I use innovative agile methodology to help brands, organisations and high-achieving individuals (read: other perfectionists) reach their goals by applying effective processes that ensure high productivity while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Michael Sender Михаил Сендер

Most people who know me would likely describe me as a highly productive individual. During my yet relatively short life I have managed to build up a dozen online and media brands, become CEO before turning 30, build the largest online marketplace in Belarus, do a brief pop band career, launch the most watched TV show ever on MTV Russia, get my childhood idol to cook me dinner and even rename a country.

And while I was doing all of that I was also actively blogging, writing magazine pieces, writing a book, producing music and occasionally drawing comics. On top of all of that, being a chronic perfectionist, I also spend unhealthy amounts of time sorting files into folders and choosing the background colour of my Keynote slides.

So how am I still sane?

Sometimes people ask me: do you ever sleep?

I was once guesting a TV show, the main topic of which, as I learned during the show, was workaholism. I was one of several guests, who were all prominent businesspeople and entrepreneurs, whose success was attributed to their assumed workaholism.

The host was evidently caught off guard when she was interviewing me about my assumed workaholism.

Not only would I not submit to the ethic of hard work being the recipe for success. I completely shattered her assumed image of me as the ever-online tech executive with his calendar packed weeks ahead by admitting that I never work on weekends and don’t even check my work email past office hours.

The conversation took an unexpected turn. The host realised that she had not prepared any interview questions that would fit this unlikely eventuality, so the subsequent conversation very much circled around the how. How can one successfully run a rapidly growing tech startup company and not have to work late hours and weekends?

Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova.

Photo by Matheus Natan.

You’d think I’m probably extremely efficient and energetic, that I have an amazingly structured mind, that I’m either taking something or have some sort of condition (or both), or that I am extremely bright and quick.

Well, I’m neither of these things.

I’m actually quite the opposite. I have a downtempo personality with a scattered and easily distracted mind that easily gets entangled in its own thought patterns. I hate rushing, like taking my time to think things through and I really don’t mind others winning as long as I get to enjoy the game.

I am also a perfectionist, which means that I tend to put far more time on details than they deserve.

Still, I dare say that somehow I have managed to achieve a lot more than many people who are brighter, quicker and more naturally structured than me. How is that possible? I have been asked more than once how I do it. As most of the best things in the universe, the answer is simple:

I have a system.

It’s a system that helps me utilise my time, energy and motivation in a way that allows me to produce the most output with the least effort.

It hasn’t always been there, of course. It took many years of learning, trial and error, reading up on various productivity methodologies before it gradually emerged from a long sequence of less successful approaches.

Ten years ago I was exactly the kind of person that TV show host was hoping to interview. I was always connected, always in a rush, working late hours, sleeping 4-5 hours a night, never really at ease with my commitments and always feeling some deadline breathing down my neck. I was always busy and really trying my best, but my effective output per hour of effort was nothing close ideal.

My achievements, although not insignificant at times, came at a high cost of hard work, stress and sleep deprivation. Most of the time I spent working I was overwhelmed and disoriented, chasing moving targets in a state of high uncertainty, often making rash decisions and wasting time on tasks that led to dead ends. On the whole, I was doing quite well. But I didn’t feel well.

In 2013 I took a job as the CEO of a young marketplace startup. It was a greater responsibility than I’d ever had before, and I knew it would take a lot more of me to succeed. I could not go about it the same way I did about my prior assignments. This is when I started developing the system that gradually changed my life. It took my productivity to a whole new level while bringing balance and harmony back into my life. The improvement was so significant that it just had to be shared. In my blog, I will be sharing the learnings and insights that made it possible.