Managing Your Time and Energy with Jessica Greenwalt

Meet Jessica Greenwalt, the Founder of Contribute.to, a platform offering a direct value exchange between creators and their audience, making it easy for people to turn their appreciation into direct support by sending a contribution. Aside from Contribute.to, she also has a graphic design business Pixelkeet, and is building Impact Record, the world’s first encyclopedia of positive impact. 

Jessica is one of Inc. Magazine’s 10 Women to Watch in Tech, Tech.co's "50 Women in Tech Dominating Silicon Valley", Huffington Post's "6 Women Rocking Tech for Good", and Today’s Leading Women's "Power 50".

With such an impressive list of achievements and multiple businesses to manage, Jessica is still thriving and full of energy. In this chat, she shares a little insight into her everyday, and tips about how to manage time and energy with a busy schedule. 

Xi: Hi Jessica, tell us why you do what you do, and how did you get started? 

Jessica: I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember, and I create because I can’t not create. The act of creating is like water to me. I might be able to go a day or two without it, but any longer and I feel like I might die.

I’ve been a graphic designer ever since I learned of the profession, which was when I was in high school. That was also when I started my first company, a graphic design and web development agency. I learned about SEO—which was quite primitive at the time—and applied what I learned to my site, which led to it becoming the number one Google search result for “freelance graphic designer”, and work poured in from around the world. My company grew into the international UX research and product design company Pixelkeet (which now accepts clients by referral only).

Thanks to Pixelkeet, I’ve been invited to work with incredible entrepreneurs and have the privilege of a behind the scenes look at the future of technology and business. 

Xi: What a fascinating experience! Let's talk about your work setting. Do you work from home, and what are three things you must have when you do? 

Jessica: Prior to COVID, I was traveling around the world, working with my phone, a tiny MacBook, and my mini Wacom tablet. That’s all I really need to get work done. But now that I’ve had the chance to stay in one place for a longer period of time, I’ve expanded my list of nice-to-haves for my work from home setup. The latest tool I’ve added to my workflow is the reMarkable 2. I don’t need it, but it has dramatically improved my productivity and work process, and I wouldn’t want to give it up.


Jessica working in style

Jessica working in style

Xi: Oh I gotta check that out! Having run businesses since high school, what would you say was the most difficult thing you did in your businesses? And what did you learn from it? 

Jessica: I’ve walked away from exciting projects because of misalignments in values between myself and company leaders. This is always a difficult thing to do, especially when I believe that if done right, the project could help a lot of people.

I’ve learned that not all startups practice the values they preach on an internal level. For example, they may be an organization that communicates that they strive to empower women and minorities, but in practice they get women and minorities to build value for their company without compensating them.

If I communicate my concerns about an organization’s stated values and actions being misaligned, and leadership does not believe this is an issue, I’ve found it’s best for me to discontinue working with the organization. It takes a lot of time to encourage change in an organization, and it takes significantly more time when leadership has no desire to change. Time is such a limited resource, and I’d rather spend it supporting organizations that practice what they preach.
At this point in my career, I’ve learned to communicate my need for value alignment before I start working with others to avoid getting involved with misaligned people and organizations in the first place.

Xi: Such a good point! I admire your standing by your value - that's really hard to do but so important. So, a big part of designing our clothing is to allow women to be comfortable and confident in their everyday, so they can more easily navigate between the many aspects of work and life. Tell us a bit about what a typical day looks like for you and how you find balance between work and life. 
 

Jessica: Now that I’ve been parked in one location for a few months, I’ve had the opportunity to experience a routine.

When I’m at home, I roll out of bed at around 6:30 am PST, decide if it's a robe day or a yoga clothes day, brush my teeth, and hop on calls with teammates in Europe to learn what was accomplished during their daytime and coordinate on what needs to be done next. I often find myself in back-to-back calls for four hours, after which I take a break to eat, catch up on email, Slack, text, and all that fun stuff.

At some point during the later part of the day I need a break from screens. If I can get away, I get out and do anything that doesn’t involve technology. Walking, hiking, going into Fairhaven or downtown Bellingham to catch up with shop owners who’ve become friends, checking out local art galleries, exploring surrounding towns or environments, you name it.

Around 5:00 to 6:00 pm, I have dinner, then hop back onto the computer to check in on projects and communication, and plan for tomorrow. This can go for a few hours. I try to end the day with some reading and get to sleep by around 11:00 to midnight.

I don’t feel like I have work-life balance right now, but I’m also in startup mode, so I’m not seeking or expecting balance. I enjoy putting in the time and work to build something I’m excited about, and sometimes think that work-life balance is overrated. As long as I’m doing something that feeds my soul, it energizes me to keep going. It’s really just the tech and communication tools that I feel I need a break from sometimes.


Xi: I totally get that. I've been in startup mode in the past year building Sonderlier too. This is a great entry to talk about time and energy management. So what myths have you seen with people in managing their time and energy?

Jessica: Early in my career, I worked around the clock for people and organizations to build their brands and businesses for little to no pay, believing that the people I was helping out would eventually compensate me, connect me with work that I would be fairly paid for, or give me a shout-out for the work I did for them. The reciprocity almost never materialized and left me feeling burned by the people and organizations I worked with.

Xi: I really appreciate you sharing that. I know it unfortunately happens a lot, and it to me is a form of exploitation. How do you suggest avoiding that situation?

Jessica: Don’t do work that isn’t valued.

Don’t invest time doing something the recipient doesn’t value. I’ve watched so many people—let’s call them givers—pour time, energy, and heart into doing things for others for which they received no gratitude, appreciation, or acknowledgement. And, the giver doesn’t even seem to personally enjoy or get any value from those acts of giving. Over time this behavior leads to resentment and burnout, hurting the relationship between the giver and the person they are giving to.

This doesn’t mean you should never do things for other people if they don’t show gratitude for it, this just means that you should make sure that at least one person involved in the situation actually values the thing that is being done. If you genuinely enjoy doing things that the people you are doing them for don’t know about or show appreciation for, you are still valuing the experience, so the work is valued by someone involved. What I’m advising against is putting yourself in a situation in which you are doing something you don’t enjoy, for another person or organization that does not make you feel like what you are doing for them is valued by them.

Xi: Super insightful advice! I love how you clarified what "value" can mean. Thank you so much for talking with me!
 Where can people find you?

Jessica: You can connect with me on Instagram @jessgreenwalt. My company websites are:  http://www.pixelkeet.com/, https://contribute.to/, http://impactrecord.org/. 

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