190 - Andy Sparks

Andy Sparks is an executive coach who works with founders to build companies people love to work at.

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


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.
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