Pocket Rabbits with Eileen Webb
We made it to Episode 2—and hey, so did you! High five! This week, we’re all about TIME: how we make it, how we use it, and how we think about it.
We’re also joined by our very first guest, Eileen Webb, who straight-up blew our minds with her take on making time on your own terms. Seriously, it’s perf. Just listen already.
Why should my work get all of my best brain?
—Eileen Webb, founder of Webmeadow
Here’s what we cover. (Yep, there’s a full transcript below, too!)
First things first: is it time for for lunch yet? We think so (we’ve been thinking about snacks since 10:15). We start out with a segment on reclaiming lunchtime for, well, whatever you want:
- Jenn tells us how she convinced her coworkers that watching Jeopardy at work is healthy. (We’re totally sold.)
- Katel sits down for a fancy meal for one.
- Sara heads out for a midday run, meetings be damned.
Next, NYG sits down with web strategist-slash-farmer Eileen Webb for an interview that’s sure to stick with all of us for quite some time. We talk about:
- How Eileen and her partner went from burnouts in the first dot-com boom to running a bakery to finding their niche doing digital strategy from their home in northern New Hampshire.
- Why morning meetings don’t work for Eileen’s brain, and how she avoids them.
- Why Eileen trades the 9-to-5 for a sunrise hike every Tuesday—and never once feels guilty about it.
- How to stop letting your calendar (and other people’s bullshit requests) run your life.
- Also, pocket bunnies (no, not those kind).
Also in this episode:
- America’s Favorite Quiz Show® (and don’t you dare tell Jenn otherwise)
- The big-ass boats (no seriously there are so many) at the Philly Navy Yard
- New Year’s Liberations from Cate Huston, Ellen Pao, Karolina Szczur, and Erica Joy
- And of course, we profess our undying love for those ’90s Noxzema girl ads
Thanks to our friends The Diaphone for the use of our theme song, Maths, off the album of the same name. ❤
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JENN LUKAS: Today’s show is brought to you by CodePen. CodePen is a place to write and share front-end code. You can try out new technologies, learn new things by forking other projects, and show off your own awesome work. Your profile on CodePen is like your front-end development portfolio. Learn more and create your own Pens at codepen.io. That’s c-o-d-e-p-e-n dot i-o.
JL: Welcome to No, You Go, the show about being ambitious—and sticking together. I’m Jenn Lukas.
KATEL LEDÛ: I’m Katel LeDû.
SARA WACHTER-BOETTCHER: And I’m Sara Wachter-Boettcher.
Today on No, You Go we’re talking about time. How do you make time for things you want to do while keeping all the things you have to do in check? We’ll explore making—and breaking—routines and habits, and pull apart the politics behind how we spend our time.
And we’re really excited because today we’ll be joined by Eileen Webb, who’s here to talk to us about things like sunrise hikes, why she doesn’t book meetings in the mornings—and, oh yeah, running a consulting company from a farm in rural New Hampshire that runs on solar energy.
But first on the agenda: I’d like to take Lunchtime with Jenn Lukas for $500, Alex.
JL: There was one night that we were staying late working on something and my whole joke was, “I gotta get home in time to watch Jeopardy. And someone was like, “oh, you know we could stream it.” We streamed Jeopardy while eating dinner together as a group while we were working hard to finish a project. And it sounds a little silly but it was, like, really awesome to take a moment while we were trying to meet a deadline. But then we stopped to all eat dinner together while watching Jeopardy, which is probably the greatest game show of all time. And I don’t say that lightly, because I’m like really into The Price is Right.
So it just became a little bit known about how much I like Jeopardy at work. And we would talk a lot about it. And that got other people—other big Jeopardy fans would come out of the woodwork and start telling me about how much they loved Jeopardy. The Jeopardy thing just sort of continued. Some of us would come in the next day and be like, oh, did you see Jeopardy last night? And we would talk about Jeopardy. Someone made me an Alex Trebek Slack icon, you know, the usual.
SWB: What do you call a Jeopardy—are you, like, a Jeop-head? Like what do you call that?
JL: I do not care for that!
KL: Did you all end up playing that first night? Were you, like, playing along?
JL: Yeah we are all for the yell out the answers. There’s no, like, “don’t say the answers.” And no one says “what is.” Actually, someone says “what is” now, but to be fair, we have a new coworker at work, and he was on College Jeopardy.
JL: Yeah, legit. Anyway so this kept going. And then like once the weather turned cold, we would—when it comes down to lunchtime, we would eat lunch outside a lot. We have a really great outdoor setup down at our campus—and, oh, I hate the word campus—laughs—down at our workspace. Anyway, once the weather got cold, we still wanted to do things together, but it got a little weird because you don’t always want to eat in the cafeteria, so sometimes people bring lunch back to their desk. And we actually just renovated our office space, and we have this great pod setup.
So we started doing Jeopardy lunch where we would just pull it up on the TV. And then people would start hearing the theme song, and they’d be like, “You guys are watching Jeopardy?” And we’d be like, “Yeah, we’re watching Jeopardy.”
KL: Get on in here!
