Brett Turley is the co-founder & CEO at bit.leave, a benefits management platform that automates excess leave management, and employee benefits.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
My career has varied quite a bit from being an explosive detection dog handler in Afghanistan, running my own small business, working in recruitment to now being a co-founder and CEO of our startup, bit.leave. It’s not your average career path into tech but I’ve worked in high tempo/high stress my entire working career.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
It took me some time to work out what my ideal day looks like but if I could offer one tip it would be, find when you’re most mentally creative and optimise that time.
Mornings are when I’m most creative so I optimise to deal with strategy and ideation. From 0600 I’m usually reading and I’ll exercise just after. If it’s my turn to get my son to school, the day usually pauses to make sure he’s got everything for school (I’ve forgotten his lunch before…)
After school drop off it’s back on the tools to clear emails and deal with any immediate priorities. By 1000 we have our stand up, with a small team it’s usually a pretty quick and painless process.
Post lunch I’ll get onto product or growth based activities, this could be reviewing upcoming features or research into what’s on our roadmap or from the morning’s ideation. As always, sales and meetings can interrupt the day but I try to get at least 2 blocks of focused time everyday.
Thankfully, I’m usually done by 1700 in the evening but I’ll usually continue to tinker and learn after that time.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
We are a completely distributed team (all three of us) and we work wherever and however we like. I learnt the value of asymmetric operations when I was in the military, letting people work this way gets the best out of them, especially developers who are super creative and productive at night, you’ve got to let them run with it.
You just need to make sure everyone has enough time to rest and recover. I don’t see us ever having a permanent office though and the benefits of being an early bird means I can get my own work out of the way and be able to help the team when they come online.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work-life balance is a tricky one as some days it doesn’t exist. Instead I focus on the activities that help me recover which is sleep, eating well and exercise.
I learned the value of taking a power nap in Afghanistan on missions, you don’t know what’s coming so getting a quick 20-30min nap might be the difference between winning and losing the next battle.
I’m just as bad as any founder that is obsessed with a problem so locking time off to spend with the family is also a must. I try to have at least one day on a weekend where I don’t touch anything to do with work.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I’ve actually stopped getting up too early. Now that I’m not commuting I let my body wake up at a time that suits me (it’s usually around 0600) which is way better for my circadian rhythm.
Coming from a health, fitness and performance background I try to track and maintain certain metrics. These are sleep, stress, stimulants, steps and streaks. When these dip or spike it tells me when I’m dropping the ball. This allows me to not let a bad day turn into a bad week for example.
About three years ago I also stopped drinking, this was far and away one of the best decisions I made for long term health and performance.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Some great books I’ve read recently are The Four Steps to the Epiphany, The Mom Test and The Cold Start Problem. Great books for any budding product manager or entrepreneur. Now that I’m not commuting I’ve dropped the ball with podcasts but anything about business, startups, product or psychology usually piques my interest.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
My Garmin that tracks a lot of the metrics I use would be the main one. I also have my own coaching app I’ve used for clients so it has countless hours of mobility stretches and workouts that I can use to keep myself moving.
Does my coffee machine count?
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Everyone is different. I learned more when I read about psychology and how the body functions. This allowed me to discover what works for me and didn’t leave me with any unrealistic expectations.
If you have a high sleep need, taking work-life balance tips from a low sleep need person like Elon Musk might leave you feeling pretty average.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Work-life balance shifts with your priorities and knowing when you need to push the limits or when you need to rest is a great start. If you’re still in doubt, track everything. Focus on inputs and how they affect your output in order to optimise, automate or eliminate the right things.
Take the time to find your own rhythm in life. It leads to far better outcomes over the long term than just copying and pasting someone else’s.
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