Balancing the Grind with Alexander Horton, Founder at econome

In this chat, we’re catching up with Alexander Horton, the brain behind econome. Alexander’s road to founding this innovative educational platform is quite a story.

He started with a charity, teaching sports to kids in need, then dabbled in social entrepreneurship and online education. Now, he’s all about reimagining how we learn, aiming to sync education with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

As he gears up to focus full-time on econome, Alexander gives us the lowdown on his journey. He talks about balancing intense work with personal life, the changes he’s made to keep his energy up, and what it’s like steering a startup.

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

My career-journey has gradually evolved and looking back each previous chapter set-up the next one. Straight out of University I co-founded an Australian and Indonesian registered charity, ViaSport teaching sports programs to underprivileged kids. It was a fantastic experience and took me to both Indonesia and India and allowed me to start teaching the principles of Social Entrepreneurship to students at Trinity College. 

It was while teaching this course that I first experimented with teaching online. I saw that retention rates sky-rocketed as it was easier to reach students where they were. From here I took on a role at EduGrowth, building one of their online accelerators. I then landed a role at Melbourne Business School as learning designer and more recently as a Community Manager in their new ventures team, MBS&

Working at MBS was a steep learning curve as it was undergoing a huge period of change post COVID but incredibly rewarding as I’ve met many amazing people. Throughout the majority of this time, I’ve been developing my skills, knowledge and networks in the future of learning and work landscape whilst I’ve been building my start-up econome as a side-hustle. As of next year, I will officially be going full-time on it which I’m incredibly excited for! 

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

I’ll typically wake up, chuck on ABC radio and go for a 5k run. This helps me get thinking, engage with the community and just have some me-time first thing in the morning. Then I’ll make breakfast, and on a good day set my intentions for what I want to achieve before ripping into a day of work. 

My schedule differs a lot each day but something I want to work on into the new year is better understanding my working style to know when I’m best at reading emails, doing deep-work and taking calls – a constant work in progress! Typically at work, I’m either putting together a deck, developing relations with people in my network, doing product development work or strategising.  

After a day’s work, I’ll aim to have something scheduled, whether it be a networking event, social event, catch-up with a friend or another fitness-related activity. After that, I’ll cook dinner before retiring to the couch to watch my favourite show at the time (currently on Sex Education – highly recommended!). 

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

For me work-life balance is understanding work as a mechanism for reaching self-actualisation. This might sound a little self-centred, but I believe that until you’re properly able to realise your purpose in life, you’re not in the best position you can be to help others. That’s not to say you can’t help others until you’ve transcended into some different spiritual plain! But the act of moving towards self-actualisation in and of itself creates space for you to be a more helpful person with more social utility broadly. 

So getting that part right with work for me is Step One (like putting your undies on at the start of the day). With the rest of life, I think it’s important you pursue hobbies and interests that bring you joy. 

For me, that’s script-writing and writing rhymes funnily enough. And I take both of these pursuits just as seriously as my working life – I’m not saying that others should, but for me, doing so helps me become a better, more rounded version of myself. They help me process everything going on in my life so I can become more self aware and understanding of my place in the world. Finding, prioritising and carving out space for these hobbies and interests is pivotal! 

Lastly, my relationships with my family, friends and wider community are what make me, me. It’s true what they say that you’re a reflection of the closest people in your life. I’m so lucky to be surrounded by beautiful people and understanding their needs, priorities, personality quirks and ambitions play a large role in how I organise my life. 

So that I can do what I can to help them reach their dreams and continue to go on the journey of life with them. I often reflect on the fact that whilst we all go on our own personal journey in life, it’s inextricably linked with the personal journeys of our most loved ones. I try not to forget that and when I find myself becoming overly dogmatic or stubborn about something, I try to take a step -back and think about an issue through the lens of those closest to me. It’s humbling, grounding and necessary, like breathing air.     

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

I’ve made a lot of lifestyle changes this past year. The biggest ones have resulted in me listening to my body and understanding what it needs. I’m quite an active person and have large reserves of energy so as a result I’ve taken up marathon and ultra-marathon running. This helps me keep healthy, pay closer attention to my diet and be a lot more organised. I’ve also embraced working from home and do so at least 3 days a week. I find this just works better for my mood and productivity (but that’s just me!).  

I invested in a standing desk and now cook the majority of my meals. I’ve fallen in love with meal-prep! There are so many good ideas out there on Tik-Tok for healthy and easy meal-prep meals – get on it! I’m also in the process of moving to working full-time on my start-up which is both daunting and exciting. This has resulted in too many changes to list, occurring. But I can definitely advocate for doing your own thing if you want to find out what you’re made of!

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

Most recently, I read Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G Lafley and Roger L. Martin – a great resource for creating the right playbooks to get things done at a high-level! Next up, I’m reading Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard which I’m looking forward to digesting so I can better understand how to create lasting cultures of work-life balance. 

Podcast-wise, I love How I Built This with Guy Raz, Diary of a CEO with Steven Bartlett and for a bit of fun I re-listen to episodes of the High Low with Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes – can honestly say this podcast has provided the most constant source of inspiration for me. I love the way both those ladies go about life.  

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I wouldn’t say that I’m in a place to be sharing pieces of wisdom just as of yet. But if I had to give it a go, I’d say: ‘Listen and look out for the clues. They’re always there and will be trying to reach you one way or another’.

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.