JL: Right? Exactly. So it just started being a thing. Like, “Hey, are we going to watch Jeopardy today?” And it was like, “Yeah, we’re all going to grab lunch now. So we’d go grab lunch together, bring it back, and now we watch Jeopardy. And we have a little Slack channel, so we can let people know when it’s starting. Though, we have a very open building, so it’s pretty obvious when Jeopardy is starting.
SWB: How many people come and gather and watch Jeopardy at lunch now?
JL: I’d say it’s anywhere between like 5 and 10, but a variety.
KL: That’s a good group.
JL: So like, there’s a rotating group of I’d say 15 or 20 people.
SWB: When you started doing this, was it ever difficult to feel like this was a good use of your time, or feel like you should be back at your desk instead of taking the time away to watch the show?
JL: Yeah, totally. And not to mention, our desks are right there. You can see it. In fact, someone made a quote-unquote joke one time that was like… I was like, “Hey, wanna watch Jeopardy?” and they were like, “No, I have work to do.” And I was like, “Yeah, but this is lunch!”
KL: Yeah, like, remember that?
JL: You know, they have these amazing studies where, like, you can only focus on things for such a length of time. There’s this interesting thing, it’s every 10 minutes that you have to stop what you’re doing for a minute to digest what you’ve done and get back at what you’re doing.
So we’re talking about four hours at this point. And I think at that point it’s really important to stop for a minute, take a break, eat lunch, watch a Jeopardy or whatever your thing is, and then get back to what you’re doing. And I think you start fresh. I think that’s how you avoid daily burnout.
SWB: Yeah, you know when you were talking about Jeopardy lunch, I think a lot about some of the pressures that I’ve seen in offices around constantly looking like you’re busy, or looking like you’re working. I’ve realized that much of that is a show, that people who—you know, you feel pressure to constantly look like you’re working, so you eat lunch at your desk. People who do that, they’re not actually more productive, and they’re probably more miserable, than if you just took a real break and sat your ass down somewhere and did something that was not work and was not intended to look like work and was not pretending to be work.
JL: Yes. Ugh, yes. [Laughs] It’s funny, they have all these browser extensions to stop you from looking at certain sites while you work. And it’s so much easier to do that if you are focused, and then you take that official break.
SWB: I think a lot about the conversations we have about time, and how we get really focused on making sure you carve out time to do big things. People will write about how, you know, “Oh, I wrote my book by sitting down every morning between 6 and 8am and writing 1500 words for two months, and that’s how I wrote this book.” That seems like a miserable way to write a book to me, personally, but I think that moreover, so many of those conversations are just about how do we do big things. But what we’re talking about here is much more around how do we make time for things that seem small, but have a much greater impact on our wellness and on our psyche and on our ability to have boundaries.
JL: Down where I work, we work at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia, which is in South-South Philly, you can’t go any further, it’s surrounded by the river. There are some really neat areas to walk in. I know people who will just walk down by the river and look at the old ships during lunch break, too. And so, there’s all sorts of like—you really take a lunch. Eat your lunch, get some air, and do something that clears your mind to give you a good second half of the day.
SWB: Katel, what do you do for lunch?
KL: Oh, gosh, well, sometimes, I do have to admit, sometimes I will eat something very hurriedly over the sink so I don’t get any dishes dirty. It’s very efficient, and it’s very sad.
I was actually just thinking, one of my absolute favorite things is when I am traveling whether it’s for work, or I am out somewhere and I just happen to be on my own, sometimes i will go and just have a really fancy lunch by myself somewhere, and I’ll just get something extravagant, just because I can. Or something that’s like, oh I should save that for dinner, or whatever. And sometimes for me, just having that, even if it’s not a two-hour thing, it’s really nice to kind of like, sit with yourself.
SWB: I don’t love going out to lunch most of the time. Like Katel said, I love going out to a fancy lunch every now and again, but for the most part, I prefer to eat home foods for lunch. I like to make a sandwich or assemble leftovers or put together a salad, and that’s fine. But what I’ve found is really important for me is to get out during the middle of the day, and I find that that’s my favorite time to go to the gym or go for a run. Something I have been prioritizing more and more is making sure that that happens, and that happens before it’s super late in the day.
Because I work from home, and because I tend to have a fair amount of autonomy over my schedule—I mean, I have meetings and things, but they’re meetings that I agreed to set—I can kind of, you know, always fit it in where I want, in theory. But time slips away so easily. So it’s like, you have a couple meetings, you do a little work. All of a sudden you’re really hungry, so you eat something. Well, can’t go running right after you eat something. So now I get back involved in some work and some meetings, and suddenly it’s 5pm. And while I can still go for a run then, what I have found for myself is that making sure I get the time to go out sometime more in the middle of the day, I am doing something that is totally distinct from work, and that forces my brain out of the work zone, and I end up having an overall better day, a more pleasant day. And so I really have been trying to prioritize that, and prioritize it on top of things that seem more important in the short term, but I’ve realized in the long run aren’t.
