Marie Ng: ADHD Time Management and Software Development
June 14, 2022
This is episode five. And today I'm talking with Marie Ng. Marie is the founder of Llama Life, a desktop productivity app, which helps you work through your to-do list, not just making never-ending ones. When she couldn't find a tool that worked with her brain, she decided to teach herself to code by watching YouTube videos and Llama Life is the result.
Links and show notes:
Marie Ng: It's very hard to describe for people who don't have ADHD, right? Like you just sit there and you go, I just can't do this. And it's not because I don't want to. I just, I just can't and it seems so weird to say that, but it's just this big blocker.
Jesse: Hey, my name is Jesse J. Anderson, host of the ADHD Nerds podcast. The show where we talk about living with ADHD, and have some fun along the way.
Jesse: This is episode five. And today I'm talking with Marie Ng. Marie is the founder of Llama Life, a desktop productivity app, which helps you work through your to-do list, not just making never-ending ones. When she couldn't find a tool that worked with her brain, she decided to teach herself to code by watching YouTube videos and Llama Life is the result.
Jesse: And speaking of...
Jesse: I'd love to thank our first sponsor, Llama Life. Say goodbye to never-ending lists and hello to daily bliss. Llama Life is a perfect tool for managing time-boxed working sessions. You can whiz through your monstrous to do list, finish your work on time, and get the things done that you said you would do. They just announced a free version, so you can go to adhdnerds.com/llama that's L L A M A and get started today for free with no credit card. And if you want to upgrade your plan, you can use the coupon code JESSELLAMA20 to save 20%. That's J E S S E L L A M A 2 0. Now let's get to the show.
Jesse: Welcome Marie. It is great to have you, how is it going today?
Marie Ng: Thank you. Um, it's going good. It's going good. It's um, eight 15 in Australia in the morning. And I'm guessing it's the opposite for you?
Jesse: It's a little bit late afternoon for me here in the U. S.
Marie Ng: Yeah, that's the good thing about online stuff, right? Anyone can connect with anyone.
Jesse: Right, exactly. So it's great to have you here. Uh, we've been friends like on Twitter, just kind of messaging back and forth over the last year or so watching, you know, I've been watching the app that you created Llama Life and sort of, as you've been building that in public and at some point learning that you had ADHD like I do. And we've you know, connected through Twitter DMs and stuff, talking about that.
Jesse: And I'd love to hear just sort of, what your history is like with ADHD?
Marie Ng: Yeah. Um, yeah, it's kind of, it's an interesting story. I guess everyone has their own story. Uh, for me, I was diagnosed quite late in life, so, it was in my thirties when I got diagnosed and. You know, it's one of those things where when you get the diagnosis, you kind of look back and you go, oh my God, everything just makes sense.
Marie Ng: There's kind of a relief in the fact that, you know, um, what might be causing certain things or certain behaviors or certain struggles that you have. But then there's also this moment of like, well, what am I going to do about that? So it's kind of a very, um, conflicting, contrasting moment when you, when you get the diagnosis and.
Marie Ng: You know, because I was diagnosed as an adult. you know, like a lot of it was kind of in my own hands, like, what am I going to do about that? Am I going to get medication? Um, are there different tools I can use to support myself? Like what kind of structures can I put around myself? Because I think it's quite different when you're an adult versus a child getting diagnosed.
Marie Ng: Like when you're a child, like you almost rely a lot on your parents to put that structure around you and those, you know, bumper guardrails around you. But as an adult was quite different.
Marie Ng: So, the way it happened for me was, you know, I was in a, before I was working on Llama Life, uh, I was in a corporate, corporate job, um, which was a really great experience.
Marie Ng: I used to work in advertising and branding and, um, I used to work in New York City as well. So I'm based in Melbourne, Australia now, but I've, I've worked in London and I've worked in New York. And I think I picked those cities because, you know, there's just a lot of stuff happening there. There's a, there's a very high energy in both those cities and I'm really attracted to that.
Marie Ng: And what happened was I was working in, in New York and I'd worked for about you know, 10 years in, in advertising and branding. And as I kind of got further along in my career, I feel like my learning. Uh, my learning kind of my learning curve kind of flattened out. You know, I, my, my rate of learning was, was flattening out.
Marie Ng: And for me, I always kind of need that challenge. I need something new, exciting, and hard do something that's hard. Right. If it's not hard, it's not interesting. And, I kind of got to a point where, yeah, I just did not feel as engaged in what I was doing. And I was really struggling to do some very, very basic tasks.
