Living and Learning in a Time of Change an ongoing series featuring women leaders, founders, makers and executives. These interviews are focused not on those that are used to a media spotlight, but by those who can benefit by having some light shone on them to support, lift up and get through to the other side.
Next up is an interview with Jessica Li, Harvard 2019, VC @ Soma Capital, Content Head @ Elpha (YC S19) and Harvard in Tech and EIR at Harvard Alumni. An impressive talent and someone to know!
- What is your favorite daily habit and how do you see this impacting your productivity?
I love spending the first couple hours of my day exercising (either running outside to get some fresh air or trying a new exercise video online) while listening to podcasts. I love moving physically and exercising my mind through listening to incredible people share their insights and advice. Doing these tasks is incredibly helpful for me in feeling more organized around the day and feeling more energized and awake both physically and mentally.
Skincare is also an incredibly important part of my day. It does not usually take long, but I love having time that I am physically not able to check my phone or computer and need to take care of myself.
- How do you find balance outside of work? How has this changed with remote work and quarantine?
I am someone who is “always on.” I have 5 inboxes for different jobs/leadership roles I take on and am always at 0 inbox for each (or at least feel the strong need to be).
With quarantine, the boundary between work and life is growing increasingly thin. While I am constantly checking notifications and responding, I try to 1) devote specific no-phone time at dinner with my family or on walks with my boyfriend and 2) sleep at the same time each day and airplane mode my phone at night to be able to focus on self-care without distraction.
- How do you manage multiple different roles? What is your best advice for time management?
I look for roles that are symbiotic and complementary. For example, through interviewing founders and operators for Elpha articles, I have come to learn more about building early stage startups as well as growth stage companies and honed my skills in asking questions to dive deeper on people’s stories and businesses, which has been helpful in my venture capital work.
I am religious about my calendar and making sure every hour is given an assignment and deliverable. I schedule time to do everything (not just actual meetings) from simple email check ins to brainstorms to writing articles. I hold myself to these each day.
- Who or what is your main inspiration?
Exercise is my biggest inspiration. I think it is a bit challenging to have role models because I am then relying on someone so external who can change and become less aspirational than I initially believed entirely outside of my control.
What I love about exercise is that it is something I can control. Through exercise, I show myself that I can go faster and harder, when my body feels up to it or do something more comfortable when my body asks for it. Exercise can sometimes be the most physically challenging part of my day, which makes other tasks I need to do less daunting and manageable.
- How do you manage stress and mental health in juggling your many roles?
I love doing yoga and especially Yoga with Adrienne. She somehow knows the perfect thing to say and focuses a lot on the breath. Breathing intentionally, even just for a few minutes, can be world changing.
I love using the Breathwrk app, which takes a scientific approach to breathing for different goals (from sleep to relaxation to feeling more awake).
- Venture investing is very network centric – what is your best advice for building and maintaining meaningful professional relationships?
I like to email people with no agenda, just to congratulate them on a new role or an interesting article they wrote.
I also keep track of what people like both in and outside of work, so I can send them relevant deals or articles or resources or new connections or groups when I come across them, even if it is months after we last caught up (i.e. showing them I am thinking about them even when I do not have an external need to).
I like to catch up with people on a bimonthly or quarterly cadence so that it is not too overwhelming while keeping the relationship constantly fresh and alive.
I also integrate people into my work, where they are interested in events I do or articles I write.
- You see many technology solutions to wellness problems – which are your favorite?
I love the Breathwrk app – it has variable length breathing exercise for me to get into the right state of mind throughout the day.
I like journaling (Top Knot has been super helpful in getting me to do so more strategically).
I also love clean eating and make superfood smoothies at the start of each day. My other clean eating favorites are: 1) Slow Up (real food bars), 2) KiiTo (healthy protein drinks), and 3) Daily Gem (daily, real food vitamin)
- How do you learn and read while managing many calls/meetings each day?
I subscribe to high caliber newsletter written by thought leaders, so I get their insights delivered right to my inbox on a regular cadence (and being a 0 inbox person, I force myself to read them and am always glad I did).
I also have myself read 50 pages of a book a day so I can quickly finish books through chipping away gradually and consistently over time.
Listening to podcasts while I exercise (instead of music) also helps me digest information while multi-tasking throughout the day.