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Slow Down To Do More: Why Breaking Your Day Into Increments Can Improve Creativity And Productivity” With Ashley Graber and Kean Graham

On a weekday I’ll do three increments of 2–4 hours. In between, I’ll do something active or social so that when I start a new increment of work, I am refreshed and ready to go. In order to make Mindfulness and Meditation practices second nature, we must do them with ultimate consistency. Just like if […]


On a weekday I’ll do three increments of 2–4 hours. In between, I’ll do something active or social so that when I start a new increment of work, I am refreshed and ready to go.

In order to make Mindfulness and Meditation practices second nature, we must do them with ultimate consistency. Just like if you want to build muscles at the gym, you must make the them a daily practice until the habit is ingrained.

As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Kean Graham. Kean is the CEO of MonetizeMore, an 8-figure ad tech company that is a Google Certified Partner with 100+ full-time team members remotely based across the planet. MonetizeMore was conceived in the mountains of Machu Picchu and has grown to $20M in revenues. Graham has traveled to over 90 countries during the 9 years that he has been growing MonetizeMore.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

I originally fell in love with the online industry when working for a large online classified network. The job was an immense learning experience but once the recession hit, the company decided to lay off the marketing department. I lost the best job I ever had but I was determined to turn the bad into something great.

Five days later, I’m on a plane to South America to go on a life changing trip. Four months into my backpacking trip I was on a four-day trek through the incredible Inca trail towards Machu Picchu. By the end of it, I was sitting on top of Wayna Picchu reflecting on my experiences throughout my trip. I have had the most fulfilling time of my life and it finally clicked:

I will work and travel when I want, where I want.

I have to start a digital business to enable this autonomous lifestyle. I came back to Canada with the goal to create a business that would offer value via increasing revenues for businesses in a measurable way using digital means.

I decided to use my old employer as a case study. There largest revenue source was Google AdSense. When I realized Google had a monopoly over their ad inventory, I saw the opportunity. I came up with a proposal to increase their ad revenues by initiating and optimizing an auction that would compete Google against other ad networks. I offered to charge them only on a percentage of their increased ad revenues. Since there was no risk on their side, they happily tried it out.

According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?

People today are more career focus than they have been in previous generations. A career focused life in a corporate job usually requires 40–80 hours per week plus commuting, work related errands and company events. That could easily add up to 100+ hours per week for just work related commitments. After subtracting out a regular sleep schedule of 56 hours per week and work commitments (100 hours), someone who has a high demanding corporate job would only have 12 hours per week left over for personal errands, free time and for some, taking care of children. With such little personal time, it’s no wonder people feel rushed!

Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?

It has been proven that being rushed limits creativity. Creativity and experimentation are the basis to optimizing for efficiency. People are able to improve processes if they have time to take risks by trying things in different ways. Many times these experiments don’t result in better outcomes but sometimes they do. When this happens, the individual can incorporate this new method and benefit from the more efficient process going forward.

Being rushed has shown to have adverse effects on health. Not giving sufficient time for tasks causes stress which can diminish mental and eventually physical health. This leads to a vicious circle of diminishing health which leads to less efficiency and more pressure on completing tasks on a tighter deadline.

Such a vicious circle of diminishing health and increasing pressure to complete tasks leads to decreased happiness as well. It’s no secret that increased stress and decreased health leads to decreased happiness. Many people also feel helpless in these situations and often need external help to break free of these vicious circles.

On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?

Having the mentality to say “no” to responsibilities that one cannot fit into one’s schedule is important for personal growth, managing stress levels, health and happiness. With this additional slack, one can focus the most important aspects of life like health and happiness. Being healthy and happy are important foundations to personal and career growth. It allows for clarity and the ability to better optimize one’s lifestyle and attain skills to achieve personal and career goals.

This is why slowing down enables people to do more while having an improved lifestyle. To be successful, people must harmonize their lifestyle, career and relationships. If too much time and focus is put into just one, short-term benefits could be attained, however, they are usually not sustainable in the long-term.

Slowing down enables people to see the bigger picture and come up with a strategic plan how to achieve their personal and career goals. These goals can be attained while being healthier and happier rather than working one’s self to the bone.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

Over the 9 years of founding and running my company, I’ve learned of the greater importance of quality vs. quantity of work. To maximize the quality of my work, I learned to slow down and limit the responsibilities on my plate. This has taken ambitious automation and diligent delegation.