Marie Ng: I think the biggest one that stood out for me was, and I think a lot of organizations do this, but they have time sheets. Right? So you need to, if you, especially, if you work with clients, you have to record how much time you spend on different activities. So you can so you can bill the client at the end.
Marie Ng: And I always remember, like I was, I feel like I was good at all the other things I had to do. But when it came to these small tasks, like time sheets or anything sort of admin related or anything I didn't feel was interesting. I just couldn't do it. Like I'd constantly get emails from my manager saying, hey, you're like six months behind on your time sheets and, you know, it, everything else is good, but like, why can't you get this done?
Marie Ng: Like you keep coming up on my list of people who haven't completed it. And I just got to a point where I was struggling so badly just sitting at my desk thinking like, I just can't do this. Like, there's something, ah, it's very hard to describe for people who don't have ADHD, right? Like you just sit there and you go, I just can't do this.
Marie Ng: And it's not because I don't want to. I just, I just can't and it seems so weird to say that, but it's just this big blocker. And
Jesse: Yeah, for sure.
Marie Ng: I was lucky in that. one of my colleagues who were sitting next to me or sitting, sitting behind me actually. I was kind of just describing this to him, and he actually has ADHD. And he's like, I think you've got ADHD.
Marie Ng: And I'm like, oh, you know, I, I never really thought about it and I never really Googled it or researched it. But he's like, mmm I reckon you've got ADHD, um, inattentive type.
Marie Ng: And so I started researching it, and it's one of those things, right. I'm reading through all these, uh, websites on google and I'm just nodding my head going, oh my god, oh my god. Like this, this is every single thing I read. I'm like, oh my god, I'm going this is me. This is me. Like it started to get really clear. And, I ended up seeing his, uh, psychiatrist, that was actually not too hard a process for me, just because he referred me, like he said, I'm already seeing this guy.
Marie Ng: This is the process. Like he told me this is the process. And I, I think a lot of other people are not that lucky because, if you're starting from scratch and you don't know anyone, it's like, well, where do you even get started? How do I go about getting a diagnosis? Do I need to get a diagnosis? Like, how is it going to help me?
Marie Ng: Uh, how do I get medication? I think a lot of it is, it's so unknown for a lot of people, but because I had my friend he's, he was like, just go and see this guy. He's just around the corner. This is his address. He kind of gave me all the steps.
Jesse: Yeah, that's great.
Marie Ng: Took away the friction. And he's just like, just make an appointment, go see him.
Marie Ng: It costs this much. So he kind of filled in all the blanks for me. And I'm super grateful for that. And yeah. So I went to see this guy and we had a chat and yeah, he asked me a ton of questions. Uh, we ended up trying a couple of different meds. Meds, I don't, I don't do well with them. Like I kind of, I was on them for a few years and they, they help definitely help, but the longterm effect for me, it just, I, my body doesn't like them.
Marie Ng: So after a while, so after a couple of years, I could just feel they weren't as effective. And they, um, they actually made me feel quite moody. So, um, and also very emotionless. I just got stone cold and I just, that's not really who I am. And, um, so I kind of balance it. Sometimes it take them sometimes I don't, it depends I'm trying to do.
Jesse: Yeah, I find that meds, like for some people it's just like magic and really hits just right for them and really helps them out where they need it. And I know others, yeah, that have struggled. And for me, I, I saw a doctor for a while and, or a psychiatrist and we were trying out a whole bunch of different kinds of medication, trying to find the right fit for me. And I took Adderall and that it just made me mad. I was just like angry at everything all the time. And I had this really short fuse and I, only took that for like maybe three days.
Jesse: And I told, and that I told my wife and I was like, I don't think, this one is working for me. I think I'm going to stop. And she's like, yes, please stop taking the Adderall. It just makes you just, I was just miserable. I just made everyone miserable. Cause I was just mad and short and like have like I wasn't exploding, I was just like, I kind of felt like I was like moody and fuming all the time.
Jesse: It was no good. Yeah.
Marie Ng: I think, I mean, everyone's different, but, I had a similar experience with Adderall too. I took it for, yeah, same sort of about three days, four days, but it was within the first week for sure, but I, I took it and, um, I remember. I had, yeah, very short fuse that the tipping point for me was I was, I was away on a work trip and I was coming back from JFK airport in a taxi.
Marie Ng: And there was a lot of traffic and the taxi driver. I mean, I feel so bad now, but it was not his fault, but there was a lot of traffic and he took the wrong turn, which meant like we're on the, on the highway and he didn't exit.
