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Balancing the Grind with Juan Mendoza, Founder & Editor at The Martech Weekly

Juan Mendoza is the founder & editor at The Martech Weekly, a weekly curated newsletter that covers everything that’s happening in marketing and technology.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

First off – I am obsessed with marketing technology. I have spent the past five years working in the marketing technology industry, with the majority of my time working in customer strategy at Australian based consultancy, The Lumery. I work with enterprise brands like Jetstar, Coles, and Movember to help them build technology capability for better marketing, customer experiences, and to help unlock business value.

On the evenings, early mornings, and weekends I am also the founder of The Martech Weekly (TMW) – a weekly email newsletter that covers the most important trends in the marketing technology industry.

As part of my work with TMW, I run a fortnightly podcast called Making Sense of Martech, where I interview the most interesting people in the industry, and I also manage the TMW community, a Slack group of Martech enthusiasts. I also regularly collaborate on content, events, and partnerships with industry leaders around the world. 

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

The recent workday day I’ve chosen highlights the balance between managing a media side hustle and a full-time job. Every day starts with a 30-minute walk and some form of exercise usually around 6am. On this day I started work at 7am on a call in the US to interview a potential podcast guest, and then I had a walk and talk meeting with a mentee I catch up with once a month.

By this time, it’s 8:00am and I’m diving into TMW emails, social notifications and what’s happening in the Slack community. It’s always a combination of fan / hate mail, admin, scheduling requests and ongoing discussions, which usually takes about 15 – 20 minutes to clear.

On this day I have our weekly Friday team catch up called “Week That Was” at The Lumery where the strategy team shares what they have learned for the week. It’s always one of my weekly highlights hearing about what people are learning from their work.

From 9am – 12pm I’m usually doing deep work where I close everything on my computer except for what I’m directly working on (it’s hard to get my attention during this time). On this day I’m finalising an approach for an ideation workshop, doing customer research, collaborating with the experience design team on a competitor review, and doing some creative thinking on how I can present my insights and findings.

After lunch I’m in a two-hour workshop with a team of 15 people presenting and facilitating the session. This brings me to 3:30pm where I take a quick sync up call on a new project proposal and I spend the rest of my day preparing for it. Throughout the day I’m reading articles, saving research for the upcoming TMW newsletter, and chatting asynchronously with colleagues and connections within the TMW community.

After that I’m usually offline from 5:30pm – 7pm doing dinner, bath, and bedtime with my kids. I’m usually quite tired after most days and refuse to work at night so after that I usually do something completely different from my day-to-day life like music production, watching a movie, or calling a friend. 

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

The Lumery allows for both flexible and remote working. Even before the pandemic we had teams in different cities across Australia and India, so we’ve always had a distributed culture.

Usually, we are online from 9am – 5pm and expect a reasonable response time to communications, but respect when people need to focus or have some down time.

This work culture nicely compliments my routine. Working in strategy, I usually approach my work in sprints, so sometimes I’ll get up at 5am and work for 3 hours straight when I’m in the zone and take it easier in the afternoon.

The Lumery has created a flexible workplace culture that not only works with what’s going on in people’s personal lives but also appreciates their mode of working too. It gives me plenty of time with my family every day and allows me to fit TMW around that. 

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I’m not a believer in the concept of work life balance as most people think about it. For me it comes down to two things:

  1. Knowing the best way you work
  2. Optimising work for enjoyment and longevity

My type of work is sometimes like being a short distance runner, you sprint and then you rest, and then you sprint and then you rest, rinse and repeat. As projects start and finish, you’re constantly going through this cycle.

So, when you’re sprinting, it’s all go go go. But giving yourself time in your workday to rest and do lower intensity tasks is important. Working in strategy is highly analytical and creative, so being in the zone is what matters the most and creating the right conditions for it is a priority. 

I think a lot of it comes down to your energy levels and enjoyment of the work. I’m a big believer that what causes burnout is not the work, it’s the stress, anxiety and relationships surrounding it.

I used to feel “overworked” years ago, but in reality, everything was harder because I was constantly stressed. These days most of my time is filled with fun, enjoyable and challenging work with wonderful people, and that in turn gives me motivation and energy to do much more. 

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

With TMW I have a personal system to write a weekly essay which suits my writing style and over time I’ve gotten better at optimising that system.

It usually consists of waking up early on a Sunday morning, going for a long walk in the bush, grabbing a coffee and writing for 2 hours straight, then I do copy editing and research in the afternoon. It took me about 12 months to figure out that this was the optimal way to consistently manage a newsletter on top of my work and life commitments. 

In the past twelve months I’ve also started walking at least twice a day. I find it a great way to reflect on my thinking, work, relationships, and future plans. It’s become an essential part of my workday and something I look forward to. 

This might sound a bit ridiculous. For years I’ve resisted procrastination during my workday, but recently I’ve experimented with leaning into it. Spending time on social media or chatting with people has boosted my productivity and quality of work.

This is mostly because I’ve realised that I can’t be productive 100% of the time, I’m not a machine. When I’m not productive, I’m using that time to build relationships and explore and learn and go down the occasional rabbit hole. When I’m in a productive state, I’m hyper-focused and go for it.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I’m a fan of Ben Thompson’s Stratechery newsletter. Mostly for how he thinks about the intersection of technology and strategy, and his writing style. I highly recommend On Writing by Stephen King for those who want to do more writing or improve their communication skills. I’m currently listening to This Old Marketing podcast, a great show that wraps up the week of what’s happened in marketing. 

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

I can’t live without two things.

The first is my Notion workspace which works as my second brain for my work and writing. It’s a free app that combines word documents, spreadsheets, and productivity tools all in one space. It’s so flexible I built TMW’s first website on top of it.

The second is my Gimas Italian coffee pod machine. It’s a great setup with biodegradable pods that you buy in bulk at about half the price of other pods out there. The machine is on a free loan on the proviso that I regularly buy pods for it which means that if it ever breaks or needs a service the company that manages the machines will replace or fix it for you for free.

The Gimas also has an industrial boiler and steam wand so I can make café quality coffees at home. I’ve had it for 6 years and absolutely love it!

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?  

I think reading an interview about Seth Godin’s work-life balance would be fascinating. Seth has authored so many books and publishes a daily blog on marketing.

He is also the founder of numerous start-ups and regularly presents at events, all while managing a team. He’s what I call a high output person and I would love to know how he is able to consistently create, build and manage. 

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

My last thoughts about work and life balance are pretty simple – the balance is not about how much work you do, it’s about how much you enjoy what you do and who you do it with.

Spending time to find the right workplace and the right work has been far more important to me personally than any other attempt to balance work and life. When you’re loving what you do most days, are challenged and motivated, it translates into your personal relationships, family and projects. 

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.