As we near episode 100 of Future Squared before the lights go dim on 2016, I took the time to listen back and reflect on the insights that my many amazing guests have shared.
These guests have come from all walks of life. Be they successful entrepreneurs, best-selling authors, corporate innovators, lauded academic professors, economists, philosophers, political strategists and personal disruptors, each of my guests has brought unique and compelling perspectives on not only innovation and entrepreneurship, but on how they manage their lives in order to get the most out of every day.
Regular listeners will know that I ask every guest three questions during the episode closing ‘lightning round’, one of which pertains to these very rituals and routines that guests partake in on a daily basis to stay on top of their games.
I thought it would be of value to unpack these insights and distill them into a convenient, solitary blog post for you lucky readers. I hope will give you a buffet of habits to pick and choose from as you set sail for another year. If only one of these rituals or routines brings you one step closer to achieving your personal and professional goals in 2017 then my work here is done.
In separate forthcoming posts, I will address the software tools used by my guests to ramp up productivity as well as learnings pertaining to innovation and entrepreneurship!
But first, some key themes uniting the rituals and routines of my guests:
- 40% of guests have some form of early morning routine which usually encompasses exercise and/or meditating, writing and taking time out to get the challenging, critical thinking things out of the way first
- 40% turn off all notifications to limit distractions and prioritise the important over the urgent, either so they can focus on getting their best work done and making a sustainable, lasting impact or to focus on being truly present with friends, co-workers and family
- 35% have some form of mindfulness or meditation routine
- 35% exercise almost every day
- 20% focus on human connections and building and maintain relationships
- 20% stress being curious and constantly learning things outside of their sphere to improve their mental state as well as support pattern recognition and connect the dots to new opportunities
- 15% have a daily writing or journalling routine, which is more often about cleansing their minds by getting thoughts out of their heads and onto paper than it is about getting it in front of an audience.
So without further ado, I bring you, in alphabetical order, the rituals and routines of guests who appeared on Future Squared in 2016!
Note: If the insights below pique your interest then listen to any of the episodes below simply by clicking on the guest’s name.
CEO and Founder of Northwest Passage Ventures and co-author of Blockchain Revolution: How the Underlying Technology of Bitcoin is Changing Money, Business, and the World.
- Interacting with people. “I try to have as many conversations as possible with people from different sectors and industries to improve my understanding of the world.”
Founder of Choose2Matter and author of six books, including Classroom Habitudes and The Passion-Driven Classroom.
- Understand that you do matter. “Deliberate daily practice of my own worthiness, not as a selfish act, but as selling the world short if I don't bring the best version of myself every day.”
Director of Corporate Innovation at 500 Startups.
- Have breakfast at 7am with someone. Early morning, no interruptions and more control over agenda.
Author of The Sharing Economy and Professor and the Robert L. and Dale Atkins Rosen Faculty Fellow at New York University's Leonard N. Stern School of Business.
- “When I’m in New York I spend two hours a day with my daughter, having fun and helping me to stay grounded.”
Founder of LeanStack, author of Running Lean, Scaling Lean and creator of the lean canvas.
- Get up early and get the most important thing done early in the day.
- Unitask. “I don't believe in multitasking. We only have one ball in the air at any given time.”
Author of The Most Human Human and Algorithms To Live By.
- Use the 37% rule. For example, if you want the best odds of getting the best apartment, spend 37% of your apartment hunt (eleven days, if you’ve given yourself a month for the search) noncommittally exploring options. “Leave the checkbook at home; you’re just calibrating. But after that point, be prepared to immediately commit—deposit and all—to the very first place you see that beats whatever you’ve already seen. This is not merely an intuitively satisfying compromise between looking and leaping. It is the provably optimal solution.”
- Use explore vs exploit algorithms to make everyday and life decisions. "How much time do you feel you have to spend? If a lot then spend more time exploring. If your time is scarce, spend more time exploiting."
Author of Age Of Discovery, two-time Governor General's Medallist, a Sauvé Fellow and Commonwealth Scholar, and a Fellow of the Oxford Martin School
- “Ask my girlfriend for advice before making any major decision. You need to have the right life partner.”
Founder of XPLANE, a strategic design consultancy, co-founder of Boardthing, a collaboration platform for distributed teams and co-creator of the Culture Map
- Conscientiously work on mental tuning, calibrating to your environment, becoming better at thinking.
- Practice liminal thinking.
- Take three deep breaths.
David is the international best-selling author of "Getting Things Done: the Art of Stress-Free Productivity"; "Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life"; and "Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life".
- Practice Get Things Done (GTD) framework (write all of your tasks/to dos down, get things out of head and onto paper to clear mental clutter)
- Drink a glass of lemon water first thing in the morning followed by a cup of french pressed coffee and read the front page of the paper.
Eric Almquist is a partner in Bain & Company’s Boston office. He is a leader in Bain's Advanced Analytics practice and a member of the firm’s global Customer Strategy & Marketing practice. Eric co-authored the acclaimed HBR article, The Elements of Value.
