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Balancing the Grind with Carsten Pleiser, Founder at Design Buffs

Carsten Pleiser is the founder of Design Buffs, a tech-enabled design company that delivers on-brand design at scale to B2B marketing & creative teams.

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

I’m the co-founder of Design Buffs, a tech-enabled design company that delivers on-brand design for growing B2B marketing & creative teams with a strong focus on production design.

Having a background in marketing & sales, I realised how hard it was getting design work done. 

Agencies didn’t care about the small design stuff, were too expensive, and took forever to turn around. In-house designers were talented and great, but I had to fight over priorities with the product team, so turn-around was even longer. Freelancers were good and bad. Getting in touch was hard, and waiting weeks to find some time wasn’t an option.

It was a good time to do something about this and so I started Design Buffs.

From a very young age, I always enjoyed building businesses online. Businesses that I could run from anywhere and without the overhead of expensive offices and hierarchies. Being in love with technology and how it enables people to have a better life, my career has always been in the tech startup & scaleup scene.

I’ve run growth (product, marketing) for multiple companies on a consultancy basis and have been involved in other projects like Paperless.io from the beginning. 

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

No two days in my life are the same, but one thing that’s always the same is my morning routine and my focus on my family. I try to make no compromises on that. Typically, I’m a morning person.

I wake up every day at the same time, which gives me consistency, which I think is most important for building a habit. The time between 5:00am and 8:00am is magical and it’s typically the time when I’m most productive, and my mental energy and clarity is at its highest.

Also, I try to schedule my meetings in the afternoon and focus on creative things in the morning, like writing. This has an incredible benefit because by the time other people get up and start working, you’ve already created something. Creation gives me energy, consumption robs me of energy.

At around 10am, I check in with my remote design team and project managers to see if there are any issues. From then until the afternoon, it really depends on what’s on my plate. It involves everything from jumping on sales calls, to creating marketing content, landing pages etc. From 4pm onwards, I do low energy tasks like admin work.

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

Yes, absolutely. I built Design Buffs as a remote-first company since 2019. Our creative team is based around the world. We have a dedicated Slack team for daily-updates and check-ins and that helps as well with transparency.

Flexible and remote working is what I believe is an important part of building a healthy company culture. Our designers can set their own working hours when they feel most productive.

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

I don’t like the term work-life balance. They imply that these two things can’t coexist or that we aren’t happy with our work, so we need to run away from it. For me, it’s important to balance family, freedom, and fitness.

Any problems in one of these areas, i.e. my health, I’m stuck in my business, or I have relationship problems, will affect my work. As I keep the 3 F’s in mind, things blend together.

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

I haven’t changed the structure of my day, but I have stopped and started routines: For example, I had weekends entirely off from screens and any social media.

On occasion, I found myself scrolling on my phone when I should be enjoying the moment, such as dinner with my family. My daily Yoga and Meditation practice started, stopped, and then restarted.

An important step to managing these changes in habits is being aware of them. As well as not being too hard on yourself when you have to reset a routine or habit. 

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

People think I’m crazy because I listen to so many books and podcasts. I enjoy reading all kinds of books, non-fiction and fiction, from science to adventure, from business to health. Here’s a list of my favourite books:

Books:

  • When Breath Becomes Air (gives you a perspective on things and what’s really important)
  • Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (excellent read for the curious minds)
  • Let My People Go Surfing (a great read on building a purpose-driven company and culture)
  • The 4-Hour Workweek (changed my life forever)

Most of the podcasts I listen to are about marketing, growth and entrepreneurship. The Tim Ferriss Show, IndieHackers, or ProductLed.

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

I purchased some good kettlebells to use at home during lockdown. You can train all aspects of fitness, endurance, mobility, coordination, strength, and balance with kettlebells.

Additionally, I use a Theragun for relaxation and self-massage. I’m a sucker for tools and technology. The ones I like the most are Zero, VoltApp, and Grammarly (I’m not an English native speaker).

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

I’m not a fan of this term, but I’d love to hear from other tech entrepreneurs and founders. 

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

Everyone has a different approach to work, life, or balance, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Focusing on the 3 F’s, fitness, freedom & family, is important to me.

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.