Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Lauren Maffeo.I’m an associate principal analyst at GetApp – a Gartner company – where I write about the ways that emerging tech like AI and blockchain impacts businesses.
I am also a member of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Distinguished Speakers Program and a community moderator for OpenSource.com. This summer, I am serving as a mentor for Coding It Forward’s Civic Digital Fellowship, and earlier this spring, I was shortlisted for the Future Stars of Tech Award in AI and Machine Learning by Information Age.
What is one habit of yours that helps you be productive?
I’ve become much better at managing my energy. That involves accepting upfront that I can’t do everything I want to do on a given day (meal prep, exercise, work, see friends, etc.). Instead, I have to make concessions based on what’s most important. (i.e. what’s the most time-sensitive.)
Then, I organize my day based on when my energy levels are highest for certain tasks. I do my best writing in the late afternoon, and I have the most energy to exercise after work. Since I tend to be drowsy in the mornings, those are good hours to review/answer emails and Slack messages.
What is your morning routine and how does it help you get the most out of your day?
I am not a morning person. That seems like a hot take given how many articles tell you to wake up at 4 even if your body’s screaming at you not to.
My natural rhythm is to fall asleep between 11:30 – midnight and wake up between 7:30 – 8:00 am the next morning. I need 7 – 9 solid hours of sleep per night to power through each day, and I always have. The rare times I tried to pull all-nighters for exams, I got nothing in return except bags under my eyes and bad grades because I couldn’t focus.
Today, I’ll wake up around 8 on weekday mornings and go through emails/Slack messages at home while I drink coffee. If I’m working from my office, I’ll commute between 9:30 – 10:00 am, after the morning rush is done. It’s a lot less stressful and helps me compartmentalize.
In the last few years, what lifestyle, habit or behavior change has had the biggest positive impact on your life?
Continuing to run for fun has been a huge add-on to my life. I ran cross country in high school, but wasn’t focused enough and quit running for a few years. I took it back up again in college to lose weight and quickly realized that it was just as good for my mental health as for my physical health.
Since then, I’ve finished 40 races, including two marathons, five half-marathons, and a triathlon. I’ve also met some of my best friends through running; it’s a solitary sport, yet most runners say they keep doing it because of the people. The running community tends to be open and encouraging, which is a big reason why I’ve stuck around.
When you feel unfocused, what do you do?
I try to step away from my laptop. If I’m at the office, this can mean taking a walk to get water or coffee. I also try to switch spots, like writing from our common area instead of my desk.
I do tend to work through lunch at the moment, and I’m trying to get better about taking an actual break. I’d like to use that time to connect with colleagues instead.
What is one piece of software or a web service that you get immense value out of? How do you use it?
I can’t imagine working without Slack. I worked on a fully remote team for a year and a half. Today, my colleagues work across Arlington, Virginia; Austin, Texas; Barcelona, Spain; and Gurgaon, India. We’re on Slack all day, and I’d feel so much more disconnected from my team without it.
I use Slack to share files, ask questions, and get quick answers from folks who don’t work alongside me in my office. But equally importantly, we use it to celebrate life/work milestones, share photos of our pets, make dad jokes, and more. (We have #pets and #dadjokes channels!) Without an in-person water cooler, we can use Slack as a common ground online.
What is the one book you recommend most often and why?
The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz is a book that I’ll re-read every few years. I first read it when I was fresh out of grad school, freelancing in a foreign country, and looking for full-time work while being unsure of how long I could keep living in England.
This book stresses how crucial it is to be fully engaged in whatever you’re doing, followed by strategic recovery breaks. I do my best to live by that mantra, especially since it’s what pro athletes do: No one playing sports at that level works 80 hours a week with no breaks. A coach who suggests that would be fired.
What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?
I tell college graduates that it’s normal to feel lost for the first one to two years working full-time. I thought that working would resemble being a student, but it’s different in so many unforeseen ways. I also tell them that it’s normal to not love the work they’re doing right away. You don’t need to have your dream job right out of school, and you very likely won’t. I don’t think college does a great job setting that expectation.
As for advice to ignore, I tell them to be really thoughtful about applying to grad school, law school, or any other academic program that would require debt. (Instead of seeing it as the default “next step” after college.) I went to grad school right out of college and know it was the best choice for me/my circumstances.
But I would not advise everyone to do the same, and I worry when I see twentysomethings treat graduate education as something to do while they figure things out. Collecting degrees while you go into debt isn’t a good look.
What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”