Making Things Happen with Monica Lim

You're listening to grief and pizza, a podcast, exploring the highs and lows at the intersection of business and emotional wellbeing. In this episode, we're talking to Monica Lim about navigating burnout, following your curiosity and making creative projects happen.

Monica: I've accepted that I'm always going to be nervous, that I'm always going to be in burnout mode.

Benjamin: Ooh, we could talk about that. Might as well start there.

Monica: Well, full disclaimer. Whatever I say today, I think it's true today, but it might not be true tomorrow. It's like, you know what I'm discovering like right now and thinking, um, right now, but I just feel that I'm constantly like recalculating, readjusting, and just like making a new sense of like, based on new data, whenever I have to do something, I'll, I'll get nervous and I'm okay with that.

Yeah. I made peace with it. You know, if I'm going to record. I noticed that I'm always a little nervous, even though I may not show it, but it got a lot better after teaching for so many years.

Marie: Yeah. Like

Monica: I'm so thankful from teaching like in the classroom, uh, and getting like new, new students every time.

This is it like back in Korea. And what were you teaching? I've taught university level, like construction management, like long, long time ago, uh, at the university of Illinois. So that was like my first time teaching. Just like, you know, my experience, like school work, we had like, you know, our curriculum, but, um, the bulk of my, I feel like a real teaching where I was like, like really, really teaching and, uh, putting into play, like my philosophy of teaching of like helping people understand, learn.

That was in Korea, uh, back in 2000, like 13. All the way until maybe 2000, like twenties, and I was teaching like English, but when you're, when you're teaching English to Korean, and I was working with adults, I just, it's like, it's so much more than just grammar or just a language is a lot about unlocking, uh, like, you know, just, just blocks people have or unlearning things, helping them, you know, Learn without putting so much effort into learning.

Just kind of like, you know, naturally learning things and then showing, Oh, did you see that you just did, you know, a presentation. That's what it feels like 10 years of that is what allows me to be a lot more comfortable with, like, you know, podcasts, interviews, zoom calls. And I know, Mary, we talked about this before, like, ultra speaking.

That was an amazing course for me to just really, Oh, wow. Like, you know, just breathing, pausing.

Marie: Amazing. So, I mean, you said, um, that you always feel nervous even still today. So is it just that your mindset around it has shifted that it's okay to feel those butterflies because You know, taking the ultra speaking course, it's sort of like accepting that those feelings are going to be there in your body and that you're kind of working with it.

So is it more just sort of an acceptance of those feelings?

Monica: So I've learned that if something is important, I care and depending on the stakes, I get nervous. Like, it's just my brain is almost like warming up. Okay, this is important. Don't mess it up. Um, So I have that, but then I've also learned that despite that, because every time I'm nervous, it's important.

I can still perform very well. I'm very happy with what happens after. So I think ultra speaking, which is amazing to just show me, okay, you're nervous, you know, whatever. Uh, not, not like telling myself. Oh, you should not be nervous. Like, instead of doing that, I think ultra speaking showed me and taught me, you know, you're nervous.

That's like normal because this is important. Um, but you still got this, like, you, you can still do this. So, I think, um, yeah, so I get nervous and I recognize, okay, I'm nervous. Okay. Uh, but then I, I kind of forget about it, or it dissipates slowly as I'm doing it as I'm like, you know, teaching. You know, I just, I was like volunteering at my kid's school.

And I still got nervous. It's not like, you know, something's gonna fail me or like, but I think if something is important, I care. Um, I just become more perky or like more alert. I can sense my, my body just becoming more firm. Instead of like loosening up

Benjamin: Tristan, one of the co founders of ultra speaking him saying somebody asked him, do you ever get nervous anymore?

So he's done lots of public speaking. He runs a public speaking program and he said, no, I don't get nervous because he kind of sees it. It's this idea of seeing it more as excitement and an opportunity to, to perform and to learn. And so eventually you start reconditioning it. And I think it's really comes from experience.

Cause just before we started the podcast, I was. Mentioning that I had just got back from a fire call and I think about this all the time when it comes to firefighting because you're always doing something that's in like an emergency situation. So there's always this heightened tension going on. But eventually that those like nerves become like.

Um, they could become like an action almost like, so it tells you like, I need to act here and the nerves are giving you some kind of indication that there's an opportunity to do something to act in a way that may be discomforting, but the resulting, uh, outcome of that action is often really great. And I think the one thing that I got more comfortable with with public speaking was watching other people speak and, and seeing how amazing they were.

Like the times that I've seen Maria do talks, I'm just like. Mind blown by how good the talk was and how composed she seems. And then when you talk to the folks afterwards, they're just like, I was sweating. I was nervous. I had like, there was one time where Marie had her jacket on inside out the whole time and she felt like a total dunce.

And I was like, I didn't notice any of that. All I saw was your talk and how good that was. And I've noticed that for myself as well, that people will. Say, Oh, you did a great job on that, on that presentation, even though I felt like a complete calamity internally. So I just started realizing, I think the more that you realize that nobody is noticing your internal state, but you, it gives you a little bit more peace.

And you can say like, yeah, I'm nervous, but these people can't tell, you know, they, you actually can't most times. So I think it's, I, that was how I kind of got a little bit more comfortable with, with speaking in front of people just, and I love the ultra speaking stuff where it's just like, just start talking and fill the space, it's the biggest thing.

I think with we've shown up, we've shown up to so many like calls from big companies that are doing a presentation and everybody's trickling in, you know, the, the zoom thing where they. There's this gap of silence and everybody's just kind of staring at the presenters. Nobody's talking. It's so awkward.

And that was the thing that I loved about ultra speaking was just like, just start talking. What's going on guys? Like, you know, you can fill the space with words and, and kind of riff off of what other people are doing.

Monica: Yeah, I, I love the course. Like, I love what you just said about Tristan. Like he notices a change, but he's not calling that being nervous.

He's just calling that, you know, like I'm feeling this different state of mind, but it's an invitation to something exciting. And, and like labels are huge for me. It's like a new door. Like, and I constantly make that comment in our notion mastery course, you know, which with, uh, with Marie, like, Oh, you know, you labeling that.

That way it's so cool. Like it just makes you the thing that you were looking at looks a little bit different. So like, you know, even being nervous, not calling it that and calling it something else.

Marie: Being excited. Yeah, I think naming and framing is so powerful. So big. For just kind of switching your mindset a little bit.

One of the things I was curious about, because if I'm not mistaken, you do have ADHD. I don't know if you've been like formally diagnosed, but you talk about it on your, your Twitter and whatnot. And we've talked about it a little bit. I sometimes wonder if that, that extra fear, and even like the social awkwardness that can come up can sometimes be a result of It sometimes feels so chaotic in your brain, but you don't realize that people aren't, they're not seeing that chatter and the sort of rapid switching and the number of conversations that are happening at the same time, I think there's almost like a sense of panic where you think if other people can.

Actually see or hear what's happening in your brain. And so I think, um, that's been a little disconcerting in my own journey of like, uh, realizing that people aren't seeing that. And so it's about how do you find a way to calm and focus in the moment? Do you, do you struggle with that with all of the different sort of internal dialogue?

Monica: Totally. And. And I, and I struggle, I feel in like a few, a couple different ways. I can share some examples that came up recently. So I was diagnosed with ADHD maybe like two, three years ago where I was like, Oh my God, like, it's just, just so loud in my brain. And I just felt like so much tension. And I'm like, maybe not everybody, maybe this is not normal because you only have your own reference of your brain and like your, the voices in your, in Mind, um, and that was totally life changing just to know, like, have labels and names for things that are happening.

And when you identify those, it becomes a lot easier, but I do feel that, you know, I can be by myself and, like, so many things going on in my mind and. I just need to understand like people don't see that and I sometimes over explain things. Okay, I said that and like, I did the oversharing because I hate being misunderstood.

