My Typical Week

It’s a not-so-typical life right now. I didn’t see this coming; none of us did. 30 days ago, I was booking international flights, had just resigned from my job, and was ready to enter a new life of work as I knew it. Little did I know a global pandemic would set me on a different course of curiosity.

I knew I was going to have a hard time adjusting to life after my full-time job. I told people I needed at least 2 weeks to “rest” and reset my mind after my last job. Turns out, we all have hit the reset button. And I needed it more than I knew.

Below are two “typical” weeks, pre and post-COVID and some lessons I’m just starting to tap into. Thanks for reading.

Pre-COVID Catarina Workweek:

Monday pickup for the office.

As Product Manager at Thankyou Payroll, I’ve documented what a typical work week looked like- in-office, full-time and moving my way up to a product leadership position at a SAAS.

8 am start — I’m going to skip all the parts about my breakfast (coffee), exercise, meditation, biking and journaling that happens before my workday starts. These things are crucial to maintaining balance in my life. But I have experienced days when I rolled out of bed, went straight to work and noticed something was missing by 12pm.

By 8am each morning, I will have checked Slack and email to ensure no fires have started overnight. Not that I can do anything to fix it, but it’s good to see if there’s already a “mood” or blocks before getting to the office. I am a morning person so earlier the better to get productive, deep work done.

Very few things haven’t changed about our meeting cadence. Consistency has helped me plan my mornings and meetings accordingly. This means everyone is expected to be fully in work-mode by 9:40.

At Thankyou Payroll, we shared a lot of responsibilities across departments. So as soon as I get to the office, I may have kitchen duty, I may be hosting stand-up and need to boot the shared machines and set up zoom calls. If you’re lucky, I may even make you a coffee.

Our daily scrum is a 9:30 and our all-team standup is at 9:40 til 9:55. By 10am, I have gotten updates and blocks from the team and can action anything necessary. We dubbed Mondays “Meeting Monday” so it’s expected the mornings are booked until at least midday.

Like I said, I do my best “deep work” in the morning so if there’s a need to strategise, organise, plan, research or reflect, I do it before noon. I also don’t have coffee after 12pm.

Product Management is sometimes referred to as “herding cats”. Sometimes this happens after lunch (1pm). I follow up a lot, ping others for unanswered emails or messages, and check on scrum boards. I assign/delegate tasks around and/or send words of encouragement. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I have 1-on-1’s with team members and keep actioning things from Monday. It’s all beginning to sound a bit vague but believe me, it made a difference.

When I started the role, I was busy handing off, training, and doing other marketing or project management tasks. We were in a transition period and hadn’t fully back-hired for my old role and like I said, we tend to share responsibilities across departments when necessary.

I had a lot of meetings and while attempting to have them all on Monday, PM work requires you to be available and flexible to meet throughout the week. After 1pm, I may have a meeting with our Business Analyst about requirement gathering and our scrum board, or with our Lead Developer about scope and future development. I reported to the CEO but often caught up with the CTO and sent updates on our development to the management team or others.

We have an official checkout channel and reminder at 5pm daily. Sometimes I’m out before that, sometimes I am working late to meet deadlines. Either way, I’m still learning boundaries and practising balance. It takes practice, lots of it. And it’s good to communicate that to others (especially your manager). We happen to have a development schedule and roadmap that’s extra busy Dec-April and Sept-Dec. so my long-days are usually around those times of the year.

A year ago, I was doing a lot of learning about the development team and how they worked. I travelled to our Dunedin office a lot and had to pick up a major project mid-way through. This meant I couldn’t exactly hit the ground running but I was tasked with seeing things to completion. So the pressure was on but I think I was good about taking my time, not being pressured into rushing, and asking A LOT of questions. I’m naturally curious and have no problem admitting what I don’t know.

We also adopted new project management and documentation software mid-year (the 3rd change in 1 year) and also added two senior members to our team (and lost two other). This transition was tough for us and stalled a few things but was a good, clean slate to focus on. We got humming when the financial year ended and the pandemic began. I resigned at the beginning of March, adding pressure to the completion of two major projects I started. Little did I know that a wage subsidy would kick in, and we’d receive our highest number of support calls in that time. But they got this now and I’m quite proud of the work I did.

