What time do you wake up?
I start the day at 5 or 5.30am, unless I retired after 11, in which case I’ll treat myself to a 6am sleep in.
Do you have any morning rituals?
Several! First, I make my bed. Fully. I’ve only recently appreciated how important this is: I get to complete a task at the start of the day, exercise some self-control while easing my brain gently into work mode. I used to lie there and check emails in bed. I didn’t realise how bad this was. Now, I make a special tea blend. It takes two minutes but is worth it. I freshly grind turmeric and ginger root then add half a teaspoon each of green and black tea. Steep while showering. Come back to the tea and add a heaped teaspoon of coconut oil. It delivers an inner warmth, clarity, focus and a slight buzz that lasts all morning. Plus, it nailed my ever-increasing coffee habit. I drink the tea and write in my journal. I use the “five-minute journal”. It’s about gratitude and the day ahead. It’s amazing. Then I’ll clear my emails and some thinking tasks. Before leaving home I meditate. I use the app Headspace. It’s how I deal with stress. I see it as a 10-minute daily investment to give me a better existence.
What’s your media consumption or interaction like from the morning onwards?
Only business and related topics. World and local news is all bad. I choose not to put this into my psyche. Podcasts feature heavily: Ted, Tim Ferris, Freakonomics, This Week in Startups and Dan Carlin’s amazing Hardcore History. My digital reading comes through Medium, and I get ‘The Hustle’. A fun way to get tech and related news. I also listen to a lot of audiobooks through a USA Amazon Audible account. Lastly, I still buy actual books. Two per month is my goal.
What kind of work do you do?
I’m told it’s a portfolio life. I’m CEO of an early stage AI company – ambitai.com.
We have a conversational AI platform for enterprise and SMB; I’m an active angel investor – currently in 19 companies; I have a commercial/industrial property portfolio; I sit on three boards, one of which I chair; I work six days per week and largely manage to stick to my “one day per week, no work” rule.
What responsibilities does that involve in a typical day?
I don’t really have a typical day. I group like activities together for focus. Most of my time is spent in meetings. Internal: management, projects and staff. External: relationship development and management. Evaluating investment opportunities. Developmental: I mentor three people at any one time. Plus, I have two mentors myself. I make and take 10–20 phone calls per day, these are mainly customer focused. I exercise every day and mix weights, boxing, yoga and dog walking.
What are your surroundings on a typical day? Where do your best ideas come from?
On average I spend 2–3 hours per day in the work office and the same at home.
Then 4–6 hours in other people’s offices or on site at a property. One hour at the gym. For me inspiration is like innovation: it doesn’t happen in a vacuum – it comes from interaction with others.
What are the most important tools or programmes you use for your work?
Trello for managing tasks and projects. Slack for internal communications. Confluence and Jira for the dev team. LinkedIn for mass communication. ProsperWorks is our CRM and Google tools for everything else. Google Keep is very helpful too.
How do you juggle all your responsibilities?
I’ve found it’s the context switching that drains me. Due to the portfolio it’s unavoidable, so I group tasks together to minimise it.
• Thinking and planning meetings
– in the early morning
• Sales meetings – between 8–11am and 2–5pm
• Workouts – late morning
• Admin/emails/calls – in the gaps
Do you procrastinate?
Very rarely. My guilty secret is that I’ll occasionally find myself falling for clickbait. I no longer berate myself when I do though, the mindfulness thing means that I take a “that’s interesting” perspective and move on.
My hack is old school by planning my tasks in the morning by writing an actual list with an actual pen, then I prioritise… then I cross things off. At the end of the day it’s so satisfying to see what I’ve done. If you do this digitally, it just gets deleted. Nowhere near as gratifying.
Do you measure your accomplishments or productivity? If so, how?
I’m all about outcomes; I’m clear on what I’m trying to achieve and by when, then I just get on with it. Planning isn’t my greatest strength but I’m relatively intuitive about what needs to be done and in which order. I think the E in CEO is execution.
Is there anything you think is unique about your day? What’s your best productivity hack?
If it’s anything it’s the sheer variety of what I do. My hack is old school by planning my tasks in the morning by writing an actual list with an actual pen, then I prioritise (most people avoid this as it’s actually remarkably hard, as the book Your Mind at Work shows), grouping similar activities together. Then I cross things off. At the end of the day it’s so satisfying to see what I’ve done. If you do this digitally, it just gets deleted. Nowhere near as gratifying.
What’s your interaction with friends and family throughout the day?
Almost non-existent. I’m too focused during the day to be much fun unfortunately.
Can you be both a successful entrepreneur and a good mother/father/husband/wife?
Yes, but it needs to be scheduled.
What do you do once you get home? Can you switch off?
I’m at some type of function two nights per week. Then friends, family or girlfriend two nights per week. One night a week I spend time alone. This is so, so important.
What time do you go to sleep? Any special techniques for a good night’s rest?
Between 10–11pm on school nights. I’m not a great sleeper. So it’s six or seven in total, with the odd catch-up night. A friend just bought me a shakti mat so I’m a novice here, but so far it assures me five hours of deep sleep. Also I listen to audiobooks or podcasts. I’ll turn one on, then drift off to sleep. I normally wake once during the night, my brain switches on, so I play the book again to fall back asleep. Lastly, bed is for sleeping, reading or loving. No screens!