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DIAL – A Day In The Life – Xavier Louis @ Peak Labs

DIAL – A Day In The Life – Xavier Louis @ Peak Labs

Day In A Life

Xavier Louis is an entrepreneur and gaming specialist. He co-founded Peak – The number 1 brain training app for mobiles, that uses neuroscience, technology and gaming to improve cognition.

Here he talks about what makes his perfect day, the importance of harmony in your life and the difference between being a co-founder and CEO.

TLDR

  • Lack of sleep will have the most negative impact on your cognitive performance
  • An evening routine is the foundation of a good day
  • Meeting other entrepreneurs and people is essential in developing new ideas
  • Balance and harmony is important, especially family time/bonding
  • Utilise commuting time to your advantage
  • Make important decisions or brain intensive tasks in the morning
Q. What does your perfect day look like from wake up to bedtime? I can tell you what my current day looks like and the things that will make it perfect. I naturally wake up between 6.45 – 7am. I have kids so that’s like a natural alarm clock! I’ve not had an alarm clock for the past 11 years. About 2 years ago the kids kept waking me up but as they’ve grown older I’ve kept a natural wake up time. I don’t have to tap on my alarm clock 5 times as my body wakes up normally and I think it is also linked to what you do the night before. The things you do before bed. So, a perfect day for me starts with the night before that means I wake up quite awake. What I try to do most days is to do a 5-minute meditation. I don’t use a particular app, but do a 5-minute body scan, lying on my bed, feeling awake, feeling good. I will try to relax my muscles, just to be aware and make sure my body is here from my tiptoes to head and making sure that everything is going, as to be expected. What would make it perfect? It would be to try and start 45 minutes earlier, to squeeze in a bit of exercise. I’ve had a few occasions where I’ve been able to do this where I’m awake earlier and instead of lying in my bed trying to think, just getting up and going outside, exercise and clear my mind. It is something I want to do better and feel more awake in the morning and when the kids are awake, I’m already feeling fresh.
Q. What Kind of exercise would you do? Because I’m lucky enough to live near a park, a 30-minute jog in the park, would be a very good day. Currently, following on from feeling awake and a 5-minute body scan, usually the boys wake up and come to our beds and we all have a 5-15 minute bonding, big cuddles, hugs and it’s just such a good time and such a good start to the day. Everyone is smiling and happy. Family bonding is important, even my eldest who is 11 years old joins in. It’s a great start to a day.
Then I’ll get up and start in the shower. What I’ve learned is that I really love my showers and because I’ve already started my meditation, you’re more aware of the shower. It’s an amazing time to feel the water on your skin and it’s about developing your senses. My wife probably complains that I spend far too much time in the shower, so she tends to go in the shower before me. I have to say, especially as an entrepreneur and somebody running your own company, you have thoughts all the time about strategy and the things you have to do, I like the shower because it is a time to forget these things and let your mind wander.
Q. When you have showers do you ever find you have creative thoughts? Or is it a time for you to just blank out the rest of the world? It’s a bit of both, I think it is also linked to the night before because sleep is particularly important. What we do at Peak is cognitive training, we look at the best ways to improve your mental skills. Sleep is one of the strongest factors on having a negative impact on your performance. Lack of sleep and lack of quality sleep will be the number one negative effect on this. So in the morning because you sleep well, your memories in order, your attentions in order, your thoughts are in order, you might have a lot of creative thoughts in the morning because you’ve slept well. Following on the shower, morning time is ideally about family time, we try to spend it together, have breakfast, I go to work and the kids go to school.  Family time is very important to me, it’s a part of finding the right balance and harmony. We try to find the time both morning and evening and this is very important.
I actually find the morning commute to be very important and actually what would make a perfect day is probably a shorter commute probably to halve that. So I currently commute between 50-1 hour and I don’t want to lose those 2 hours a day (1 hour commute each way). How can I best use those 2 hours? Usually it’s 3 types of activities that I do

  1. When walking to and from the station I tend to listen to a TedTalk. It’s ideal for my curiosity and trying to learn and takes 15 minutes which is my walk to the station
  2. During the actual commute I do a bit of cognitive training with Peak, I launched the company 6 years ago, been live for 4 years and we have 50 million users. I’m doing a daily workout that’s between 1-15 mins per day/4-6 games just to warm up your brain. Working on memory and attention skills.
  3. I try to read as much as possible. I tend to buy far more books than I have time to read so the library is growing. It’s quite diverse and I like reading novels and history (Books on civilization). I also read books on strategy as somebody who founded a company and then became a CEO. One book I’ve read three times lately is The Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. I recommend for anybody who is likely to be a CEO or starting a company. I’m currently reading Good to Great a book about companies that one day seem to leap forwards. I also read books on Psychology.

On the commute back home, I will mostly read. I tend not to read much in the mornings or the evenings. But I guess to make it a perfect day, I would try to add an extra hour of reading per day as I really enjoy it.