Marie Ng: He didn't exit. And so we were stuck for, I don't know how much longer, but basically till the next exit.
Marie Ng: And I lost it. Like, I was very tired. I was coming back from a trip. I would not normally lose it. And I started yelling at him and I felt, I mean, I was just after that, I was like, what just happened? Like, it was very, it was almost out of body. Right. It was almost like, that's not me.
Marie Ng: Like what what's going, like, as I'm sort of yelling, I'm thinking, almost like, that's not me, like what's going on. And straightaway, like the next day I called the psychiatrist back and I said, I don't think this is really working with me. And so we switched to, um, Dexatrine.
Marie Ng: And that worked a bit better for me, but like you said, everyone's, everyone's different.
Jesse: Yeah. It's so different for everyone. There's no like, oh, you need to try this one. This is the one that works. Like, no, like I know people that Adderall is perfect for them and they love being able to like concentrate. Cause Adderall really helps them to focus. And it's totally different for every person, which is why.
Jesse: Like find a good psychiatrist that can help you through like that plan to try and find it. Uh, if you find one, I never actually found one that did work. I'm planning to kind of give it another, try with a new psychiatrist soon, but I, I basically just like self medicate with lots of coffee, uh.
Marie Ng: That's what I do do. partly why my, uh, my Twitter handle, it's so my Twitter handle's threehourcoffee. I've basically, yeah. I self medicate with coffee too. I kind of sip it throughout the day. I feel I'm very sensitive to coffee too, so I can kind of feel where I am. If I, if I have too much, I'll just get really jittery and I'll feel sick, but it definitely helps me.
Marie Ng: A little bit, I mean, not as much as medication, but definitely helps. Definitely helps me.
Jesse: Right. Yeah. Same. So, yeah. So after you kind of went through that process, you tried meds and maybe they didn't work long-term or whatever. Like what, how do you think that, like, how did that affect your life after that? What was your, how did it change your job and what, what did you, Yeah.
Jesse: What did you do kind of going forward from that process?
Marie Ng: Yeah. So I took the meds for a while. I continued with my advertising branding gig for a while. I don't regret any of that experience. It was such a good experience. I made a lot of friends. I learned a lot of things, learned how to deal with politics and dealing with people in corporate, because it's a very different kind of environment.
Marie Ng: But ultimately what happened was I left there to start my own business and kind of work for myself because, a couple of reasons, one, because I've always wanted to do a startup. I've always wanted to try and build something by myself. Um, have an idea, bring it to life. So I've always wanted to do that.
Marie Ng: I just never had the opportunity or was never the right sort of time to do it, but I kind of got to that point where I was like, you know, what, if there's any time to do it, it's probably, now you've got some experience under your belt. You've got a bit of savings. You're not supporting a family or kids, so there's, that's definitely like a whole different ball game, different responsibilities.
Marie Ng: So it was just myself. I'm like, you know what? I can take the risk because of where I am in life right now. And so I decided to leave, um, to explore that. But the, the, the other reason is, you know, so the first reason is I've always wanted to do that kind of thing. The second reason is, you know, I was thinking really hard about what I can do to help manage the ADHD.
Marie Ng: And one of the biggest things for me is that you need to almost create your own environment. So it's very hard to fit into somebody else's environment. And that's what, to me, that's what corporate is, it's like somebody else's company, somebody else's structure. If you don't fit within that, it's going to be very, very hard to do your day job to progress, to keep your mental health in check, because you're constantly struggling to fit into something else that is not natural for you.
Marie Ng: And so one of the things for me was like, okay well, if that's going to be a challenge and maybe I could do that with medication, but it wouldn't be fulfilling for me. Uh, if I uh, do not have medication or I'm trying to cut down on that or tweak that maybe the best thing for me is just to create an environment that I naturally thrive in.
Marie Ng: And that is pretty much what I have now. I'm doing something that I really love. I'm super interested in it. So, you know, I get those moments of hyper-focus because I love it. Like I love what I'm doing. And, it's challenging, every day is different, which perfect for me. And I have my own time schedule.
Marie Ng: So sometimes I might be working late at night just cause I'm in the flow. And then I'm like, you know what, I'm just going to keep going, cuz, I dunno how long this is going to last. And then there's other moments where I'm just struggling to get started. And if you run your own business, that's okay. Like maybe you just take a walk or maybe I just won't start till a bit later in the day, but you don't have to force yourself to fit in with, you have to be in this 9:00 AM meeting and you have to stay in his 9:00 AM meeting for two hours you can't go anywhere else.
