Most of us can identify with the feeling of being in competition with ourselves — setting and resetting goals to reach our maximum potential. While striving to improve is a noble endeavor, constantly thinking about what's next (and how to get there) can actually detract from what's important.
Luba Yudasina, co-founder and CEO of a stealth startup in the video space, YouTuber, and opera singer, had lots to say when it comes to staying present while enjoying a more productive life. In 2020, she quit her job of 4 years at Airbnb (where she was a product manager and software engineer) to focus on what's bringing her joy today, leading her to the biggest professional adventure of her life!
Read on to find out her tips on boosting your self confidence, giving yourself room to grow, and staying present.
What mindset shifts are you taking with you into 2022?
The biggest shift was probably the fact that I left my job at Airbnb, where I had been for almost 4 years. I gave myself the chance to explore what's next. I was intentionally trying to find joy in exploration. I thought: "if I'm always in that goal-oriented framework, then I won't be able to actually figure out what's next for me in my life and career". I just had to slow down and find joy in the present.
I've always struggled with feeling present day to day. I was always thinking about the future: what are my goals? How am I tracking towards that? The pandemic really helped me appreciate what's happening in the moment and prioritize having fun, being engaged, as opposed to what's happening 3 months from now. I re-learned to enjoy the loneliness of being stuck at home, like I used to when I was a kid.
Being present really allowed me to connect with my own personal confidence. If you're always thinking about the future or the past, then you lose touch with feeling confident because you're stuck worrying about what might happen.
What are you intentionally letting go of in 2022?
Broadly, I'm letting go of the commitment that I had to always stay on track with my routines. The productivity bells and whistles phase has passed from my life.
I realized it's not about the newest productivity tool, or becoming 100X more effective — because you can become 100X more effective, but not enjoy the stuff you're actually effective with.
It's about going back to those foundational principles, figuring out what I'm doing with my time and my life, and asking myself: am I enjoying it? And then enhancing it with more simple practices and routines, like making a to-do list, reviewing plans, and tracking goals.
What time of day are you most productive? What routines have you found helpful to kick-off a productive and fulfilling day?
I'm most productive in the afternoon after I've had a light lunch. I usually bundle all my meetings in the mornings. The time lapse between the start of the day and lunch isn't that long, so I'd rather focus on core work after.
My morning routine is really simple. I wake up, do my morning skincare routine, and sit down to meditate for 5 minutes. I'm also trying to integrate an extra 5 minutes for journaling. Then I head to the office, drink some coffee, and that's that.
Can you share a few of your favorite tools, tips, and techniques for reducing distractions, increasing mindfulness, and staying focused?
I've recently started using Brain FM — it's an app that scientifically creates music geared towards the different things you do, like music for reading, or focused work.
For notes and task tracking, I switch between Apple Notes, Things, and Roam. I love the bidirectional linking in Roam— it makes it very easy to take notes and create pages, saving them all in one place. I use Apple Notes if I need to take any quick scribbles. Things is my primary app for to-dos. I love David Alan's GTD system, which is all about putting everything in the inbox and prioritizing in order to be more diligent about weekly planning.
I also use Superhuman for email — it's one of my favorite apps. I'm always chasing the Inbox Zero image. The shortcuts and personalized onboarding require you to invest your time to learn, but it's so gratifying.
For core work, I can't use the Pomodoro Technique — it's too distracting. I'd rather free up big blocks of time with no meetings and set my phone and computer on do not disturb.
To relieve anxiety, I use an app called Breathwrk, but there are lots of great ones out there.
Do you recommend any safeguards for managing communication overload?
I recommend email blocking. I only check my email during specific blocks of time I have set up. I'm also protective of my time and make it clear with my team — not only for myself — that it's important to set healthy examples.
If I'm ever sending an email outside of work hours, I'll schedule it on Superhuman to be sent out in the morning, so that they never feel pressured to work late into the night or wake up extra early.
What have you learned so far about your ideal conditions for staying in flow?
I strongly believe in environmental design. My workplace needs to be organized. On my desk, I have a candle, and a vase with flowers. The space is holistic, clean, and speaks to me because it's organized with items that make me feel good.
If I'm getting distracted by my phone, I literally remove my phone away from my reach so that it's not constantly there. I'm also trying to snack a little less!
Luba's top 5 productivity resources
- Ali Abdaal's YouTube channel
- The Founder's Journal podcast by Alex Lieberman
- Nat Eliason blog
- Breathwrk meditation app
- Wayne Dyer's lectures
Luba's top 3 tips for staying focused
- Listening to music scientifically proven to help you stay focused on specific things like work, or reading — Brain FM is a great app for this!
- Block out chunks of time during your most productive hours for core work in your calendar — no phone, no notifications, no distractions.
- Be protective of your time — and actively communicate it! Set boundaries with your team and adopt behaviors you'd like to see, like only sending out emails during work hours.