tip 1 (make sure your priorities in life are clear), stress vanishes, I started delegating more, my level of trust towards my team increased and the quality of time I spent with my kids, family, friends and work team improved dramatically.
10. Love is the answer. My children are truly the engine that keeps me going, my source of inspiration and the best advisors to whom I ask for help. When I detect even a tiny sensation of discomfort in them due to a work event, I turn to them to ask them for a hug and suddenly the world smiles to me and the strength to continue building the coolest startup raises to the sky.
“So mom, why did you create a startup?”
As with my children, I have very high expectations for MyDidimo. I created MyDidimo to make a difference in the world and to impact society positively by putting “humanity behind technology.”
One day I hope to apply MyDidimo’s technology to create the biggest children’s knowledge repository, creating a peer-to-peer learning system to share knowledge and understanding, where the protagonist will be ourselves in a virtual world.