- Very rarely watch television. “I prefer to spend my time exploring online instead.”
Gary A. Bolles is the co-founder of eParachute, Inc., a San Francisco Bay Area-based startup focused on helping job-hunters & career changers, inspired by the best-selling career book of all time, “What Color Is Your Parachute?”
- Get out and talk to people from all walks of life to break the echo chamber that we live in and break out of the polarising sources of information. “Speaking to a range of people energises me.”
Author of Sprint and creator Google Venture’s sprint process. Jake has run more than a hundred sprints with startups such as 23andme, Slack, Nest, and Foundation Medicine. Previously, Jake worked at Google, leading sprints for everything from Gmail to Google X.
- Turn off distractions whenever possible. Turn off notifications. “Anything that's infinite is not on my phone. That includes social media apps.”
- Automatically disable internet router at 9:30pm every night. No netflix, no internet. Use this time to be creative, to write, to be generative and not just consume.
Author of the newly released book Pivot, and previously Life After College which was based on her blog of the same name) Jenny helps leaders, employees and entrepreneurs achieve greater clarity, engagement, fulfillment and impact.
- Drink brain octane in my green or earl gray tea every morning.
- Meditate every day for 20 minutes after my morning tea.
- Journal after meditating.
- Don't check email after 4pm. “Nothing is that important that I need to check email between 5pm and the next morning.”
- Don't check email from bed. Don't let email impact wind down or morning rituals.
Co-author of Sprint and design partner at Google Ventures (GV). Before joining GV, he was a design lead at YouTube and an early employee of FeedBurner, which Google acquired in 2007.
- "Focus on getting One Big Thing done and plan your day around it. Wake up, coffee and start working on that one big thing. Focusing on the real work and building my day around that has been transformational for me."
Co-author of Design a Better Business, experienced strategy consultant and business designer who is responsible for the Business Models Inc. office in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, CA USA.
- Separate work life from personal life.
- Get up every morning at 5am and exercise.
- Practice transcendental meditation (TM). Meditate twice a day for 20 minutes, morning and evening.
- Eat the same thing every day during the workweek. “Gives me energy.”
- One cup of coffee 3 hours after waking up.
- Power down in evening.
Co-author of Clayton Christensen's new book, Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice” and former editor at Harvard Business Review.
- Try to be as connected to people as possible. “I’m a keep up with my networker.”
General Manager of App Development and DevOps at the Australian Stock Exchange.
- “I go running to relax. It's very meditative. I do it first thing in the morning. Then I can feel self righteous all day!”
Co-author of The Future Workplace and co-curator of ‘The Future Workplace Network', a membership community for HR executives to come together in person and virtually.
- Divide everything into two questions. 1) What do I need to do to get results. (2) What do I need to do to engage and build my relationships with others. “You must find balance between the two. Too many people focus on results at the expense of relationships.”
Head of innovation at Sportsbet, Australia’s largest online bookmaker with $117M operating profit / 79.4 million pounds in 2015. Leslie also founded InsideInnovation.co, Exertack and GetViable.
- “My body is the engine for my brain so I exercise often.”
- “I listen to a lot of podcasts - such as Andreesen Horowitz's A16Z, Future Squared. I do this in the gym so I can optimise this time.”
- “I read a huge amount - two or three books a week on all sorts of subjects. The goal is to learn not to get to the end.”
- Try to write/blog on a regular basis. “It’s not about how many people read it but about putting your thoughts into a place that they become coherent and understand and internalise them yourself.”
28-year old co-founder and strategic director of Buzinga App Development, Australia’s leading app development company building meaningful, game-changing apps for emerging tech businesses and innovative enterprises.
- Get up at 6am, go to the gym and do weights, have some breakfast, do some writing and listen to podcasts.
- Go on a 14 day silent meditation to cleanse self of self limiting and unhealthy subconscious thoughts and beliefs.
- Meditate every day for 20 minutes.
Vice President and Principal Strategist at Spigit with 12 years of innovation management, market insight analysis and business strategy experience in the financial services sector.
- Pick an international destination every year, spend the year researching and planning for it. The anticipation can be more beneficial than the event itself. “It’s my way of refreshing.”
Author of An Extraordinary Time and The Box. An economist and historian specializing in business and finance. He was formerly finance and economics editor of The Economist and worked as an economist for 10 years at JP Morgan in New York.
- Take regular breaks to decompress.
- “Read things that have nothing to do with my work to clear my mind and refresh myself. I attach a great deal of importance to refreshing my intellectual capital.”
Author of Amazon bestseller Winning the Brain Game: Fixing the 7 Fatal Flaws of Thinking, as well as four previous, award-winning books: The Laws of Subtraction (2012), The Shibumi Strategy (2010), In Pursuit of Elegance (2009), and The Elegant Solution (2006).
- “Mountain biking is my way of doing something challenging that doesn't require mental energy. I get my best ideas out in nature, in the dust, in the dirt, clear skies...I wrote the best part of my book in my head while riding.”
- Be mindful and emotionally self aware throughout the day as much as possible.