No, I am really excited about this. But then like, I have these other things that my brain is holding at the same time. So like, I have somebody recently asked me, Oh, so you're working for so and so how's that going? And I was like, Oh, it's going great. And I think I sounded like, Not, I was not excited at all.

And I was like, Oh, okay. And he's like, Oh, I didn't mean it that way. And I had to like explain myself. Right. Let me tell you like, you know, how that answer came or where he came from. And I was just like, no, like I'm, I'm like, I have all of these things going on at the same time and I'm frustrated because I want to do more of my job, but I have like, you know, family and other things.

Yeah. And my answer came a little bit like disengaged or like not excited because. I so want to do more of it because it's like so exciting, but I'm like frustrated because of this other things that are keeping me from it. And I think the answer came out that way. And I think that was like, um, after I said that, I was like, Oh, wow.

Did I just say that? Like, did I just explain that in a very like short, you know, like concise way? Um, and they totally understood what was happening, but I did it like without explaining my entire life. Um, And, like, going back to your question, like, I constantly go through that and it's just 1 of those things that.

I also have to accept, like, that's just like, how my brain will work and works and many things at the same time. So, like, um, the, you that comes, like, publicly, or, like, the public facing me. Has all this filters and right, like, so, like, maybe you're really excited, but then you have, like, the, the filter of, you know, there's all of these other projects and your excitement does not come through fully.

And I, and I'm okay with, like, being misunderstood a little bit or, like, not, not, not always being fully understood, but if I have a chance, and it's important, I know, like, I'll explain, but it's, it's, it's a struggle. But if it gets really bad, I try to resolve. Because I don't want to be always in struggle and I, and I have my better days where I'm not.

So I try to find that, that benchmark, that base point that, you know, like the baseline of me being a little bit more at peace, what's bothering me.

Marie: What are some other ways that it maybe shows up in your work? I know you've talked a bit about Uh, prioritization being a big struggle and we have lots of, you know, spinning plates on the go.

What are, what are the major things that are on your plate right now that maybe are making you excited? And sort of what are some of the ways that maybe ADHD becomes a bit of a struggle for you?

Monica: So right now, um, so I'm working for, for this one entrepreneur and what happens is like, there are lots of things that.

That are on the job description. Okay. Well, you know, I have to handle this projects and at the same time you have. Other projects come up, and sometimes it happens that, you know, my, my 1 of the biggest struggles, I think, for a lot of people with is. What's important what's exciting? Um, and that's a struggle.

So, like, I would say with my current job, there are 2 things where. Um, so on the 1 hand, you have important things like deadlines and, like, the uncomfortable things that you want, like, you procrastinate until, like, uh, you know, I can not no longer I have to do it. Um, and then you have, like, the other things that you just have, like, a lot more.

Time like the deadline is not tomorrow, but you just keep thinking about those exciting things that are happening like four months later. But like, that's like what I'm like, thinking about all day today. Um, so yeah, like the prioritization of what's important. Um, and when, when I'm, I consider myself as like a project manager, like it's hard to, to put myself a job title, but I think the closest is like a project manager.

Making things happen, working with people. Um, so I think that's in a nutshell what I do and the outcome of that could be like a podcast could be like an event could be, it can look in so many different ways. My biggest, I think, struggle is prioritization based on, like, what's important, what has, like, lead times.

Like, I need to ask this person today because they're going to go on vacation next week for 2 weeks. So, like, I only have 10 minutes. I need to, like, put my focus hat on and then consistency, right? Like, we, we get bored. Very easily and very fast or they're like competing things like super excited. Okay. I'm like, I'm the new thing here you know, like look at me pay attention and It's it's hard for me to shut those things things down.

I don't know how help because you have the main I think Notion master is like the the I don't know the the Signature, like the, the main sort of thing, right. And then you probably have like, I don't know, a newsletter, like blog posts, like side courses or guides, podcasts, like workshops that you're doing your own learning.

Um, you know, like, I think you, you recently did the connections course from like, you know, art of accomplishment, how do you prioritize because, you know, like notion master has been, has been out for a long time. It probably like, has matured, so I'm curious also to hear about how you. Handle that or if you like

Marie: poorly.

Yeah, it's interesting. Um, because like you said, notion, mastery is a product that's been around for maybe four and a half years, I think. And it's gone through so many different stages of maturity in a way. It's a project that is never really done. We're always having to kind of update the materials. We have live events every week.

So, in some ways, there's an element of it's all It's always exciting because new people are coming in new people are joining the call. So there is some excitement with like, oh, here's what's new with notion or here's a new interesting use case, you know that I'm, I'm using it. So I think I've had to find ways to inject fun into it, given that it is this sort of like long ongoing project.

There is, of course, always just the maintenance work. That's, That's not always as fun that has to be done. And so I think, I think Ben and I balance each other out there. And I'd be curious your thoughts on this, Ben. But, you know, Ben sees the ways that I'm like, oh, on Monday morning, we're, we're doing our team sync and being like, here's what's the priority this week.

And then at the end of Monday, he's like, what did you do? And I'm like, well, this other thing that's like tangentially related to that thing. I know you said to start at the beginning, but like part six felt really interesting and it's still getting the thing done. So it's always kind of a struggle to sort of, yeah, prioritize and do the stuff that is important.

Um, while also doing the stuff that's really fun. So yeah, it's, it's a challenge. I can't say that I'm always doing what, like, I haven't sent a newsletter in probably three weeks, four weeks. Like that's something that I always struggle with as well. So yeah, I bet. And I don't know if you want to weigh in on kind of.

It feels like you're the one that keeps the trains running a little bit. I need a band. I need a

Monica: band. I

Benjamin: think I think in a lot of respects, like, I'm trying to think of an analogy for this, but I think that. People have a tendency, and ADHD for sure would be one of these tendencies, to be either book openers or book closers.

Like, I'm motivated by closing books, by finishing things, and by stopping doing things, and a lot of people are motivated by starting new things and opening books. And I think ADHD ers especially love to open new threads and not close them. Close them or not act on them. In a lot of cases, there's like, it's very interest and like, interest driven versus like outcome driven.

And so, yeah, a lot of times it's like helpful to give, um, you know, Like a lot of the stuff that I do with Marie when we sync is I open up her stuff, like I'm not just looking at my stuff, but I want to see everything that's going on and so like the pairing and the body doubling thing is really effective with ADHD because it's like, you keep telling me that this is important, but you're not doing anything.

And sometimes it can really help to actually delegate. Decision making to somebody else for a time to see how they might make the decisions in your role. And so a lot of times, like, I will do that for myself as well, where I say. Marie, I've got these three competing projects. I really want to work on all of these.

I want to make it, I want to make a software app. I want to make a new course and I want to focus on like, you know, a new template or something like that. I've got these three things and what I like to do, I, my tendency is to try to bundle all of those things up and make them like feed each other so that I feel like I'm actually making progress on all three of them at once.

And what happens is I make progress on none of those things. Um, so a lot of times it can be helpful to be like. Marie, what are your, how can, like, how could you, well, how would you incentivize me to focus on one of these things? Or like, are these actually things that I should be focused on? So I love that like delegation aspect for the two of us, cause we can go back and forth and kind of switch those hats a little bit.

Like, you know, if you were me, like what, what opportunities do you see here? Cause I usually get really stuck in like, it's, this is the only thing that I could possibly do. You know, it's, it's, yeah. I've got to go back to consulting now or something like that. Or now, no, I can't do any consulting. I got to focus on this.

So, um, yeah, I think, um, noted noticing whether how you, how you operate. And I think, you know, Marie has this capacity planning program that's part of notion mastery and you can get it individually as well. But I think a big part of that is like killing zombie projects. So like, it's really painful to say like, This thing that I've identified with for so long is actually not going to happen for various reasons.

