190 - Andy Sparks
Andy Sparks is an executive coach who works with founders to build companies people love to work at.
Before he became a coach, he co-founded Mattermark and Holloway and wrote a book on how to raise venture capital. In addition to coaching founders, Andy teaches about management and leadership and writes Hoo Boy, a newsletter full of insights on how founders can level up as leaders while building companies people love to work at (sent 2x/mo.). You can learn more about him and get in touch on his website.
Give him a follow on Twitter → twitter.com/SparksZilla
- Desk: Fully Jarvis Designer Ply Standing Desk (black) with monitor arm
- Desk Accessories: Grovemade walnut desk shelf, keyboard tray, wrist rest, trackpad tray, mouse pad, and felt desk mat.
- Chair: AMQ Black Mesh Office Chair
- Art: A fake Vogue cover with Commander Erwin from Attack on Titan, Aún Aprendo ("I am still learning") by Francisco de Goya
- Headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 Headphones
- Monitor: BenQ PD2720U 27 inch 4K UHD Monitor
- Computers: Mac Mini M1 (daily driver); System76 Thelio (for PC games!)
- Mice: Logitech MX Master 3 (daily driver & games); Apple Space Gray Magic Trackpad 2 (design)
- Keyboard: Apple Space Gray Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad
- Camera: My Camera Setup
- Shelves: West Elm Mango Wood Collection
- Air Quality Monitor: Awair Element
- Coffee Mug: YETI 10oz Mug
What is your favorite item in your workspace?
It’s a tie between the Grovemade desk shelf and my YETI coffee mug. I used to be a coffee-microwaving-heathen, but now my coffee stays hot long enough for me to finish it.
How do you spark creativity?
Creativity is pretty predictable for me. A lot of folks think that you have to “feel creative” to do creative work, but the opposite is true: activity often breeds motivation. So the first step is to choose something to get to work on. Second, I need to set aside 2-3 hours to get into what John Cleese calls “the open mode.” Third, I put on an upbeat instrumental playlist like this one. Finally, I turn off all notifications, turn my phone upside down (or put it in another room). Every single time I do those things, I finish up the 2-3 hours with something “creative.”
How do you manage work-life balance?
First, I dislike the notion of “balance” as the goal, because when a scale is in “balance,” one tiny grain of sand can send things out of balance—balance is too fragile. Second, I think it’s too reductionist: even in the term “work-life balance” we elevate work above any other part of our lives by giving it a label. What about family, friends, community, self, leisure, couple (partner, husband, girlfriend, etc.)?
To avoid those two traps, I periodically check-in on each of those systems (work, couple, self, friends, family, community, leisure) to see if I like how I’m allocating time and energy and then make adjustments in my weekly and daily rhythms as needed. Right now, I get up around 7am, read the news for a half hour, make coffee, and sit down at my desk around 8am.
On Mondays, I set clear goals for the week and then make sure I have adequate time on my calendar to achieve those goals. I also reflect on the prior week. My first meeting on Mondays is always therapy. This Monday routine of planning and reflection sets me up for a week where I’m in tune with myself and focused on what I want to focus on.
To make sure work doesn’t suck up all my time, I usually meet with three coaching clients a day Monday → Thurs., and then take Friday as a no meetings day where sometimes I work and sometimes I take the whole day off. I also decided on a 2x / mo. schedule for my newsletter so I rotate one week of writing with one week of no writing obligations. Finally, I almost never work at all on Saturdays or Sundays.