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Balancing the Grind with Louis Island, Co-Founder & Director of Active & Thriving

Louis Island is the Co-Founder & Director of Active & Thriving, a unique corporate health and wellbeing program that supports workplaces, teams and individuals to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

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

After 10 years in public health as a physio, I transitioned into product/project management as a startup founder. I always had a strong interest in technology and am now able to channel that passion into helping others take greater control of their health and wellbeing. 

As a co-founder of Active & Thriving, we are on a mission to empower employees everywhere to live healthy and fulfilling lives. We do this via our digital platform, delivered via mobile or web, which utilises the latest in behaviour change theory and health education to promote teamwork and facilitate early help-seeking.

In fact, by providing one solution that covers physical, mental, social and financial wellbeing in a proactive approach, we help to de-risk organisations from costly worker’s compensation claims and absenteeism. 

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

Since moving to Singapore in February last year, I have ditched the alarm clock and focused on finding my own routine. I usually wake at seven and straight into some form of exercise – run, cycle or gym.

After a quick swim in the pool to escape the heat, I usually do 20 mins of reading with a coffee each morning – it’s a James Clear habit trick I picked up recently to read more and it’s working really well. I am a big believer in owning your morning, then no matter what happens during the day, you’ll know you’ve already covered the essential habits. 

From 9-11, I follow up on emails and tasks with regular team meetings across different parts of the business. I eat breakfast at around 11 and lunch at 2. In the afternoons, I focus on deep work project tasks – writing or working with our product team on new developments. 

I try to finish work at 5 or 6 pm and switch all devices to ‘Do Not Disturb’ – this is a game-changer. Some days I sneak in a bit more exercise – gym or cycling (Zwift), otherwise, I take my dog, Hugo, for a walk. My partner and I take turns cooking dinner at home and get a bit competitive with each other in the kitchen. 

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

For sure – as a founder of a global startup, we are a distributed team across Australia, Singapore and Spain. We prioritise flexibility and focus on achieving our goals and objectives, not watching the clock. Some days are longer than others, but we take downtime and switch off devices whenever possible. 

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

For me at this time, it’s a work-life integration approach since I now work from home with a distributed team. Having flexibility in my routine is a must with varying demands. With the occasional early morning meeting, I’ll shift my exercise session to later in the day. 

Previously when working in healthcare, it was a very different approach where work and life were much more separated. I think it’s about finding the best approach for you and your family, with your role at that time.

It’s likely going to change over time and reflecting on this is a great process to understand when you are doing well or when you need to make some changes. 

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

Since moving to Singapore last year, I have started cycling a few times a week. I used to ride a bike to commute to work in Melbourne when working at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

Now working from home full-time, I have taken to cycling 150-200km a week to explore new parts of Singapore and enjoy some thinking time. You quickly realise that Singapore is a tiny place though – you can cycle the whole way around the island in just a few hours!  

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

I have taken to reading autobiographies lately and am working my way through Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom – this should be on everyone’s list, it tells the story of such an amazing and challenging life.  

Otherwise, I tend to get through a few audiobooks when out walking the dog or at the gym. I recently finished Grit by Angela Duckworth and think this is a fascinating area of psychology research. Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals.

It combines resilience, ambition, and self-control in the pursuit of goals that take months, years, or even decades. As a startup founder, this resonated strongly with me as an internal drive to succeed, no matter the challenges. 

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

My Samsung smartphone & watch combo allows me to switch on and off with ease. I have set daily routines on these devices to control notifications with great benefit. 

I also signed up for a Zwift subscription last year with a Wahoo Kickr purchase, which has been great in making cycling even more accessible.

And of course, the Active & Thriving app – we keep the content library consistently updated with new challenges, articles, audios and more every week, so there’s always a wealth of info and motivation there if I need it.

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

In my opinion, the modern-day heroes of recent times are healthcare workers. Shift-working, life-saving, public-facing, under-paid modern-day heroes. It would be great to hear from more everyday essential workers when it comes to managing a work-life balance in these trying times.

I know a lot of people in these roles are really struggling and it would be good to hear more about the actions some are taking to manage such a big challenge. 

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

Being ‘busy’ is no longer a badge of honour and the pandemic has made a lot of people reconsider their priorities. Knowing your foundations is essential to this process. Spend time understanding your core values and long term goals, this will help define and prioritise how you want to spend your days.

A great exercise for this is Warren Buffett’s “2 List” Strategy, which is one of the strategies we cover on the Active & Thriving platform. Understanding how to distribute and manage not only your time but your attention and mental energy is a crucial life skill.

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.