[ARTICLE] Putting the “Life” Back in “Work-life”


Conversation with Manu Goswami

"If you’re doing your own thing and not having fun, it’s one of two things: you’re not doing the thing you love or you’re not managing time properly. " 

Busy is the new black. 

Whether it’s the millionth article about how to squeeze more productivity from the 24 hours in your day or your IG peers posting pictures of the “hustle,” you are absolutely ensconced in societal messages that insist you be doing something…anything…with every minute available if you want to get ahead.  Technology only drives the point in deeper.  You are accessible to existing/future clients or employers via any number of channels: Slacker, Basecamp, e-mail, text, phone and in some uncomfortable cases, Facebook messenger. Even when you’re on vacation, out-of-office responses are often just read as entreaties to find you some other way.

This constant state of activity is what inspired the minds behind HR Season 2: Cubicle Creepshow to adapt the plight of the modern-day worker to a werewolf.  Our resident cubicle philosopher, Kozi Kyles, once mused to herself what would happen if this classic creature had to work an all-nighter during a full-moon.  To find out, check out this episode of our real-life workplace horror series HERE. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

**drums finger on desk and browses Instagram for 3 minutes**

Done? Damn, yeah, that was messed up, amirite?

But the real question is not: Why is this happening?  It’s actually “what can we do about it?”  We can’t exactly climb into a time machine and go back to the 50’s and 60’s when “clocking out” meant just that, and land lines couldn’t follow you to your home sweet home.

To get an answer, we sought counsel from a career empowerment expert, Manu Goswami, affectionately known as “Swoop.”  This 20-year-old wunderkind is a success story and a social juggernaut all-in-one who started his first foray into business at the age of seven.  He’s got half a dozen ventures in four different industries and even created an online incubator to benefit rural residents facing food insecurity by connecting them to retailers, restaurants, and even households with a surplus they can afford to offload.

And Goswami is always innovating, in fact, in February he’s launching SuperFan, an app on both IOS and Android to help influencers and celebrities meaningfully engage with social superfans who support them the most.  While balancing all this business, Goswami also manages to be an accomplished speaker with TedX engagements and designations as Canada’s Top 20 Under 20 Young Entrepreneur of the Year, a LinkedIn Youth Editor and UN Ambassador.

We can guess what you’re thinking.  When does this man sleep?  What on earth would he know about work-life balance?  Turns out: a ton.  You can’t be at your full potential if you’re not living a full life, according to Goswami who uses some tech gadgets to ensure he’s surrounded by friends and family, plus prioritizing what he has to do today versus tomorrow. He also drops science about tech tools that help you get your ish together.

He’s got wisdom, so fasten in, sit back and relax…well, for a few minutes for our Q&A with the entrepreneur Forbes has dubbed one of the ten Gen Z experts to follow. Pro tip: Turn some of your notifications off so you can get your enlightenment on in peace.

Q: People have this perception that entrepreneurs should be “hustling,” aka working around the clock in order to succeed. What does work/life balance mean to you?

Goswami: I think it’s subjective, but for me in particular, it’s about attaining happiness.   I don’t like “regret” or “burning out” and stressing over small issues.  For me, it’s about finding a lifestyle that allows me to interact with friends, be social and concentrate on my personal ambitions without compromising.  

Q: Sounds wonderful, so how do you achieve that?

Goswami: Yeah, for me, it’s hard and it changes every week. I prioritize three or four things a week and block off time when I’m the most productive and work toward finishing things on that weekly list.  I’ll decide to do a certain task where I need to focus during this block when I’m feeling that productivity, versus going to work out or watching TV. I’m not saying those aren’t things that are worthwhile, but if your brain works better during a certain time of day, that is when you might want to focus on those tasks that have to be done. For example, right now, I am in the midst of rolling out a project, doing LinkedIn, speaking, and I need to prioritize work that is urgent.

Q: Still sounds strenuous.  Do you ever feel burned out?

