A Day in the Life: Sian Simpson

Sian Simpson is a dot connector, video creator and globetrotter who helps New Zealand firms take on the world through her role with the Kiwi Landing Pad. Here’s how she copes with her inter-continental schedule.

Do you have morning rituals?

They are somewhat flexible depending on where I am in the world. If I’m in San Francisco I usually daydream for 30 minutes, ponder life, visualise what I need to achieve and process some normally profound thoughts. Then I go for a 3-5km run around Golden Gate Park, then go eat at Eddies, my local diner down the road, all before 8:30am (average time to start work in SF is 10am). 

If I’m in New Zealand, I’ll wake daydream, work for two hours (usually from bed), go have poached eggs on toast at my local then drive in to town skipping the traffic and perch at whatever co-working space I want to work out of for the day, usually stopping for a coffee meeting on the way. 

How soon do you begin doing work-related things ie: checking phone or emails? 

When my alarm goes off, I turn my sleep cycle app off, take my phone off flight mode and put it on silent. I get some very exciting emails and messages from all over the world almost every day – the perks of operating a global community and having friends in lots of countries. 

What’s your media consumption or interaction like from the morning onwards - do you listen to podcasts, radio, watch videos, read books and magazines, visit news sites? 

As a content creator most of my life is spent online across multi-channels. Depending on the time of year I listen to podcasts, or watch videos. I like reading books when I’m traveling on planes as I often don’t really find the time. I consume a lot of content via social media, LinkedIn and Medium. I also like watching videos on Instagram from global brands to get inspiration for my own video creations. San Francisco is on steroids when it comes to the volume of information that comes at you, so when I am there I tend to read a lot of what my friends and community is writing and publishing, then I usually bring this information back home to New Zealand. To be honest when you create over 140 videos a year it can be hard to watch any more video content (that’s not including the webinars we do every week at the Kiwi Landing Pad). 

What kind of work do you do?

It’s basically my job to connect dots. I run the Kiwi Landing Pad globally, as the community director and sole employee reporting to our co-founder and chairman. I range across all business functions. It’s my job to help take New Zealand technology to the world and make it easier for Kiwi tech companies to grow and expand as a community globally. I also work as a producer and director building video brands for some global clients. I also consult on marketing, innovation, social, startups and community. 

What responsibilities does that involve on a typical day? 

Responsibilities range from delivering a robust content and events programme globally, social media, community building, meetings with startups and technology companies, As well as people across sector from corporate, government, universities, schools, investors etc. Visiting startup hubs around the world, attending events and conferences, meeting with the local community and ecosystem, writing. Most of my time this year has been taken up by strategy, thinking, meetings and emails! 

What are your surroundings on a typical day? Where do your best ideas come from?

Most people who know me would laugh at me trying to answer this question. It’s best described that the only constant I see is change. I’m often in a new city every couple of weeks. This year I have frequented New Zealand, San Francisco, London, Singapore, France and ten other countries. I was working online in all of these. I do that a lot. I can be often be surrounded by 1000s of people, or no people. My best ideas come at 30,000 ft, running, day dreaming or staring at a beautiful or baffling landscape. 

How do you juggle your responsibilities? 

Lists and whiteboards, getting shit done, focusing on the most important mission-critical tasks for the week and getting those done, avoid being a busy person, break my year into quarterly chunks and deliver on the set programme of works I have for that quarter. I’m pretty ruthless when it comes to execution, when you are the only resource and have a finite amount of time you learn to work hard and fast and to a high standard. You’ll be your biggest limitation or barrier otherwise. 

What kind of breaks do you take during the day?

A girl’s gotta eat! I make an effort to eat three times a day and ensure I enjoy those meals, are present at them, doing something I love or spending time with someone at that meal where I’ll enjoy their company. Outside of that often at 5 or 6pm I’ll have a 30 minute ponder about the day and what I need to focus on next, whether that’s work, health or relationships. 

