Stewart Hillhouse, Senior Content Lead at Demand Curve, a growth training program helping startups and enterprises grow.
He is also the host of the weekly podcast, Top of Mind with Stewart Hillhouse.
1. To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I am currently Senior Content Lead at Demand Curve where I create marketing and curriculum content about growth marketing.
Before getting into marketing I studied forestry, co-founded a data consultancy, and had a short stint as a whisky distiller.
2. What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I work from home, so after getting out of bed I like to go for a walk around the block and make a cup of coffee before sitting down at my computer.
The primary output of my role is clear writing and novel insights. To be able to produce those consistently, I hand-write a short note at the end of each word day with bulleted ideas for future me to write about. That way, I can get into a writing flow each morning.
Not having this note often leads to wasted time and writing block as I struggle to find something to write about.
My team is mostly based on the West coast, so I take advantage of the silent morning to write as much as I can (usually aiming for at least 1,200 words). I call this my Sacred Hours. No email, no checking social, no calls. Just 3 hours of uninterrupted writing time.
At noon I put on a podcast and walk around the neighbourhood. I eat lunch on my back deck when the weather is nice then get back to my computer.
The afternoon is when I edit my work from previous days, strategize with the team, and reply to Slacks and emails.
Before logging off, I leave myself a note to kickstart my writing the following morning.
After work I go for a run if the weather is nice or opt for the gym. I find doing something physical allows me to separate my working hours from my personal hours, especially when they both take place at my home.
I play Ultimate Frisbee once a week, have date night every Wednesday, and edit my podcast on Monday nights.
The rest of the week I try to get together with friends, read, and get outside.
I get to bed around 11 and end the day with a few chapters of a fiction book.
3. Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
In late 2019 I made a 5 year plan to make my work location independent. The pandemic shortened that plan significantly.
Demand Curve’s team is spread across Canada and the US across 5 time zones. The main reason I strived for this working arrangement is because I wanted to work with world-class people without needing to live in a big city.
COVID accelerated and normalized a lot of the conditions necessary for location independent work. This allows me to get my best work done, whether it’s from a coffee shop or a public park (where I’m currently writing this from).
Remote working pro-tip: Using a wireless keyboard tethered to your phone is a game changer. Leave the laptop at home to write without distraction.
4. What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
The reality is I’ll likely “work” in some capacity for at least 40 more years. That’s a freaking long time. So to keep myself motivated, I think of work-life balance more as “work-life integration”.
Here’s how I think about it: How might I spend time working on things that interest me, sustain my lifestyle, and weave in personal goals of mine?
Writing started to interest me a few years ago. Rather than continue down a path that doesn’t utilize that much writing (forestry), I consciously pivoted into startups which eventually lead me to marketing.
Now I get to practice a skill that I can carry with me for the rest of my life, explore and write about things that I find interesting, and get paid to work with very talented people.
I try to regularly ask myself: Am I learning, being challenged, and having fun. If I don’t have all three in my life or work, then I know it’s time to readjust.
5. In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I used to be an early riser. But when I started working from home, my wake up time started to slip.
At first I got mad at myself. But then I changed my mindset about it: Most people work their whole lives to eventually get to sleep in. I stopped setting an alarm and found myself naturally getting up around 8am.
What I learned from that experience is to try out new things, even if you’re set in your ways. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get up early. Now that pressure has been lifted, my mornings are much more relaxed yet predictably productive.
6. Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I listen to a lot of podcasts and find myself frequently coming back to Indie Hackers hosted by Courtland Allen.
He interviews founders who have built businesses ranging from micro-software companies to multinational manufacturers. The broad exposure to different business models, management styles, and lifestyles of these founders is a healthy reminder that there’s no one way to be successful.
7. Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
DONE – a $5 iPhone app that allows me to track my habits. I’ve only got 6 habits that get done every single day: meditate, write, read, publish, network, and be active.
I know that no matter how crappy the day feels, if I get as many of those done by the end of the day, I’ve improved myself by at least 1%. Compounded habits are the key to exponential returns.
8. If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I don’t know who this person would be, but I’d love to learn the frameworks and tactics of a founder who is able to take off 2-6 months of work at a time and still have a sustainable business.
9. Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
My favourite quote from Atomic Habits goes like this:
“You don’t rise to the level of your ambitions. You sink to the level of your systems.”
I think systems are drastically under appreciated for both getting work done, but also enjoying the fruits of your labour. Putting the right systems in place will allow you to live fully, knowing you’ve put in the work to achieve great things in the future. This applies to money, investing, skill development, relationships, health, and experience.
Trust the system, not your lizard brain.
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