KL: That’s one of the things I’ve struggled with the most not working in like an office or a structured environment. Because my time is my own—and that’s really great, and I am very grateful for that—I also don’t have any accountability to anyone to be like, okay, I gotta go take a break, and this is going to help me be more productive in the long run.
I don’t know, I am just thinking back to when I was starting out in my career, and maybe I didn’t have as much time or flexibility, or didn’t feel quite as much like I could take a break, I think, like, conversely, removing myself from the office and actually like—even if I wasn’t going out and like buying a nice meal—I would just go eat lunch somewhere else so I would feel like, okay, I wasn’t sitting at my desk and I wasn’t being judged, but I am taking time for myself.
JL: Yeah, that’s so important. I can only imagine. I mean I luckily sometimes have someone who sits next to me and says, “hey, you gonna go get lunch?”
KL: Yeah, it’s like, hey, are you just going to sit there all day?
JL: You need a lunch app that rings, that’s like “hey!”
SWB: Well you know, this whole conversation about reclaiming lunchtime and taking time for yourself, it makes me extremely excited to introduce our guest for today. Katel and I had the chance to sit down with Eileen Webb.
Eileen is somebody I’ve known for years, and she’s always the person I turn to when I want someone to give me some good advice and some thoughtful ideas about how to look at my time differently, and how to make sure that I’m creating space in my life and habits in my life that are going to give me some sustenance and some perspective and not burn me out.
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Interview: Eileen Webb
SWB: I’m excited to introduce all of you to Eileen Webb. Eileen is a friend of mine, and she’s also the director of strategy and livestock—no, seriously, livestock—at Webmeadow, a solar-powered web consulting company in New Hampshire. When she’s not tending her chickens or Instagramming her bunnies, she’s helping progressive organizations with their digital and content strategy, giving talks at lots of different tech conferences, and she’s teaching workshops (sometimes even with me!).
Eileen, welcome to No, You Go.
EW: Hello Sara, hello Katel.
SWB: I am so happy we could interview you nice and early, because I feel like you have so much insight into making a working life work for you, and getting comfortable with the idea of that not looking like everybody else’s, that I think people are going to really love.
EW: My life is definitely not looking like other people’s.
SWB: Yeah, so I would love to start out talking about that. I know that you live in northern New Hampshire, you don’t live where a lot of us would imagine an ambitious tech professional would live. Can you tell us a bit about what your day to day looks like?
EW: Sure I live on a small farm. And so a lot of my day to day actually revolves around animals and livestock and like, in the right season, vegetables and growing things. But right now, the depths of winter, so it mostly involves bringing thawed water to animals in the cold temperatures. A lot of my day honestly is animal focused. And then I come inside where it is warm and I sit at my computer talk to clients all day. Because of the kind of work that I do, I do a lot of work that is people-focused. I work with a lot of teams and I work with teams to figure out how they are going to do things with their teams moving forward, and sort of how to change their internal processes. And so I spend some time making documents and working in spreadsheets and looking at websites, a lot of time talking with teams and talking with people about how to make their workdays better.
SWB: So how did you end up building that kind of working life? What led you to have a web consulting company that is also on a small farm in northern New Hampshire?
EW: My partner and I both worked in Silicon Valley in the ___ era, so in the first dot-com boom. And it was very, I don’t know, dot-commy? It was very busy, and long hours, and, you know, working for sort of Wall Street bros.
EW: Yeah, I know. Wall Street bros. Yay. When we left that, we—so, my mom grew up in northern New Hampshire, so we actually moved to my great-grandparents’ farmhouse, which was still in my family. And for a while we ran a bakery, because we didn’t want to do computer stuff anymore. But there comes a point when you can only make so much money off of baking bread, and if you want to make more money, you have to just like literally scale up and bake twice as much bread. Or you can build someone a website and get paid so much more money than baking some bread. So we went back to doing website stuff. And I have a background in backend development, so I did a lot of server-side stuff and sysadmin kinds of things, and like programming of content management systems. And my partner is a front-end developer, so he would do the CSS and the HTML and the sort of performance-dev stuff. So we built lots and lots of websites for people. And then because I don’t like working that much—
SWB: Oh, we’re going to dig into that a bit further in a minute.
EW: I don’t like doing work that people won’t use, and so it got to a point where, when people would ask me, “Oh, will you build me a blog section on this site?” I’d be like, “Why? Prove to me that you need it. Prove to me that you have the internal capacity to fill a blog on a regular basis.” And sort of that type of attitude ended up spilling over into full-time strategic work.
I started out doing strategic work because I didn’t want to build things that people weren’t going to use, and then even when I graduated to the point of having other people build the thing, I still really like asking all the questions: what do you need? Why do you think you need it? How can we demonstrate that this is true or not true? And so I ended up being a strategist all the time. And because I’m self-scheduled, I was also able to weave in all this animal stuff and all this lifestyle stuff, like living out in the woods and going hiking and all that kind of stuff.
SWB: Yeah, tell us about that. Tell us about your going hiking.
EW: I want to be careful because when I say hiking, a lot of people really picture, like, backpacking. And I am, if nothing, just the worst pack mule in the entire world. I hate wearing backpacks. I hate carrying things because it’s a lot of work. And so when I say hiking, it’s more like walking, it just happens to be that I live in the woods in the mountains. So it’s walking, but in trees [laughter]. So I do a lot of walking and hiking.