Marie Ng: You know, I used to be in corporate meetings and I was always the who was getting up and having to move around and, probably disrupting everyone else.
Jesse: But taking care of yourself, what you needed in that moment.
Marie Ng: I needed it. You know, I, I got one of the first bits of feedback I got from, uh, one of my managers was you you're doing a good job, but you get out of your seat way too much.
Marie Ng: And I don't like, I can't help it. kind of have to, or otherwise I'll go crazy. Um, but that was like a very distinct piece of feedback I'll always remember was, you know, you really get out of the seat too much. Like you kind of disrupting other people. Cause you're just always getting up, going to to the bathroom, go and get, make a coffee and going to the kitchen.
Marie Ng: Like you need to kind of just sit. And this is not, you know, this is not when you're a kid, right. This is when I was corporate and, and I think she got affected because she was sitting right. Opposite me, open plan environment. So obviously she's, every time I get up, it's very obvious to her and, yeah.
Jesse: Wow. Yeah, that's wild. I, so I similar to you. Like I w- I worked in advertising before I was as a designer and then. Uh, now I work as a software developer. I'm technically in corporate, but I, the company I work at is like, it's a, it's a startup. It was when I joined the company about seven years ago, there was like 30 people and they've grown now they're over a hundred employees.
Jesse: So there's a little bit of kind of that, you know, corporate policy kind of stuff necessarily kind of starts to creep in, but I definitely feel lucky and that they give me a lot of freedom to sort of craft things that work with my brain a little bit. Like I don't have full freedom of the schedule, but I have a lot of flexibility with that. And, um, and I work from home. So I get my environment, I can get up as much as I want and walk around my little home studio. So, um, yeah.
Jesse: I wanted to ask what you thought about. It seems, that more and more I'm running into more developers that have ADHD.
Jesse: Maybe they don't even know it, but it feels like something about like the environment of doing software development attracts that ADHD brain and why, I'm just curious. Why do you think that is? What have you noticed in that?
Marie Ng: Yes, I'm quite, I'm still quite a new developer. So, um, that was an attraction in itself. I kind I taught myself to code a couple of years ago, like two years ago watching YouTube videos. And that was amazing in itself because I just like, I love it. I just there's something about it that just. Works with my brain.
Marie Ng: And I guess that's the question, right? Like why do we think that is? And I suspect, well, at least for me,
Marie Ng: I can only really talk about my own experience, but for me, the attraction is, I, I write some code and then I see a result. And it's instant, right? So I get instant gratification in the sense that it either works or it doesn't, but I know straight away, sometimes it's actually quite a contrast to see marketing and advertising as a career, because if you're doing something like marketing, Um, I know a lot of the indie developers struggle with this because they're great developers, but to build a business, you need sort of developing the product, but you also need to market the product.
Marie Ng: And it's, I feel like it's almost like two different skills and that's why there's this struggle. because when you think about marketing, there's, it's not instant gratification. Uh, there might be some growth hacking in it that people do that. You kind of see a result for a little bit. You might get a spike in traffic, but in your, to your website, but it'll probably come down.
Marie Ng: If you want to do marketing seriously and brand building and advertising, then you usually have to put in some work up front and you need to do a little research to figure out what might work. But you might not actually see the result for a month or two months because it takes time to actually work.
Marie Ng: It takes time for people to see an ad. A lot of people don't convert to buying a product after just one time. Like you might have to see an ad multiple times. You might have to see your friends start using the product. So you might need social proof around the product before you take the plunge and and buy it or use it.
Marie Ng: So there is a time delay. Whereas when I'm doing coding, it's instant, like you hit deploy or you build it or you just, you know, receive something in the browser and then bang, it's there, it's working or it's not working and it's very, binary. So it's like, the computer is never wrong. Right? If there's an error, it's because you wrote something wrong, it's black and white.
Marie Ng: It's kind of like, all right, well, it's doing exactly what I told it to do. And I just told it wrong. I just told it to do something that wasn't right. But it actually did exactly what I said.
Marie Ng: And when I'm coding, it's almost like my brain slows down, but in a good way, um, I'm don't know if that makes sense, but it's kinda of, sometimes, if I'm doing other tasks, like inside my head, it might be quite hectic. There's a lot of thoughts going on. But it's, it's hard to describe because it's not like, like, you know, sometimes you see in the movies, the way ADHD is portrayed and they kind of portray people as being super hyperactive and almost like squirrel mentality, where you going, oh, look at that, look at that, look at that.
