Founders / Interviews / Software Engineers & Developers

Balancing the Grind with Justin Hunter, Co-Founder & COO of SimpleID

Justin Hunter is the co-founder & COO of SimpleID, a platform focused on increasing user engagement and retention in blockchain applications.

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

My career has touched a little bit of everything. I didn’t start out in tech at all. I started out working in a grocery store to get through college. I spent 7 years doing that, don’t do the math on how long it took me to finish school.

I then went on to working in the auto insurance industry where I eventually became a manager. I managed teams ranging from 5-10 people. My first taste of the tech world came while working for that company.

I took a customer experience analyst role focused on the online claims experience. I had already been a huge technofile, but that really got me hooked. After I took my next job, working on a little bit of everything at a software company in Dallas, I got exposed to blockchain.

I learned to code, built an application called Graphite, and left my day job to work on that full time. That app got quite a bit of attention, but ultimately, I chose to work on a new project in the blockchain space with a couple other founders I met along the way.

That’s where SimpleID came from. Now, I am the co-founder and COO of SimpleID, and my role encompasses everything from coding to taxes.

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

Thanks to COVID-19, my life each day looks a little different than it used to. With both of my kids home from school and my wife working from home, we’ve got a full house.

So, my day usually starts at about 6:30 am. I’ll drink my morning coffee, catch up on emails, and then start trying to generate leads. This is a relatively new approach for me, by the way. I’ve found that the success rate I have with sending emails and messages early in the morning is much higher than any other time of day. But I digress.

At about 8am, I’ll take my dog for a walk with the family. From 8:30-9, I do what has now become the hybrid school/work calendar for the day. I will look at my meetings for the day and my tasks I need to get accomplished, and then my wife and I write up a schedule for our kids’ school work around that.

From 9-12pm, it’s a mix of work, meetings, and helping my kids with school work. Lunch and another walk happens around noon.

Then from about 1pm-3pm, it’s more of a mix of work, meetings, and school work. From 3-5pm, I have a little more focused time, and this is when I tend to do development work.

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

SimpleID is 100% remote. Even before the pandemic, remote work was part of my life. I have been working fully remote (previously on Graphite and now on SimpleID) for over a year, and I have been working remote a few days per week for 5 years prior to that.

Remote work gives me flexibility to be there for my kids and my wife. If there’s a doctor’s appointment or the car has to go into the shop, I don’t have to worry about driving from some office to get it done just to have to drive back. In fact, not having to drive anywhere for work buys me significantly more time each day.

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

To me, work-life balance is just the idea that I am not beholden to work. By not being beholden to work, it makes you (in my opinion) more excited to do the actual work.

I’ve been fortunate to have this balance for a number of years now, but in jobs I’ve had in the past where the expectations were that you were always available. Always on. Breaks and vacations were frowned upon. In a job like that, I was not excited to work. My productivity was surely not as high as it is now.

So, that’s the interesting thing to me about this balance we talk about. The balance is actually a net positive to the company.

5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

It has taken me a long time to recognize how I achieved it, but efficiency has been the number one thing that has led to success for me. But try teaching someone efficiency. It’s really difficult.

A while back, I realized that the habit I’ve built up over time that directly contributes to a significant increase in efficiency is being able to work in short bursts. This habit was brought on by necessity.

When I had kids, I could no longer expect to have hours of uninterrupted focus time. So I adapted and learned to be super productive in short bursts. So, the habit, even if you have to force yourself at first, is to work in 10-15 min chunks then stop.

Practice getting as much done as you can in that time. You’ll get better at it over time, but the first step is losing the notion of getting into flow state or getting into the zone. I know how important flow state is, but it’s just not always possible. And if you can get yourself to a higher level of productivity in short bursts, you’ll see your efficiency shoot through the roof.

Outside of that, I’ve always embraced the “Eat Your Peas” idea. If you have something you really don’t want to do, do that thing first. Dread slows you down. So, while it might feel like you’re being productive while avoiding that thing you don’t want to do, you’re actually working slower while the back of your mind churns and bubbles at the idea of the task ahead.

Subsequent generations have gone the other way and decided that the only way to get ahead is to work 60+ hours per week, even if it has been proven that putting in hours like that has diminishing and eventually negative returns.

6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

Every single book Basecamp has put out has been so helpful to me. Rework, Remote, and their newest book, It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work are incredible and eye-opening.

I think the topics flow along with the things most people think even if they won’t admit that they think them. And these books simply give people permission to acknowledge that those thoughts aren’t as anarchist as they might believe.

Outside of those books, I actively try not to read business books. I think there are just too many variables for a business book to apply widely in most cases. Instead, reading, to me, should be an escape. So, the vast majority of the books I read are fiction. I skew that way anyways (I have a masters degree in creative writing).

7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Start early. When I quit my old day job and started working for myself, it would have been real easy to use that as an excuse to let myself sleep in. But I made sure I never did that. I kept my alarm set at the same time it always was.

I don’t put in more hours per day, mind you. I simply start earlier which affords me more breaks throughout the day and affords me an earlier end to the day a lot of times.

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

I think most people probably think of the interviews that would highlight work-life balance the best for this question. However, I’d love to see an interview with someone who I don’t think has a great grasp on work-life balance. I may be wrong about that person, which adds to the intrigue.

So, my vote would be someone like Marrisa Mayer. She was the poster-child for workaholism, so I think her perspective would be a contrarian one and could be an interesting read.

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

I think the phrase work-life balance has gotten a bad rap over the last few years.

I think it’s best to think of the idea in the same way that our grandparents thought of this idea. They worked hard, but they worked to get home to their families. To make sure their families were safe and secure and fed. They didn’t work for the sake of working. You know this is true because it was our grandparents’ generation that gave rise to unions and worker protections.

Subsequent generations have gone the other way and decided that the only way to get ahead is to work 60+ hours per week, even if it has been proven that putting in hours like that has diminishing and eventually negative returns.

So, regardless of how you think about work-life balance, remember that the ideas are not foreign. They are rooted in our own (recent) history.

Before you go…

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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.