Sara Khorasani is the Co-Founder at Gamyra Tech, a technical development company specializing in immersive simulation technology for research, education and training.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I started my career in WilliamsF1 (WAE), the Formula 1 company, designing driving simulators as a controls engineer. Shortly after, I established my own simulation startup working with clients in the oil & gas, medical and training industries in Qatar.
We went on to raise money from a Melbourne based investor and so I moved to Australia. While my wonderful co-founder handles the business, I am taking a break from the startup world and working on my PhD in Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Melbourne.
I research learning analytics in Virtual Reality learning environments. My goal is to help us all learn skills in VR like Neo did in the simulation movie The Matrix.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I am a bit of an intense individual, so my strict routines are not for everyone. But I typically start my day going on a 30-60min walk with my dog. It is my morning meditative walk. I then journal briefly, say a prayer, and begin the workday.
I will have planned my tasks the night before and will have set up my workstation ready for what I need to do that day. That means my Miro board, Kanban board and notes are set up, so I know exactly what is outstanding, and what is in the pipeline for the day. My tasks are broken into bite size pieces where each task can ideally be done in a few minutes to a couple of hours.
Before lunch, I go for a short 2-5km run a couple times a week, or if it is a stressful day, I spend 20 minutes doing a VR meditation or focus exercise. I end the day reviewing my Kanban board, and planning the tasks for the next day. Followed by another long walk with my dog.
Then begins my evening routine. While I dedicate the full working day to my PhD work, evenings are when I do things that make me feel balanced. Often it is cooking dinner with my partner and watching an episode of a TV show or reading.
But otherwise, I have a structured weekly meeting with one of my co-founders to discuss business challenges and plan and split tasks; I take on minor tasks at the moment as I only have a couple of evenings a week to dedicate to the business.
I volunteer with Asperger’s Victoria, so I have tasks related to my volunteer work and biweekly meetings with the leaders of the team. Finally, my one evening of pure joy every week, taking a 3-hour long Improv class.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes my current role does allow flexible and remote working. While I love going to the office and seeing my colleagues, the commute is so long that I often choose to save that time to get in a longer morning walk, or more time for work.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
The most important part of achieving work-life balance for me is loving my work. Because I love what I do and believe in its importance, it feels a lot less like “work” and more like I am fulfilling my purpose.
The second part is, getting the basics right, sleep, nutrition, exercise, meditation, spending time with friends and family etc. I achieve that with tech and different services. I use 2 different food delivery companies (one that delivers meal kits, one that delivers prepared meals).
I use the app Sleep Cycle to monitor my sleep quality and duration. I use the app BeeMinder to charge my credit card if I don’t go on my runs. I use my VR app Tripp for meditation and focus when the daily walks are not enough. I also always make sure to have regular weekly or biweekly check-ins with my therapist.
They keep me in check, and prevent bad old habits creeping back into my life. If I let any one of these slip for too long, I immediately notice the effect and realign myself.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Turning notifications on my phone permanently OFF is probably one of the best things I did in 2021! All of it! Even emails. I never imagined I would do that, but it has been instrumental in reducing my anxiety and making me more productive. I check my emails, slack, LinkedIn etc when I have the time and headspace for it. Instead of being bombarded non-stop.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Some of my favourite Books:
- Failure of Nerve – Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix by Edwin Friedman.
- Becoming by Michelle Obama (and her podcast)
- Black Swan by Nassim Taleb
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
BeeMinder – charges my credit card if I don’t run a set number of kilometres a week. FocusMate – for focus sessions when I am writing papers.
Finder – for managing my finances and finding everything from mortgage brokers to RAT tests.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
My two biggest challenges currently are getting into a flow state and maintaining it. Finding flow regularly is important because (1) it is a skill that we need to nurture and (2) research shows it helps reduce depression and anxiety and lead to better emotional regulation and enjoyment of our work.
Research also shows that if the task is too hard (or feels too hard) we will struggle to achieve flow. I want to be able to do really hard things, but the anxiety that comes with it makes the motivation to start and the ability to achieve flow rare.
Thus this is the reason I break down tasks into tiny manageable tasks. This removes the barrier to starting in the morning, and helps me easily slip into a flow state. The trick to maintaining it for me has been turning off notifications and closing all tabs on my browser. So there is nothing trying to get my attention.
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