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A Day in The Life: TechWomen and Mentemia's Dil Khosa

A Day in The Life: TechWomen and Mentemia's Dil Khosa

Dil Khosa is working on multiple projects in the tech ecosystem, from operations and people at Mentemia, a mental wellness tech organisation, to being a NZ Ambassador for StartupGenome. She's also an advisor to NarrativeMuse, the co-chair of Tech Women NZ and the former operations director of Parrot Analytics. She recently restructured her life after experiencing burn-out triggered by her busy executive career and is leading a much more balanced life these days. She shares the key learnings she's gleaned after readjusting her work and lifestyle, her daily rituals and how she reached an improved, healthier outlook on life.

What time do you wake up?

Usually around 7AM, without an alarm.

What kind of work do you do?

Right now, I’m in a bit of a transition period post burn out & years of having high anxiety. I’ve taken on part time work in ops and people at Mentemia, while working pro-bono as advisor on a few projects in areas I am passionate about such as TechWomen NZ, Empower Youth, a new exciting start-up Narrative Muse, Whitecliffe IT advisory group, Startup Genome NZ Ambassador etc. A lot of my week is ‘work from home’ which has really helped me in the year of healing! Every day can be very different, depending on what I am working on in that day.

What’s the ideal way to start your day?

Coffee, meditation and journaling.

Do you have any morning rituals?

Yes, I recently did a complete 360 on my morning rituals. Used to wake up to a nice spike of anxiety when I grabbed my phone first thing to scan emails, Slack, social! That was NOT a good way to start a day. Now, I have removed all devices from my bedroom & do a little stretch, meditation and journaling.  Some days I will go to the gym for a natural endorphin hit! I wrote about my daily habits that keep me sane recently here and it’s in constant evolution!

How soon do you begin doing work-related things each morning, such as checking phone or emails?

Definitely an hour or so after waking up and the morning ritual.

What’s your media consumption or interaction like – which podcasts, radio, videos, books, magazines, and new sites do you read or listen to?

All of the above. I love reading, and even though as humans we are becoming more about quick consumption, bite-sized content, visual content, video etc – which I am totally into – but I still love reading (really trying hard to move from hard copy to Kindle). I’ve read so many books this year, since I’ve had time. My top ones this year are: Bad Blood by John Carreyrou and Yuval Noah Hariri’s Homo Deus.

Podcasts are my next favorite thing. Oprah Super Soul Conversations, Modern Love by New York Times, a16z, The Cut on Tuesdays, Manifestation Babe.

What do you think is unique about the way you approach your work?  

In the past it was very much about DOING and DOING FAST. Working long hours. Thinking non-stop about work and avoiding spending time elsewhere so I could be focused on work, building a career and a company.

Now, I’ve stopped working that much and work remotely – which means less hours, but more focused in those hours. I space out my work more. I don’t glamourise ‘being busy all the time’ or ‘working all the time’ or saying ‘I am so stressed!’ because I think there’s more to life than work and success metrics for me have now completely changed – it’s about re-wiring my brain from anxiety, re-parenting, and evolving as a human being, so that does not burnout ever again. I also work on things I love, and are more aligned with my values – so it doesn’t feel like work.

What responsibility do you have in a typical day? What takes up most of your time?

Organising, planning and then doing across most of the things I am involved with. At my part-time job, it is about solving problems that are new, so it can often involving researching and bringing different points of view into one ‘plan’. In my other roles, its mostly about networking and keeping on top of the tech refresh and planning initiatives to invigorate the areas I work on.

Where do your best ideas come from?

Triangulating research, interviews with people, looking at data and trends. Sometimes, it’s also very left field! I would read an art book or fashion magazine and get creative ideas to bring across to anything I work on in tech. 

What does inspiration look like for you?

Women around me who are doing what they love, succeeding on their own terms, changing the game and the way we work as humans. For the first time in my career in tech, I am working for a woman as my direct manager, and she’s totally the best! Her leadership is so balanced and kind of proved the hypothesis in my mind that women can make great leaders.

What has been the most transformational business practice you’ve implemented at your work?