Post-COVID Catarina “Workweek”:

Staying home. Saving lives.

These days, I have no concept of time. I used to be a slave to my calendar and the agenda for the day. I used to get annoyed when people were late, when there was no agenda in a meeting and when things got rescheduled. I needed consistency and structure to consider myself productive.

Now I’m on Day of 14 of what is looking to be a 4-week lockdown. We moved flat Day 0 within 24 hours because of eviction before lockdown. We were very lucky to find a nice, comfortable flat in Central City and enjoy the empty carpark activity during Alert Level 4.

Note: not everyone has this luxury. I know that and I feel incredibly lucky to have space and time to take this opportunity to reflect, reset and start fresh.

My plan, post-full-time-work was to network the sh*t out of the next move. I had meeting after meeting lined up. I was booked nearly every morning for coffee with someone new and attending heaps of networking events in the evenings. I was reconnecting with old mates and other product leaders. I was playing into my curiosity and updating my LinkedIn feverishly. If I was going to get a job ASAP, it wasn’t going to be because I sent my CV and cover letters to a million jobs, it was because of the connections I was going to make.

I’ll share what I did today and what my first two days looked like:

Monday - My brain is on fire around 5–6am. I am wondering what’s happened overnight in the UK and in the US (where our families are). But I stopped picking up my phone to check. I breathe deeply and hope to fall back asleep. The alarm goes off by 7 and I hit snooze. I’m usually up around 8 and drop into a meditation of the day with the Calm app and set the intention for the day.

By 9am I’m into “work” mode. I’m checking Slack channels, notifications, and emails. I’m responding to chats. I’ve volunteered to copyedit some work by friends with their new COVID projects and then by 11, I’m onto my second coffee.

Noon - it’s lunchtime. I check in with my partner (also working from home) and we eat together. We watch a young girl learn how to skateboard and ride her bike in the carpark downstairs or people-watch in Central City.

I usually have meetings for my new project in the early arvo (12 or 3pm), BikeAid. It’s a nonprofit I started after the Kaikoura Earthquakes and have restarted it during the COVID crisis.

By 2pm, I feel pretty pooped. I do Yoga with Adrienne (30-day challenge type thing) on Youtube and remind myself of my intention from the morning. Another check-in on the news, notifications, and texts. We also keep a record of the workouts we’ve done (small tallies and counts in a shared notebook) and encourage either other to hit some more pushups or situps if our tallies are low.

By 4pm or 5pm, I’m hungry again and the happy hours kick in. Whether it’s Zoom or Houseparty, I’m connecting with friends and family. Then it’s time to binge or watch a dance party on Instagram Live (Shoutout Shut Up and Dance!) and kick in some cardio. Dinner afterwards and back to Netflix/Youtube. Usually in bed by 9:30 or 10.

Less reading than I planned and certainly hard when you’re not accountable to anyone but I am working on my discipline.


I like these days better. While it’s difficult to remain uber-productive, I have redefined what productive looks like. Sometimes, it’s simply staying inside to save lives. Sometimes, it’s prioritising my self-care over anything.

My friend recently said to me they feel capitalism and this new world way was bound to burst. We’d been ratcheting the people to be more productive, be at the top, be the best and all at the expense of our mental health and the most vulnerable in society. The levels have been let loose.

Take it one day at a time now. I’m more present and more kind and gentle with myself and those around me. I’ve surprised myself how well I’ve done in the transition to no-work, lockdown mode but I’m also extremely grateful each day to not have the virus and not be affected like others.

As far as my next move, work can wait. I feel more inclined to offer my help for free when people need it the most and to support anyone else who needs it because I’m in a good place. I have days when I don’t want to go back to Product Management or the working world as I knew it (fulltime, late-night and exhaustion). I don’t think a career change is coming but I am deeply passionate about helping where I can when I can. I’m keen to look after myself first so I can look after others too. And to not burst my bubble.

Mood check-in thanks to Calm app

If you need help, have an idea, or want to chat, hit me up before noon. I’m keen to discuss and see where I can support you. :)



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Catarina Gutierrez

espresso-fueled photographer. reader of all things art. drinking coffee and riding bikes on @meCatarina