Self-care for Boss Babes: Interview with Madelin Woods, designer, developer, and founder of Walden

October 31, 2018


Madelin is an independent entrepreneur, engineer, designer, and artist splitting her time between New York and San Francisco. She was an early engineer at Square, and has since worked with Facebook,, and many small startups. She's currently CEO & Founder at Hello Walden, a personal trainer for your creative work. 

SophieWhat does wellness mean to you?


Madelin: I’m constantly seeking balance between my physical, mental, and spiritual wellness. The methods of how I practice these may change, but I have to constantly check in with myself to make sure that they are each staying active, challenged, and cared for.


Sophie: How have founding and running your own companies challenged your ability to maintain that balance?


Madelin: I’ve actually found the opposite! Because I have so much more on my plate, it’s actually been easier for me to have more fine-tuned control and awareness over my wellness & self-care routine. Since I’m a solo founder, my personal wellness is one of the highest priorities. If I can’t function, neither can my business.


Sophie: How did you manage this? Do you have any recommendations for readers who have demanding careers?


Madelin: The most important thing is to set up systems and routines. As an engineer, I am a huge fan of the rule “Don’t Repeat Yourself” — if you do it more than once, automate it. It’s way easier to get to the gym if you set out what you need the night before, and keep a regular schedule of classes or training sessions. I have a system for the groceries I buy and making healthy meals easier. I make sure to budget for at least one massage or wellness appointment per month. I combine social time with rejuvenating activities like pedicures, (reasonably priced) day spas, hikes or runs, etc. And I keep regular check-ins with a couple of close friends, who are amazing at helping me recognize when I’m off-balance.


SophieCan you share the key elements of your self-care routine with us?


Madelin: My number one priority is making sure I have the time to work out. I’ve noticed (and so does everyone around me) that when I break this routine, my mental health and focus struggles significantly. These are some of the habits & activities that help me stay balanced:

- Work out 3-5 times per week

- Get out of the house and talk to another human at least once a day

- Cancel any meetings or plans that don’t bring me energy

- Massage once per month

- Take a bubble bath and listen to music

- Eat more green things than sugar

- Drink more water than coffee

- Call mom at least once a week

- Take at least one day a week (or two half days) without computer/work time

- Try to go to bed before midnight


SophieWhat role do creativity and self-expression play in physical and emotional wellbeing?


Madelin: I’ve always found that I tend to go nuts if I don’t have some form of creative outlet, whether that’s writing, coding, drawing, painting, taking classes, dancing, or some form of playing. It’s important to build unstructured time into your day, focused around a creative activity. I think what creative activities do is get us out of our perfectionist, logical, egotistical brains and into a more exploratory, visual and spacial mindset. It’s easy to get caught up in long-term and big picture goals, so I try to keep these activities quick and easy to get me out of my head.


SophieDo you have any tricks or exercises to help our readers tap into their creativity and imagination?


Madelin: I get worked up a lot when I face new, creative challenges, especially ones I’m really excited about. When I start over-thinking things, I always try to force myself to get into a more curious headspace. I begin by approaching the problem with “What’s the silliest / stupidest thing I could do?” Typically, if an idea makes me giggle, it’s going to be great.


SophieWhat about for any women who want to add more creation and self-expression to their lives?


Madelin: I always like to think back to some of my favorite activities as a kid. Did you enjoy coloring, tumbling, singing, writing? Pick up a new book or class, and start finding small ways to create things or express yourself. Learn how to trust your instincts. Set your expectations low, and be incredibly nice to yourself. This is a time to get messy and make mistakes!


SophieAs a woman and entrepreneur who has worked with a lot of creatives trying to get their side hustles or creative projects off the ground, can you share some of the advice you give to women who want to turn their passion projects into viable businesses?


Madelin: Spend a little bit of time at the beginning of your project thinking about your goals: Is this just a hobby, or are you looking to make money with this? How much time are you reasonably able to spend on this outside of work and life? Do you have a budget? Does this bring you joy? Are you doing this for yourself, or for someone else? Who can you get involved with your project to help keep you accountable?


Once you’ve set up some of your intentions, focus most of your energy on creating and getting your work in front of people. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutia of planning and fiddling around with tools, but those things alone aren’t going to get your wild ideas out into the world!


SophieHow do you fuel your creativity?


Madelin: I use a mix of blackmailing myself and inspirational droppings.


Self-blackmail is (1) committing to the fact that I stick to my commitments, (2) being okay with not committing to anything I don’t actually think I can/want to do, (3) signing up for or committing to things to push myself towards a goal or deadline, and (4) forcing myself to follow through.


Inspirational droppings is a technique I’ve used throughout life. Basically, the more I create, the more I leave my little creations around my home and personal space. When I stumble upon these past creations, they usually spark a little sense of joy, which inspires me to go and create more. Eventually, you’ll find yourself with a pile of sketchbooks, a book of poems, a wall full of art, strangers who come up to you wearing your t-shirts or recognizing your work, and friends who ask you when the next time you’re going to do X is, because it’s always so much fun.


SophieLastly, do you have a favorite quote about inspiration or creativity?


Madelin: “It doesn’t matter how far or how fast you go, just don’t stop.”My friend’s dad gave me this advice once before I ran my first half marathon, and I’ve never forgotten it. It applies to all aspects of life!


Ready to explore your creativity and start a new project? Madelin has kindly agreed to offer Supergirls Club readers one free month on Walden, her platform where you work one-on-one with an experienced coach to get your creative project, side hustle, or freelance business off the ground. We'll help you create your project roadmap and stay motivated, unblocked, and on track. Use code "supergirls100" at check out for your free month off.


About the author:

Anne-Sophie Bousset ("Sophie" to English-speaking friends), is a freelance marketer and community builder. She helps companies build their brand, attract clients, and build a community around their product. Her favorite things include sunshine, yoga, reading, and lazy Sundays in with her cat, Phelps. She can be found on Twitter @Sophie_Bousset.

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