Ryan Kris is the Co-Founder & COO at Verida, a full stack development framework and decentralized personal data network for Web3.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’m co-founder and COO at Verida. We’re focused on liberating people’s personal data that is locked up by bigtech and giving people control and ownership of their data for new benefits. That involves us building a decentralised identity and private data storage network for Web3.
You can download the Verida Vault which is the first mobile app that provides a secure home for your cryptocurrency, personal data, credentials, and decentralised identity.
My interest in this area began in 2014 when I first learned about Bitcoin. At first look it was complex, and I didn’t pay much attention until about 2016. Then I started going deeper and then got exposed to Ethereum and the broader crypto economy that was emerging. I thought it immensely fascinating and evolutionary.
Ultimately these technologies align with my personal world view. That is a future with more decentralised power structures, where people will have greater sovereignty and ownership over their personal finances and data.
Prior to my current startup, I’ve had a pretty varied work history, but it’s always been technology related. Generally building and running teams, programs and projects. From ISPs, and telcos to tech consulting at banks and law firms.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
My paper notepad has my to do list. It guides me through my day. And it’s the ultimate web3 technology, super private and self-sovereign! Also portable and it captures any tasks and short notes on things I need to do (I fill it out at night prior to my work day). This is from David Allen’s Getting Things Done. You have to manage those open loops, get them off your mind, or you won’t sleep.
My typical work day is broken into 2-3 hour chunks of time, intersected by family duties and exercise. I will generally try to jump online early before my kids wake up. If I can find 30-45 minutes here, I’ll do some deep work, this could be writing, strategy, planning, or reviewing other people’s work and providing feedback. Some days it could just be getting on top of a few urgent emails or messages and preparing for any meetings I have scheduled for the day.
In the morning I’ll be spending time coordinating with my team, ensuring any priority tasks for the team are getting attention, and following up on requests I’ve made if I haven’t heard back. There could be meetings here as well.
I try to break around lunch for a gym session or a run. Afternoons can be short before I have childcare pickup. I often pick up some work at night after the kids are in bed. I’ve always been a bit of an owl, it’s quiet and I can focus with a cup of tea. It’s not uncommon that I may have some calls with international partners or investors due to time zones. I also clear out more emails here. My inbox should be empty. I have been using the inbox zero method for nearly a decade now.
3) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Owning my time.
I think flow is important. This is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes about. If I’m in a ‘flow state’, I can feel it. You are producing at a higher level; there is a clarity and ease. I like to let it run its course.
This can sometimes mean I stay up late or miss lunch. Sometimes I have to break it though. If I haven’t experienced flow a few times during my work week, I’m not structuring something right. Too much going on, and it’s a sign I’m out of balance and need to reset, restructure or change my environment.
The same also applies to family. If there is stress or anxiousness, then it could be work encroaching too much on family time. Or maybe being too connected or not getting outdoors enough. This is a fine line, particularly as I work nearly every day remotely at home. So it works both ways. Self-awareness is key to reflection and detection. Regular journaling helps me with that too.
4) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
My Apple Watch has helped me be more active and less sedentary each day. I strive to do my 30 mins exercise daily so closing rings on the Watch really keeps me in routine.
I actually really believe personal assistants, whether software AI on our phone, or robots in our home, will increasingly be positive for us, and allow us to work at even higher levels of productivity as they become more integrated into our lives.
I also love the Downtime and Focus functions on my iPhone. I’m quite selective with what notifications pop up and who can call me during my work hours. I’ll tune the settings every month or so. I find these functions really effective to cut out the noise. These functions help enforce good work focus habits.
5) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I consume a lot of content. Email when I’m online, podcasts when driving or working out, and Kindle reading usually away from the keyboard.
I have numerous email subscriptions on topics of interest, these filter into various category folders so I can go through them (time permitting). There will be some general news like Economist and NY Times, tech and finance such as TechCrunch, RealVision, then lots of web3/crypto channels – Messari, Delphi & Bankless. I follow a lot of individual writers on economics, finance, history and startups like Adam Toooze, David Hay and Morgan Housel.
6) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Management isn’t a ‘heroic calling’ as the Economist wrote recently. But teams need leaders, and those leaders need to be effective. That’s why I have always looked up to Peter Drucker and his writings and lessons on management and business. He was a prolific writer. I’d be curious to know how he lived his own life, I haven’t gone deep into his personal biography before. He did live to 95 though!
Drucker’s writing is very broad. One of my favourite books from Drucker is The Effective Executive. It was written in 1966, but I feel it’s timeless. He talked about the effective use of one’s time. Getting that right is foundational for any balance in life in my view.
I’m not sure if work-life balance was even a concept back then, however everything the book covers is relevant to the topic as we know it today. Know your time, eliminate-delegate-control, consolidate and concentrate, play to your strengths.
7) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Practice self development and try different things. My personal systems and processes do change. Sometimes by intent, sometimes by circumstance. Just be ready to change and adapt when something isn’t working. Or when it is working, reflect on that so you know why it’s working at that moment.
I think disconnecting is really important. I keep devices outside of my bedroom. It’s my sanctuary to rest. It’s just my bed, a lamp, a notepad, some books and my Braun analogue alarm clock. If I don’t manage my devices, they will manage me. I don’t have that issue with analogue devices.
In the morning, taking a moment when you wake to stretch, breathe and think before I’m consumed with streams of data from my work helps me prepare for the day to come.
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