And like, there's this, and I talk about this a lot. I've talked about it on many of our previous podcast episodes about grieving the loss of these identities and the death of these projects, because there is an actual like identity. Like a pain that we have to surmount, uh, you know, get past to be able to, to let those things go.

And I think a lot of times people just get stuck on, I, I want to finish all of the ideas that I've started. And it's, and it's, and it causes such duress to our, our psyche. So yeah, I think of things like. Like the leverage points. So like tasks are really low leverage. And then you go up to projects that are a little more highly leveraged, and then you get up to like initiatives and then your identity stuff across the top.

So when you make changes to your identity, then all of the stuff below that in my mind kind of like comes to align with those identity changes. And so the things that you identify as. Become really important and will be like, well, you'll naturally be able to focus a lot more intensely on but if you're trying to just like break things down to projects, you know, it's really, it's a lot harder to get motivated by by the individual tasks and things like that.

So that's kind of way I see prioritization is like. You know, if I can make an identity shift, then it's a lot easier for me to say this thing is, is absolutely pushing forward this identity goal that I have this thing over here is just something that I was like, interested in in the past, but it's not really serving this larger like thing that I want to move towards.

Marie: It's

Benjamin: kind of

Marie: like what Monica said at the beginning where you said, um, this is how this is what I believe right now. Right? Yeah. So it's like, sometimes we agree to do projects and that made sense at that time. And we, we forget to be like, wait a second. I'm no longer like that actually isn't really serving me anymore.

And so why am I kind of dragging this along with me? So it's like, it made sense at the time. The commitment made sense at the time, and maybe it doesn't anymore. So you're kind of like renegotiating those commitments.

Monica: No, I was just like the, the word, the negotiation that I do also with myself, you know, like, what am I giving up?

I can, you know, if I don't do this, what else can I do? There's a lot of that also, I think, playing in my head. And I love Ben, what you said about the capacity workshop, which, you know, I attended. I'm like, maybe I need to attend it again. It's like something that you, you need, you can do regularly, totally.

Marie: And

Monica: maybe like a quarterly. Capacity, uh, reminder. Cause I have, that's like one of my biggest struggles. Like I'm just, just naturally so driven and curious and I get easily excited. Well, not easily excited as an, as in like, I get excited about everything. I know what gets me excited and I, I can, if I see something, Oh, I want to get involved in that.

And it might not have anything to do with what I'm doing. Right. But I still want to get involved in that. Like, I remember like asking this author that I love, you know, can I, like, I love his book and I'm like, can I translate your book into Korean? And I'm going to find, I'm going to find an agent for you.

Like, I mean, like all of these things, I'm like, have nothing to do with my work. But, um, it's just so exciting. So like the gap between my capacity. And the projects that are really exciting to me and that it's that's really the hardest like, oh, I really want to do it, but I, I shouldn't.

Benjamin: That was what was really interesting about the great decisions course that Marie and I did with the art of accomplishment, because the question I think you might want to consider is, like, what.

What principle like we developed a set of five principles that we make our decisions by and it's like when you say something like that Like should I should I take the time to translate this book into Korean? It's like what what what model are you using to make your decisions by what principles does it match?

And so the idea of the course is getting you to Develop a set of principles that sort of make decisions for you in a sense So you're not actually going through this like super cognitive burden of like thinking about does this match? So you've got this set of principles that you could say Um, like, should I do this doesn't match one of my, my core principles of what I'm trying to do with my life and the work that I'm trying to put out there.

Um, like, you seem like, like, I do think that ADHD years tend to be people pleasers and they tend to be people that want to help other people. Um, cause they're like, I feel like there's a sense of like. community and when they see somebody struggling, it's like, I'm struggling. So like, if I can do anything to help them, then that will feel really good.

Um, so like making sure that you have boundaries on the helping is really important. I think when you, when you struggle with this and I struggle with this too. And that's actually why one of my principles is what's my problem. And it's not like, what is my problem? But I'm like, is the thing that I'm trying to solve?

Like something that I actually like. Like, is valuable for me to solve or am I just trying to get the, the dopamine hit of like I helped that person and they thanked me and it felt good. Um, so it's like one of those things where I get super distracted solving other people's stuff instead of like moving forwards.

Monica: I'm surprised.

Benjamin: Yeah.

Marie: Oh, it's big time. That's Ben's kryptonite, I think. Yeah.

Monica: Oh, wow. I, it's really hard for me to unsee a problem. Yeah. Yeah. Like it's really hard for me to, to like find, to see a problem and to just walk past it. Like I just need to go. just like, you know, it's like, it's like the subway, you know, you have different stops.

And I'm somebody who I need to go to stop 10, but then, like, I see something is top 2 and I would just get off the, like, the train and I'll, I'll try to solve it. And then I'll, I'll. I'm going to maybe, like, miss the last train and, like, have to wait until the next day to get to, like, my, my actual destination, like, um.

And like you said, I don't know why I do that. And it could be like, Oh, you know, like the dopamine of helping somebody. But the many times I've done that, I've learned a ton. I don't have a lot of regrets. Of the problems I've solved, but I think it comes with a cost and it's just like my, you know, like my mental health or like my, my body and, um, you know, like burnout, which is kind of like, you know, a big board these days.

But, um, I'm very opinionated about burnout because maybe I like, I have it so often, maybe we can, we can talk about that. I'm not like a proposing burnout by no means. Like it's like, you know, like you should be very careful. And, but I do, I do feel that some of the most rewarding, um, meaningful and Just beautiful things I've done in my life have been, like, preceded from burnout, like, you know, I would do that thing, whatever it is, and it's amazing and life changing and beautiful and just, just emotionally changing and I will be very exhausted after.

And I just think that. The way my brain works, um, I just go all in on things. It's like, it's really hard for me to, to not do what I, what I envision. And usually I feel like whatever it is, like, I want to find like an elegant solution. And I, I, I have the elegant solution in my mind. So I want to make it happen.

Um, and it comes out, you know, like I'll, I'll end up with burnout. I'll, I'll be exhausted. And, um, I think the way I have come to terms with that is Now I can see the pattern and I can recognize it the before. So if I, if I know, okay, uh, you know, like this is like pre burnout, maybe like stay, I think Johnny Miller talks about this too, but, um, I can see, you know, when you're driving and then you see the red light.

I don't know, however, many, like, feet away from you and then you start, you know, you start slowing down. So I just feel that I, I've accepted I'm going to have burnout, but I just want to make the burnouts, like, very easy to recover from. Somebody was saying like shallow, not so deep. So like, you know, like, okay, which is, you know, I just need to rest for two days.

I'll be, I'll be like, again, okay. Tomorrow, if you say no to burnout and I'm not going to have a burnout ever again, I think I would miss out on like just really intense type of like projects. Um, so I'm, I'm willing to make that trade off a little bit of burnout, you know, recover and it's, it might be like a.

I don't know, spiky type of opinion, but I think like, I host a dinner party and I have burnout that night, like, you know, and it's not like, oh, you know, I'm not gonna host anything because I'm gonna have burnout. I think it just comes with a package for me.

Benjamin: What's the difference in your mind in between burnout and being tired, being exhausted?

Monica: Uh, I think being exhausted is in the spectrum of burnout. Maybe like, yeah, like, that's a good point. Like, what's the definition of burnout? To me, it's like being exhausted. Like, okay, I'd like, leave me alone. I don't want to do anything. And that to me is a little bit also of the stage of burnout, like, not the maybe severe burnout where I'm lying in bed.

I don't want to eat. I don't want to do anything for like a week.

Marie: I just pulled up a Definition of it, if you guys want to hear what. Yeah, I want to. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive or and prolonged stress. Burnout in the course of employment can make one feel emotionally drained and unable to function in the context of work and other aspects of life.

