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Balancing the Grind with Julian Fagan, Co-Founder & Director of Skodel

Julian Fagan is the co-founder & director of Skodel, a wellbeing check-in platform for schools, universities and workplaces.

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

I started out studying business and law at UTS in Sydney before picking up my first job at a digital design agency called Vivant. The first job and university days were a bit of a struggle for me. Finding a meaningful career path took some time, as it can for a lot of people. It was early 2019 that things started to become clearer.

I had met with a guy by the name of Adrian in Thailand who runs a rehab clinic across Australia and Asia. Mental health and wellbeing was something close to me due to a family history with it and I had been involved in family therapy and rehabilitation clinics prior to that.

The conversation kick-started what is now my current role as Skodel’s co-founder, which is a wellbeing check-in tool for organisations.

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

I’m an early riser so I get into the office around 7am and do an hour or 2 of admin type work, responding to clients and planning my day ahead. I then have a daily standup at 9am to speak with the team on priorities for the day and if there are any blockers.

Usually I’ll work on one thing for the day with a goal set in mind so that if I finish that then I can call it a productive day. One thing I try to avoid is juggling multiple projects at the one time, that’s when I am at my least productive.

The workday is always broken up with 11:30am lunch, 2pm coffee and then the goal is to be out of the office by about 4:30 to 5pm to go to the gym.

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

It does. I prefer to work in the office though. Home is my place to relax and the office is my place to work. I appreciate that everyone is different, that’s just how I operate best.

As a team, we are focused more so on outcomes rather than hours clocked and how often you’re in the office so if you want to get work done in a different environment, we are all for it!

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

I think I got a lot better at the whole work-life balance thing when I realised that rest is part of the job. So to my point above about separating parts of my life, I try my best to manage everything work/client related in the office and then outside of that I’ll do my best to avoid work related stress.

Work-life balance gets derailed for me when there’s no place free from the stressful parts of work. I’m fine to work outside of the office but only on the creative/fun stuff that I really like working on.

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

There’s been a few changes for me. I’m doing more soft sand runs now, stretching, cutting out desserts, eating more wholesome food and I no longer do work on Friday nights or on the weekends (with a few exceptions).

Changing my habits has been helped a lot by James Clear’s work on how to successfully change habits. Main takeaway from that is just starting really small. What’s the smallest possible change I can make to improve things?

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

I’ll recommend some people that have had a positive impact on me rather than specific books/podcasts. Robert Sapolsky, Andrew Fuller, James Clear, Alain De Botton and Adam Grant.

From a business standpoint, Jason Lemkinn and Nathan Latka. Sapolsky’s work on stress is great and James Clear’s work on habits has helped me out a lot. James Clear has a newsletter called 3-2-1 and I recommend that one! SaaStr has a good newsletter for anyone in the SaaS world!

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

I’m not strongly tied to any app or gadget right now. YouTube has been good for finding insightful videos on most topics and they seem to have a supportive community in the comments section (most of the time). 

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

Probably Alain De Botton. I think he’d offer some good insight. Outside of that though, any startup founder regardless of what stage of that journey they’re on would be good to listen to.

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

Andrew Fuller, who is the psychologist we work with, has had a really positive impact on my approach to life. This may or not work for others but these are four key things I’ve adopted over the past year since getting to know Andrew.

Firstly, I’m now treating life/business as a marathon rather than a sprint. This has helped me recognise that nothing is ever as good or as bad as I think it is if I consider its importance across a longer time span. When I was treating life as a sprint, it was a high pressure approach that wasn’t sustainable.

Secondly, I have identified who in my life creates stress for me and who I feel more positive around and I try my best to spend more time with positive people and less time with the stress spreaders.

Thirdly, just control what I can control and accept the rest. An example of this is focusing on processes and not outcomes e.g. I don’t control if I get 40 sales this month but I do control if I make 150 calls this month (that’s just an example). Lastly, one of my favourite quotes to deal with self-doubts “chill out, no one else knows what they’re doing anyway.”

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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.