CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Anoop George, Founder & CEO at Skwill

Anoop George is the Founder & CEO at Skwill, a neuroscience-based team and individual performance analytics and coaching company.

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

I am in the fourth role of my career as the founder of Skwill. Skwill enables individuals to unlock their performance potential at work. More on Skwill a little later. I started off as a C developer back in the late 1990s, transitioned into a management consultant, and then into sales and business leadership.

I derive my energy when I work with people and become part of their growth. In working with individuals across the globe, I’ve seen up close, including my personal experience, the human and financial cost extracted in the name of performance. I had a burning desire to do something about it. That led me to founding Skwill.

I don a variety of roles at Skwill, as is the case with most founders. I switch between product ideation, sales and marketing, technology design, fund raising, and administrative tasks. The most rewarding part of my job is the opportunity to make an impact on our employees’ and customer’s professional lives, and the learning that comes with my job every single day.

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

My day usually starts at between 6 and 6:30. My morning ritual is simple, 10 mins of self-reflection and thinking about the state of my mind when I wake up. I make breakfast for my family, pack my daughter’s lunch, and drop her to school. I skip breakfast, and usually do it with a coffee and a protein shake around 10AM.

By 9AM I have checked in to work, and the first order of business is to do a quick assessment of our business with my co-founder. The conversation is casual, and we usually check in if we are both happy with the progress, or if we need any course correction.

We find this ritual powerful. A 15-minute stand-up meeting with the rest of the team to share our respective plans for the day follows at 9:30AM. I get to my emails only after I stand up. I spend my day doing three activities: product design, selling, and fundraising. I spend time speaking with prospects and contacts in my network to make them aware of Skwill, and assess their interest in trying us out.

Our engineering team in India comes online in the afternoon and the discussion moves to product and how we can make sure we are building what customers are going to use. There are days when we ditch existing plans within days and re-orient ourselves in a new direction just because we find traction elsewhere. I continually build a pool of investors.

My me-time (about 2 hours) comes in the form of exercise, cooking, and reading. I do strength and weight training with a personal trainer three times a week, grid (a form of HIIT) two days. I love to cook daily, as I find it extremely therapeutic. I spend about 30 minutes every day reading long-form content and I pick up anything that I find interesting.

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

I find balance in variety, and not doing just one thing. I am curious by nature, and try a lot of different things to keep me engaged. Over time, I’ve focussed on doing things that I love. If I have a tough day at work, I end up in the kitchen and cook up a feast and invite my neighbours (they are always up for my food) for dinner.

Or if I’ve had a really stressful day at home juggling many balls at home, I’ll probably do an intense strength session and spend 20 mins in the sauna. The balance comes from being able to distribute your emotional, physical, and intellectual needs across a range of activities and not just limiting it to one thing. In that sense, work is just one among a variety of things I do.

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

Several. I’ve started an intensive weight training program. I find that the slow grind of weight training helps at work, especially in a start-up setting when progress is incremental, and patience is key.

A lot like how patient and consistent we need to be as our lifts go from 40kgs to 140kgs over a period of 12 months. This regimen has helped me build the grit to go through the grind. I started to volunteer at my daughters’ school kitchen once a week.

I cook butter chicken at my daughter’s school to raise funds for the Parents & Carer initiatives at school. I spend a couple of hours every week doing art projects with my daughter.

I guess the habit that surprised me the most (as I thought I couldn’t do it) was reducing my meals to two a day. Most of the habits I’ve started have been to build resilience and endurance, and the ones I’ve stopped are ones that give me immediate gratification.

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

One of my all-time favourite books is The Godfather by Mario Puzo, the storytelling is compelling. Of late, a lot of the books I read are non-fiction and centre around neuroscience and human psychology.

I’d recommend reading The Leading Brain by Friederike Fabritius and The Stress Proof Brain by Melanie Greenberg. I subscribe to Harvard Business Review and McKinsey newsletters and consume over 10,000 words of long form content every week.

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

I’d love to read about how individuals who operate in environments where there is a high degree of uncertainty when it comes to meeting goals. Founders with companies no older than 3 years.

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

The three key learnings I’ve had over years of experimentation are:

  • Your performance footprint is unique, spend time understanding how and under what circumstances you do your best.
  • Act on this insight and develop a process that works for you, imitation can get you started but will not keep you motivated for long if you haven’t tailored it for yourself
  • Develop at least three different avenues that engage you emotionally, intellectually, and physically. It will help balance ups and downs, as I found that it is highly unlikely all three avenues will have a bad day at the same time. At any time, at least two of them are usually positive. I’ve written an article on Medium that talks about more tips here.

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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.