Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Julian Willner, Co-Founder at Purpose and Partner at hatch

Julian Willner is the co-founder of career growth platform Purpose and Partner at hatch, a digital product and venture studio.

Learn how the most successful people in the world structure and manage their days. Sign to the Balance the Grind newsletter!

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

Sure! I discovered my passion for entrepreneurship early on at the age of 15. Back then, I was doing the sport triathlon intensely and flipping high-end road bikes from the pro teams. 

Later, in my senior year in high school, I got more and more interested in the start-up scene. At that time, I began building my first tech company which eventually led to the foundation of Purpose.

Purpose is a career growth platform on which you can connect with inspiring peers, join discussions about your favourite topics, and learn from people ahead of you.

Besides Purpose, I am Founding Partner at hatch, a digital product and venture studio. We turn companies into innovation leaders in their field and thus helping them get a competitive advantage in the digitally connected world.

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

In the morning, I wake up at 5 am. After brushing my teeth, I go out for a 20 min thinking walk, sometimes longer, followed by 5 min breathing exercises. 

Until 6.00 am, I plan my day and go through my daily principles, a habit inspired by Zeb Evans, the founder of ClickUp.

From 6.00 to 10.00 am, I perform my first deep work session, followed by shallow work and meetings.

At 1 pm, I try to start my lunch break but sometimes end up at 3 pm – I want to be stricter about this. During this break, I do sports, running and gym in alternation, and have lunch.

After my lunch break, I have a second deep work session until 5 pm, again followed by shallow work and meetings.

I usually finish my workday at around 8 pm, then have dinner as well as conversations with my girlfriend, and go to bed at 10 pm.

On the weekends, my morning walks are way longer up to 4 hours and I only do one deep work session. The rest of my time is reserved for my girlfriend, family, friends, sports, art, F1, and other activities.

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

Absolutely. As an entrepreneur, I am my own boss. I enjoy travelling and working from different places. This gives me new inspiration.

But wherever I am, I like to keep up my routines. They make me productive and provide balance.

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

To me, work-life balance mainly means listening to your own body. We’re all in different situations and in my opinion, it would be simply stupid to define an ideal here. 

For some readers, my previous answers may evoke the feeling to say “Come on, Julian. Don’t tell me another one of those ‘I hustle all the time’ stories.” And I get it.

However, I truly enjoy what I’m doing and choose to work long hours. And of course, I also have days where I just don’t feel like grinding and take it more relaxed.

For someone else, it might be that 9 to 5 job or even less to have time for other things in life.

The only question that matters at the end of the day is “does it feel right?”

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

Waking up at 5 am was and is a game-changer for me. I started picking up this habit last summer in the US, somewhat forced to work with my German colleagues. When I discovered that it makes me more energised, productive, and happy, I kept it up.

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

No matter in what form you consume it, I highly recommend diving into stoicism! 

There is so much that we can learn from Seneca, Aurelius, Epictetus, and other great minds contributing to this philosophy. 

For me personally, it’s one of the most important factors to keep balance, specifically during hard times.

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

There are two at the moment for me: ClickUp and Optimize. ClickUp for productivity and Optimize by Heroic for gaining wisdom. In fact, I discovered stoicism through Optimize.

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

I would love to read on with Brian Johnson, the founder of Heroic. I love his thinking and mindset. And I know that he has many valuable insights to share with us through his work and experience.

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

Don’t lose the lightness and playfulness in whatever you do and want to accomplish.

You have time.

Time to learn. Time to fail. Time to gain experience. Time to achieve great things!

Don’t force it.

Before you go…

If you’d like to sponsor or advertise with Balance the Grind, let’s talk here.

Join our community and never miss a conversation about work, life & balance – subscribe to our newsletter.

Start-up Founders, Venture Capital, Private Equity, Accelerators – hear them all talk about their stories where they went wrong, what went right and what they learned!
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.