Over the years I have experimented with my work routine and have uncovered some productivity breakthroughs that have enabled me to slow down while boosting my quality of work:

– Increments: On a weekday I’ll do three increments of 2–4 hours. In between, I’ll do something active or social so that when I start a new increment of work, I am refreshed and ready to go.

– Personalized Schedule: I don’t work when people think I should work. I work when I am most alert and I produce my best work (Late night).

– Morning Bliss: After I wake up, I give myself at least 30 minutes to not look at emails, Skype or Slack. Otherwise, this can be a stressful way to start my day.

– Travel Inspiration: Working from the same office every day, doing the same commute, eating the same food and seeing the same people puts a founder in tunnel vision mode. Innovation is more accessible outside of one’s comfort zone. Travel has expanded my horizons to accelerate innovative thinking.

– Time to Reflect: Slowing down has opened up time to reflect and see the bigger picture. I better understand why I do things. This validates and provides more purpose for some initiatives but also leads me to end some initiatives that I realized were not worth my time and energy.

– Focus on Optimization: It’s important to give oneself time to consider if how one does things today are the most optimal to achieve one’s intended goals. Perhaps day-to-day tasks are inefficient or they are not getting any closer to their goal. It’s important to consider what can be optimized and experiment the most efficient processes to get one closer to their goals the quickest.

How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?

Mindfulness is the degree of awareness someone has for themselves and their surroundings. To be mindful takes a combination of will and ability. Some people lack the natural ability to be aware of themselves or their surroundings. These people need to work hard to adjust habits to check-in with themselves and be more perceptual of their surroundings.

Some people fully have the natural ability to be perceptual of themselves and their surroundings, however, they simply don’t care. At the end of the day, one must value the importance of mindfulness. However, the will to be mindful can be blocked by selfishness, ego and lack of empathy. These are major hurdles that many people go through their whole lives without surpassing.

Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?

The most important step is to buy into the importance of mindfulness. People who are mindful make better decisions, are happier with what they have since they are more grounded, tend to be more in control of their future and have better relationships which is one of the biggest derivatives to happiness. Once someone realizes how closely mindfulness ties in with quality of life, than that commitment towards becoming mindful can be achieved. For example, I have read some great books to improve my mindful communication. I have found these communication strategies have leaked into my personal life to the benefit of myself and others.

There are several techniques to develop habits to be more mindful. There are many Buddhist techniques that teach greater awareness of one’s self and surroundings. These must be exercised like workouts at a gym until those habits are ingrained.

Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?

A great technique to release tension in the body and reduce stress is to focus on one body part at a time. The exercise is done by putting all one’s focus on one body part at a time and observe anything that this body part is feeling. Does it feel tension? Is it relaxed? Then focus on relaxing that body part. Once it is relaxed move onto the next body part.

One is supposed to move from toe to head till every body part has had its turn. This exercise will increase mindfulness and reduce tension in the body.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices

Blink: This book discusses intuitive thinking and decision making. It teaches how to be more mindful of one’s intuitive mind and how to use it as a tool. To learn more about how the subconscious mind works enables one to be more mindful of themselves and how others think and make decisions.

TropicalMBA.com: This has been my favourite podcast for a long time. It focuses on problems and opportunities for location independent businesses. While it’s greatest focus is on business, the podcast hosts value and focus on lifestyle and mindfulness. As a result, they constantly reflect on how to be more mindful and manage it in light of running a business and being able to live anywhere in the World.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? 

“You will never write an extraordinary story until you realize you are the author”

This is an incredible quote because it enables me to enjoy my victories more, bounce back from my failures quickly and be more mindful along the way. For victories, I know that even if there was a bit of perceived luck involved, it was my previous actions to inevitably lead to that event.