My partner and I, we take off every Tuesday morning, and we have for more than a decade at this point. We take every Tuesday morning and we go out into the world. This time of year we go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Other times of the year we go kayaking or we mostly do walking, because it’s obviously the easiest thing in all seasons. And it’s a really important piece of our physical self-care, and also our mental self-care, in giving ourselves space to work with our clients, and to give ourselves to someone else for so much of our work we. It’s a little bit of time we take back for ourselves.
KL: That’s so cool. I just gotta say that.
SWB: Yeah, I love this. And it’s one of the reasons that I really wanted to talk with you. Not just because of the hiking, but the concept behind it of taking that time consistently and prioritizing it. I think I’ve talked with you about this before, where I’m like, okay, I would like to do more of that, and figure out, how do I systematize that into my schedule, because I don’t think I give myself enough of that. And so I am really curious, how did you and your partner make that a priority, and what are the habits or routines that you have that enable you to keep that time protected?
EW: I am a huge huge fan of…I don’t remember if it’s called time-blocking or time-boxing. That’s how you can tell what a big fan I am of it.
If I block stuff off on my calendar…like, my calendar, if I click over to my calendar right now, On Tuesday morning, it just has a big block of time, that is a recurring block of time every week, that says “Tuesday Adventure.” And so when I am going to schedule things, when I am looking at when people want to have calls and things like that, it is already blocked off. And like, even though it is just blocked by me, right, it’s not like there’s an invitation with lots of other people on it, literally having that visual block in my calendar graphics really helps me remember that that is what I am supposed to be doing on Tuesday mornings. I do that with all my calendar stuff.
My Thursday mornings are blocked off for what I call “work selfies,” which right now is usually a writing project, but sometimes is like taking a class in git, or whatever random thing I want to do. And I like to block things off. I usually try to keep my mornings free for intense brain work, and then my afternoons are calls and meetings, just because that’s how my brain works best. So like, building the structure in is really important for me.
I have this friend, Krista Scott Dixon, she’s like a personal trainer and nutrition coach and stuff. And she talks about how willpower is what we use to not punch our boss and to not pull our pants down in the middle of the supermarket, and that willpower is an overtaxed resource. You cannot depend on willpower to do things like make good food choices and decide to go to the gym, because your willpower is just, like, out most times of your day. And so instead of relying on willpower to remember to do those things, it’s all about relying on structure, and setting up structures that make it so that you’d have to have willpower to overcome the structure. So you set up the structure in a time when you’re calm and making good prioritized decisions, and you sort of build the shape of a day and the shape of a week that supports whatever your goals are.
SWB: So I need to sit down, have a protein-laden snack, take a deep breath, light a candle, and then structure my day or my week.
KL: I love that.
EW: This works for me because of the way my brain works. I am really good at following structures I set up for myself. I don’t get tempted away. Just sort of awareness of the stuff is the most important thing for me—awareness of, like, of this is what this timeblock is for is enough for me to be like, well, I guess past me said this is what Tuesdays are for.
Obviously that wouldn’t work for everyone. But for me, just setting up the structure makes it pretty easy to stick with it.
SWB: It kinda seems like there’s a certain faith in yourself you have to have to make that work, right? You’re trusting that past you made a good choice and not a bad choice, and not second-guessing that.
KL: I think it’s also, like, just feeling accountable to something, and if that’s a framework, I feel like that makes so much sense. I’m a really visual person, too, and I feel like looking at a calendar that has blocks reserved for things that I’m doing, seems like a no-brainer. When I went from regular office job to being solo and working remotely, that went away. And I feel like I need to re-institute some of that.
SWB: You know there are people who talk about their calendars as being basically slots to be filled. Their calendar will literally have meeting after meeting stacked up on it, and it’ll have one 30-minute block at 12:30 and somebody will come book that. And that mode that people get into, or that their corporate culture almost forces them into, or at a minimum sort of encourages, is one that’s very much, you’re in a reactive mode all of the time. It’s like your calendar is a thing being done to you. And then there’s those people who treat their calendar as more like something that they have ownership of, and they create slots for meetings and they say, okay, this is when I’m available to meet. It’s a more proactive way of looking at it— of saying, I need to reserve parts of my day for things that are not just requests of me, but are the priorities that I set up for myself. I’m the best judge of my own priorities; I can’t have 7,000 people making requests of me.
EW: I think there’s also something around the idea that—I think that we all are pretty aware that we work differently at different times of day. Like, I know that for myself, morning time is when I can do deep brain work. It’s when I can do synthesis, and analysis, and sort of like, deep focus. Where, anything after lunch is like, I can still do work, but I can’t write essays—I’m good for meetings. I’m real good at scheduling calls in the afternoon. But I can’t do deep, intense, sort of, focussed work, because it’s just not how my brain chemistry works. And so if you know that about yourself and if you have been working, you know, long enough that you recognize those patterns in yourself and you pay attention to them—making sure you use the right parts of the day, doing the right kinds of things. Sometimes people will ask me to do meeting in the morning and every once in a while, I’ll say yes, but I’m really reluctant to. Because I know that I could do meetings in the afternoons and that would be great, but if I do a meeting in the morning, I’ve basically lost my morning for doing focused work.
