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Minimizing Distractions With Alex Nemeroff

Co-founder @ Dynamo & Host of workmode | Montreal, Canada

Alex is a man of many hats. For starters, he and his friend Bryan are the co-founders of a digital design agency, called Dynamo. That was 16 years ago, when the pair was fresh out of business school.  He hosts a conference called Dynamic/MTL which brings together a slew of interesting guest speakers. On top of that, he hosts a monthly podcast called WorkMode. Alex is a father of two, a husband, and a thinker.

 

WHAT DOES ALEX DO?

Let’s start with Dynamo; Alex’s agency which currently employs 32 people, ranging from designers to art directors to project managers to content managers to front-end developers to back-end developers to partnership managers to anything else you could possibly think of in the digital space.

Alex also hosts the Dynamic/MTL conference, put on by colleagues at Dynamo, which takes place every three months. These conferences bring together three speakers from the design and technology industries, each giving a talk to the audience followed by a large group discussion. According to Alex, the conference “brings together the community and also creates compelling conversations.”

Alex also interviews industry leaders in a podcast series called WorkMode, which is released every two weeks.

 

THE TYPICAL DAY

“It’s an interesting time to ask me this,” declares Alex. The reason being that he’s currently in the midst of a shift in his daily way of thinking. He credits a book called ‘Deep Work’ for changing his outlook on the standard workday. He’s also been working with a coach who drives home the concept of time blocking based on priority. His business coach serves as an in-person reminder that you can’t hit the snooze button on.

“I front load my day for what I consider to be important but not urgent things. Afternoons are usually wall-to-wall meetings. It used to be the reverse so I could get meetings done and have my afternoons, but my brain would be fried by the afternoon that way,” he explains.

 

MANAGING THE DAY

Alex uses a number of different techniques to optimize his days. First and foremost, he tries his absolute best to differentiate between his work life and his home life. “I’ll give my kids breakfast and set them up for the day, and after that transition into work mode,” he describes.

Another key that Alex describes is something he learnt from ‘Deep Work‘, and that’s getting out of the habit of running your day by your inbox. In order to do so, Alex insists that “it takes breaking awful habits and using mindfulness or meditation.” He admits to still having some pretty bad habits when it comes to distractions or being led by his inbox, but that’s because “my brain has been wired to crave this idea of distraction. I think about meditation or mindfulness or just being brought back to the moment; that practice is so important to break those bad habits.”

'It would make me take a deep breath, calm down, and be aware of the moment' Click To Tweet

Alex stresses the importance of breathing, and how something so simple can make such a drastic difference. He even offers a simple tip for anyone who gets overwhelmed easily: use your passwords. Alex explains that we are rarely mindful of “the interactions that happen most often. For example, every day I probably enter my password 100 or so times.” He continues, “One example is a guy who broke up with his girlfriend and his way of getting over it was he changed his password to ‘ForgiveHer’. My password is now something different, but it was ‘Breathe’ for a long time. It would make me take a deep breath, calm down, and be aware of the moment.”

He’s also hyper-scheduled. At the beginning of each week, he creates a map for the week ahead and is able to allot “one thing I want to focus on for each of those days.” Alex insists that this idea of ‘One Thing Per Day’ helps give focus to his entire week and allows him to be completely aware of what needs his attention. (Check out ‘One Big Thing with Nick Burka‘ for more on this)

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THE ROLE OF MINDFULNESS

“I could make a good case on why to bring mindfulness into your day-to-day life, but I’m awful at actually doing it,” confesses Alex, who admits to still being very early in this journey. He does his best, though, even going as far as to bring a guest speaker from MindSpace Clinic in Montreal to speak to his office and educate the whole team on mindfulness.

'Differentiate between important and urgent.' Click To Tweet

He sums up his mentality and approach to mindfulness in four main thoughts:

First, the “easy one”, is the ability to ask what’s actually important right now and differentiate between important and urgent.

Second is the concept of breathing. “We don’t understand the impact it can have or how important it is. It has these wonderful ramifications down the line,” he stresses.

Third, is the ability to say no. Alex clarifies how saying no allows you to “get things out of the way and focus on the important things or the one big thing.” Saying yes too often can lead to clutter and eventually become unproductive.

Lastly, Alex explains that “every day when I walk into my house I do my very best to make the transition as clear-cut as possible.” Admittedly, he isn’t always capable of making the distinction so evident. “If my wife reads this she’ll be rolling her eyes big time right now, but this is something I aim for and I’m working very hard on,” he confesses. Ultimately, the work world is another place, and home is where his phone can be shut off and “I can take all the things that I think are important and make them go away.”

Alex’s Questions for the KYŌ App:

  • What’s actually important right now?
  • What can I say no to?
  • How is my breathing?

Images: WorkMode & Unsplash

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