Startup advice

Mental health and self-management at the core of this years TechChill

Back to News

Looks like the startup ecosystem in Baltics is entering a more mature phase, as this years TechChill was all about the human side of technology and impact of technology on our daily lives, and less about tech hype. While technological progress provides more opportunities, there’s the dark side too, like how chasing the startup success leads to exhaustion and mental health problems.

Matt Charnock in his article “Why Is Sillicon Valley So Damn Sad (And Suicidal)?” shows how tech industry pushes people towards mental health problems. And many TechChill speakers touched upon this from different angles. Milda Mitkute, co-founder at Vinted, highlighted that often startup grows faster than founders and it can be very hard to catch up. Lujza Bubanova, CEO at Youfirst, emphasized the importance of understanding oneself: “You have to find out when you are the most productive and then work your schedule around it”. Adeo Resi, founder & CEO of the Founder Institute, forced audience to think about personal purpose as an entrepreneur.

Below we have collected a list of practical takeaways from two keynote speakers that deep-dived on the topic: Stewart Rogers on mental health and Cristobal Alonso on being efficient while flying a lot.

Photo from TechChill by Kristaps Bardziņš

Cristobal Alonso: It’s not about time management or stress management. It is about self-management.

Just last year our CEO Cristobal Alonso took 170 flights. That means that he flew every third day! How can you even stay productive while you are on the road so much? His secret is making planning an essential tool of everyday life, thus making use of some idle time in taxi, during layovers and while flying. But he also emphasizes that sometimes you don’t need to finish that email or make an urgent phone call, but rather relax, read a book, listen to good music or just catch up on sleep.

It’s not about doing things. It’s about getting the right things done.

Here are a few practical tips that you can try to implement yourself:

  • Plane is you perfect silent office — no whatsapp messages, no calls, no incoming emails. You can work on the most important documents without any distractions.
  • Make every taxi drive count — you can easily use a taxi as a conference call room. Just make sure to schedule those calls and take time zones into account.
  • Short flights is the perfect timing to dive into a book, as there’s anyway no time to open computer. That’s the way you can read two to three books a month!
  • Make sure that find a way how to burn your negative energy! Cristobal volunteers to cook for his friends at their homes while on the road. But if running or swimming is more in your style, then make sure that you always have your running and swimming gear with you!

This sounds great, but how do you really implement all of this? For Cristobal it’s a red moleskine planner synced with his google calendar, so he would be able to tell you now at what time you could have a call in a month. But the tools do not matter, planning and discipline does.

Photo from TechChill by Kristaps Bardziņš

Stewart Rogers: “Understanding yourself is a key to a good mental health!”

What works for one person, might not work for another one. Stewart Rogers, an analyst at VentureBeat, took a broader look at the the everyday life in the tech industry and stressed the importance of mental health in his TechChill talk. The bottom line, however, was “know thyself”.

We think that working hard is good, but it makes you ill. Working hard makes you ill.

Stewart has done research and has seen through a hurtful experience of his own, how working harder actually does not help us. We even lose our ability to develop new ideas, because we’ve just overworked. Hustling is dangerous. And you can deep dive more on this topic at this TNW article “Tech’s obsession with ‘hustle porn’ is discriminatory and counterproductive”.

Here are some takeaways from Stewart on how to change your behaviour, keep yourself alive and become better at living:

  • Reconnect with nature — go for a walk or a run or just make sure that on weekend you leave your house and go outside the city.
  • Meditate — it gives you a 100% lazer focus on present moment.
  • Play more — it’s the time when your brain is thinking the next big thing!
  • Give back by asking others “How are you?”

And at the end of the day it’s about how you take care of yourself. Be a meticulous planner and think ahead like Cristobal does, don’t ever skip a meditation like Stewart or find something else that works especially for you and, as Stewart said, when you’ll look after yourself, everything else will look after you!