Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Tim Rawling, Co-Founder & COO at CalcTree

Tim Rawling is the Co-Founder & COO at CalcTree, a venture-backed ConstructionTech startup, soon to launch the world’s first calculation management platform.

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

Before starting CalcTree, I was a structural engineer, digital consultant and data analyst at Arup, Accenture and my own consultancy, respectively.

At CalcTree, my official title (if there is such a thing in start-ups) is Co-Founder/COO. But in such an early-stage start-up, everything is changing all the time, so I’m whatever I need to as things develop. 

I do anything from product data analytics to user interviews, outreach/marketing, product testing and running demos on any given day. I also run our content team and all the standard stuff an early-stage startup COO does, like accounting, legal, finances, etc.

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

Well, as my intro would suggest, the work I’m doing varies from day to day. On some days (and nights), I’m presenting and taking back-to-back calls in different time zones (I’m based in Australia). On others, I’m buried in my laptop, knocking out more significant tasks.

I do attempt to have some consistency in routines set up around work though. So here’s what that looks like:

  • Wake up around 7/7:30 and walk to get a coffee from a local cafe.
  • Start the day with standup meetings for different teams/business functions.
  • Work (mostly from home as CalcTree is fully remote) until around 12:30. This is mostly deeper working and fewer calls while the rest of the world is still asleep.
  • Quick break over lunch and then back to work.
  • Gym (when able) around 3 or 4 to beat the rush.
  • Work from 4-7:30; this is when I’ll have more calls and product demos.
  • Then sometimes casual sports with a friend and drinks/dinner. Otherwise, dinner at home.
  • Some light night emails/Slack (trying to stop this!) before bed.
  • Get to sleep around 11 or 12.

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

Building a startup I’m passionate about means turning my work brain off is tough. Every waking hour is an opportunity to think, strategise and discuss the business. While a lot of the time, it doesn’t feel like work, it’s definitely taxing on the mind. Especially in the mobile world, work apps like Slack and email draw my attention at every buzz.

So for me, optimal work-life balance is a state of mind wherein I can compartmentalise my work and personal brain, regardless of the time of day and what’s going around me. 

I still have loads to learn about how my mind works and adapts to different states. But I’ve found that actively putting myself in environments that’ll force me to focus on one thing other than work, like a sport or yoga is critical to improving. Committing to these activities and prioritising them regularly is helping me strengthen my mind’s ability to compartmentalise rapidly. 

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

Founding a startup has pushed me to up my ‘time optimisation’ game, so I’ve taken a few actions to do this:

  • I started planning out my social and personal life using my calendar app alongside my work commitments. This is probably normal for most readers, but it’s totally new ground for me. It completely changed my life. I’m much more organised and efficient with my time now, and I find it much easier to juggle things and make commitments.
  • I began re-focusing my social life (where possible) around sporting activities to optimise my social and exercise time. I played a lot of squash and tennis, but sadly I had to stop this when I recently broke my collarbone while snowboarding! Hopefully, I’ll be back on the court soon!
  • This isn’t a time optimisation, but I also started yoga to work on mindfulness. But sadly, I had to stop that too after breaking my collarbone.

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

Yes, 2 book recommendations; The Biggest Bluff by Anna Konnikova and The Anarchy by William Dalrymple.

  • The Biggest Bluff – follows a professional psychologist’s experience on their journey to become a professional poker player. It explores decision-making under pressure and uncertainty. There are loads of parallels to the business world, and it has helped me frame my thinking at CalcTree more than a few times!
  • The Anarchy – recounts the history of the British East India Company and how they went from being small fry merchants in London to essentially ruling India. For a history buff and entrepreneur, I love the journey this book takes you on. It’s an awesome analysis of how serendipity, technology imbalance and corporate greed changed the modern world in more ways than you’d think.

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

Ray Dalio or Mike Cannon-Brooks. Both have achieved pretty amazing things in their respective fields. And they’ve been so consistently successful that they’ve been able to pivot their time, energy and skills into their passion areas and continue to win.

Clearly, whatever they have going on in their recipe books works on multiple levels and in varying contexts. So I’d love to know how they balance everything and keep succeeding.

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

Running a startup means that routine and consistency are seldom around for long. So I think it’s crucial to be able to adapt work routines as required and lean more on personal routines you can control to provide consistency. E.g. keeping regular catch-ups with friends or sporting commitments going without letting work overrun them.

Also, don’t be afraid to allow some transparency into your personal life from your professional life. Historically, I used to be averse to this, having taken a church and state policy to work and personal life. However, actively discussing some elements of my personal life, like life goals, with my co-founders has helped me deal with the ebb and flow of demands from all sides. 

At CalcTree, we achieve this by having ‘personal’ sections built into our team retros. It builds context around our mindsets and helps find opportunities where the business can help the individual.

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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.