Balancing the Grind with Jackson Stein, Strategy & Operations Lead at Ajust

Jackson Stein, the Strategy & Operations Lead at Ajust, brings a wealth of experience from a career that’s spanned across hospitality, property, and tech consulting. 

At Ajust, a VC-funded tech startup shaking up the way consumers interact with businesses, Jackson’s days are anything but typical. From refining operational strategies to fostering team collaboration, his role is pivotal in navigating the startup’s rapid growth. Outside of work, Jackson places a strong emphasis on health, family, and staying present—values that guide his approach to work-life balance. 

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I’ve been lucky enough to have worked across a number of industries with some pretty inspirational people. Hospitality, property, tech consulting, and more recently at Ajust, a VC-funded tech startup that’s disrupting how consumers manage their relationships with businesses. Working directly with owners and leaders of organisations has given me valuable exposure to all facets of building strong and exciting businesses.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

No single day is the same. We’re moving fast and adapting to capitalise on the opportunity in front of us. I’m not trying to evade the question – instead, let me share a journey I’ve been on recently which has directly impacted how I plan my day.

Do you start your day by clearing your inbox? I get it – you feel accomplished. You’ve ‘cleared the decks’. I was the same – I’d spend the first part of my morning chasing inbox zero and working through tasks related to the ongoing operations of Ajust. At first, this was a 15 minute effort but as our volumes grew, I found I was spending up to 3 hours at the beginning of the day supporting the product.

Those dopamine hits feel great but the reality is that it won’t move the needle – it only gets in the way of deep work that will ultimately increase your capacity and drive better outcomes for the business.

Once I’d recognised that, I inverted my schedule to instead reserve mornings for impactful work. A recent example of impactful work is prompt engineering designed to improve categorisation of internet complaints. This will lead to faster outcomes for consumers and eliminate the need for human effort (less of that dopamine work I referred to earlier).

Part two of the day usually involves lunch and team calls – we try to group team calls around the middle of the day to minimise disruptions during morning and afternoon sessions. Beyond that, the day is more flexible – what I tackle varies, except for product operations which is a sure bet.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

‘Work-life balance’ is life. To get the most out of life you need to take care of your health.

With regards to health, I like to ask myself two questions;

  1. Am I taking care of my body?
  2. Am I taking care of my mind?

I’m no expert so rather than offering further commentary, I’ll instead share some of my habits that help me stay physically and mentally well:

  • Time with family and friends
  • Time outdoors
  • Staying fit
  • Eating well (mostly)

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

Absolutely – here are the first two that came to mind.

Getting to bed earlier means I’m more likely to read, I wake up feeling better and I get more time at the park with our dog, Humphrey, or a session at the gym. All of this combined allows me to start my work feeling refreshed and calm.

Spending less time on screen means that I am more present and get to enjoy the company of the people around me. I try to either be 100% focused on work or 100% not. This can be hard thanks to technology. Try making your phone screen black and white – way less engaging.

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday (Book)

Think about what ‘ego’ means to you. If words like arrogant and confident come to mind, I’d challenge you to read this book. There’s so much more to ego than you think – I found it enlightening.

Deep Work by Cal Newport (Book)

I’m part-way through but already learning valuable insights about the importance of focus and how modern technology is affecting our ability to succeed. I wouldn’t usually share a book I’m yet to finish however it’s resonating with me and has already led to change.

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Stop and smell the roses – when there’s a moment in your day that you’re enjoying, acknowledge it, for you will remember and be grateful for the small things that are otherwise easiest to forget.

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.