SWB: That’s something I really wanted to ask a little more about. You said that blocking off time is often enough for you and that’s enough of a reminder to yourself. But I’m curious: when you get those requests and when they’re from someone who’s insistent that they don’t have any other time or it seems important—how do you push back against that or how do you evaluate those things and make a decision about whether you’re going to, you know, sacrifice the schedule that you were going to have for something—or that you’re not going to? How do you process that and make sure that you don’t end up consistently setting the time aside and then not giving yourself that time?
EW: So I think a lot of that comes back to the idea of sort of having faith in yourself. And I am so fortunate as a consultant to be able to control my own time and other people can’t see my calendar. So if I say I’m not available before Tuesday at 1:00 PM, no one has any reason—I mean now, if they listen to this podcast, great, now they know!
EW: But, no one has any reason to question my calendar, right? Like, they want to meet with me and I will give them some number of times. You know, I’ll say I’m available this chunk of time and this chunk of time. And so that’s one thing—is literally being in control of my own calendar and believing that I have the right to manage my own time. And the other piece of this for me, is that mornings are when I do my best work. And I was telling a friend about this a couple months back, and she said, “Well but you go out hiking on Tuesday mornings. Have tried doing your hiking in the afternoon instead?” And I just had like, an off-the-cuff response of, “Why should my work get all of my best brain?”
EW: It was what my dad would call like, a throwaway comment, but I started thinking about it after I had said it, and realized that’s actually core to the way I manage my time. If you wait until you’re running on fumes before you do any sort of self care, the kinds of self care you can do are super limited. If you wait until a Friday night for the first time for you to like, take time to let your brain rest, pretty much all you’re going to be able to do is sit on the couch and watch Netflix.
SWB: You don’t know my life!
EW: Sitting on the couch and watching Netflix is a glorious joy that we should all partake in as much as we can. But if that’s the only thing you can do, it’s sort of not giving yourself a full range of nutrition of what it is your body needs, and your brain needs, to sort of heal and take care of itself—and keep you in your best prime. So I think a lot about—I mean I used to think about this a lot and now it’s super second-nature, I’ve just ingrained it. That, I’ve set up this schedule to make it so that I am able to do my job. To make it so that I am able to work with clients well, and I am able to take on contracts and sort of manage these hairy people problems. And just sort of deal with everything that running a business entails. If I shortchange the structure that I set up to keep myself safe and healthy, I’m limiting my sustainability as a person with a career.
SWB: And you know, I know everybody has different capacities, and everybody has different blends of types of work—and amount of work versus other stuff going on in their lives—that’s sort of an optimal blend for them. But I love this idea that, I think is true for everybody—there is a way of doing work that is sustainable and that is giving you energy. And there is a way of working that is just chew right through you. And, for me, I know it’s been hard to give myself the gift of setting some of those limits because I feel both kind of a constant drive professionally—but also I guess I just really love doing stuff. I’ve realized something about myself. I used to think that to have work down time, what I should be doing is “relaxing.” And what I realized is that I don’t actually enjoy relaxing. Like, I like a spa day every now and again, for sure. But I do not like to hang out all day on a weekend day and like, binge watch a show. I don’t enjoy that at all—I hate it. And for me, I need to do non-work things—like you mentioned going hiking. I need to be doing something active, whether that’s intellectually active or physically active, I need to be doing something active in order to feel like I’m having an enjoyable and sort of, satisfying time. But that I need to give myself over to those activities and not let work bleed into them.
I have a big habit of doing the like, work-cation, where I go somewhere for a conference or something and then I tack on a little bit of vacation time. And that’s fine, because I get to see new places that way, and it’s amazing. It’s an incredible thing I’ve been able to do. But I cannot confuse that with an actual vacation, where I went to a place with the intention of not working.
KL: Right, and exploring it and seeing new things and actually taking it in, instead of being like, I have this break, where I can go and take a twenty minute walk and maybe see something while I’m trying to…
SWB: Or even taking a day or two at the end of a business trip is still hard, you know. I think something you said, Eileen, that i’m going to be thinking about for a long time, is why should work get the benefit of all of my best brain time.
KL I love that.
SWB: So like, being able to go on a trip and saying, okay, I’m only going on this trip for personal enrichment, so I’m going to give my best brain time to enjoying being in this place. I’m not going to use it all up at the conference before I get to see anything. I really love that concept and I think I’m going to be thinking about that for a while.
You have this schedule that’s really closely intertwined with your partner’s schedule. Where you take these hikes together, and you used to work on a lot of projects together. But he’s recently been working in more of a full time capacity versus working directly with you on projects, right?
SWB: How has that shift gone?
