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Joel Hanna says 'yes' to a lot. But not to sleep-ins.
At Bellroy, we talk a lot about finding freedom through structure. That might sound like an oxymoron, but when we met agile project manager and social enterprise founder, Joel Hanna, we knew we’d found a person who embodied that oxymoron with some prowess.
“Having boundaries allows me to push against them,” says Joel – a person who manages to balance a full-time job, a side business, a family, and time to himself (most often outside, with running shoes on). And, while his boundaries ensure he says ‘no’ to things that take him away from what’s important – ie. his family – he tends to push for ‘yes’ more than most.
“On week days, I'm usually up at 5am. I find my creative brain switches on around 10pm but my productive brain is way more useful early in the morning. I'm currently working out how I can get more sleep…”
“Start where you are, use what you have and do what you can: this mantra really challenges me to get started,” he says. “Kind of like ‘look for reasons to say yes instead of no’. It's really easy to find reasons to not start something, particularly if you're a perfectionist like a lot of us are. But I, as much as possible, want to say yes.”
A few years ago, Joel had a ‘yes’ moment directly after a tooth ache. Realizing he was lucky to be able to get his tooth fixed quickly and expertly, he decided to start a social enterprise to help those not quite as fortunate. big little brush donates 100% of profits to help fund health programs in remote Indigenous communities across Australia – and hopes to reduce the number of plastic toothbrushes that end up in landfill, too.
We can understand why Joel is motivated to fit so much into his days. And, naturally, it takes some sacrifice.
“At big little brush, we hope that they spark people to think deeply about who they spend their money with, what they buy, what happens to those things at the end of their useful life.”
On week days, I'm usually up at 5am. I find my creative brain switches on around 10pm but my productive brain is way more useful early in the morning,” he explains. “I try to exercise at some point, and have an hour that I lock away for my kids. I'm currently working out how I can get more sleep…”
In lieu of the limited REM recovery, Joel refreshes his brain with fresh air and family time. “Doing things outside the house or office really helps me stay connected with time,” he says. “‘I’m hyper-protective of weekends. Being protective of my rest time allows me to be a little bit reckless with my non-rest time. Stay up late, work, hustle, do the things I need to do. And then Saturday and Sunday is all family time.”
Joel has basically figured out how to apply his agile project management skills to his life, and have the energy and freedom to do it all. Now, if only he can find room in the framework for eight hours of sleep a night...
The stories behind the stuff.
“It’s a really helpful mindfulness thing for me. If I’m moving from task to task at work, I’ll often take a little break, take a few minutes and do a whole Rubik’s cube. It doesn’t take very long, and it’s a simple way to reset your brain.
I gave myself a challenge at the start of the year to learn how to do it without instructions. It’s really just a set of patterns. If you can learn those patterns, then you can learn how to solve a Rubik’s cube. My record is just under two minutes, which I was really stoked with. But then I looked at what the world record is… and it’s about four seconds! It’s wild.”
“A notebook is a must. If I need to take notes I feel like it has to be on paper. My note taking is constant, messy, transient and often unintelligible (even for me). Paper and pen are by far the fastest way I've found to get an idea or thought out. They never go flat and are really easy to start and to throw away. It's just one of my ways to ‘maximize the work not done’ (a principle from The Agile Manifesto).”
“These were a birthday gift from my wife. They’re good quality and, you know, I don’t want to have to buy headphones ever again.
“Without realising it, I have a bunch of 'systems' set up that allow me to work pretty rapidly and be responsive from pretty much wherever. I almost prefer working in public spaces – cafés, trains, airports. I like the noise, the activity, the energy. Having headphones means I can put some tunes on, lock in and get through emails. I can also take/make calls... With this stuff I don't have to worry so much about where I'm going to be, I can always be productive.”
“Having a non-disposable is a must. I drink a lot of coffee. I don’t think I’ve brought a disposable coffee cup in about three years. I always have a shopping tote bag with me, a water bottle, and a coffee cup. They’re the big three. With those, you shouldn’t have to buy any consumable stuff.”
big little brush toothbrush
“At worst, replacing your plastic toothbrush with a bamboo one means one less plastic toothbrush in landfill. At best, they're a beautiful, tangible, daily beachhead into the rest of our consumption behaviour. At big little brush, we hope that they spark people to think deeply about who they spend their money with, what they buy, what happens to those things at the end of their useful life, and, ultimately, about the world/future they're designing with their choices.”