Balancing the Grind with Mimi Nguyen, Chief of Staff at Handprint

Mimi Nguyen is the Chief of Staff at Handprint, a company that lets users take climate action by making their company regenerative in just a few clicks.

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

My background is eclectic and started early (at 19) as a Graphic Designer, then I grew into the Communication and Marketing space, before co-founding a Sustainability non-profit and currently building an awesome tech startup called Handprint, as a Chief of Staff and General Manager.

I learnt a lot as I navigated freelancing, being employed in a family-run business as well as a large international company. But a startup is another level of constant learning and growth.

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

I start around 830-900am, with 30 minutes of “landing” into the day without screen time. Can be stretching or just tidying up the house, but no screen right away!

Then I’d check emails, messages and calendar, to have a good overview of what my day and my week will look like. Of course there are always unexpected events and fires to put out in a startup.  

I used to spend a massive amount of time on calls because we’re a remote company, which led to very long days (and nights). But now that we’ve grown the teams, I can delegate more and more and reduce calls time to really focus on my primary tasks.

I tend to skip breakfast and lunch to have a snack around 3pm then take a real break around dinner time – cooking and spending quality time with my partner. I try not to go back to my laptop after that but it’s hard! 

My day ends around 2am, reading, sketching or watching documentaries to relax. Unfortunately, even those activities require using a screen and that’s a huge inconvenience for my eyes and brain.

As you can guess, my challenge is to make space for a workout.

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

One thing that our employees love at Handprint is the flexibility and the remote work. We provide the opportunity to choose: remotely from home or a coworking space, or from our office in Bali, Indonesia. 

We trust our people to be responsible for their time and their performance, and we try to create a culture of open communication and constant feedback instead of tracking hours.

Personally, I appreciate the comfort of a hybrid set up of home + coworking space to maintain focus time, optimised life organisation, social interaction and better collaboration.

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

Finding the balance between professional and personal life is every individual’s responsibility. Your company can support by building a culture that allows it to happen. 

For me, since I joined the startup, work has been a priority. It’s been possible because I found stability in my personal life. Work takes all my time during weekdays and to protect my personal life, I reserve Friday and Saturday nights to my spouse for example. And that is non negotiable.

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

Unfortunately not in the right way: I gave up yoga classes because I had no time left for it! 

One of my goals for the coming weeks is to restart exercising regularly.

I took the habit to block “focus time” in my calendar and to use the Eisenhower matrix to avoid distractions and prioritise better.

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

I enjoy the Creative Mornings newsletter and their “Fun stuff to click on” section. 

My usage of podcasts is quite opportunistic, it’s usually related to sustainability and personal growth.

My latest favourite books are We should all be feminists, Waiting for Bojangles, That will never work and Untamed.

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

Like many people, my smartphone has become a little bit too indispensable (especially during the pandemic, I had to scan QR codes everywhere and show my vaccination status).

Ride hailing apps, banking apps and Google Maps are super useful for my daily life!

Living in Singapore, I could hardly live without AC (use with moderation!) or a fridge. 

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

My friend Christine Amour-Levar. She’s a brilliant adventurer, a women’s and planet’s advocate, a founder, a CEO, an investor, a mother and a wife, always greeting people with a smile and a kind word. 

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

We’ve been opposing work and life for the longest time and with the pandemic blurring the line (with work from home being generalised), many people can feel disoriented and overwhelmed. We have to learn how to set boundaries, rethink our priorities, our values, our purpose. Companies have a major role to play to build a better world.

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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.