EW: It has been a really interesting shift. One thing is like, some of the things we just literally time-shifted. Like, we used to do Tuesday morning hikes that ended around lunch time. And now we do Tuesday mornings that end at like, 10:00am. So he’s not starting significantly later than he would otherwise. It means we have to get up earlier and leave the house earlier. And this time of year, the sun doesn’t even rise until like 7:30 or something. But I’ve always wanted to do sunrise hikes, and I don’t—I am not good at getting up early in the morning, it is not one of my strong points. And so I’ve never done sunrise hikes because I’m just too sleepy for that. And so now, we actually sort of have a need to do them because this is where they fit in the day. And so that is sort of a fun thing. Some of the stuff is the same but in shifting it, we found new places to explore.
It’s a little bit like—it makes me think of design constraints are what make artists sort of have their most interesting insights and creative bursts. Because there are like little constraints to work within. So now some of the scheduling constraints have made us find—like we found some more trails that are closer to home.
Because we live in the mountains, which is great, and there are trails everywhere. But it usually takes us a good solid thirty or forty minutes of driving to get to a trailhead. And if you only have two and a half hours total, like, that’s a lot of time eaten up driving. So we’ve finding a lot of more local trails. And these are not really marked trails. They’re not in guide books, right? They’re much more like a trail across someone’s land that is posted that people can walk here and that’s safe and fine and legal and everything. But you have to sort of search them out. So it’s been fun; it’s been a new set of explorations.
One of the reasons that both he and I pay attention to this stuff a lot, is that we both he have chronic health conditions that preclude us from overworking. You were saying earlier, like, “How do you make sure that you respect the time that you set aside for yourself?” And a great way to do that is if your body just shuts down if you stop respecting that time. That will learn you up really quickly. So both of us are in a position if we do do too much work, and if we do over-stress ourselves, our bodies will just react very strongly and in ways that are not pleasant. And so even with him doing more regular work and more sort of full time work, we are finding ways to make sure that we’re preserving what keeps us healthy.
SWB: You know, I think about the number of people I know who are managing a chronic condition and it’s a lot. But I also think that all of us are managing health in general and that’s probably something that we all need to be better keeping in mind. Regardless of whether we have a specific diagnosis or not. We are fragile little human people, and, right?
KL: Yeah I think we’re all dealing with just, the state of things, especially in the last year, eighteen months.
SWB: Oh boy, are we!
KL: And I feel like you don’t think of that as a condition or a thing you’d need to pay attention to or factor into how you plan your days or how you work or how you spend time with people, but it absolutely is. And I think just your point about being aware is just such a good one.
EW: There’s a phrase I really love in the disability rights community that people who are not currently disabled are are just temporarily able-bodied. For some people it’s very temporary. And for some people it’s like, maybe you’re getting a month of able-bodiedness, and some people are going to have years of able-bodiedness. But for the most part, like, it’s a pretty universal thing that at some point you will not be able-bodies anymore. So making the most of preserving that while you can and doing what you can to make sure that you’re not contributing to your own pain or your own exhaustion, is really important.
KL: Yeah, wow.
SWB: Yeah. This stuff is just gonna be so valuable for people to hear and get their—to get a little tiny Eileen in their head, whenever they’re looking at their calendar and making decisions.
KL: [Laughs] Are you doing career, life coaching?
EW: Yeah, I train the rabbits. One rabbit per person—it’s a pocket rabbit for like, a good two months until it becomes not a pocket rabbit anymore.
KL: Yes! Let’s do that!
SWB: Katel would really like a pocket rabbit.
KL: I kind of want to go back to the beginning. Something that you were saying about not wanting to build things for people that they didn’t use. To me, when you started also talking about how you got to be living on this farm and how that was a family thing—I think just the idea of farm life, you know, whatever you might imagine that to be. You kind of do what really needs to be done and you don’t do anything extraneous. I can see all of that really syncing up and I imagine that that impacted the way you approach work and the way you do things. I don’t know if you felt that way.
EW: Yeah, no, that’s definitely true. I think it’s less pointed and and more underlying deep understandings. Even just things like when the season changes. When it’s fall turning into winter, there’s a whole bunch of things you need to do before the ground freezes—like you can’t move fence posts once the ground has frozen. And you can’t sort of like, rearrange things. When the first frost comes, you need to pick all the tomatoes, today, because tomorrow they will be ruined. And so you abandon whatever other project you were kind of thinking about doing because this project now has the highest priority. And I don’t feel like I have any super direct lessons from that, but just as a sort of philosophy, like, what’s the most important thing to do right now? Let’s make sure we get that done first before we fritter off doing other things that might be more fun—but five days from now we’re going to be really said we did it in the wrong order.
SWB: Well, it just seems like it totally connects you to a timescale and a rhythm that is outside of what most people would associate with their work—people who aren’t working on farms. I think it’s maybe a good reminder that there are many other ways of looking at the day, than like, through the lens of an iCalendar.
EW: Yes. There’s also a whole bunch of like, farm interaction stuff. If you try to have one kind of animal in by itself—like if you just have chickens. It doesn’t work as well as if you have chickens and pigs.