Marie Ng: That's definitely not how it is in my head. It's almost like, and everyone, again, everyone is a little different and manifests slightly different in everybody. But for me, it it's kind of like that, but the way it presents in my head, I just get fuzzy. Like I just get foggy because I know, I know it's because there's too many things going on, but it's not like I'm darting from one thing to another.
Marie Ng: It just all becomes foggy. And I'm like, oh, whereas when I'm coding, it doesn't do that because. It almost slows down, but it slows down to the point where it's like super efficient, which is contradictory, but it's yeah, you slow down to become more efficient and everything. Step-by-step line by line. I can see all the code and I don't know, it's almost calming in a weird way.
Jesse: Yeah. Yeah. I find that uh, well first, like what you say, ADHD in the media. Yeah. So often is portrayed as that like squirrel, you know like, Hammy from Over the Hedge or like that kind of a character, that's just like, can't retain any memory. And it's just like jumping from this thing to that. And that, I mean, that's the reason when I first someone first suggested to me, like, I might have ADHD.
Jesse: I was like, no, cause I, I have no problem focusing on like the things I'm interested in, you know? Cause I hadn't heard of hyper-focus before. And then once I learned about that, I was like, oh, oh, I do need to look into this more. And then that's when I did all the websites, like you said earlier, and like, oh, all these symptoms are really crying out to me and like lining up with these things that I thought were private.
Jesse: Like these are my own little weird quirks. And here website has a giant list of all of them in a, in a row, which is, uh, yeah, it definitely an interesting experience to go through and like realizing, oh, there's a reason behind all this. Um, as far as like the development, I totally agree. There's something about where it just sort of like my brain sort of locks in and really like it's. It's like this, uh, it reminds me of in school for the most part. I hated like math classes, but sometimes there would be some sort of math puzzle. And then I was like, locked in. I'm like, I'm going to solve this problem. Like I love problem solving. And I think the world of like, software development is just tons of fun problems to solve.
Jesse: And some of them, you like, you get to create your own problems to solve. And so there's like this creativity and figuring out like, how can I manipulate? Like you're saying like this, like static, this, this code that doesn't have any opinions, like how can I manipulate that to solve this creative problem.
Jesse: And I know there's, uh, Dr. William Dodson, uh, calls this thing called leaping where like, you will have a problem and you just sort of like, your brain is just sorta like jumping kind of everywhere at once. And then you're like, ah, I got it. Like I leapt to the problem. And then I don't always know how I got there, but I know like that solution is, I know it's the solution.
Jesse: And then I kind of have to figure out. I don't know how my brain got there, but I know that that's the right solution. I just have to kind of like figure out why it's the right solution.
Marie Ng: Yeah, that's so funny that you say that I didn't, Yeah, I didn't really know. There was a sort of term for it called leaping but that is kind of how my brain works too. And I, and I've re- I started to realize that a few years ago, I used to just think, oh, maybe my clarity of thinking wasn't wasn't there because it wasn't a step-by-step thing.
Marie Ng: It wasn't a, uh, I'll think through this problem, this, this, and then I get an answer. For me, it kind of has to sit in my head for a while, and it's almost like there's all these disparate parts. But then suddenly it just all comes together. And now I feel more confident in myself that it will come together, but it just takes, it won't be as linear as maybe somebody else. But it definitely, even if I'm not consciously thinking about it, like it's probably, probably working its way together slowly.
Marie Ng: And, um, then, then there's this leap and then all of a sudden it's like, oh yeah, that's the solution.
Marie Ng: One thing I've been doing lately is using mind maps. Have you ever used a mindmap?
Jesse: Yes. Yeah. Yeah.
Marie Ng: They're so good because I, I feel like it's how my it's a little bit like how my brain works. You almost do like a brain dump on paper.
Marie Ng: It's really good when you're brainstorming ideas, like you say, you're building a product and you're trying to figure out what feature to build based on customer feedback. And you can kind of just put everything on the mind map. And, I guess for those who don't know what the, the mind map is, it's got a lot of different nodes and a node could just be like a thought.
Marie Ng: And what you do is you actually try and connect all of the different nodes with, with lines. And then you start to see a pattern being formed. Like you might get a cluster of nodes together and you can also connect that to another cluster. It's very fluid in the way you can just move it around the page.
Marie Ng: It's, it's almost the opposite of doing, say a bulleted list on a, on a word document. That's got a lot of structure. It's harder to move things around. Whereas the mind map is just, you put it wherever you want on the page. You can move and group things together and you can draw lines to connect different things.