Benjamin: I think my personal burnout, uh, uh, definition is an inability to recover. So you get to a point where you cannot recover by resting and I think, um, I think it was Marcy Sutton. She's a developer and, uh, uh, accessibility expert. She said 1 time that her, I think it was her personal definition or 1 that she was.

recounting, which is, um, so you said earlier, Monica, that you were doing this really meaningful work. And then you, you're, you're really pushing really hard and then you're, you're tired, you're exhausted after. And I think she kind of added this concept of like, you tend to burn out when you're doing hard work towards something that you don't really care about.

So you can, it's, it's quite. It's quite rewarding and beautiful to, to work really hard towards something that you, that gives you a lot of meaning and gives you purpose. But when you stop having that purpose for the work you're doing, when it feels mechanical or methodical and just routine, then it starts to get to that place where you can't recover from the exhaustion of doing it because like our part of our ability to recover is feeling like there's purpose to what we're doing and things like that.

So I think there's this aspect to me of. You can't recover. You're too tired to even rest. Like you can't fall asleep. You can't, you know, you can't actually recover. And then also there's something there with, uh, with the meaning part as well, to me. What do you think?

Monica: Yeah, I, um, I see the, the, you know, you usually burn out when you're like working towards something that maybe does not have me, or you feel forced to, um, to me, like my, my own, I don't know, personal addiction or definition of burnout is.

Just really severe exhaustion where you are just so tired to, to handle, like, you know, the, the, the important functions of the day. So like, if I'm really tired, um, you know, my kids will just have pizza for a few weeks for, I mean, for a few days, or like, I just don't, like, you know, I'll be very irritable, irritable.

Like I will not be a present mom. Um, and, Even though the work is meaningful, um, and I'm just just so proud and happy with the work that has just it's already in the past. The work is already done and I still feel so exhausted. Um, I still do consider that as burnout. It's just like, would I. The next time I have the exact same project come in, would I say no to it because I know I'm going to be exhausted for two days and like, maybe not so present with my kids for two days and, and I think I will choose to, uh, I will choose to do it anyway.

Like I came to peace with that, like, you know, some projects. You know, like there's a little sacrifice and I'm okay with, uh, a couple of days of not functioning properly just so, you know, needing rest. Um, but I think like by, by shallow burnout, I meant recoverable. Because I've seen people who are just so burnt out, right?

I've read and I've met people like that.

Benjamin: I read a study one time or just an article or something that said it was about 18 months is the average when you burn out from work. Wow. So it's just recovering from it. So it's a long process

Marie: and that's where I sort of think with ADHD like almost every person I talked to has those roller coaster highs of intensity or working on a project so intensely and then you kind of crash after and I actually that's a quite common and quite normal and I think even a lot of non ADHD folks kind of have those cycles because you just can't sustain that level of effort for that long.

And so, like you, I've kind of accepted that like, Oh, I'm, I'm in one of those cycles now, or like, and you're getting things done. Like, you're actually kind of condensing sometimes what feels like a year's worth of work into like, maybe three months or a month or something like that. And I guess. I don't personally see it as burnout for myself necessarily, but Oh, I fully have given myself that week where I know the week after I deliver a workshop is going to be pretty unproductive.

I'm just going to be taking care of myself. I'm going to be going for walks. I'm going to be moving my body. Um, I know I'm going to be tired and that's okay because all of that brain power was kind of spent, but I think the, the hope is that you're not letting your, your like Adrenal glands get shot to the point that you can't do that recovery.

So I think it's like, are you taking care of yourself? Are you able to rest? Like the fact that you're still able to order pizza for your kids, you are still kind of taking care of life. Not everything is falling through the cracks. So yeah, it's interesting. I think it's an interesting conversation because we all sort of approach it or think about it or frame it a little differently, but I do think those sort of rollercoaster of a creative output is pretty common.

Monica: Yeah. So, and I heard from somebody who was saying, like, when you're in go mode, that's the beginning of burnout, like, almost as in, like, at the end of, at the end of the go mode, you're going to crash. And I think maybe that's another, that's a different word, because, you know, we've been talking about, like, names and labels, um, not burnout, maybe burnout.

The, the actual definition is like much stronger, but having that mini crash, you know, how, how fast can I recover and when to, you know, like put the, the, the brakes on and. Yeah, just to be able to sustain, um, you know, what you do.

Benjamin: I was, uh, I wrote a blog recently and I was talking about flow states and how we have like focus and then we have the, the idea of hyper focus, which is actually, I think a word that comes from the ADHD nomenclature.

And then I have this thing on the other side of that, which I call like ensnarement, where you are, you are so hyper focused, you are. Letting the things go in your life that are really significant and and I think in that in that state that's where like to me and the thing the point that I was trying to make in this article was that flow is actually a measure of your ability to stop being hyper focused and flex in and out of focus and between rest and between work and if you if you cannot rest in between those states and you can't Consciously take yourself out of that then you that's where burnout starts to settle in because you're not able to Consciously rest at some point and I'm curious because I have this page in my notion Which I sometimes update it basically describes my ideal day and my rituals that I do if I were a very healthy and mindful person and I'm curious like you talk about stuff like Your kids getting pizza if you're in that mode of like hyper focus or deep work or whatever you want to call it Do you have have you ever produced a sort of ideal day or a ritual?

a set of rituals that you could observe to see like when these things are happening or not happening, this is an indicator to me that burnout is sort of imminent. So like low, low impact indicators might be kids get pizza two days in a row. High impact might be like, I don't, I didn't go for a walk. Like really high impact might be, um, like I haven't slept more than eight hours in a week straight or something like that.

So maybe do you have any indicators that tell you like, This is really not good for me that you should, like, start rethinking the way that you're operating.

Monica: I think sleep is a huge 1. I mean, it's a cycle to like, I'm I'm sort of like, if I drink a lot of coffee, I will not sleep. But if I'm trying to push myself, I might drink more coffee.

So it's like this vicious cycle. I think sleep is. Such a good indicator of how I'm doing. Um, and not interested the amount of hours I go to sleep, but I noticed that if I'm stressed out, if I have a lot of things in my mind, um, I'll just get a bad, you know, like I will not get good sleep and in the morning I will not be very awake.

Um, and it's, it's been happening like lately just cause you know, like I just been struggling a lot at home with like. My, my spouse, like, you know, kids and, uh, just be feeling a lot of bitterness and resentment around, you know, like, I'm the working at home parent. So, like, I have to do all of these things and, like, you know, just just a lot of bitterness that is, like, building up.

Um, so that that's that those are some of the things, like, am I like, Just kind of like complaining mode and bitter, um, and then sleep, like, am I getting good sleep? Like, I'm, I'm allocating the right amount of hours, but I wake up, I'm not getting good sleep. Um, so those are two big things. Am I complaining?

Like, am I complaining? Cause, um, I think it's such a big indicator of. My mental state, am I thankful because like not, not many things change, like the kids are always the same, you know, like they'll talk back at you. Like they will, they'll complain about things. And then I know for, yeah, like, uh, I want the, you know, like the red cup.

I really know for a fact that many times. It's not about them, but it's just about me, like they'll do the same crappy things. And if I'm in a good mood, I'll just respond with more patience and more grace. And if I'm not, I'm just going to be like, I'm going to bite their heads off. I'm just going to be, I can be so mean and such a monster mom.

Um, so those are the things I'm I in that like monster mode. Or am I just kinder, like more patient? And those are like big things. Just even like self evaluating this week. I think this week is like. So, so it's not like a great week where I feel like revitalized and, um, cause I, you know, like, there was like spring, spring break last week and I'm catching up with work.

And that's the other thing, like, if I feel like I'm catching up, like, I, I'm just just like, I'm walking on, you know, like, the, the, the, the escalator and I'm just. Walking against the escalator, not to go down and I can feel that mode and I feel that mode of I'm just catching up and not making progress. Um, that's another indicator.

Okay, maybe I have too many things going on. You know, what do I have? And I'll just just make. I'm not very good with to do list. Like, I, I love the system that I have now, which is like every day. Or like the night before, I'll just open a spread in my notebook. And I'll just have okay, what do I need to do tomorrow?

