Balancing the Grind with Brad Wolverton, Head of Content at The Hustle

Brad Wolverton is an award-winning journalist and the Head of Content at The Hustle, a business and tech newsletter with over 1.5 million subscribers.

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

I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was about 13, and I’ve spent most of my career working for traditional media companies, writing stories for places like BusinessWeek, Sports Illustrated, and The New York Times.

I’ve been fortunate to profile some amazing people — from Ted Turner to Andre Agassi. But the stories I’ve enjoyed the most have been about people you’ve probably never heard of, like Dasmine Cathey, a semi-literate football player with an incredible heart.

I spent a decade writing long-form features and working as an investigative reporter, which inspired me to think a lot about digital innovation in media. The reality is that most people don’t spend that much time reading long stories anymore, and they’re less and less likely to trust traditional outlets. You really have to be authentic and write things that people need to get their attention.

My current employer, The Hustle, has done that really well. We have an irreverent daily email and a subscription business research service that are growing fast. We have smart, funny takes that make people want to come back.

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

When you work in the news business and manage a bunch of people, you don’t get a lot of quiet time. I like to start my day with a run, which helps me clear my head and stay balanced.

Before I get on calls, I read our competition to see how they’ve covered the day’s news. And I write down a few things I want to focus on that day.

I’m a big believer in prioritizing my highest-order tasks. Right now my big focus is on hiring. When I started at the company in early 2019, we had three people on our editorial team. By the end of this year, we expect to have eight or nine.

I spend a lot of time looking for smart business writers with a sense of humor, which is not the easiest thing to find. I’ve found that Twitter is one of the best places to look. My wife would probably say that’s a convenient excuse for spending too much time on social media, but you can get a good read on people based on their Twitter presence.

A big part of my job is managing my team. I’m lucky to have a team of self-starters without big egos. But a good chunk of my day is spent talking to writers and analysts and meeting with our senior leadership team.

Some days my calendar looks like a Tetris board –– totally filled up with calls and meetings –– but I try to reserve at least a few hours for heads-down editing and strategic work.

I don’t always abide by it, but I set an alarm on my phone at 6:30 every night that says “Engage.” It’s a reminder to close the laptop, take off the headphones, and go downstairs to be with my family.

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

Our whole editorial team is remote, and I’ve worked remotely full-time since 2016. I save about an hour a day not having to commute to an office, and I’m more productive when I don’t have as many distractions (although I do miss the office banter).

For me, the biggest benefit of working remotely is being able to spend more time with my wife and kids. I don’t take advantage of this enough, but I try to coordinate breaks throughout the day with each of them. As hard as it can be to mentally detach yourself from work during the work day, I know we all really appreciate those moments.

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

My family would probably tell you that I don’t have a great work-life balance, but I’m constantly looking for ways to streamline my work and spend more time with them.

Earlier this year, I read a book called Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. The author, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, argues that rest is an investment in creativity, and that — if you want to rest, you have to protect it from a world that’s always trying to steal it from you.

It might seem odd that being more deliberate about rest –– or actually working fewer hours –– allows you to come up with more creative ideas or be better at your job. But if you’ve ever taken a week or more off work and honestly unplugged, you know what I’m talking about: You’ll come back refreshed and capable of more creative and productive work.

But it’s been more helpful for me to create routines throughout the year that have helped me reduce my work hours.

A couple of things that have helped:

  • I categorize tasks based on the order of their importance, and spend most of my time on the tasks that matter the most.
  • I also set mini-deadlines for myself to make sure I don’t spend too much time on stuff that doesn’t matter as much.

A colleague of mine has an “80% rule” that he uses to guide his work, which I’ve found valuable: For most things you do, you can get away with 80% effort, which is usually good enough for most things.

If you spend less time perfecting things, you’ll get a lot more done — and be able to put your work down at a more reasonable hour.

Order our Daily Routines ebook today! Featuring first-hand interviews, insights and revelations compiled from 50 of the world’s most successful people.

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

I try to meet one new person every day, which pushes me to network outside of my comfort zone. It’s led to some big breakthroughs in how I work and think.

As a reporter, I did this to build sources and get more scoops. But I’ve found that it’s important to keep meeting people to make sure you keep growing and pushing yourself to be the best you can be.

I can cite dozens of examples of how this has helped me, but one stands out. Years ago, before he became as famous as he is now, Malcolm Gladwell agreed to meet up with me before a speech he was giving in DC.

He told me that he used to keep all of his story ideas to himself because he didn’t want other writers to steal them. But at some point, he started telling everyone what he was working on, which helped shape and improve his stories in ways he couldn’t have predicted.

The tl;dr? Keep building your network even when you aren’t looking for a job, and never be afraid to ask people for a little bit of their time. More often than not, they’ll give it to you.

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

I didn’t grow up in an entrepreneurial family, but building things is in my blood. And that’s reflected in a lot of what I read.

I read dozens of newsletters, and my favorites (surprise surprise) tend to be the ones with a truly original voice — or that teach me things I need to know. Lately I’ve been enjoying Numlock News, Not a Newsletter, and Cofounder Weekly. I also love Axios Sports and The Profile.

I would highly recommend two books that just came out (and not because I’m friends with the authors –– they’re both excellent, important reads): Morgan Housel’s The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness and Jeff Selingo’s Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions.

Another book that’s had a big impact on me this year is Mindfulness on the Go: Simple Meditation Practices You Can Do Anywhere. It’s a tiny book that’s full of smart little exercises that help you slow down and appreciate life. 

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

I love to cook and do things outdoors, and I couldn’t live without my Instapot and Vitamix blender. And I’m a big fan of the Solo Stove fire pit.

My favorite app is probably The Athletic. Not only do they have some of the best sportswriting, but the visual experience on their app is unparalleled. It makes me want to come back.

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

I’d love to hear from Michael Lewis. I think he’s the most talented writer of our generation, and I’m amazed at his output and the quality of everything he does.

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

You really need to be ruthless about protecting your time if you ever want to have work-life balance. For me, that means saying no a lot more than I used to, and not overextending myself with new responsibilities.

We all want to get better at our jobs and have a more meaningful personal life. But you have to be realistic about what you can get done.

If you really want to improve your personal life, you have to find ways to prioritize it ––  scheduling time with people you love and guarding your time ruthlessly –– because if you don’t, the work will just overtake it.

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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.