Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Amogh Sarda, Co-Founder of eesel

Amogh Sarda is the co-founder of eesel, an app that brings all your work documents to your browser new tab, so it’s always easy to find what you need.

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

I studied robotics and computer science, dabbled in engineering at Atlassian but quickly decided that product management was more for me. I was working on Jira things as a PM for a while, and moved on to Intercom after. I’ve now founded eesel which is making it easier for teams to find their work docs. 

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

Startup life teaches you to be incredibly focused and deliberate about your time. It’s true that there are distractions with any job, but I feel like in an early stage startup, there are especially so many different things calling for your limited attention, and a huge sense of urgency looming as your runway shrinks. You need to be incredibly careful not to stray away. 

I start the day reflecting on my key goals for the week and the progress I’ve made towards them. I think about what I’ve done yesterday, what’s left to be done to progress towards my weekly goals, and what I should pick up today. From there, I kind of map out my work like a school timetable noting what tasks I’ll do when.

When it comes to the actual tasks at hand, I’ve been doing more marketing things lately. For instance, yesterday involved reflecting on content for a blog I’m writing on founder mental health, connecting with a few productivity newsletters to see if they want to mention eesel, having chats with some company champions and so on.

I sprinkle that with some ad hoc reads on the market. For instance, last week we discovered that a competitor has raised $100m (good and bad news!), and YC shared a letter warning about a tighter fundraising environment to come.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

eesel is very async in how we work because we’re spread across different time zones – Dublin, Paris, Sydney. This means that we’re all given a lot of autonomy in how we work and how life fits in with that. 

During lockdown, I was surfing in the mornings and working in the evenings to overlap with the team. I’ve worked remotely from Sri Lanka (for some surfing!), France, Romania and a few other places too, doing the whole digital nomad thing. 

There are some trade-offs too of course. For instance, I’m mostly based in Sydney right now and have to work Mondays / Tuesdays evenings to overlap with the team for planning meetings (which are just easier to have sync), and this means I miss on the ad hoc bouldering or beers with mates.

Overall though, the team’s pushing to go more and more async, and we’re trying to get our work done without any meetings at all.

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

It’s perhaps something about the hyphen in “work-life” but I used to think that work-life balance is about having two separate minds – one that you bring to work, and one that you have for life.

There’s of course something off about that, because your work colleagues often become friends (and a part of life), you should feel comfortable bringing your “life” self to work (worries and joys included), and it’s not inherently unhealthy if work feels like a “life” pride. 

I’ve come to understand that work-life balance is more about making sure that the work you do serves your life. 

I’m working on eesel because I want to a) build a great product that enables others to have impact, and thus multiply my own impact and b) make a lot of money to donate a lot (part of the Effective Altruism earn to give pledge). 

I’m also working on eesel because we acknowledge that our best work comes if we have a healthy amount of time doing “not work”, and so I’m empowered to pursue some other things like improv comedy and surfing. 

Good work-life balance is about making sure that the work you do enables the things you want from life. It’s definitely a moving target (esp with early stage startup life) and I have waves where work can become all too consuming, but I’m constantly reminding myself that work has to serve me or things won’t be sustainable.

A side note – if you haven’t seen Ben Stiller’s new show called Severance, I’d highly recommend it. It explores the question of “work-life” balance in an incredibly interesting way.

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

I’ve varied how I plan my todos and it’s been a game changer. 

For almost a year, I’ve had this passive anxiety with work that I’d be forgetting to do something important. Alongside that, while I’m going about my workday, I’m often having random todos and ideas coming my way.

This is a bad combination because I’d usually end up feeling so worried that I’d “forget” the new todo. This would mean that I default to “let me just do it now so I don’t forget”, and almost always, it’d take longer than I’d expect, and almost always, this would then derail my real priorities. 

I’ve tried a bunch of different todo systems (like organising my todos through the week by weekday), but it’s generally been a struggle to maintain things in an ongoing way.

The game changer has been to have an incredibly simple system. I now have one long list of todos, and any new to do that comes my way, simply gets dropped in that. It’s one long list –  nothing else.

Each day when I plan, I pick up the daily to dos based on my weekly goals, and I also scan the long list quickly to see if there’s anything else that’s worth picking.

It’s ridiculously simple, and it’s worked really well for me. The key thing is that it relieves my anxieties by giving a simple place to drop any new ideas, and making the step of “collecting ideas”, “prioritising todos”, “executing on todos” as distinct steps, that don’t interfere with each other.

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

I’d really recommend The 80,000 Hours Podcast with Rob Wiblin which looks at the world’s most pressing problems and what some of the smartest people are doing about them. It’s changed my perspective a tremendous amount on what I value in life.

I also really enjoyed reading The Courage to be Disliked which explores some of Adler’s work in psychology. It’s starkly different from the classic Freudian things we learn and challenges us on the agency we have in life.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

I’m incredibly biased but I just have to lead this with eesel. It makes it really easy for me to find any document I need to get my job done, and collaborate with my teammates no matter the apps we use.

I built this as a side project for myself, when working at Intercom years ago, and still use it everyday. I mean the pain was big enough for me to hack on this in my evenings, so you can imagine it solves a problem I deeply care about!

I’m also really enjoying Obsidian right now as the place to take notes. I’m not using it to its full potential (barely got any ‘backlinks’ and the like), but it’s still a great, simple tool to manage my todos.

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

I’d love to read about how Elon Musk manages life. It’s hard enough running 1 tiny company, and he’s of course doing so much more. I’m curious to understand how pragmatic he is with his time and how (or if) he leaves time for some free form, ad hoc stuff.

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

A key thing I took too long to realise is that it’s usually not “time” that’s the bottleneck. In fact, there’s far more time in a day than you have “energy” to do meaningful things.

This is a big mental jump because when it comes to planning our days, we’re so focused on time and we find ways to cheat this system (work an extra hour here, sleep an hour less there and so on), and in fact, doing this is really ineffective, and risks burn out. 

We should realise that our energy is the true bottleneck, and we should be very careful about where we choose to spend it.

Before you go…

Check out more daily routines from Barack Obama, Arianna Huffington, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet and plenty others.

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.