Because I've done like to do list and like, you know, if I don't feel like it, I'm not going to get it done. So it's just what do I feel like doing today? And I'm. Decently responsible to at least do some of the things are important. Um, yeah, those are like, they're like, a little more abstract because you were talking about routines and and if I, if I feel more gentle with myself, you know, I'll.

Make breakfast and you know, that's a good sign if I'm having protein in the morning, like, that's a huge thing to like, I usually start my day with eggs and if I don't have my eggs, like, my day is going to go crap. Like, it's just gonna it's like, such a small thing. So that gratitude sleep. And then food. I need to get better with exercise.

I'm, I'm terrible. I signed up for boxing classes. I'm going to see how that goes. That's awesome. Something exciting and different.

Benjamin: Have you ever felt caught up before? And what does that feel like? Oh, that's a good question. Is it possible to be caught up in your life? Because I often feel like it's, like, there is no such thing, like, as, like, I never feel caught up.

And, like, what does it actually feel like? If you're caught up, how do you know that you're caught up?

Monica: Oh, that's a very good question. And I would say that like, I will never have the task inbox zero type of feel, but I have experienced like, you know, many times and I, and I rely a lot on delegating. I love delegating as in like, I think my, my way, my, uh, the, the feeling of caught up or a very good feeling is I have identified what other people can do.

And I have delegated those things, um, And the, those are like my winning days where I feel not even like they've done it already, but, you know, I've done the thinking I've done the, um, the deciding I've done, like, all the things that only I can do. And if I have delegated stuff. Okay, you could you, like, research on this type of topic on Instagram for whatever, uh, could you find me, like, 5 references for if I had the time to do the thinking and delegating, I would feel very good.

Marie: I have a follow up question to that because I, I think I've seen you talk about how you've been using AI quite a bit. And I'm curious if you've been outsourcing a little bit to chat GPT and things like that. Like what are some ways that maybe you're using these tools to help maybe offset some of this burden or the thinking or some of the planning that you've been doing?

Like, are you pretty heavy into chat GPT right now?

Monica: I love chat GPT. And that, that's another thing where You know, like the idea of being caught up, I don't feel caught up when I have things that I'm procrastinating on, you know, like, Oh, that email to like my accountant about X, Y, Z. And if I handle those, I feel like so much lighter and it's not about quantity.

I still have a bunch of other things to do, but if I can check off things that I'm procrastinating on, I use like, you know, like charge BT quite a while, quite a lot. But I've recently discovered like Claude AI from Anthropic. And it's amazing. And it's amazing in analyzing things and synthesizing things.

So, for example, uh, I've been wanting to do to write this book on delegation since, like, last year and because I just think, like. It can change lives, not only for the person who is delegating, but, um, you know, I work with people in Latin America, sometimes in Africa, sometimes, like, in the Philippines. And, um, I think it does change their lives too.

And it's really a big opportunity for them to, to learn new skills to, like, dream bigger. Um, so after doing that for a couple of years, I have become, I think, really good at. Not only like finding the right people, but like teaching them, teaching them how to learn, teaching them, you know, how to get things done, um, quickly sort of like, uh, teaching them how I think and how to make those decisions, right?

How I can delegate decisions so they can. I don't procrastinate as much, so I've been procrastinating on this book and I'm like, oh, I want this book and like. You know, just, just like I would get stuck. And I think with cloud AI, what I did is. There are some books that are really like, just a format. It has nothing to do with delegation.

There's really good writing book that I love by Gary provost. And I was just kind of like, you know, Claude, I want to write this book on delegation, but not the typical things, but I want to, you know, like, if you look at this book on writing, and then I think I fed it like the outline of the book. And it's just super specific, like a hundred things.

I have it here, like a hundred ways to improve your writing. And it's this thing where, like, the, the titles are so great. And, um, you know, how can I adapt this to delegation? And then it, like, it, like, nailed it. It, like, nailed the, Sort of like, oh, this is the outline and I was like, oh, you know, like I can change this and that made me feel so much lighter and maybe it's a, it's an illusion or a delusion.

Like, it's the book is not done, but at least have like this, this outline,

Marie: right? So the

Monica: structure and like, I can right now, I really don't have. Like, I don't have time, like, like, literally, like, I have too many things going on for side projects, but I know that, like, in a weekend, if I feel like it, I could go on Google Docs and start doing stuff for work.

I don't feel like I'm catching up so much as in, you know, that there are things that, you know, like, I'm, I'm pushing out and things are getting done. There are lots of other things that I want to do, and I'm not able to. And I think for those things, I rely a lot on chat GPT, like, you know, playing around, like, I, I, I think of myself like a bartender or something.

So it's just like, I'm just curating recipes. I think it's just recipe building. That's how I think about AI, like the generative AI, at least, you know, I like this bit from this author and like this, this, this

Marie: little dash of this little dash of that,

Monica: right? And. You know, I have this draft, what it would look like if I did it with a mix of this and a mix of that, can you add a little bit of this?

Can you add it? And you create the, the source, but then you can see it changing. And, uh, yeah, so that's, that's a big one, uh, for, I'm not teaching English anymore, but. I think it would have been such a game changer if I use that for teaching for like, okay, I have a student who's struggling with these sounds and these pronunciations and I want to teach him vocabulary in this field.

Can you create I don't know, can you create a custom, um, story that he can like sound and read out loud and practice and also add, I don't know, like 10 reading and comprehension questions. I would have loved to do something like that. And I, I have people asking me, like, you know, Monica, like, are you still teaching?

Can you help me with this presentation? And, and that's 1 of the, I would love to help them, but I'm like, oh, I'm sorry. I don't have time. I would love to put together a course and I think a couple of days ago. Because I really have this vision of helping virtual assistants. So I've asked my virtual assistants like, you know, do you guys need a course to like practice English and things and like, uh, oh, yeah, we would love that.

Like, we have all of these friends that are like, that, you know, English is the only thing that is stopping them from, like, you know, getting jobs. And. I've had them like, you know, we've been like brainstorming on course ideas and I think I was just asking Claude. Okay. I have I want to do this type of course with these kind of modules.

Can you, uh, put together a course outline? And it was like, it nailed it. It's like, Oh, wow. It's amazing. So those are, uh, huge breakthroughs for me using AI. Like I, for ADHD, like many times it's just, just the block.

Marie: Yeah. The structure block I find is like the structure

Monica: blog. Yeah. And it's like that. I call it the initial 10 percent the lift.

It's like the first, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It's like the, like the on ramp, right, to, to like the highway. Like I just need to find the ramp or like the lift. And then AI has been excellent for that lift. Even if, if like, Oh, that's totally wrong. I'm going to go this, this path.

Marie: Even something that's like incorrect or like just a starting point, you're like, Oh, I like this, but I don't like that.

And it's just, even something bad is a good starting point, right?

Monica: Yeah. I would love to ask you, like, how, is it like, you know, Making you want to do more things because of, you know, this added booster. I feel sometimes that way. I'm like, I want to do more because I can, I have this magic wand.

Marie: I can't say it makes me want to do more, but it actually does make me want to follow through.

Like a perfect example was like the gardening stuff where you're like, there's been so many things I've wanted to do in the garden. And then I was like, wait a second, I can upload these maps. I can give it the list of things I want to grow and the seeds and like my. Uh, the sun pattern, like uploading all these maps and it was stuff that was, you know, the garden was kind of took a backseat for a couple of years because it's so many decisions.

It's so much. Structure necessary and even timing like you just have to understand so many different components. So that's the perfect kind of synthesis that, um, chat GPT was able to do and following through on my permaculture diploma following through on workshop ideas. So it's more about, I guess.

Creating that ramp, like you said, for the things I had already committed to. And now I'm able to make a little bit more momentum with those things. But I can't say it's opened up new project ideas. It's more like, cool, maybe I can finish the ones I've already committed to.

