As the co-founder of Neighbourlytics, the Australian tech company that combines social data to measure the wellbeing and cultural life of neighbourhoods in real time, Lucinda Hartley squeezes every moment out of her workday (and starts it really early).
04:00 I’m a super-early riser. This did not come naturally to me; it was a decision. There are rhythms I’ve built over the past five years to balance the things I need for family, myself and running a fast-growing technology company. I start the day with reflection then I meditate – a lot of our anxious noise comes from not having enough examination of our own minds. I ask myself three questions adapted from The School of Life. What am I grateful for? What am I upset or anxious about? What am I excited about? Today I’m grateful for my five-year-old’s kindergarten teacher, am feeling overwhelmed by lockdowns and excited about setting time limits on my social media use.
04:30 I like to have the wee hours as time for deep work. My children are asleep. The house is quiet. I don’t mind that my workday is taken up with meetings – I’m an extrovert and need others to think out loud with – but it’s difficult to snatch time during business hours to write a proposal or think about the new sales strategy.
06:30 I’ve taken up marathon running and I run or do Pilates in the mornings. I cycle through a bunch of podcasts: How I Built This, Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead and The Pitch, where startups pitch to a panel of investors. Today I’m listening to threesixtyCITY, a podcast for urban planning nerds. A London professor says if we want a vibrant city, we need to intentionally think about it being inclusive for young people, not just because of their wellbeing but their critical role in “activating” a city by doing the heavy lifting in going in early, visiting bars, cafés and nightclubs. Yet young people are often excluded both in voice and practice from city-making.
07:00 My kids [Micah, nine, and Felix, five] are awake and the chaos begins: finding shoes, finding a clean uniform, making lunches. No-one wants any of the five cereal varieties we have. Ideally I’d start work now but I prioritise this as family time.
08:30 The babysitter arrives to take the kids to school and I cycle for about half an hour to our co-working space in North Melbourne, listening to Schwartz Media’s 7am podcast, which unpacks one news issue. I love my black Allegro bike, designed in Melbourne. I’m competitive and try to beat anyone else on the bike path. They don’t know we’re racing. But I do.
09:30 The daily stand-up is all online – we find you can’t easily have half in, half out of the office for meetings. A colleague highlights she’s blocked in a report so after the stand-up she and I have what we call a “hallway chat”. The name designates a meeting that’s short and sharp, only five minutes, to troubleshoot and resolve a single problem, rather than scheduling a meeting in full calendars.
10:00 I have an hour-to-90-minute block of unscheduled work time most mornings. On Thursdays, the whole team of 15 won’t schedule meetings or workshops. We’ve found that deep work only works when everyone’s doing it at the same time. Otherwise, someone will interrupt you.
11:00 On any day, I have between six and 12 meetings with staff and clients and collaborators. I don’t mind back-to-back in-person meetings but for most people in leadership, structured online calls are exhausting. Alan [Wright, who is PA to the executives] schedules 10-minute breaks between each. He won’t allow me to put anything in the calendar. Fact.
14:00 I eat a salad at my desk – Uber Eats so I don’t have to leave the building. That’s a bad habit. I really do squeeze every minute out of business hours.
14:10 I discovered during lockdown that I don’t do my best thinking at home but a lot of people prefer to work remotely so we only have six desks in the office – we used to have 14. At the moment the activity dictates whether a meeting’s in person or not, rather than the day of the week. Strategy or leadership group meetings are always in person. I meet with Jessica [Christiansen-Franks, co founder] to discuss the offer we’re prepared to make to a promising candidate for the new head of analytics. When Jess and I get together, particularly with a whiteboard, our ideas multiply like 1+1 = 3. Sharing leadership has its challenges but we’re of the belief that great companies should have more than one person at the top.
17:00 I race to pick up my kids and they’re upset because they’re the last ones there, again. We cycle home, with Felix in the Yepp seat. My partner [Tim Hartley, who works in disaster-risk reduction] makes them dinner ASAP. While they have screen time, I catch up on social media and email. A permanent out-of-office message says I only check email in the evenings, that if you need me, to phone me, old-school. No-one ever does, curiously. But the only reason it works is because there’s someone checking my email – Alan – categorising it, telling me what’s urgent, replying to things he can take care of, forwarding to others. So I only have five or 10 emails a day.
18:00 Until their bedtime, I try to focus on the kids, whether that’s dinner and clean-up or playing. No screens.
20:00 My partner and I catch up. I like to eat similar foods every day, partly for health, partly for efficiency. I don’t work evenings; it’s wine and Netflix unless there’s a 10pm Zoom call with a European customer. I’m re-reading Happy City by Charles Montgomery, on how to design cities for wellbeing rather than economic output. I only read non-fiction.
21:30 Before I had kids, I used to work very late. Before COVID-19, I’d go out to events, thriving on the collision of ideas you get from meeting new people. But in the past 18 months, the whole world has shifted. I fall asleep straightaway.