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Balancing the Grind with Vincent Desclaux, Managing Director at PALO IT

Vincent Desclaux is the Managing Director at PALO IT, a software development and consulting firm, with a strong focus on digital and technology innovation.

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

I was born and raised in France, but I’ve always been attracted by abroad experiences. That’s how I started my career in Singapore more than 10 years ago. I literally did not know what I was stepping into.

As a matter of fact, I was like most laypeople in Europe back then; not knowing where to even put Singapore on a map. Ever since, it has been an adventurous ride, bringing me to spend a few years in Hong Kong and Shanghai as well as setting up and running businesses in the tech, F&B or the education space. 

Fast forward to 2021, I am the Managing Director of PALO IT, a technology and innovation consultancy aiming at using technology as a force for good. 

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

Well, not a single day in my life looks the same; However, there are common patterns such as meetings, problems to solve, a continuous flow of social interactions, multiple tasks to complete in parallel. That’s why routines and rituals are critical to framing all these. 

There are a few key elements I leverage to be able to navigate through my daily congested marathons: 

Sport would be one that is crucial to keep me balanced. I try to cycle/run to the office twice a week. I found that cycling is a great buffer between your personal and professional life. In the morning, you slowly usher into your workday, and in the evening, it serves as a decompression chamber before reaching home.

And to follow the ancient Roman wisdom, men sana in corpore sano, I also exercise quite a lot during my free time (Rugby, CrossFit, running, swimming, trekking). 

I started practicing mindfulness a few years ago, and to be honest, I don’t know how I did it so far without it. Mindfulness takes several forms during my days: 

  • Reading inspirational quotes when the day starts, 
  • Meditation several times a day, 
  • Being appreciative to the people surrounding me, 
  • A minute to arrive to jump from one meeting/call to another. 

Before starting working, I open the news, US/Europe/Asia, and tech to check out what is going on in the world. 

I then jump into my calendar and backlog/deliverables for the day, the week, and the month. I run mini stand-ups and retros for myself at the beginning and at the end of each day, like an integrated project team. 

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

I am lucky to be working in a company that is human-centered, that not only promotes but cherishes work/life balance. This flexibility was already there even before COVID hit.

With the subsequent lockdowns and restrictions, we have continued to develop a hybrid working model between home, our office, and our clients’ premises. We leverage a lot on asynchronous communications and flexible working arrangements since we have cross-border teams located in several time zones. 

We also fully deployed a model that allows employees to work around their personal constraints within the day. For example, someone could take a few hours off during the “official” working hours and would resume his/her tasks earlier or later. We are focused on value and deliverables, not on a number of hours you churn. 

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

I don’t consider Work and personal lives as pure trade-offs. I see this more like a relationship, a flow that goes up and down or left and right. You have a personal zone and a professional zone, and you have personal and professional duties.

Sometimes, a personal duty would be performed in your professional zone and vice versa. It is even more true with covid and the instantiation of work from home models. We have to learn how to live with these two zones cohabitating together. 

Work-life balance means to be a master of my time, to be able to wire yourself in and out at any point. 

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

There are a few things that have changed in my routine lately: 

  • Dropping any electronic devices before going to bed and grabbing a book or a magazine instead. 
  • I have started to impose myself with “no notification” slots, to be able to focus a few times a week. 
  • I practice a minute to arrive between every meeting I have. 
  • Laughter is great medicine. I try to listen to light podcasts on a regular basis (Trevor Noah for instance). 
  • When working from home or from the office, I change seats two or three times a day to rotate my environment, so that I can refresh my thought process and my creativity. 
  • Last, I practice physical activities on a daily basis, whether this is a planned session or an improvised short one. I find that it releases you from stress and mental pains accumulated during the day. 

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

Within my routine, I use a few newsletters that are good content condensers in my line of business: 

  • McKinsey Highlights 
  • Strategy+business 
  • MIT SMR 
  • Harvard Business school working knowledge 
  • Morning Brew – tech section 

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

I am a bit old school, which means I am not into all those digital gadgets. Sounds funny coming from someone working in the emerging tech space, right?

One of the secrets for a well-balanced life is actually to be able to live without gadgets, apps, or technology. What I would not be able to live without, however, would be the connection with people. 

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

I would be curious to understand how politicians do it. I see them as some sort of superhumans. They work incredible hours, going from one crisis to the next, one topic to the other, almost 7 days a week and 15 to 18 hours a day. They live in a constant flow. I am sure that there would be interesting tips to learn about how they manage to navigate through all these. 

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

Drop your phone, reward yourselves, allow yourselves some treats, stop running and be in the moment, be grateful, leverage your environment to balance your life, and most importantly, enjoy the journey because this is a never-ending trip! 

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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.