Monica: Yeah, same.

Benjamin: I find it helpful for mostly research purposes more.

And, and decision fatigue is one thing that I think it can assist with, you know, like give me, you know, you can, as a programmer, I can set All of the context of what I know and then I can ask it questions like what would be the best way give me some recommendations on this, you know, search the Internet for, you know, open source libraries that I might utilize to create this thing, given that I have this existing knowledge.

So it helps you, like, you know, do those decision making things. And I find it especially. Helpful, like the generative stuff, I generally find to be pretty low, low effort and low quality. Like, I like, I like to write my own stuff and then ask it, rewrite this in this style or something. And I usually end up going, I actually like the way I wrote it because that feels like my style.

Um, so I'll use that, but where I find AI to be really helpful is in research. Um, so for example, if I'm doing a course in firefighting and I have to do, I did a, um, Like a company inspections course recently, which is like inspecting properties for fire safety and stuff like that. And so I took the BC fire code and I uploaded it to an agent.

And then I was able to just ask it questions about what's in this document. Like, tell me, you know, based on the fact that this, this, this building has, uh, extension cords going across the, you know, the, the thoroughfare where people are walking. Is this against the fire code? And it would be like, yes, this is against the fire code, this section or whatever.

And so I was able to write up my report saying like, okay, these are the, these are the, uh, the things that this, this building needs to fix to be like compliant with the code or whatever. So I think with stuff like that, where there's an existing document or some kind of information that you need to research and like, I'm not going to read.

The entire, the entire fire code, because it's massive. So to be able to find those things quickly and, and give it context for what you're looking for is really valuable to me. I think that's, that's where I use it a lot is, is like the research and, and, you know, instead of having to read thousands of pages or whatever, you can kind of get a summary really quickly.

Monica: It's unbelievable how unlocking it has been for me. I think you said that lift or that like something, but I, I would love to. Learn how to code and that's one area where it's a completely new thing that I have. Like, there's no chance I can learn, you know, like, I'm in my forties, like I have too many things going on to kids, you know, full time job.

Um, but with, with this new thing where, you know, you can sort of like, if you're a non coder, you can learn how to code and it's really tempting. It's one of those things where I'm like, uh, not yet, not yet, but like, I really want to, it's, uh, another exciting thing that I'm saying. But, uh, I would love to dive in.

Benjamin: Can I ask what the, what's, what's the purpose behind learning? Like learning to code is one thing, but what are, what are you actually trying to create? What's, what's the, what purpose does that, does that knowledge serve for you?

Monica: So for me, I feel like there's this like, I don't want to call it promise, but I just feel, and even just from talking to people who, who are, you know, like, Who are developers, the idea of you being able to make the computer do things.

And I don't know what those things are, but I just feel that if I learn this environment or, um, I don't know, ecosystem or what, like, I will find things to do. It's almost like very like, weird, but like, I just feel that by talking to people, you know, there's a really close friend of mine. He's a CS professor and he was saying Monica, it's the closest thing to being God, like to, to saying, let there be X.

And like, you will never feel that way with anything, but, um, the coding, he was, you know, just explaining how, and it's just problem solving, right? Like, I, I'm doing all these things and I wish I could have an computer auditor. Somebody who like looks exactly where I click and tells me, Oh, did you know, you could, you know, write a script and then do that in like two seconds, you know, like I want to, I want to, I want to know what I don't know.

And I don't know what I don't know at this point, but I think, uh, I'm really curious about, yeah, I'm really curious about what is obvious to this programmers and you know, how do they do things? I sometimes get this loom videos. And the people are like, okay, go here, go here, go here. And I'm like, oh, wow, that's amazing.

Um, just to one example, which is like the closest I've been to coding and this is not coding at all. I had this one, you know, like 80 people kind of like, you know, event, and I'm trying to sort this people based on their interests and I made like 80 people. I don't know any of them. And I did a survey and I'm just having difficulty finding the topics.

And like, I'm just, just, I'm a little lost. And then a friend, um, has shown me how to sort of feed CSV files or like Excel files to chat GPT, and then like ask questions. And it was like amazing where I'm like, okay, I'm, I'm doing this event with this, you know, this people, they have this interest, you know, like, well, can you give me like 10 categories of, or topics these people are interested in?

And Not like excellent. I ended up doing all manually. Like I printed out photographs of those people, put them on the floor. And I just really got feeling and put the groups together, but it was a very eye opening activity for me to just like feed the computer a CSV file. Can you sort this for me? And then can you put the sorting with, um, you know, can you, can you return or produce a sorted.

CSV file, and like, even the labeling of the file, Chajupiti is awesome at labeling files, so he produced this like, beautiful CSV file, like, these are the topics, these are the people that could fit in here, um. And that to me is magical. That's like pure magic. That's not even quoting.

Marie: Yeah, it almost seems like your curiosity around AI and chat GPT has kind of made you more interested.

Like, wait a second. How is this computer doing this? And kind of what's here.

Monica: Can I, maybe I can do it too. Like that, that's, it's getting me closer to that. Cause like GitHub and all that's like, Oh my God, this is like too confusing, too scary. I think the AI is a. Very friendly portal. Yeah. It's a very friendly entry point.

And that's, that's a great word. I love whether it's for people courses, um, finding the entry point for me. And I think Marie, you were my entry point to Notion. Like I have seen so many videos about Notion and like, every time I like nothing clicked and I think you had, um, and this, like, keep productive video, you were showing like your, your client portal.

It was like, Oh, my God, it was just like, five seconds of seeing that. And that was my entry point. And I was like, Oh my God, this is, this is the product. I was like, you know, and it makes me feel like a superwoman using notion sometimes, like with like my low skills. Yeah, you can just sort of build something that's that's like, I feel like, uh, I feel a little bit more, I don't know, equipped and like a tooled person.

Benjamin: I wrote a blog a while back called Congrats, you're a dev. Or I can, because I consider no coders to be devs, you know, they're not maybe writing actual programming language, but the mechanisms that you're utilizing are similar to routines that you would write in code. So when you talk about sorting and looping over things, you know, for every one of the people in this list of CSV, I want to take the.

Name and add it to this. So you have these different levels of development. And I think most people start with something no Cody, like Google Sheets or Excel. If you're using Excel, Excel spreadsheets, like the formula, the formula language in Excel is a programming language. So you are doing programming while you're when you're working with these softwares, right?

It's it's just this level of the code is being abstracted away. Um, and so you're utilizing code. When we use notion, for example, we do show me all of these, and I want to see the ones that are filtered by where I'm in that column. And I also want to see where the date is in this range. It's very similar to if we're writing.

sql, which is a database language. We're using MySQL databases or Postgres or something like that. Same thing. You're writing these expressions that tell us what we want to do with our data and see from it. So these like escalations that you can do where you're d you're, you know, you're doing, moving away from the abstraction to being a little bit more.

You know, closer to the metal, so to speak, they give you more power, but they also sometimes don't, you know, there's a lot of stuff that makes it's easier if you were to write it in code, but to do what you're talking about, like sorting a CSV without software. Writing that with code would take you quite a while to, to figure out and write.

Even, even I, who know how to do that, like I would probably grab a, some sort of CSV library, load up that file, and then you can loop through that and do the sorting and stuff like that. And then spit out the document, you know, later like sorted or something like that. But the, the abstractions like give us so much more.

So usually I like to have like, I would personally like, you know, in terms of keeping you focused on what's going to be important for you. Um, I don't want to say this in a like harsh way, but like you need, you have a good reason for learning to code because there, there's not that many. It, you would, you would be able to do a lot of different stuff, but I, I always advise people to Have a thing that you want to solve, you know, like I did this thing recently where I take all of our Stripe transactions and I download them from Stripe.