Managing Director of Techstars London.
- Kenzai exercise and nutrition plan.
- Use Headspace to meditate.
- Most mornings will listen to a lecture while shaving focused on areas of interest.
Co-founder of online marketing tools Crazy Egg, Hello Bar and KISSmetrics.
- “Star emails first thing in the morning and get them done.”
Parag Khanna is a leading global strategist, world traveler, and best-selling author. He is a CNN Global Contributor and Managing Partner of Hybrid Reality, a boutique geostrategic advisory firm. Parag's latest book is Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization (2016).
- Play as much tennis as possible. Helps maintain mental sanity and fitness levels. “Tennis is my centering experience.”
Head of Entrepreneurship at Singularity University as well as SU Labs, its accelerator program which grows startups that are focused on tackling the world’s most intractable problems leveraging exponential technologies.
- Practice Gyshido.
- Ultra distance running. Get into a peaceful, meditative state. “Doesn't need to be running but do something that gives you the mental space between you and your work.”
He is a #1 Amazon best-selling dating and relationships author.
- “A gym break in the middle of the day and tuning everything out keeps me sane.”
Through his project and innovation management professional services firm, Think For A Change, Paul delivers educational, thought-leadership, coaching and consultation capabilities. Paul also founded the Innovation Management Group on LinkedIn.
- “Allocate a period of time where I am inaccessible to everybody every day. Dedicate time to meditate, reflect and learn.”
- “Check Linkedin and Twitter twice a day to see what other people are contributing so I don't miss it.”
Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on organizational storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and author of the books Sell with a Story, Parenting with a Story, and the bestseller Lead with a Story already in its 8th printing and available in 6 languages around the world.
- Get up and exercise first thing in the morning. “I don't drink caffeine so exercise is my coffee.”
Wizard of Moz. He's founder and former CEO of one of the world’s fastest growing software companies Moz, an online marketing platform that is worth more than US$120M.
- “All communication and tasks come through my email amd calendar or simply don't exist.”
- Clear communication for 90 minutes in the morning and 4 hours late at night.
Co-author of How To Be a Great Boss.
- Cycling and scuba diving.
Author of Matchmakers and Howard W. Johnson Professor of Management Emeritus and Professor of Economics Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
- Exercise regularly and intensively. “I get stale if I don't.”
- “Skiing keeps me focused and present.”
- Tennis and gym.
Co-founder of Minds at Work, William and Miriam Meehan Professor of Adult Learning and Professional Development at Harvard University and co-author of An Everyone Culture.
- A number of 'home brew' meditative practices. “Every morning if I don't do it I feel it, kind of like not brushing your teeth. I allocate a period of time in the morning where I completely empty myself of all thought, intention, desire. I'm just being. Not trying to do anything. Not planning to do anything.”
- Stand in front of a person free of memory or desire. Don't let the past shape the current moment and don't let the moment be shaped by the future you're trying to be about. “Without memory or desire I am completely present.”
Founder of ViSalus Sciences, author of Nothing To Lose and Everything To Gain and Rock Bottom to Rock Star.
- “Allocate time for yourself. I allocate 3 hours a day minimum.”
- Exercise everyday.
- “Seek simplicity and reduce the amount of decisions you have to make so you can use brainpower can focus on making quality decisions.”
- Hiking in the Hollywood Hills (with partners, clients and employees).
- Take action. Be intentional.
Godfather of Silicon Valley, founder of eight Silicon Valley startups, professor of Entrepreneurship at Stanford University and father of the customer development methodology which birthed the lean startup.
- Be curious about a lot of things - not just your domain.
- Being curious supports pattern recognition which unlocks opportunities you normally wouldn't see. Also kills your trust in the status quo.
National Director of Learning for Education Changemakers
- Have breakfast uninterrupted in the morning.
- Check in with home every day.
- “Take my vitamins every day!”
Author of Emotional Agility, psychologist on faculty at Harvard Medical School, co-founder and co-director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, and CEO of Evidence Based Psychology.
- Be emotionally agile! Notice emotions, label them, accept them and consciously choose your response in a way that aligns with your values.
- “Cultivating habits that are values aligned. For example, getting home and leaving my cell phone in the drawer. Tiny tweaks result in meaningful changes in life. This makes my time with family more present and connected.”
Leading Social Marketing Strategist, Keynote Speaker, Brand Evangelist and evangelizer of the term ROR: Return on Relationship.
- Human connections with family, friends, people on the street. "Moments are more important than nonsense".
- "It's a lot easier and nice to be happy than to be angry - default to happy.”
Author of Disrupt Yourself and Dare, Dream, Do. Co-founder of Rose Park Advisors alongside Clayton Christensen, where they invested in and led the $8 million seed round for Korea’s Coupang, currently valued at $5+ billion.
- Get up before 6am every day and do something contemplative/meditative to get grounded (spend time doing yoga with daughter, read scripture etc)
- “I spend my first two hours focusing on projects that are intimidating and require thinking. Things that are important but not urgent. This sets foundation and rest of day seems to go pretty well.”