Marie Ng: And for me, that really works because I can start to see what is related, what things are related with other things and patterns, patterns emerge. And, um, um, I'm not sure if this is an ADHD thing or not, but I'm pretty good at seeing patterns in anything,
Jesse: Right, yeah. I, don't know if there's science behind that, but that's definitely been my experience as well. It seems like we like that ADHD brain for whatever reason really seems to be able to see patterns Like particular patterns that neuro-typical people don't see at all. Like we now now, as I'm saying it, I'm remembering now I have seen studies that have shown that, uh, the ADHD brain is more likely to connect things that aren't obviously connected.
Jesse: And so there's been like, studies. I don't remember the exact thing, but it was something like here's, you know, here's a fork and a sponge and a, an apple, and then try to solve a problem with these things. And a neuro-typical brain is often more set of like, okay, well, an apple is food and a fork is something you use in food.
Jesse: Whereas the ADHD brain is like, okay, here are three objects. And how can I recombine them to solve the solution or whatever. So there have actually been studies showing that that recognition that particularly the unique pattern recognition is something that our ADHD brains are great at.
Jesse: Uh, speaking of solving problems, um, I'm assuming the genesis of your app Llama life was trying to solve your own problems. So how did that come about?
Marie Ng: Yeah, it is. Um, yeah, that's pretty, pretty much what happened. So it there's two reasons why I started Llama Life. The first was I was l earning how to code. And you know, one of the first things you do when you're learning how to code is you build a to-do list because it's, it's a very good way to practice, dealing with data.
Marie Ng: So you are creating a to-do so you're writing data to the database. Then you might want to retrieve that you might want to delete that. It's just a very good way to learn how things work when. Teaching yourself to code. So that was one of the first projects I built by myself. Um, obviously it wasn't as complicated as it is today.
Marie Ng: Like it wasn't sort of the fully, the full product that you see today. It was a very minimal version of that, but I I've also built it because I have been trying to find tools to work with how my brain works. I had a number of different tools that I was kind of trying to mash together and sort of hack together to work with me.
Marie Ng: And I just wanted, um, I guess I just wanted something that like just fits. So I ended up putting the basic version of Lama life. And I build very publicly on Twitter. I share what I'm doing and the thought process behind it. And when I put it up there, uh, immediately people started saying, oh, you know, I want this, like, where, what is this?
Marie Ng: And I had to say, well, it's actually not a product. It's just something I'm playing with. I'm building, cause I'm teaching myself to code and. But it was a nice signal for me that maybe someone else might want this as well. And over time I was kind of very, a very natural progression. So over time I just kept sharing what I was adding to it like different features and it started getting a small following on Twitter.
Marie Ng: And then, yeah. And then, and then, um, so Jason Calacanis, who was an angel investor in the us, somebody from his team. And they encouraged me to apply for an accelerator program. And that really helped me kind of get my thinking around, like as a product, what is this? Uh, where could it go?
Marie Ng: Like, what is the overall mission that you're trying to solve with this? Like, what are you trying to do with this business? And, you know, for me, it, it and Llama life, it's all about calm, focused productivity. Because I think, you know, especially nowadays, and this is not necessarily just ADHD. There are a lot of distractions nowadays in the workplace.
Marie Ng: We, a lot of us are working from home or we're working remotely. And, um, there's just a lot of things to balance like home life and work. And two people can have exactly the same to do list and they both might complete that to do list at the end of the day. But emotionally and mentally, they might be in a different state.
Marie Ng: So you might finish everything on your list and you might feel really calm, accomplished, and, yeah, just, just, just happy with how your day went. I might have exactly the same list and I might get through that, but maybe I'm feeling kind of stressed and drained at the end of the day. And what Llama Life is trying to do through the design of the product is, you know, how can we design something to help you get through your day feeling like good.
Marie Ng: Feeling not worn out, feeling, not tired, of feeling not stressed. Because a lot of, a lot of productivity is a mental game. And I think I feel that really acutely because of ADHD, I know a lot of it is about trying to manage my own mental state as I progress throughout the day. And that takes a lot of energy to do.
Marie Ng: Medication helps with that. But if you're just trying to manage it yourself, like it, it, it can take a lot of energy and, you know, having a tool like Llama Life will not solve all of that. Right. I think a lot of people expect to use a tool and that's it. Like, it will be great, but you, you still have to meet a tool halfway.
