Coping With Lockdown Interview Series: #1 - Lena Robinson, founder of FTSQ
To help us feel more connected in these odd times, nimbld Founder & CEO Carla Viegas has taken up conversations with various #freelancers #solopreneurs and #entrepreneurs around the globe. In these interviews, they share various tips, tricks, and advice on how best to cope while in these #stayhome times.
Without further ado, let's get into it!
Challenges & Silver Linings
Carla: What have been your biggest challenges?
Lena: My challenges are vastly different to most. Having been chronically ill since June 2019 my lockdown’s about to hit 12 months and I’m not even allowed out for daily exercise (doctor’s orders).
My biggest challenge has been coming out of the other side of chronic illness just as Covid-19 hit and being told, “you need to stay inside, despite no-longer being bed-ridden”. I felt like I had been punched in the guts…hard.
Then the moaning started: “I’ve been stuck inside three weeks…it’s so hard…blah blah blah.” All I could think was “WTF!!!! I’ve been like this for nearly a year. Suck it up princess.” A whole lot of anger and resentment boiled up inside of me. You think to yourself. “What the f*** have you lot got to complain about after what I have just been through?”. But, then you take a breath, and realise, this situation is shit for everyone. I thought to myself “It isn’t their fault what you’ve had to endure. Everyone is hurting. Robinson you’re better than this, get over yourself.” So, I gave myself a good talking to, kicked myself in the butt and showed kindness and empathy to others and stopped being angry, it was getting me nowhere.
Carla: What unexpected benefits came up, ...any silver linings?
Lena: Time! Time to take stock of my entire life has been the biggest silver lining in all of this.
It’s made me realise that my life, prior to illness and Covid-19 was too fast, too full, too chaotic and too stressful. I’ve decided what I want the rest of my life to look like.
When I go back to running my business I am only going back to 3-4 days a week at most, instead of the 6-7 days a week I used to do. I’ve been able to be much more creative in my thinking, strategy and planning and have even had time to start planning my first book, which is all very exciting. And the final, most unexpected benefit of this time has been my health. I am putting me first for once in my life and as a result my health is vastly improving.
Carla: I really like the idea of people being paid for actual work done, not for the time. This isn't prison, people! There is also emerging research showing that in any given 7 hour day, most of it is lost to productivity drains, so I am quietly (ok, not so quietly) obsessed with productivity optimisation. Not so that people can cram even more work in - because there is such a thing as cognitive overload and burnout... but so that people can have more 'Life' in their days.
Useful Tips from Lena
Carla: Any general tips for others in this situation?
Lena: Be kind to yourself. No one saw this coming. Whether you’re a business owner dealing with difficult decisions or have a job that’s all over the place or your kids are climbing all over you or you have no work at all, remember…this is not your fault and you should not be beating yourself up for any of it.
Carla: This is so, so important!
Talk to someone. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone if you’re struggling. Whether it’s practical, mental or emotional help you require, don’t be afraid to ask for help from a friend, relative, partner, boss or work colleague. Plus, there are loads of charities that exist to help people that are struggling. It takes a lot of courage to ask for help when you need it. Don’t be afraid. It does not mean you are weak.
Keep busy. Keeping the mind busy with anything educational i.e. podcasts, documentaries (the Netflix documentaries are more extensive than I realised), books, YouTube channels (I’m learning how to make wood and epoxy resin tables at the moment), and maybe even learn a new skill (I’m currently gaining certification as a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy practitioner). I find this helps me stay in a positive mind-set and away from depression, which I get as a Bipolar Type 2 sufferer.
Carla: How have your workdays been structured? Strict routines, or not so much? Other methods?
Lena: I am a non-conformist through and through. I’ve NEVER structured my day or had ‘normal’ routines. The stricter my past bosses have tried to be on me the more I’ve rebelled (most understood that about me, luckily). My current sleeping pattern is erratic I’m awake until anywhere between 3am and 8am and sleep usually until between 11am and 2pm. Then I get up and do whatever takes my fancy. Of course, if I have pre-scheduled calls that are earlier in the day, I get up earlier for those (or sometimes I just stay up, then go to bed after). If you read the book ‘Daily Rituals’ by Mason Currey (How great minds make time, find inspiration and get to work) it might help you understand how my time ‘management’ isn’t about managing anything. Yet I never miss deadlines, ever. (I’m a night owl – and it just works for me)
Carla: wow, such a counterbalance to my constant drive to keep to a schedule... it doesn't exactly come easy to me either... I guess I'm sort of halfway between a completely structured life, and the way you do it! :) (and I could never function without Trello. Trello runs my life)
And how about your downtime? How have you been entertaining yourself? Any big changes from before?
Lena: I have always been artistic and creative and although I have always cooked and baked, all of these things have definitely increased recently (I think I’ve become my mother who is the most awesome cook and baker ever, yet still managed to run several businesses alongside my father, an amazing woman). Health issues have moved me into cooking everything from scratch so I know every single ingredient that goes into my dishes. I bake a lot more and am about to start making my own jams etc.
I have got back into making my own cards i.e. birthdays, Christmas etc, drawing and just started designing furniture (which my Dad will be making in New Zealand once I’ve finished all of the designs) and I’m back knitting and sewing. Plus, I am also repurposing a lot of things instead of throwing them out immediately, so I’m having fun going through lots of ‘stuff’ in the loft.
Carla: How have you been taking care of your physical health? In terms of exercise, etc?
Lena: This is a bit of a bone of contention for me as the doctors have told me I’m not allowed out of my flat at this point while all of this Covid-19 malarkey is going on, unless it’s for a medical reason or I absolutely have to get food etc. Due to my previous chronic illness I have a compromised immune system so it puts me at a very high risk of catching anything, not just this virus, so was already self-isolating before all hell broke loose.
I do what I can inside with CrossFit-style exercises (squats, lunges etc) and I have a bicycle, called Florence, (she’s a beauty with a wicker basket and everything) on a training stand. I’m doing what I can, but it is frustrating when all I want to do is go for a walk in the sun. But I’ve just had a new CrossFit book arrive from Amazon, so hopefully I’ll be building a better program over the next week or so with that.
Carla: I love that your bike has a NAME! Hahaha that's amazing. Thank you so much for your time, I am sure that many people out there will relate to so much of what you just said - I know I do!
About Lena Robinson
Lena’s a straight talking Kiwi that has a reputation for being a savvy businessperson. Having lived in London for the last 17 years, in 2018 she threw a grenade into her life to launch FTSQ, a community that supports all non-conformists, with the business consultancy supporting business owners within the community to achieve everything they were told they couldn't by F***ing With The Status Quo.
After almost 30 years in business across multiple countries Lena uses her combined knowledge, experience and connections to help others. She’s had a highly successful career in 'adland', started three companies (FTSQ’s her third, she sold her second). Has traded her parents business out of near disaster when the Inland Revenue (New Zealand equivalent to HMRC) threatened to end them. Has mentored many bright young people that have gone on to achieve amazing career successes, and has made millions for the companies she’s worked for and with.
Lena will forever stand up for non-conformists when they can’t stand up for themselves, often seeing the extraordinary in people when others walk right on by. She truly believes there’s power in the unconventional, the different and the unorthodox. A maverick and a caregiver to the core.
You can contact or follow Lena at the following links:
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