How My Low Tech Hobby Keeps Me Grounded At My Startup

“Morning, team!” I call out as I swing into my office. I run a technology startup company with my husband. We’re co-founders, growing our company in the close-knit tech community of Victoria BC Canada, and we’re parents. We’re raising a business at the same time as we’re raising a preschooler. It’s everything we wanted… and it’s all happening at the same time.

My brain sometimes fizzes over with a potent mix of thoughts related to running the company and managing our family life. Here’s a glimpse at some of the thoughts typically running through my head, before little feet pitter-patter into my bedroom:

Okay, first I’ll answer that question from Tom about the problem he’s having with his account.

Anthony needs the final copy for that marketing piece.

My mum is calling.

What am I going to make for dinner tonight? I think we have one onion left…

We need to get that form in for A’s preschool.

Oh man, there’s an alert from Google telling me I have a Skype call in 10 minutes.

Is there any more coffee left in the kitchen?

Does that sound familiar? For most of us who work online, our work lives and personal lives are colliding, at an overwhelming rate of speed. It’s exciting — and exhausting. From the moment I open the doors of our office, until the time I bundle up in my coat, I’m fizzing like a coke float. Most days I love being switched on, but at 5 pm, I don’t want any more stimulation. I want to be more like a mug of earl grey tea.

An old-school hack to unplug, de-fizz and find my focus.  

Last year I tried something I’ve been meaning to try since I was 8 years old — sewing.

When I was little, I was terrified on Halloween by our fun-loving neighbours down the road who jumped out at me from the bushes. I screamed and laughed… and loved it. Halloween is my favourite fun holiday. What’s better than being a completely different personality for a night?

I start thinking about my costume in early January — yes, right after all the tinsel and mince pies. My favorite part is planning, looking at ideas, thinking about the key pieces of the costume and then figuring out construction methods. I’ve always been a stapler, papier mâchée, and glue kind of costume maker — which gets the job done, but can be very limiting. But I’ve envied the home-sewn vampire cloaks and patchwork Raggedy Andy outfits.

Every year, I’ve vowed, ONE DAY I WILL SEW MY OWN HALLOWEEN COSTUME. So when I turned 40 last year I figured it was time to get that needle and thread stitching.

Darth Vader Halloween costume in high schoolDarth Vader in Junior High — notice the cape, a tied piece of black fabric. Yeah, I’ve always been a Star Wars fangirl.

Why sewing works for me:

I’ve tried many “hacks” to de-stress from the startup lifestyle. Meditation, walking, knitting, cooking and going out drinking just don’t have the effect of working on a sewing project that’s meaningful to me.

Sewing is the perfect foil for my startup life. It forces me to slow down because I’m a beginner. I’m deep in the early stages of mastering a skill and I have to use my whole brain to figure out how a one-dimensional picture on a website becomes a two-dimensional group of pattern pieces and then I have to turn that into a three-dimensional piece of clothing.

Sewing patterns for digital marketersTrying to sort out adjustments across 8 seam lines with the help of Nancy Zieman.

I am forced to think about one thing very intensely for a long period of time. You can’t just switch over to answering a text message when you’re figuring out how to add 2 inches to your waist pattern across 8 seams without a marked waist point — sewists in the house give me a boo-yeah!

How it benefits me:

After spending deep time with my scissors (seam ripper!) and trusty 1972 Husqvarna, I am calmer. I don’t have that fizzle in my brain — or my stomach. That deep gut fluttering, so common after one hour in my email, disappears. I’m also more focused and less keen to pick up my phone and check out Instagram, my social media addiction of choice. The less information I consume, the less I want to consume. It’s a nice feeling to have and one I’m determined to hold onto as much as possible.

Sewing machine for digital marketerMy mother’s 1972 Husqvarna in my care.

What would work for you?

Is there a complex skill you’ve always wanted to learn? Woodworking? How to play the guitar? Cooking indian food from scratch? I say give it a go. I know you don’t have time and you feel exhausted when you get home from the office. But, I know it will support you to be more productive.

Let’s all band together with a rallying cry for less distractions and more focus. Go forth and learn my friends!

Handmaid's Tale costume Halloween 2017This year’s Halloween home sewn cape and cap for a Handmaid. Praise Be!

xxx

What is it like running a tech startup with my husband? Click here to read my blog post!

Annabel Youens

About Annabel Youens

I'm a co-founder and CMO at AE. I believe that truly successful internet businesses have to connect people. {wave} When I'm not online I'm exploring beautiful Vancouver Island. Things I love: everything scifi, literary fiction, coffee, Google Music, my workhorse sewing machine and board games.