Do you procrastinate? Is it good or bad?

No, not any more, I don’t have time. I used to, chronically. Now I try to fit so much in that in order to get it all done I have to be on the go most of the time and learn to say no at the same time.  I find that if you don’t want to do something you’ll procrastinate which means you should probably figure out a way to just not do it in the first place. 

Do you measure your accomplishments or productivity? If so, how?

I have goals and words that I set at the start of the year every year for the type of year that I want to have, what I want to achieve and subconsciously I work towards these goals. It’s not super structured. I also pick a word or two for the year that is the theme for the year. This year’s words were comfortability and exponential. Being comfortable in my own skin, and being exponential in my thinking, life, career and audacious in my goals – so far so good. With productivity, I know what I’m responsible for and focus on delivering that. I also measure my sleep to make sure I’m being healthy, and I use Strava for my running. 

What’s your best productivity hack?

Learn how to prioritise and avoid being a busy person at all costs. I found removing that word from my vocabulary and replacing it with the word ‘full’ made my life much better, made me less anxious and made me much more productive. You make time if you want to, simple as that. ‘Busy’ is the new status quo – priorities are key, and be real about them. Also, ask people for two minutes of their time to answer a specific question instead of 30 minutes. 9/10 you’ll get a call instantly or that same day. 

What’s your interaction with friends and family throughout the day? Can you be both a successful entrepreneur and good mother/father/husband/wife?

I have a close tribe who I message with pretty much daily on message or email, a few people who I exchange location photos with as that changes often too! Play ‘guess where this is’. I also speak to my mum every day. 

I’m none of those things above, but I have certainly struggled in the past to be both (business and girlfriend or even a good friend), but I have also made it work quite well. I think it takes continued effort, dedication, understanding and empathy. Whether you want to be a good wife or just a good friend, I think it’s a matter of communicating where you are at, making sure that when you do have time it is quality time and realising that you won’t get it right all of the time. I have a few friends who tell me it’s about being a team and ensuring that the team is on the journey with you.

I found removing that word [busy] from my vocabulary and replacing it with the word ‘full’ made my life much better, made me less anxious and made me much more productive. You make time if you want to, simple as that. ‘Busy’ is the new status quo – priorities are key, and be real about them.

Do you get stressed? If so, how do you manage it? 

I do get stressed at certain times of the year when my workload 10x’s. I just came through a stressful patch where there isn’t enough time in the day and pressure to deliver. I have a saying if in doubt, run it out. Works a treat!

I ensure I get enough sleep. This is a core focus of mine – sleep is my number one. It’s actually made me a more successful sleeper, as my brain is clearer. The long-term impacts of having good compounding sleep nightly has been a game changer for me. I also like to run 15km a week spread across 3-4 runs. 

I’ve always been a healthy eater, I limit coffee to two cups a day, and try not to have more than two alcoholic beverages in a setting otherwise I find my sleep gets affected. 

I’ve also been known to phone a friend when I get stressed to talk it about for two minutes, put things in perspective. Or just stop and take a few breaths. 

Can you switch off?

I’m working on it. I find it really hard. Friends have told me that my brain is a bit of a tornado or gale force wind. I’ve been exploring the concept of dividing up my pie. 

Apparently you are meant to allocate 30 percent of your pie (which is your time) to yourself. I’m still in the ‘wow that’s a lot of time’ phase, and the next phase is ‘what do you actually do with it?’ Tennis and writing will be a good start, while trying not to feel guilty or selfish for not working or being productive at the same time!

What time do you go to sleep? Any special techniques for a good night’s rest?

My sleep app tells me, on average, I go to sleep at 12:30am and get seven hours a night each night. But on Fridays and Saturdays I usually sleep for nine or ten hours. Tips: have a full day so you are sleepy by the end of it, don’t drink too much coffee or alcohol, wash your face, drink some water and invest in good pillows. 

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