For my failures, I am able to learn from them immediately because I take responsibility and reflect on how I could have prevented the negative situation so that it never happens again. From there, I change a good thing into a bad thing by approaching the negative situation from a new clever angle. For example, when we were disapproved by Google several years ago and lost millions as a result, we responded by improving our screening processes, diversifying our revenue streams and partnering with a fraud suppression company to prevent this issue from happening again. As a result, we have re-built the company to be more sustainable and resilient than ever. It ended up being a blessing in disguise!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We have proven that it is possible to run an effective business without any offices and over 120 full-time team members. Location and schedule freedom has shown to be competitive advantages for us in an industry where that is rarely offered. As a result, we have been able to acquire incredible talent, minimize turnover, out-innovate competitors and better tailor to international publisher partners.

The trend of remote working has been trending as expectations for in-office work has decreased. I believe in the next ten years when someone mentions a new business, the next common question is: “Is that business location dependent or independent?”

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!


About the Author:

After 15 years working in Commercial Real Estate in New York City, Ashley Graber changed the coast she lived on and the direction of her life from Real Estate to the worlds of Psychology and Meditation & Mindfulness. Ashley came to these practices after getting sober and in the decade plus since, she now runs a busy mindfulness based psychotherapy practice at Yale Street Therapy in Santa Monica, CA where she see adults and children and speaks on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices.

Ashley is an Owner and Director of Curriculum for the next generation meditation app & mindfulness company ‘Evenflow’ and launched the company’s one to one online mindfulness mentoring program. Ashley also educates teachers and administrators in schools and presents in businesses across Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

Ashley was trained in Meditation and Mindfulness practices by prominent teachers; Elisha Goldstein, Richard Burr and Guiding teacher at Against the Stream Boston, Chris Crotty. Her Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) certification was done through The Center for Mindfulness at UC San Diego. Additionally, Ashley is trained by Mindful Schools to teach Meditation and Mindfulness practices to children and families. Ashley’s unique combination of psychotherapy, trauma reprocessing and meditation and mindfulness practices make her a sought after therapist and mindfulness educator and speaker. Her passion for the benefits of mindfulness practices as well as her enthusiasm for helping young kids and adults is the drive to teach these very necessary, life long skills and why she wrote and runs the Mindfulness for Families program at The Center for Mindful Living. This is where she teaches groups of families with children ages 6–12.

Ashley was featured on Good Morning LaLa Land, presented on Resilience at the renowned Wisdom. 2.0 Mindfulness & Technology conference, and presented at the TED Woman conference offering an in-depth look at the profound psychological and physiological consequences of chronic stress, and how meditation and mindfulness practices can alleviate these effects.

If you’d like to book Ashley for an inspiring speaking engagement, please click here.

About the Author:

After 15 years working in Commercial Real Estate in New York City, Ashley Graber changed the coast she lived on and the direction of her life from Real Estate to the worlds of Psychology and Meditation & Mindfulness. Ashley came to these practices after getting sober and in the decade plus since, she now runs a busy mindfulness based psychotherapy practice at Yale Street Therapy in Santa Monica, CA where she see adults and children and speaks on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices.

Ashley is an Owner and Director of Curriculum for the next generation meditation app & mindfulness company ‘Evenflow’ and launched the company’s one to one online mindfulness mentoring program. Ashley also educates teachers and administrators in schools and presents in businesses across Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

Ashley was trained in Meditation and Mindfulness practices by prominent teachers; Elisha Goldstein, Richard Burr and Guiding teacher at Against the Stream Boston, Chris Crotty. Her Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) certification was done through The Center for Mindfulness at UC San Diego. Additionally, Ashley is trained by Mindful Schools to teach Meditation and Mindfulness practices to children and families. Ashley’s unique combination of psychotherapy, trauma reprocessing and meditation and mindfulness practices make her a sought after therapist and mindfulness educator and speaker. Her passion for the benefits of mindfulness practices as well as her enthusiasm for helping young kids and adults is the drive to teach these very necessary, life long skills and why she wrote and runs the Mindfulness for Families program at The Center for Mindful Living. This is where she teaches groups of families with children ages 6–12.

Ashley was featured on Good Morning LaLa Land, presented on Resilience at the renowned Wisdom. 2.0 Mindfulness & Technology conference, and presented at the TED Woman conference offering an in-depth look at the profound psychological and physiological consequences of chronic stress, and how meditation and mindfulness practices can alleviate these effects.

If you’d like to book Ashley for an inspiring speaking engagement, please click here.

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