After three years, over 2,000 conversations, and 1.3 million website visits, I’ve finally come around to doing my own interview for Balance the Grind.
I had the pleasure of being interviewed by our very Head of Commercial Partnerships, Lauren. We had a blast chatting about the early days of Balance the Grind, my daily routine, working at The Nudge Group, and plenty more! Hope you enjoy this conversation!
Hey Hao! You’ve spent the past few years doing so many interviews about work-life balance, now it’s your turn. Why don’t you kick things off by telling us about your career background to date?
Yeah, it’s pretty crazy when I actually pause and think about how many people we’ve interviewed for Balance the Grind over the years. We just passed 2,000 conversations recently!
So, long story short: I got my start at a PR agency called Espresso Communications. How I got that job was, I set up a blog while I was completing my communications degree at uni and interviewed the founder & CEO, Corrie McLeod, who hired me shortly afterwards.
Working at Espresso was one of the best learning experiences of my entire career, and I’m super grateful to Corrie for taking a chance on some random kid off the internet. Since then, it’s been a series of in-house and agency roles in the marketing and communications field, with a strong focus on content marketing as time went by.
And somewhere along that journey, you started Balance the Grind.
That’s right. In 2016 I started up Balance the Grind on the side, initially as a health & fitness blog. I wrote a few articles and interviewed a few people from the fitness world, but the blog stagnated and I left it alone. Strangely, for some reason I kept renewing the domain and hosting each year. Maybe because I knew there was an idea there, I just didn’t know what yet.
Fast-forward to 2019, my wife and I had welcomed our son, Frankie, the previous year and I was becoming really interested in how working parents balanced their job and home life.
I couldn’t find a good resource online so I decided to create it myself. I spun Balance the Grind from a health & fitness blog into a work-life balance one, and just kept working on it as a side project for a few years.
Then The Nudge Group came around.
Yeap, so in November 2020, after I interviewed the lovely Dayna for Balance the Grind, she referred me on to Steve. After interviewing him, we started chatting about a potential acquisition. Steve was a big fan of the website, and I really liked how The Nudge Group was focused on supporting start-ups and scale-ups grow around the world. It just seemed like a natural fit!
Nearly a year later, here I am, and loving every minute of it! The best thing about working at Nudge, aside from the awesome people, is watching how the business has evolved over the past 12 months, from a recruitment agency focused on working with high-growth businesses to creating this ecosystem that enables start-ups and scale-ups to plug in and grow across the globe. It’s a very fast-moving and exciting world, and I’m learning something new every day!
So what does a typical day in your life look like now as the Head of Content for The Nudge Group and running the editorial side for Balance the Grind?
I have two types of days, depending on whether I’m working from home or in our CBD office. I’ll give you an example WFH day. I’m up at 5am and at my desk with a coffee by 5.30am. Nudge does a lot of work around the globe so it’s useful getting an early start to work across our many different timezones.
Between 7-7.30am, Frankie will be waking up so I’ll get him ready for his day and hang out with him for a bit. Some days we’ll have breakfast together. Then it’s back to the home office. I’ll usually structure my workday so that I’m doing a lot of my deep focus, writing projects in the morning before lunch, when my mind is freshest.
Around 11am, I’ll hit the gym, and then grab some lunch afterwards. This is one of my favourite things to do because it really helps me disconnect from work for a couple hours so I feel refreshed when I’m back at my desk. Afternoon work is more focused around admins, catching up on emails, spreadsheets, etc., stuff that’s requires less creative juices. I usually wrap up my day at around 5-6pm.
Have you made any major changes in your routine or habits these past 12 months?
The biggest thing I’ve started doing lately is really focusing on one thing at a time. This means trying to not multi-task and working on one task at a time.
But also from a personal point of view, it means putting away my phone when I’m out for dinner with my wife so we can just enjoy each other’s company or when I’m with Frankie so he gets my full attention. It’s so easy to be hanging out with a 3-year old and check emails or browse LinkedIn at the same time because we think they don’t notice or they don’t care, but they really do.
Another big thing that’s really changed my lifestyle is cutting back drastically on drinking. Coming from an agency background, it was pretty common to be out for drinks almost every weeknight, followed up by bingeing on the weekends. These days, I only drink on special occasions. Since then, I just feel like I have way more energy and sleep so much better. Plus, when I do drink, I enjoy it more. Winning all around!
You’ve spoken to so many people about their favourite books, podcasts and newsletters. What are some of your top ones that you’d like to recommend?
One of the good things that came out of the pandemic for me was re-discovering my love for reading. I think all the money that I saved on not drinking, I put right back into Booktopia.
Related to start-ups, there have been a lot of books that I’ve enjoyed reading and have found to be helpful over the years. Basecamp’s It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston and Disrupted by Daniel Lyons were great for me to get insights into the start-up world and culture. Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin is awesome and probably my favourite start-up read.
I’ve also been getting into more biographies. I recently finished Amazon Unbound and I’m currently in the middle of reading Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. which has been pretty epic so far. As a way to unplug from the day, I’ve been enjoying a lot of crime thriller books, especially by Tana French.
For newsletters, a few that I really enjoy include
- The Rebooting by Brian Morrissey
- Marketing Examples
- Stratechery by Ben Thompson
- Simon Owens’s Media Newsletter
Podcast-wise, there are so many great ones out there: Indie Hackers, The Business of Content, My First Million, The Knowledge Project, to name a few. And, of course, our very own Give It A Nudge video podcast. It’s a bit of a plug, but I genuinely believe that it’s an awesome podcast for people who want to hear the inside stories behind building successful start-ups and scale-ups. I’m also a big fan of the format – casual conversations that can go in any direction.
Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Notion, Notion, Notion. It’s obviously Notion because my whole life is on Notion now. I thought Evernote was amazing, but when I discovered Notion a couple of years ago, it completely changed my life. Everything from life admin to writing drafts to project management is on Notion. So yes. Notion. Also Spotify because Jazz Vibes.
You’ve written over 150 daily routines profiles. If you could personally interview anyone in the world about their work-life balance and daily habits, who would that be?
There are so many people I’d love to talk to about their daily routines and work-life balance. Floyd Mayweather when he was still the pound-for-pound boxer in the world, it would have been super cool to learn about how he maintained that same hunger and work ethic, even with hundreds of millions in the bank.
Jay-Z would be my number one pick though. I’ve always been fascinated by people who can successfully balance the creative side with the business side, and Jay-Z is simply the best at both. I’d have love to talk to like 2001-2003 Jay-Z, when he was putting out incredible music on a regular basis at the same time as juggling his own record label with running multiple business ventures.
Before we wrap it up, you’ve done quite a bit with Balance the Grind already, where do you see this website in the next few years?
It’s funny, because even though I feel like we’ve accomplished so much with Balance the Grind these past few years, we’re really just getting started. That’s why it’s so exciting to have you onboard with us now Lauren, 2022 is going to be a milestone year and we’ve got so much to do!
Launching a new YouTube channel, new daily routine videos, ebooks, membership community, meaningful partnerships with awesome brands, the list goes on. Definitely watch this space because it won’t be long before Balance the Grind is becomes the go-to online destination for everything work-life balance and wellness!
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