Marie Ng: A tool is just a tool. But I can try and design it in such a way that will help get you there. But you still have to put the work in. And if you have ADHD, then there will be more work to put in then a neuro-typical person. That's just how it is. But at least a tool that is designed for increasing focus, uh, helping you look at one thing at a time and being disciplined about that and making it really fun and rewarding to use.
Marie Ng: So it's very lighthearted. It's when you complete a task, you get confetti. Um, it's designed to kind of trigger some dopamine, uh, in, in your, in your brain. That could at least help get you part of the way. So, so the mission is really to help people increase their focus, achieve that calm, uh, productivity, and hopefully have fun doing it.
Marie Ng: You know, there's a lot of serious. Productivity apps out there where they focus a lot on statistics. Like how efficient were you today? You were 5% more efficient than yesterday and you completed like a hundred tasks and here's where all your time was spent. There's definitely a time and place for that.
Marie Ng: Like, there's definitely, uh, there are definitely some people who like doing that and seeing that, but Llama life isn't like that. It is more about trying to manage your feelings, your emotion, your mental state. And you do get some basic stats, but it's not about that. It is really about, trying to be in the moment and try and work on one thing at a time.
Marie Ng: And when you finish that one thing, feel good about it and then move to the next thing. That's kind of what I'm trying to design. And, um, it uses a lot of timers. So these are not, it's not a stopwatch, so it doesn't count up. It counts down. I'm a huge fan of countdown timers. I use them for everything. I have a, I use it on my watch.
Marie Ng: I use it with Llama Life. So Llama Life, you set a countdown timer for every single task and it can be whatever time you want. There is a similar technique called Pomodoro. I think a lot of people will be familiar with this. A Pomodoro is where you set a 25 minute timer. You try and focus during that time. Then you take a five minute break.
Marie Ng: That definitely works for some people, but for me, I can't do 25 minutes. So I, um, I like setting, you know, five or 10 minute task. You can still have your big tasks to accomplish, but I break them, break that big task down into all these small tasks, are like five or 10 minute blocks.
Marie Ng: And then all I have to do, um, is try and focus for that five minute block or 10 minute block and try and not do anything else during that time. And then if I can achieve that small chunk of focus, then I can move to the next one. So it's trying to do things in micro steps and, um, I just couldn't find that flexibility with some of the other tools I was using.
Marie Ng: Like, they all were saying, just do 25 minutes. And I was oh, I can't, I can't do it. but yeah, so that's kinda how Llama Life came about.
Jesse: Yeah, that is awesome. Uh, one of the things I love about your style is it is kind of what you said, but it's full of whimsy. It just, it's very delightful, your, your design kind of language that you use and everything. Um, and I love that.
Jesse: So I now is a great time to switch over to shiny objects.
Jesse: And I think you, uh, I know you create some shiny objects.
Jesse: It feels like every few months you're releasing like just some little toy that you created online. So there's like your fidgetpage.com, which is just a little fidget spinner. Um, and then you created a background noise generator, which is S H H H noise or shhhnoise.com. Um, and so I think those are a couple of cool, shiny objects.
Jesse: You were just talking about. timers. So I do want to mention my shiny object today. I have a Google Nest Hub, which is basically, it's just like a little, uh, digital screen with sort of like it's the Google version, but kind of like an Alexa built into it. And I use it all the time for my timers. So I'm always telling Google, like set a 20 minute timer, set a 10 minute timer, instead of a 30 minute timer.
Jesse: And similar to you, like I, the strict Pomodoro, like twenty-five, five. I don't do that at all. I'm kind of all over the map. A lot of the time I will set longer timers where I just like, I want to be in the zone for awhile, but I don't want to lose, you know, four hours in the zone. Like so I'll set like a 40 minute timer or a 30 minutes just sort of like, just sort of pop in and, like you know, break my concentration for a second and be like, oh, okay. Time has passed. Take a moment to decide, do I want to keep doing this? Or do I want to like, take a break? And then I'll set like another long timer. So, but the Google Nest, I use it for timers all the time. It's just, or the Google Nest Hub.
Jesse: So what it's called, but yeah, it's great. So Yeah. What, what shiny object or objects, uh, would you like to share?
Marie Ng: Yeah, so I'm actually playing with one right now. So I know this is audio. So a lot of people won't be able to see it, but it's, it's essentially a, um, it's called a Simple Dimple
Marie Ng: What it is for people who can't see it is like three, um, it's like three little, like, it's almost like a pop-it.
