Sherry Walling Interview

Hi everyone, our WordCamp Europe interview series continues! Back in June, we recorded a few interviews with WordPress enthusiasts, including Sherry Walling. While it’s been a little while since WordCamp Europe, Sherry has some great tips on how to stay away from distractions and be productive at work that make her interview worth the wait.

This interview is part of our #WCEU Series of interviews, which can be found in the Pirate Interviews category on our blog, along with many other talks we’ve had with interesting people. Last month, it was Alex Denning who shared his insights on marketing and content.

Now, let’s get back to the Sherry Walling interview! 🙂

Sherry Walling interview
Sherry owns ZenFounder, a consulting company that provides business people with professional advice on how to live a balanced, healthy life and cope with difficult situations. Beyond that, she also hosts a free Zenfounder podcast (it just reached 200 episodes) and is the author of a book for entrepreneurs called The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your Sh*t Together.
At WordCamp Europe 2018 in Belgrade, she organized a workshop which was so successful that the room was absolutely packed (it was fully booked shortly after the announcement went live).

Since our team was not so fortunate as to get in (except Ionut!), we used the ace in our collective sleeves and scheduled an interview with Sherry, thanks to our privilege of being Media Partners at the event. 🙂

As with our other WordCamp Europe interviews, you can either watch the video interview in the embedded tweet to the right. Or, you can keep reading below for a text transcription. If you opt to watch the video, make sure you open the full Twitter thread to see all of the questions.

Sherry Walling Interview – About Productivity and Mental Health in the Business World

You have a Ph.D. in psychology, you’re a podcaster and author. How did you get involved with WordPress?

Sherry Walling:

Yes, I have a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and I host a podcast called ZenFounder. Well, for many many years I’ve been in the technology world – in a startup world – where, of course, there’s a lot of interaction with WordPress since you all run like most of the internet. So for the last several years, I’ve been attending CaboPress and a couple of different WordCamps and talking about mental health in these communities.

I think there’s a lot of overlap between the kind of entrepreneurs that I spend most of my time with and the people that are in the WordPress space. So I don’t code, I don’t design, but I do know my way around my own websites and mostly I’m here to help support the people who run WordPress.

How would you describe the WordPress community?

Sherry Walling:
I have a number of friends and it’s a community that I care deeply about and am pretty connected to. The worldwide, the EU WordPress community is committed.

You had a workshop on mental health and productive life at WCEU (June 2018), can you share some insights with us?

Sherry Walling:
So in the workshop, we talked about a lot of strategies for managing stress and anxiety and burnout, things that I think are very common among technology folks and especially common among freelancers and people who are running their own businesses.

We did some deep breathing exercises and I taught people how to reverse the physiological anxiety response by slowing down their breathing and then we also did some stretching and some basic movement in the body to help the body calm down and offset some of the challenges of sitting all day. We talked about things like sleep, journaling, basic strategies that sound really simple but really important to maintaining a healthy mental perspective, healthy relationships, a healthy body and, of course, a healthy work life.

If your brain is not well or if you’re under a lot of stress and not functioning or not handling that stress well, then you’re not able to be a productive contributor, you’re not able to be part of a community, you’re not able to do your best work.

How do you manage to stay productive during the day?

Sherry Walling:
I think what productivity looks like is different for everyone so I would never say that my model of doing it is the best model, it’s just the way that I’ve come to for my own self, that works for me. But I tend to get up pretty early and start my day with exercise – with a long run or weight-lifting or yoga – and I’m pretty consistent with that, six days a week usually. I find that’s a really important way for me to wake up and take care of my body and then after that I’m spending time with my family.

I have three children, I have a business, I wrote a book… I’m busy. I have a lot of things that are important to me, that I try to put in my life, and one of the ways that I try to do that is really carving out time to do one thing at a time. Not bouncing back, not trying to respond email and talk to my children and make a meal, all at the same time, but deciding that this is the one hour that I have for email or Facebook or Twitter right now – this is my media communication time and the only hour that I’m going to spend doing that.

So that kind of scheduling, organization, and also the decision to do one thing at a time is really helpful for productivity, but it’s also helpful for mental health because we tend to overuse our brain when we bounce back and forth between lots of different things.

So, if I could summarize my personal productivity strategy it’s one thing at a time and be completely focused on the one thing.

How do you define being successful?

Sherry Walling:
I think success is a combination of a personal experience of joy as well as the ability to make a meaningful contribution in other people’s lives. So it’s both something that’s internal and something that you are extending or sharing with the people around you.

That wraps up our Sherry Walling interview. If you have any questions for her, please leave them in the comments section. Also, if you have any suggestions for who we should talk to next, feel free to give us some names, too!

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