And I also make an API query to our bookkeeping software. And I bring down all of the unexplained transactions in our bookkeeping software. And then I wrote code that explains them all like, what location are they? What tax bracket is it in? And, and so like, you know, that didn't exist in software anywhere.

So I had, I had to write code for that. And like, I couldn't have done it with say Zapier or something else that was further abstracted from the code because neither, you know, the platforms free agent, the software we use does not have something like that. And it would have been really difficult to build in something like a no code solution.

So that's the kind of stuff where I'm like, If you want to learn to code, like have some kind of specific thing that you can only do in code, because a lot of times, like people are building apps these days with no coding whatsoever. You just use some kind of app platform like bubble, and then you've got stripe for handling payments.

You've got like all these platforms and you can put together something with writing very little code now. Um, so yeah, I think sometimes it does help, but the GPT is solving these problems that you have in a less like To the metal way. And so sometimes I just advise people that want to learn how to code like I'm kind of like why like, you know, you've you're already solving these problems, you know, if you want to go deeper than yeah, maybe check it out.

But have have a have a goal in mind or a project or a specific task that you know, I can't solve with without code or something like that. And that will teach you. Okay, how difficult is this going to be to learn if I have this one small task that I want to do with code, you know, how long does it take me?

And you want to see like, what's the, you know, what's the risk reward benefit? Um, there's a famous XKCD comic. about automation. And it's like this graph that shows like how long it takes to like write a code to automate something. And then basically like the time that it takes to maintain that code and maintain the automation eventually like exceeds the, the amount of time that it saves you.

And there's these like sweet spots of like automation and coding that like, You know, if you can, like for me, my bookkeeping took me every month, two to three days to explain every single Stripe transaction and do all the bookkeeping. Now I run a code that, uh, a script that takes two minutes, like that was worth it to me to save myself two to three days a week, a month of work.

Marie: How long did it take you to build it?

Benjamin: I've been tinkering with it. So I think the first iteration was like a day of coding. Um, and then every time I would run the script again, I'd run into errors because I was encountering the data in a format that didn't exist yet or something like that. So I'd have to rewrite some code an hour or two here and there.

So now I can run the script. It, Yesterday, when I did the bookkeeping, it explained 175 transactions without without any errors. But previously, 175, I had to do 175 separate tasks to explain those transactions and like back and forth. And, you know, you'd make mistakes because you'd be looking at. A list of stripe transactions and miscalculate one like, oh, this was the wrong, you know, number or something like that.

So then you'd have to go back and review it. So that's the kind of stuff that I think coding is great for when there's a lot of manual work and you're having to, like, you might make a lot of mistakes if you're making that doing that manually. Um, so, yeah, it's definitely saved me a ton of time.

Monica: No, I totally, totally agree.

And I think the, I know there's something that could. There, there's something and, and, and I, I wonder if it's, maybe it's automation, maybe it's like learning how to use like, you know, Zapier or like, make, I think that's another one. Yeah. Um, I just feel that I'm doing a lot of manual things, repetitive things that I've delegated a lot of it sometimes, you know, can you, you know, go through like my expenses and then, um, and I would love to be able to just put my expenses for a month, like a PDF, 'cause like my credit card does not gimme a CSV file and.

To sort of like categorize them or, um, I don't know, but oftentimes, you know, on, on Twitter, you'll see, okay, I, I'm a solopreneur. I have like this business and these are the things that I used. And, and it feels like, oh my God, this people maybe know something I don't, um, or it gives me the. It's some kind of FOMO of like, I think I'm missing out on automations.

Like, I don't know what that would be like. Um, even how you were handling your entire process with for your podcast. And I think you had a couple, you know, like Zapier. Sort of like, you know, uh, zaps here and there. And, um, yeah, so not, not full on, like, I'm going to build an app, but just, just really trying to like become a little bit closer or like a little bit friendlier with this other dimension.

It's like a, it's a, it's a really weird, different dimension, like foreign to me, like automation sounds like super woman type of thing, but I'm sure it's not.

Benjamin: If I could give you sort of a path, it would look something like that, where you're going to use applications that do this for you. Initially, the next level up from that would be to build your own automations that are communicating between apps.

And you're going to run into limitations with something like Zapier. Zapier is probably a little bit easier to learn than make, but I think makes a little bit more powerful. And then you get to the point in, say, Zapier or make where you could use a custom code step. And that might mean, for example, I have a thing in one of our zaps that, um, takes in the time that people have left on their Notion Mastery 12 months, and it adds it to the beginning of their, um, subscription when they sign up for a membership, because we want to give them the entirety of their 12 months.

But if they renew early, then I want to give them that bonus. And so I run a little piece of code that's like, how much time is left? And then I, and then I send that to Stripe. With an A. P. I. Request. So you could do something like that, where you start with just basic automations where you're wiring up one slot to a different slot somewhere else.

And that would give you, I think, a lot of the power that you're talking about in automating things. Like when I, when I receive a request in via this form on Google forms or whatever, then I want it to be added to my notion workspace. So I can review it in notion rather than the form. Going to a separate platform, so that might be a great starting point.

And then you get to the point where it's like, I can't automate this with one of these platforms. I have to write custom code and in that point, you're running code in the context of like Zapier or make, so you're not having to design an environment where the code runs. That's where it starts to get more complex when you're actually having to host your own code.

Um, Thomas Frank uses this platform called Pipe Dream, which is really cool. It's kind of like Zapier, but you're actually running scripts. Um, so you can make endpoints that you can publish data to. So Thomas has a, this really complex one for a lot of his products that That runs scripts for him and he doesn't have to do any of the server hosting stuff.

That's the next level is like hosting your own stuff and then then you're getting up to the application level. So yeah, there's like, yeah,

Monica: yeah. And I, and I, I think what would the everything that you were, you were saying are things that. I don't know, as in like, I don't know what I can do or I don't know what could be done or, and I think that there are lots of things that I don't know.

So I, I wish like there would be like a,

Marie: have you tried Chad? GBT?

Monica: Oh, I, maybe I, I, well just say like, but that's a good thing. Hey, can

Marie: I make this happen when this happens? 'cause even, I think Zapier has a little, um, chat, GP tpl, whatever, plugin, whatever you call it, and they can actually make suggested connections for you.

Monica: You know what you said? Like, Oh, can I make this? And I'm, I'm like, right before that stage of knowing or

Marie: what you need or what?

Monica: Yeah, I was teaching, we hired a nanny and we're like showing what to do and how to do things. And it's like, Oh, you could do it like that. Oh, I didn't know you could, you know, like, there are lots of things that to me are like second nature.

Yeah. But, um, like how to mince garlic, you know, or like just, just something very, very, um, simple, but she would not have asked, Oh, how do you mince garlic? She would just have done it her way. And that that's, that's the thing that I'm like. Trying to crack what questions should I be asking like that? That's like, you know, what questions should I be asking?

Um, maybe it's a it's a I'm doing this project. What are some areas that can be automated or

Marie: yeah, I think part of it's noticing, like, what are the things that you do every single time with certain projects or or even like, what are the most annoying parts? Uh, what do I find myself doing every time I'm starting up a project?

Even if it's something like, Oh, I make a folder on my desktop and then I do this. And then I set up an account here, like just, I guess, documenting the stuff that you do as you do it, and just kind of identifying those points of points of friction, points that are just feel really annoying points that feel really repetitive, because there's usually some kind of, not everything could be automated, but there's going to be some points for the things that you do most often that you can probably create some kind of.

Automation there.

Benjamin: Yeah, there's different different aspects of this thing. And it's like knowing knowing how much the time is going to be saved by writing code or automating and things like that. So all of my that whole bookkeeping system that I've written, there is still a manual step involved. And that is I go and download all of the the code.

Current set of transactions of payouts from Stripe and I, and I run the script against that. So I could, if I wanted to write another set of scripts that, um, that fetches all of those payouts from Stripe without, you know, running an app from the command line without me having to go to Stripe and downloading that.

