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Golden Goals: Anne Zelenka of Web Worker Daily on finding your place in the world

This is the ninth article in the Golden Goals series of interviews with notable bloggers about their goals, habits and productivity systems.

This is an unannounced bonus for the Golden Goals series, and one I’m very happy about: Anne Zelenka, editor of the excellent blog, Web Worker Daily. The blog addresses a new workforce — those who are connected to their jobs through the internet. From the About page:

Job security, forty hour weeks, two Martini lunches, ties, nylons and handwritten memos are now relics of the past, while freelancing, flex time, lattes, company t-shirts, jeans and email are de rigeur. An ‘office’ now includes idyllic campuses that can be lived in, well, to any sandy beach, rowdy bar or coffee roastery with Internet connections. … A new tribe of bedouin has evolved, with laptops instead of camels, hopping between wifi hotspots like oases. It is high time that net set should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies,and meet the jet set with a manifesto: Web Worker Daily. Because inspiration is meant to be shared.

1) What would you consider your greatest achievement in the last few years? Feel free to add other achievements or goals if you’d like.

Within the last two years I found my place in the world, both personally and professionally. Personally, my husband and I moved with our three kids to my hometown of Denver, Colorado, after living in three other states. I find Colorado the perfect mix of ambition and laidbackness, plus we landed in the most sociable and fun neighborhood I’ve ever experienced. Professionally, after a five-year hiatus from the workforce, I finally found a place I fit, as a blogger observing the next generation of web technology and how it’s changing the working world.

2) What was the key to achieving that success for you? Was there one thing, or were there a number of factors?

There wasn’t any one thing. It was a combination of good fortune, a supportive husband, a sense of adventure, a willingness to eliminate what’s not working, and active experimentation with new possibilities.

3) What are the essential habits that you’ve formed to help you achieve your goals?

I am for better or worse not a very disciplined or habit-oriented person. I’m what some call a “serial enthusiast” so I always like trying new things. I follow where my energy leads me, and fortunately, it’s always led me to activities that are personally satisfying and financially successful. In the nineties, that was into software development, where I had a satisfying career developing and designing database and web applications. From 2000 to 2004, I felt energized by growing my family (I have three kids) and buying and selling houses until I traded up into my dream home in Denver. In 2004, I began blogging and found a way to combine my background in technology with my love of writing.

4) How often do you think about your goals, review them, and take action on them?

I wrote goals at the beginning of 2007 and think about them on occasion, but I don’t have a regular habit of reviewing my goals. Many of the goals I’ve achieved — having three healthy kids, buying a house that I love in a neighborhood I love, getting into computer programming and eventually making a good living at it — were never explicit goals of mine, they were just subconscious urges.

I do keep a list of projects to remind me what I’m supposed to be working on at a given point in time. This is almost more administrative though than goal oriented. For example, on my list right now, I have 2006 taxes, estate planning, au pair selection, and book proposal.

5) Describe how you overcome failure, how you pick yourself back up if you are struggling, and how you motivate yourself if your enthusiasm is lagging.

My hugest failures have been in not connecting enough with other people and not staying in touch with the people who matter to me. Fortunately, web technology has made it easier to stay in touch, though there’s still a huge disconnect between my professional network and personal network. The professional network is a lot easier to reach! I wish all my neighborhood friends used Twitter.

For procrastination, I use the timed dash method if I really need to get something done. I set a timer for 15 minutes, work solidly through that time, then set the timer for 10 minutes and take a break. I prefer, though, to have projects that are so inherently interesting that I don’t need to use external motivation like that.

6) Could you describe your productivity system and any productivity tips you have for people?

I’m not so much a productivity guru as a philosopher and humanist, so I’m interested in broader questions of how our lives develop and change. One thing many people might benefit from in their personal and professional lives is the concept of the “neutral zone” as described by William Bridges in his book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes. Though sometimes it’s useful to think of our lives as machines that we can crank through, life often unfolds more organically and not necessarily at the pace we want. You can’t rush through the neutral or empty zone that exists between endings and new beginnings.

I felt in the neutral zone when I was out of the workforce for a few years and especially when I lived in Hawaii for a year and a half before moving to Colorado. I spent a lot of time feeling generally disconnected and disoriented, but there was no way to use a to do list or a timed dash to get through that. That time was so valuable to me, because it gives me a wider perspective beyond the world of web technology or career development. So I’d urge anyone who’s wanting something new in their life to understand it will come in its own time, not necessarily on the schedule you might like.

Also read: all interviews in the Golden Goals series.

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