And if you’re like, raising vegetables, you want something that’s gonna eat all the scraps from your vegetables. Rabbits will eat all of the kale scraps that we don’t eat. And there’s something really sort of neat and foundational in the way that all the waste from one thing feeds another thing. Like, I don’t really feel bad if I end up throwing out food—not like, huge amounts of food—but when there’s food that’s done, it just goes in the compost. And then the compost turns into garden dirt, and then I grow more food with it next year. There’s something very soothing in that, and there’s something sort of nice in finding the place where what feels like waste, can actually be turned into fodder for something else.
SWB: Well, that’s yet another amazing metaphor that I think will stick with me. Ok, we have time for one last question. What is the most rewarding thing that you spent time doing this week?
EW: Ok, so it was -26º F at my house last Tuesday; it was very cold. And we were like, what are we gonna do? Like, it’s freezing and we can’t go outside and we were feeling sort of stir-crazy. And so I took some really thick, warm fleece, and I made like a sweatshirt that has a cowl neck so you can put your entire head inside this sort of scuba neck. It’s like living inside a fluff.
SWB: GO ON…
EW: And it has a kangaroo pocket, so you put your hands in the warm belly space—it was just very, like, cozy. And I was very grateful to have the skills but also the machines in my house to let me make that clothing and have it be really warm and fuzzy. And I put it on and I’m like, I’m not taking this off for, like, three days. It’s perfect.
KL: That’s awesome. I really picturing this thing, too.
SWB: Yeah, I love it so much. Well, Eileen, it has been amazing to chat with you. I’m so happy that we could get the time to share with other people how you make time in your life. Where can people find you online?
EW: People can find me primarily on Twitter @webmeadow. I’m also at webmeadow.com, but that’s just like a static website. Twitter is a good place for me because it’s full of pictures of animals and also snarky comments.
SWB: Well, that is one of my favorite combos.
SWB: Alright, thank you Eileen!
EW: Thanks for having me.
Fuck Yeah of the Week
KL: You know when your friend gets promoted, or they launch their new portfolio, or they finally meet someone who just gets them—and you’re totally pumped for them? That’s our next segment. The Fuck Yeah of the Week: where we get super excited about someone or something that’s just been killing it lately. So, who’s our Fuck Yeah of the Week?
SWB: Well, our Fuck Yeah of the Week this week, is 2018 liberations. Let me tell you about what that is. So Cate Huston, who’s the mobile engineering lead at Automattic—the people who make WordPress by the way—she wrote this blog post a the beginning of the year where she said, “I hate new year’s resolutions. Not because I don’t believe in goals or working on myself, or the new year as a time to reflect and adjust. But because I’m tired of focusing on the ways I’m inadequate and need to do better. I hate seeing my friend worry about what they need to do better. Especially right now, when the world is selling so many of us short.”
I love this sentiment. That new year’s resolutions can be great but they can also be problematic if they’re just reinforcing ideas that you’re just not good enough. So, a few of Cate’s 2018 liberations were things like, “Doing things because I’m flattered to be asked at all.” For example, being a token woman on a panel, and saying yes just because she felt flattered invited. Nope! She’s not doing it anymore. Apologizing for her achievements was another one. That’s definitely something I’ve heard myself doing before. Where, you know, I’ll play down the fact that I’ve, I don’t know, written three books, or run my own business for half a dozen years. Like, those things are pretty cool, and I want to be excited about them. So I’m really happy to have found 2018 liberations and especially excited because all these other cool women started chiming in.
Here are a couple more examples that I think you all are really going like, that have come out in the past couple weeks. One is from Ellen Pao. She said that she was going to stop spotlighting people who don’t pay it forward. “I try to use my voice to highlight the great work of others with the hope that they will shine their light on even more others. But some people hold all the light for themselves,” she wrote. She said that in 2018, she wants to “shine more light on people who deserve more attention but are systematically neglected.”
And then there’s Karolina Szczur. She said that she was going to liberate herself from white feminism. “If feminism, allyship, or what-have-you isn’t intersectional and going beyond binary gender, there’s work to be done,” she wrote. “Feminism and allyship aren’t fashionable lifestyle choices.” Or this one from Erica Joy—she said, “assuming best intentions and similar pieces of advice that require I minimize experiences that are painful.” She says she’s done with that. So, ladies, what are your liberations for 2018?
KL: I love this too, and it’s such a good question. I feel like at liberations versus resolutions, it’s like, just so much more positive. In fact, I went to therapy earlier today, and I told my therapist all about it and she was super excited. So I felt like reaffirming in itself. And you know, that really just made me think about putting a focus on self care and self-betterment, and just not being worried—that it’s ok to put that first.
SWB: First off, like, shoutout for therapy.
SWB: Therapy’s cool.
KL: Hands up!
SWB: People who go to therapy are great. Finding a good therapist is amazing. One of the things that I also love about what you’re saying, is that you’re talking about self care in the way that I really think it’s meant to be, right? Like, sometimes you see hashtag selfcare, and that’s nothing but buying yourself something expensive. And we’ve all bought ourselves something—ok, I bought some fancy face cream, hashtag self care. Bu that’s not actually really nurturing or nourishing yourself. That’s a pretty shallow moment in time that feels nice, but what you’re really talking about is like, making sure you’re getting what you really need in life, and getting the support from others and having somebody to talk to. Those kinds of things are such a deeper level, that we need to be able to talk about distinct from like, I bought some cool earrings ’cause I was sad.