Goswami: There are a few times recently when I have felt burned out.  For example, last year, I felt a bit stretched. Don’t get me wrong: I do like working on multiple things at once, but I didn’t feel that I was doing it and having fun. I was not devoting enough time to the things I wanted to do and I was also putting my mind into everything, not delegating it to other people and not taking time for myself during the week.  I was not watching TV, playing basketball or talking to my brother.  It wasn’t that I was burning out; I just wasn’t having fun.  Having freedom to work on your own projects is a huge luxury and that has to be said, but you also have to have confidence and, if you’re doing your own thing and not having fun, it’s one of two things: you’re not doing the thing you love or you’re not managing time properly.  

Q: You run multiple businesses.  You’re a speaker.  You’re a social force to be reckoned with.  How do you get it all done?

Goswami: Yeah, I try to organize my entire life in Evernote. I can’t live without that.  I have about 2400 notes on my iPhone and those are made up of a lot of thoughts.  I have ideas throughout the day, maybe even at 4 a.m. I’ll wake up and get it down.  Also, I set reminders for anything I have to do, whether it’s calling my mom, brushing my teeth, going for a run or messaging friends about the plan for the weekend.   

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Q: That’s still quite a bit of technology tethered to your day. Do you feel it is important to unplug?  And if so, how do you do it? Meditation?

Goswami: Yeah, you’re the second person to ask me that.  I feel like a lot of my friends do meditate.  I’m surrounded by an environment of meditation and want to get into it. My 2018 goal is meditation and I think that could be great.  Right now, I like walking a lot; it clears my mind. I would enjoy sitting down for 10 minutes, and instead of being on my phone at night, clear my thoughts and come into the next day with a fresh start.

Q: You have had a nontraditional and very early entrepreneurial experience, but how would you advise a young employee to tackle work-life balance with an employer?  To be super specific because this is a theme we explore in “Cubicle Creepshow,” how would you suggest asserting yourself if more senior employees expect so-called young people to work 24/7 to pay their dues?

Goswami: It’s a hard question.  I want to preface this by saying that I don’t believe I’m an expert in work-life balance.  I am still working it out for myself.  I’ve never held a full-time job.  I’m only 20.  But the key thing is if I was in the situation, two things would run through my mind.  One: Is this the right environment for me? I’m not saying quit your job because of pressure because pressure can be beneficial, but if it’s recurring, if you’re lagging behind in work or if you’re not enthusiastic and your supervisor is a jerk pressuring you to an enormous degree, get help or consult someone for assistance or consider leaving.   The second big thing that would go through my mind would be: Am I being proactive in order to mitigate pressures in the future?  You’ll feel burnt out and over-pressured, but then it’s over when you hit the deadline.  Just don’t be like “ahhh...I’m done with this project, let’s go and drink and celebrate.” Remembering this situation may help in one to three months if another deadline is coming up and you want to think: (A) How am I going to prevent this from happening again and (B) how can I handle it better?  For example, do you need to download a better organizational tool, do you need to line up and get people on a team who can help you and who you can delegate to?  Be ready to clear your calendar so you don’t have obligations around that deadline time that would prevent you from reaching your goal.  

Q: Do you foresee a tipping point in the battle to carve out a life amid professional obligations?

Goswami: A hundred percent. Two things.  One thing: If you are a company that doesn’t care about quality of life outside the office, I think you’re a company that is severely going to fail in the future. You’ll have companies coming up not only competing with you on products and services, but they will be able to retain and recruit top talent.  Creative freedom, entrepreneurship, employees being able to take on projects they want to take on and even direct a project, not be bogged down in work all the time…. these are the types of things people are looking for in jobs.  Do you offer retreats or socials or weekly events?  Some offices don’t even have Christmas parties...these simple things can be the difference between an employee staying two or three years versus leaving after just one year. It could come down to the way companies treat employees about a holiday that determines how they perceive that company. People demand work-life balance because if you don’t have that, you will not be healthy or happy.