In the past probably quite a few, in the early stages of a start-up. Now I get an awesome opportunity to work on a ‘wellbeing plan’ for our team members at Mentemia, which is amazing cause it’s really a space that requires more attention and re-invention. Let’s see how it goes!

 I space out my work more. I don’t glamourise ‘being busy all the time’ or ‘working all the time’ or saying ‘I am so stressed!’ because I think there’s more to life than work and success metrics for me have now completely changed – it’s about re-wiring my brain from anxiety, re-parenting, and evolving as a human being, so that does not burnout ever again. I also work on things I love, and are more aligned with my values – so it doesn’t feel like work.

What social or environmental issues inform the work you do, as well as what you’re aiming to do with your company’s overall vision?

Right now I work for Mentemia who is highly involved in making us feel better, everyday – taking a proactive approach to our mental wellbeing across organisations. It made so much sense for me to work with this team as I had just come out of major mental illness myself, and wish I had known some of this stuff earlier!

I am personally also working on a side project to help women entrepreneurs in New Zealand.

What’s the most enjoyable part of your day?

Working and connecting with people!

What about the least enjoyable?

Number crunching! Everyone who knows me, knows this.

Do you have any side hustles you’re juggling alongside being an entrepreneur?

My biggest upcoming project is one around increasing the number of women entrepreneurs in New Zealand.

Do you procrastinate? Is it good or bad?

Yes! It’s totally okay. I used to fell super guilty about it. Now, I’m like its okay – probably needed a break, it's neither good nor bad.

What’s your best productivity hack?

I write EVERYTHING down and take notes for meetings, calls etc, which get put into a to do list. That gets prioritised by things that shift the dial the most. I also use free tools to help me get through the day  quicker – Calendly,  Wunderlist, Hootsuite, and recently been trying out Superhuman email!

Do you measure your accomplishments or productivity? If so, how?

Probably my small wins in a day, there are days where I feel like okay just getting this one thing done was good enough.

What’s your interaction with friends and family throughout the day? Can you be both a successful entrepreneur and a good mother/partner/friend?

I am much better at all of these now that I have more control over my time and how I spend it, I def have set up major boundaries for work so that outside of it, I can be really present with friends, fam, puppy (Doug!). I set times for these on my calendar, usually weekends / weekday afternoons when my brain does not function.

Do you get stressed? If so, how do you manage it? Do you practice any mindfulness or meditation?

Stress used to make me bed-ridden for days in the years and months leading to burn out, and almost always culminated in a cold/ flu/viral. They are not kidding when they say stress is a killer. I do get stressed nowadays, but its more manageable.

I take a deep breath and play ‘Emergency Calm’ meditation on Calm app. This is like an automatic thing now.

Sometimes I try stopping the overwhelming feeling of looking at the countless emails or growing task list, by doing something else completely, and coming back to it.

Yes to mindfulness and meditation! Been constantly on it this year. I use apps to guide me, and therapist to help me re-train my mind to prompt it to be more mindful in the day. Also went to quite a few BRTHE classes to pick up these techniques.

What do you do once you get home? Can you switch off?

Yes! I can nowadays, but I need physically need to put my devices away in another room or space.  I wind down with TV, Succession on HBO is the best thing I’ve watched recently, and do offline things like cleaning, tidying up, reading, cooking, talking to my dispersed family members.  

What do or don’t you eat or drink to maintain your performance throughout the day?

I’m not the best here yet! Still working on an ideal meal plan, but coffee always, green tea for a change sometimes, healthy snacks, meals on time (sneak in a choc or ice cream sometimes).

What time do you go to sleep? How many hours sleep do you try to get each night? Any special techniques for a good night’s rest?

I love sleep! My natural rhythm is eight to nine hours plus a nap in the afternoon – this is important for my recovery. In bed by 10PM. Totally switched this up also from pre-burn out, by researching about sleep and wrote about the various tools out there. I have a zen corner, lavender diffuser, lights low, no devices, maybe reading – all of this is telling my mind that its coming to sleep time, then use of sound to fall asleep – either meditation or just sound! Works like a charm every time. Took me off sleeping meds.

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