KL: Yeah, I want to let go of feeling shy about talking about that stuff. And, ultimately, let go of feeling shy in general, because I feel like I’m shy about things I should not be. And I don’t know, I think that’s a good place to start.
SWB: Fuck yeah!
JL: I love face cream!
JL: One of the things I actually love about face cream, almost, is the same way I love my Fuck Yeah wine glasses—is that, like, I feel so rushed all the time. And my daily beauty routine, when I stop and have that moment—and of course it doesn’t matter if it’s a $5 face cream or $100 face cream—I just like that moment that stops and says, this moment’s about me. Yeah, I really like that.
KL: You feel like you’re in the commercial…
KL: And you’re like, you have the towel on your head, and you’re like, “yes, Noxzema clean!”
JL: Yes! This moment—Rebecca Gayheart! She was the best, the Noxzema girl!
KL: Right! Oh gosh.
SWB: But it’s not just the like, face cream, right? It’s not really about the product, it’s about the time.
KL: It’s the moment.
SWB: And like that little bit of something for you. I like to pause and remember that because its’ ok to, like I said, buy myself a pair of earrings when I feel sad. Ok, I’ve been there, I’ve done that. Like, I’m not saying that that’s necessarily a bad thing to do. But you’re not really liberating yourself from shit that way. Like, that’s not really the answer here.
I think my 2018 liberation is that I want to liberate myself from worrying about how I’m going to be perceived all the time, and just trying to exist a little bit more. One of the things that I’ve noticed about myself, is that as I’ve put myself out there professionally more, it means things like speaking, right? You have to get up on stage in front of people. Writing books—you have your name on this thing and it’s out there in the world, and like, people read it and they have opinions and feelings about it, and they talk about it. And all of that feels so personal. And I think it’s important to look at feedback from people—that has useful things in it and it’s going to help me become a better speaker, or writer, or whatever. But, it is not useful for me to internalize that as some kind of reflection of myself. Or that like, if somebody didn’t like my book, I am a bad person and should feel bad.
And that’s really easy for me to do. I found myself doing it a lot. And so I’m really trying to allow some emotional distance and be like, you know, I wrote a book. That book is gonna be liked by some people and not by others. I cannot actually change anything in it at this point. It is on paper, in stores, like I can’t do shit about it if somebody doesn’t like it. So, I can let it go. And to also be like, yeah, it was a book or it was a talk, it was a podcast episode—it was what it was. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Like, there are a lot of books out there. None of them are perfect. Some of them are better than others, and mine will be valuable to some people. It is not the end of the world and it is certainly not the end of me if there’s negativity that somebody has about it. So, that is definitely something that I want to liberate myself from. I suspect it’ll be a year long process, and probably longer than a year. But, you know, hold me accountable to that this year.
JL: I love that. I will definitely—I think both of us can hold you accountable. Because you’re a badass. Your book is great.
KL: It’s fucking great.
JL: And I can totally imagine—and we’ve talked about this—and I totally get that. Because no one–there can be a hundred people that will be like, “I loved your book,” and then one person says something shitty.
JL: And then you’re like, I can’t stop thinking about that one shitty thing that person said. Which is so unfair, because your book’s amazing.
SWB: And it’s also imperfect, right? Like, of course it is—all books are, right? Like, all things are—all things are imperfect, so being able to just be like, yeah. I wrote the best thing I could, during the time I had, with the knowledge I had at that time, and the constraints I had at that time. That is what I was able to produce and put into the world, and here we are.
JL: Fuck yeah.
SWB: Fuck yeah.
KL: Fuck yeah.
JL: So, my 2018 liberation, I’ve decided, is to stop caring about what other people think about how I feed my child. On one hand, you have people who have very strong opinions about breastfeeding and how long you should breastfeed your child. And if you breastfeed your child for a shorter duration than what they deem “okay,” then you get a lot of judgment. And then on the other hand, I have a lot of judgement for the amount of time that I need to take to breastfeed or to pump and to work that into my schedule for people that want me to do other things besides provide that for my child. So this year, I want to not care about what other people think about how long I do or do not continue to provide breast milk for my child.
KL: I love that.
SWB: So, 2018 liberations—I’ve been so excited about these ever since Cate posted about hers at the beginning of the month. Even though we’re a few weeks into the year now, if you have not come up with a liberation for the year yet, I recommend it, because let me tell you, it feels great.
JL: Also, liberate yourself from having to do it right at January 1st. You can liberate yourself anytime.
KL: That’s right! Oh my god, do it tomorrow. Do it on February 1st!
SWB: Come up with a new one every week!
KL: That’s it for this week’s episode of No, You Go, the show about being ambitious—and sticking together. NYG is recorded in our home city of Philadelphia, and our theme music is by The Diaphone. Thanks to Eileen Webb for being our guest today. We’ll be back next week with another episode.