I like to get in a bit earlier in the mornings as most people (@ Peak Labs) tend to get in for about 10am. In the morning, I am in the zone as there are no distractions, so I like to do the hard stuff like studies I need to do, or something that I need to dive deep in. Late afternoon I prefer to do more admin stuff because you consume a lot of energy throughout the day and your brain is not performing as well as it should be, maybe you are taking worse decisions in the afternoon. It’s like running, you feel great at the beginning and by the end you will be exhausted. It’s very similar. You are making better decisions when you are fresh and with less distractions in the mornings. Your brain is 2% of your weight (average brain weight for male 1.3kg, female 1.2kg) but consumes 20-25% of the bodies energy.
Q. You obviously have an incredibly busy day and have to think about so many things. In a perfect day would what would you do differently? So I currently try to, at least 3 times a week, have a lunch break. To do a bit of exercise at the gym downstairs in the basement and then followed by a light lunch like salad or light lunch. It is a double positive effect as you exercise and eat well. In a perfect day, especially as a CEO, I would love to take a 1 hour break, away from my desk, away from meetings and be able to have my mind wandering and thinking about the big picture and strategy. Sometimes you have so many distractions that you don’t have time to think about the big picture, strategy, new ideas and what we call creative thoughts. I don’t think your most creative thoughts happen when you are behind your computer/desk. You need to disconnect a bit and when you are in constant interactions and having to respond to emails, it’s not when you are going to have creative thoughts. Sometimes when you need to think about a new path forward or new development you need to get away. It is something I am missing and for that I am learning to delegate a bit more to have the time to think about the big picture. I would even love to do half an hour of reading because it will be for the benefit of the company.
Other things I’m doing as a CEO as part of my schedule is to meet lots of people including my engineers and designers. But even more, in the last 9 months I’m meeting investors and other entrepreneurs to reflect, challenge and you learn a lot. Because you expand your knowledge and you get challenges, it’s super exciting to meet people from other industries and start ups as it’s quite fascinating. It’s not something you do every day but I try to have a number of meetings every week to challenge my current thinking.  Because I think to be a good CEO, it’s not just about having the vision and execution but it is about being outside to be challenged.  For example, yesterday I had a meeting with an investor and came back with 5 new ideas and if I wasn’t doing these type of meetings I wouldn’t have as many ideas.
Following on from work, I try to make it back home about 7-7.30pm. To make it a perfect day I would be back at 7pm. Many times, we think an entrepreneur must do crazy hours, when you’re 20 you have a different view but when you are in your 40s and have a young family there needs to be harmony.  For me to be at my best there needs to be a harmony between the two (work and family). As a company, we have good flexibility in working hours. It’s about getting the work done which is why you can start and finish anytime. We try to encourage people to not finish too late.
Q. Do you find by giving that flexibility to your employees they hit their targets better? The words we use internally is that we treat you like adults, it’s about being responsible. In some ways they are the owners and are responsible for the product. When there are deadlines that require working late we do it. There are no rules or regulations, we are super flexible, and people can work from home 1-2 days a week. I’ve had no issues so far and people like that because they are being treated as adults. Q. Do you ever get a chance to work from home yourself, where you feel you can be a bit more productive? I do work from home from time to time. Not 2 days a week but I do like it every now and then as it gives me a different perspective. It wouldn’t be working from home, it’ll be working at a café, enjoying some time, having breakfast outside. And it reminds me of the early stages as a start up with no offices. So funnily enough, I do like working outside of the office but not so much from home.
Q. So going back to being at home from 7/7.30pm. What kind of things would your ideal day involve then? So that would be family time and a lot of that will be playing with the boys, chatting, reading books, even playing video games. A lot of the evening would be family bonding. I’d say the hours of 7/7.30pm-9pm would be about spending time as a family with the boys and my wife who will try to be home at the same time. After that a perfect day would be myself and wife spending some time together, the kids are asleep and for us to have a nice chat and reflect on the day with a nice glass of wine! In a perfect day trying not to take it too far and going to bed 11/11.30pm max, as it’s a question of balance.

Q. Looking into your original point of having a good night time routine, is there anything you would do that ensures that you will have a good start to your day feeling fresh? So probably the things to avoid is to try to solve things at 10 or 11pm because 1. it is taking time from your harmony and 2. It’s not the best time to make decisions anyway.  Most things can probably wait for the next morning and I prefer to make decisions the next day in the morning when I’m feeling fresh and awake. I’m getting better at this because in the beginning, the first 5 years as an entrepreneur was super challenging. We want to solve everything straight away and now working with technology I try to limit that. It takes time away from the family, we make worse decisions, so what’s the point? 

We as a company use services such as slack, where we can turn off notifications to make sure you don’t get distracted.

For me having a good sleep routine is the start of success for the next day. We’ve been working with a number of sports professionals who want that extra 1% edge which would be the difference between losing and winning.  The more I’ve been looking, the more I’ve been seeing sleep as the catalyst for success. Success isn’t happening during the day it is happening at night when you are sleeping, to perform better the next day.

Q. Finally what differences have you experienced from being a co-founder to then becoming a CEO? Some of the key differences I have experienced moving from Co-founder (Head of Product) to CEO this year have been things like having a more generalist approach to working (e.g. need to take decisions in many areas you’re not expert from marketing, HR, tech, etc.). As CEO you have the ultimate responsibility for strategy, vision, direction as well as culture.  A Co-founder = CEO / decision-maker of one area (call it product, tech, marketing, etc) whilst CEO is decision maker overall. If there are disagreements between the CEO and/or  Co Founders, the makes the last call. Finally as a CEO I’ve found myself under more scrutiny than as Co-founder. To find out more about Peak Labs and their Brain Training game visit their website www.peak.net and check out the video below.

DIAL – Day In A Life -Hai La

Day In A Life   Inspired by Aubrey Marcus' book Own the Day, Own Your Life. I've been looking at what the perfect day looks like for me. I hope that this will be the start of a series of Success journals from experts, CEO's, psychiatrists, nutritionists, teachers,...

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