The Systems and Routines I Use for Everyday Life

22 November, 2022
Productivity; Life

I was recently interview by "Balance the Grind". Here were my responses to Hao's practical questions.

1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’ve followed a weird and non-linear path, to say the least.

I’ve always liked just about every topic, so I’ve tried my hand at many things.

In terms of studies, this included law, maths, stats, data science and finance, in Australia and overseas, changing my degree 3 times but still graduating in 3 years.

In terms of career, I got my ‘start’ at the ripe old age of 12, embarrassingly creating a Minecraft server and charging people to access it. Since then I’ve worked in edtech, fintech and proptech startups. I’ve also worked in venture capital at a few different stages. -1 to 1 with Ultraviolet Ventures, the angel investing syndicate I founded. 0 to 1 with Afterwork Ventures. 1 to 100 with GGV Capital. I also did short stints at Goldman Sachs, at a tech M&A investment bank, and at a large public equities fund.

Now, 5% of my time goes into angel investing with Ultraviolet. 5% goes to Next Chapter, which is a global network of invite-only social clubs which I founded. The remaining 90% goes into a stealth mode AI/healthcare company that I am building.

I’m 22 years old, so looking forward to lots of learning ahead.


2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Maker vs manager days

For the most part, I split my week into ‘maker’ days and ‘manager’ days.

I put all phone calls and management tasks on Monday, Thursday and Friday. These are ‘manager’ days.  Some manager days will have ten back-to-back 30min calls. I find back-to-back calls much easier than adhoc calls throughout the day.

I try to reserve creative work for Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. These are ‘maker’ days.

A typical Thursday

8-8:30am: Wakeup, cold shower, view sunlight

8:30-10:30am: Medium-value task that isn’t too draining

10:30-11:30am: Gym

11:30am-2pm: High-value task that requires focused attention

2pm-6pm: Calls + admin tasks

6:30pm-9pm: Social event

9pm-1am: Deep, focused work

Energy management vs time management

I alternate between keeping a structured schedule and no schedule.

No schedule allows me to work on what is most important energising at any point in time. I try to manage ‘energy’. If I feel like doing something, I give in to that feeling. This increases the odds of finding ‘flow’. It increases happiness, energy and productivity.

Keeping a schedule eliminates mental bandwidth, promotes batching, and helps me get stuff done. Some days I wake up and just follow my calendar all day.

Why the change?

No schedule is good for creative ‘entrepreneur mode’.

A schedule is for ‘operator mode’.


3) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

An ‘optimal’ work-life balance doesn’t exist. It’s personal.

If what you really want is adventure and freedom, then don’t work 80hrs per week.

But if you are trying to build a generational company, 80hrs might be the minimum.

I’ve always worked 7 days per week and always plan to. The moment I don’t feel like working 7 days a week is a sign that I’m not doing what I really love. Work should feel like play.

I prefer “work-life harmony” to balance. Biologically, humans derive meaning from ‘work’. The word has just been stigmatised in popular culture. Work is a very human part of life. In turn, ‘life’ should spawn creativity and allow you to recharge emotionally and physically to help you at work.

So long as I exercise 3+ times per week, view sunlight most days, go for walks throughout the day, and sleep >7hrs each night, I never feel close to burnout. I think energy management is achieved by doing all these little things right.

Use structured procrastination

I try to use procrastination to my advantage. This is by procrastinating on ‘valuable things’. For example, procrastinate by listening to a podcast or reading an article.


4) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I started having cold showers and viewing sunlight in the morning.

I spent 12 months tracking my sleep with an EEG headband to get an accurate sense of my deep vs REM sleep levels.

I recently stopped drinking coffee.

I don’t drink alcohol anymore unless it’s either (a) in moderation with close friends, (b) high quality and tasty, or (c) with a girl on a date. Yes, I know, that’s a lot of exceptions.

I started using Open, a company I invested in, for meditation and yoga.

I hired a VA to help with menial tasks.

I use my calendar as my to-do list.

I stopped checking email on my phone.

I’ve gotten better at batching tasks, especially email.

5) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you'd like to recommend?

Hundreds. But I’ll keep it to a few.

Books

  • Dune, the fiction book. It’s better than 30 podcasts combined. The audiobook has like 10 narrators and is also superb.
  • Poor Charlie’s Almanac. Must read. Period.
  • Almost anything Nassim Taleb writes.

Podcasts

“Founders” podcast is underrated. Otherwise I’m cookie-cutter: 20VC, Tim Ferriss, Huberman Lab, All In, Invest Like the Best.

I listen to 10-20 podcasts per week, at 2-4x speed. OwlTail is my podcast player of choice.

YouTube Videos

  • “Competition is for Losers with Peter Thiel”
  • “A Conversation with James Gorman, Chairman & CEO of Morgan Stanley” (at only 40k views, this is underrated)
  • “Jack Dorsey at Startup School 2013” (at only 150k views, this is also underrated)

6) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Jamie Beaton


7) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Take more risks: speak out, message people you admire, build a company, apply to jobs before you're qualified, ask the person you fancy out on a date.

Break the rules: don't dispassionately accept the world the way it is; if there's a better way to do something, do it; question social norms and have the courage to chart your own path.

Learn, always: you can't go wrong if you follow this formula for life; it's the way the world works.

Don't be a stranger: you can reach me anytime on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.