Marie Ng: But there's three little rubber things and you can just push, you can just push them and play with them. And for me, and this was like, I dunno, three bucks or something. It's very, very cheap, but I always have these on hand because I think, I'm not so, I'm not so hyperactive physically, like I was never the kid that was running around in a classroom. But I think I'm kind of hyperactive on the inside and I tend to fidget a lot because of that, because I feel like the energy has to go somewhere.
Marie Ng: And if I'm not fidgeting with something, then, then maybe I might be tapping my leg or something. And that could be distracting for other people. So I've actually, I mean, on this whole call I've been just playing with this camera, just like, but, but it really helps me in a way. I'm not sure. I think it's just because the energy is going somewhere and if that energy doesn't go somewhere, then, then it might be distracting in some ways.
Marie Ng: So that's my first shiny object.
Marie Ng: And then the second shiny object, it's not so much a toy, but I'm standing on it right now. So I recently got a standing desk. And the standing desk is amazing, for posture and just, yeah, especially sort of your neck area, like when you're coding, like you tend to lean forward a bit,
Jesse: It's like the de-evolution chart where you just start, back and really, yeah.
Marie Ng: So I got the standing desk amazing. Uh, but I could only stand for about an hour on, you know, the hard, hard floor. And then I was having to revert to sitting. But I got this thing. It's like, uh, I, I, so I put my standing desk on Twitter and everyone was saying to me, Hey, did you get the standing mat as well?
Marie Ng: And I'm like, what are you talking about? What is a standing mat? And it's essentially like this foam rubbery foam mat. And it's got the one, I got's got some curvature on it. It's got, um, Yeah, it's got contours on it. So it serves two purposes for me. So since I got the standing mat, I can actually stand the whole day. Eight hours, no problem whatsoever.
Marie Ng: It was night and day. So that in itself was worth it for me. But it's also got these contours. So you can kind of fidget with your feet. Almost like feet are moving all the time, like playing with these contours. And I guess that's the point. That's probably what helps you stand the whole day, because you're not standing in one spot.
Marie Ng: You're actually moving yourself a little bit. But yeah, I can't recommend the standing mat enough. I was shocked. I was so skeptical. I thought, what is this? Just a rubber mat? Like, surely it won't make that much difference, but it's really, really helped my workday. And my posture, because I'm not sitting all the time.
Jesse: That is awesome. I need to get one of those. I have a desk that's like, you know, it has motors in it, so it can go to standing and then go to sitting, which is great.
Jesse: Um, but Yeah. I find, I don't do the standing long enough because again, just just standing flat for a while, just doesn't work. Um, and I've had like coworkers that have recommended, um, is, is yours, is it the Topo or.
Marie Ng: Yeah. Yeah. So that, yeah, I'm not sure how you say it, but yeah, the top-o T O P O and, um, the two types as well. There's the normal size and there's a mini size. So I've got the mini size, but it's the mini size is still really big. I, yeah, it's huge. It's still huge. So, um, I guess go online and have a look if there's a lot of photos online.
Marie Ng: So you can, you can get a sense, someone's foot size, like where it would be. It's still the mini still huge. That's all I would say, like.
Jesse: I, I think I just need to bite the bullet and do it cause I hear nothing but positive recommendations for.
Marie Ng: Seriously, it's the best investment I've made. I'm not in, I don't have any affiliate with them. I just really, really like what they've done. And I just like good products. You know, I appreciate good products. It's not, obviously it's not a tech product. It's just, it's a rubbery foam mat, but I kind of look at it and go, oh, there was some, there was definitely some thought put into this, how they've molded it.
Marie Ng: And I don't, I just really appreciate that kind of design, like they've thought about it and what works best. And as I'm standing on it and using it throughout the day, I just, I just really appreciate it.
Jesse: That's awesome. Uh, we'll have links to all of that in the show notes. I want to thank you for being here. Uh, where can people go to follow the things you're building and what you're doing and everything?
Marie Ng: Yeah, thank you for having me. Um, so I'm on Twitter. I'm quite active. I post what I'm doing. It's at threehourcoffee. That's spelled out the words, three hour coffee and uh Llama Life. So it's llamalife.co that's llama life dot C O.
Jesse: Thank you again so much for being here and, uh, yeah, have a great day.
Marie Ng: Yeah, you too. Awesome. Thanks Jesse.
Jesse: That's our show, thank you so much for listening. I especially want to thank our VIP patrons, Erich Tompkins, Luce Carter, Richard Stephens, and Todd Barnett. It helps me do this show and all the other work I do, so thank you so much.
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