But I'm at the point where I'm like, that's like the time that it takes me to download those transactions is about 15 seconds. And I think it would probably take me another day or two to write a script, you know, so. I kind of weigh the, you know, is it worth doing? I know that it's possible. Um, and that's the thing.

I think the challenging thing with coding and automation is like, you don't know what's possible yet. So, you know, that's the kind of thing. I would look at your systems and your automations and go, where am I actually delegating right now? And how much is that costing me? Is it costing me a lot? And there might be some opportunities in there where you could actually just list it.

These are the common things I do on every project and how long does those things kind of like typically take you it might actually be more cost effective to just delegate to someone else, but it also might be more cost effective to figure out how to automate some of those things. Um, usually I find like the most, I would say the most high impact, um, automation things that you're going to have is anytime you are collecting information or moving data from one place to another, those are the.

And that's basically what Zapier and Make and even Pipedream are kind of designed to facilitate is moving data from one place to another. So anytime you're doing anything at scale like that, like submitting a form, uh, replying to people, you know, tagging, any kind of automation stuff, that's all the stuff that you can really leverage automation for.

So, yeah. I would, if you're already delegating work, there's tons of opportunity.

Monica: Right? I want 1 thing that, uh, you mentioned forms. I do manage this 1 directory and it's like, you know, a Google form and then a Google spreadsheet, but, um, is there any other, like, better way for. Community directories, I know some people use air table, um, or like, whatever works works any, anything that I can experience is right now, the way it's set up.

Like, I have this form where there are lots of questions. So I, I, I manually update our directory, which is like, I think not. not a great idea. Um, but then if I do an air table, people like, anybody could just fill in and have access to the directory. So like, I'm trying to figure out.

Benjamin: Yeah. Well, so where's the, where's the actual directory?

Where's the manual work happening?

Monica: The manual work is happening where, um, I kind of like check are these people in the community are like, are they paying for it? Cause like, it's not a gated community in that, Um, you know, we have a community people pay through Twitter. So there's a subscription kind of payment system going through Twitter.

And then once they become a subscriber, they'll have access to this telegram group. What happens is that there's this big gap. Not everybody who's on telegram is paying for the membership. And a lot of the communication's happening on telegram. I don't want to, you know, like, uh, have anybody sort of just put in all the information and then have forever access to this directory

Marie: if they're not paying for the,

Monica: if they're not paying.

And what I do is like, and, and not, and it's an opt in, you know, you opt in to fill in this directory to get access to directory. And I usually check, are these people paying? And we would try to hire somebody to, to write like the code to do a validation if they're paying with Twitter, but it was just like, there was like monthly fees, all the APIs and things.

And it was cheaper to delegate to do it manually.

Benjamin: Yeah. Um, that, that sounds like a case where it's your, there's going to be some manual stuff, because what I, what I typically do in those kinds of situations would Is might even go on like something like whimsical and design a map that shows the flow of the actual like process.

So it sounds like they're paying on Twitter somehow, and then you're then giving them a form to fill out the form, get submitted, and then you're manually reviewing that. And you're going over to telegram to add them to this telegram group. Um, so at all of those points, that would be the question that you would want to ask is what.

level of access do I have to this data automatically, like in an automation form. So the Twitter API would be needed, or maybe there's an actual charge that gets created on Stripe or something that you could trigger a, um, a automation on. So this is how our membership system works. So somebody, somebody buys our membership and we have a, a Zapier zap that triggers based on a new invoice being created for that specific membership product in Stripe.

And then what I do is, and I look up a, I look and see, is there a student record related to them in our notion database? And if there is, then that, then that zap continues on. And then I can actually make sure I can see that this student exists. And I have a little database that shows me anybody that.

Doesn't exist. So for example, if somebody buys with a different email than we have on file, I can then manually go and align that with their actual membership. And I have a script for correcting the email address and stuff like that. So there's, there's lots of opportunities there where like, but you'd have to look into, does Telegram have an API to automatically add people to a group?

They might, you know, and that way you could say trigger, Trigger on a purchase being made, take their email from that purchase trigger and send it to Telegram to add them to a group. It might be even be a simple two step API thing if you've got Stripe and Telegram as the thing that, that adds them to the group.

Um, and then conversely, you might have something that when that subscription is canceled, you remove them from the Telegram group.

Monica: That's the biggest thing now. Yeah. And I, it's just, I don't know how much of it and, and it's a, um, probably a conversation for another day, but like, those are like the things I, this could be, I think, easier.

I don't know how, so I just keep doing the old way. This could be easier.

Marie: That's a good like metric. I think whenever you find yourself being like, I have a feeling this could be easier and like noting those down because I think layering in those automations, like bit by bit is going to be, you guys start small.

Benjamin: It could be. It could be it could also be a really like you could outsource this and hire somebody to build the code for you. And then now you're maintaining code application and you have to then pay for that maintenance or hire a developer or something like that. So sometimes like getting doing the doing the unscalable work early on really benefits you.

Till you get to a certain point of profitability where it will make sense to like automate those things. I think a lot of times we automate way too early, um, when we don't even have any kind of like proof of revenue, proof of profit, really. Um, you know, MRR is great and all, but like, Profit is the, is the thing that, you know, we really care about when it comes to this stuff.

So you can hire, delegate all you want and hire programmers and stuff like that, and then be really unprofitable because, because you're having to pay a lot to maintain all these systems and things like that. So I'm always excited to see people make the leap to code. It's, it's scary, but, um, I can recommend.

I don't think

Monica: I'm going to make it any time, bud.

Benjamin: I would, I would check out execute program. com it's, they have a series of coding courses and it's like a monthly, um, subscription fee and you can take any of the courses, but I've really loved those ones. There's a, a JavaScript, uh, course that I would recommend.

Um, JavaScript is the most generally ubiquitous language and all of these platforms. Um, and, uh, it, it exists in all different types of contexts like software and websites and stuff like that. So I would start with a. A basics of JavaScript course, if you want to dive into the programming fundamentals, because all of these platforms Zapier make, et cetera, when you start getting into the diving into the code action steps, it's all written in JavaScript.

So, like, you will want to have some JavaScript fundamentals to be able to describe what you want to do. And there's so much JavaScript in the world that you can ask chat to give you, give me this thing that does this and I want to use CSV file. How would I do that? It'll, you know, give you examples of those things that you can plug into your existing code.

Monica: I mean, there, there are too many things that I want to learn and I should be learning, um, like, you know, SEO, like content, newsletter, marketing, and I, and those are, those are the things that are like, are actually a higher priority. Right. Right. So it's just. It's hard.

Marie: It is hard. I know we have to jump in a couple minutes, so I just wanted to give you maybe a minute to share with folks where they can find out more about what you're up to and, uh, you know, your, your domain and whatever interesting projects you're up to at the moment.

Monica: Um, I think the I'm most active on Twitter. People can find me at Monica Lim Co. And I am, I'm trying to get back on YouTube. It's just always so hard to like, heavy lift, get back on things as a heavy lift and, and feeling like, you know, just I look at my feet and it's like, Who am I? You know, it's just all over the place.

Um, I have a podcast, which is called Wander, and Yeah, podcast, you can most things that I do, I share on my Twitter. So that's the best way to find me. I'm on LinkedIn, Instagram with the same handle. But I would say that that's the best. The best me the fuller me is on Twitter.

Marie: I love it. Yeah, I love how openly you share what you're learning and what you're feeling what you're experiencing the behind the scenes of your projects.

I think you're just such a fascinating person. And I really love being in your sphere.

Monica: Oh, thank you. Likewise.

Creators and Guests

Benjamin Borowski
Benjamin Borowski
Notion warlock at, Systems at, volunteer firefighter, hacker, DJ
Marie Poulin
Marie Poulin
Taming work/life chaos with Notion • Leading • Online Courses • ADHD • Permaculture
Making Things Happen with Monica Lim
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