Balancing the Grind with Will Brackwell, Chief of Staff at Oxwash

Will Brackwell is the Chief of Staff at Oxwash, a UK-based clean-tech startup on a mission to permanently eliminate the impact of washing on our environment.

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

The first few years of my career were spent in the Army; this involved managing soldiers during training and on Operations abroad, planning and managing projects, instructing leadership and culminating in working as a pseudo Chief of Staff for a team of 125.

Whilst in the military, I got the opportunity to start mountaineering which I began to pursue in my own time, leading expeditions to summit unclimbed peaks and find new routes in countries like Kenya, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia.

I left the military at the end of my contract, hoping to find work addressing the climate crisis which had become starkly apparent to me whilst seeing the receding nature of glaciers and increase of inclement weather while in the mountains.

I was lucky enough to find an opportunity doing exactly that; Oxwash is a UK-based clean-tech start up leveraging proprietary software, hardware and chemistry to eliminate damage done during textile cleaning. I joined 18 months ago to lead our London team before transitioning to my current role as our CEO’s Chief of staff.

Outside of my day job, I have a small portfolio career supporting founders as an advisor and instructor in biz ops and execution; I’m also doing a Masters in Leadership at Bayes Business School and I train as a Hybrid Athlete, trying to balance strength and endurance.

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

My best focus period is between 9 and 12 so I try to craft my day to protect that for deep work and to build momentum by stacking small, productive tasks in the run up to it.

I’m currently training for an Ironman, so my day starts around 6am with a swim. At 8, I’ll settle down with an Espresso to review inputs and plan my day (I use the CORD model for this) before tackling my most cerebral and pressing task (think financial modelling, grant applications, communication drafting). Following this I’ll take our dog out for a walk, decompress, brew another coffee and have my first meal.

I’ll use the afternoon to digest and respond to communications and tackle less cognitively intense tasks on my to-do list (managed by Motion).

Around 6pm, I’ll do my second training session, a run or bike interval session. After a cold shower, I review comms for my portfolio career and action anything necessary. I’m trying to do my share of this cooking, so this is often done alongside prepping a (veggie) dish.

After dinner, we sit on the Sofa and I’ll either be working on coursework for my master’s, if needed, if not then reading the paper or a book (I rotate novels and non-fiction) before bed around 9.30pm.

Writing this has made me realise I have become insufferably boring.

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

We studied Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, who developed the capability approach to human welfare, at University. For me, work-life balance is all about that.

There are many things (my jobs, fitness, learning, travel and being present with my partner) that I want to do; the right life balance is having the capability to do a mix of all of them. It’s really easy for me to tell if the balance is wrong when one of things is being sacrificed at the sake of the others.

I balance this with my own philosophy which revolves around resilience – the more often you can do unpleasant things, the greater your tolerance to discomfort and the more you can find satisfaction whilst moving forwards. I find that if I start my day by doing something unpleasant, then it’s much easier to make progress throughout the day, against my capabilities.

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

I’m a sucker for a fad; my habit stack looks like this:

  • Natural light (if possible), electrolytes and supplements first thing
  • Cold showers
  • Time-restricted eating
  • Daily exercise and mobility
  • Reading
  • Magnesium supplementation to aid recovery and at least 8 hours of sleep

Some of these things I have been doing for a little longer than 12 months, but together, they ensure I stay balanced and maintain inertia which has been life affirming.

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

Feral, by George Monbiot, is my bible. I think we all need to get out and into a form of wilderness to understand ourselves. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is a fantastic depiction of how our minds work and thus a fantastic reflective exercise.

Andrew Huberman’s and Peter Attia’s (Huberman Lab and Drive respectively) podcasts provide objective guidance for how to extend your healthspan and be consistently productive.

I’m going to give a shout out to my friend, Sonny Drinkwater’s (founder of Wellness brand WellEasy) new newsletter – The Humble Warrior (on Substack), it’s an awesome dissection of trying to be a better young man today. 

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

Dale Vince: he runs one of the largest (and the greenest) energy providers in the UK, is the Chairman of the UK’s only Vegan NetZero football club, and manages to find the time to lobby for and spread information about the Climate Crisis.

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

Do unpleasant things, get outside, be uncomfortable, get moving. By facing up to discomfort and stress you adapt to it and it is disarmed.

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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.