The Thrive Questionnaire//

The Thrive Questionnaire with Chris Ellis

A start-up guru shares his tip for staying ahead of burnout.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What's the first thing you do when you get out of bed?

Chris Ellis: I tell myself it's a light workout, but more often than not, it is straight to email. As a company with distributed personnel and interests in various markets around the world, I want to be certain that there is nothing pressing that needs my attention. I personally never want to be the bottleneck.

TG: What gives you energy?

CE: This answer is really a description of a small sequence of events. The root of my energy comes from curiosity. I've always been a very curious person, wanting to understand not only how things work, but why they work the way they do. My desire to quench this curiosity led me to search for answers or to think of creative solutions. In the past, that has often led me into creating simple solutions to problems or inefficiencies. My curiosity and need to quench that curiosity is what gives me the energy to power through the long flights, nights, and weekends of work.

TG: What's your secret life hack?

CE: It's no secret. Work smarter AND harder. I am meticulous about my schedule, how my day flows, when I do certain tasks, etc. If I have calls, they are back-to-back. If I have meetings, they are back-to-back in the same part of town. I try to work in blocks whenever possible. It's the only way I can stay efficient and accomplish more in less time.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.

CE: Rework. It reminded me that just because all the high-profile and well-known startups and companies are following a certain methodology and path, doesn't mean we should be doing the same. It's a great reminder that not only are all paths not the same, but that they shouldn't be.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?

CE: I hate to admit it, but yes, my phone often shares the bed with me. It's either next to my bed or likely under my pillow. My inbox and calendar are the first and last thing I check on a daily basis. I don't necessarily recommend this for everyone, but it helps me stay on task and prepared.

TG: How do you deal with email?

CE: Email has become increasingly time-consuming. You can never get to every single one in a timely manner, although I do make an effort to get back to every email. I use my inbox as a task list. Everything that requires a response stays there until I get to it. Everything else is read and filed. I am also working on getting less attached to it. I find it taking up too much time in the day, so I am learning to only check periodically throughout the day and keep it off my screen the rest of the time. Easier said than done, but this is an area of my daily routine I am working to improve upon.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?

CE: I read articles about the industries we intersect with, along with articles to get new ideas and methodologies for different areas of our business operations and strategies. I am constantly trying to improve my knowledge base and skill set.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?

CE: We were in lengthy discussions about an investment in one of our companies. We were meeting once a week or so for a couple of months. It was a lot of relationship building, meeting other parties with interests in the opportunity, etc. — time-consuming. I'm sure this has happened before and I'm sure it won't be the last, but you're never really prepared for it. We reached an impasse due to special circumstances and the nature of the investment. All parties were eager to move forward, but discussions stalled and I felt it was better to focus my energy elsewhere. I felt burned out, but you have to learn to quickly replace it with another exciting and new discussion or opportunity for the company.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?

CE: Oh man, what did I do last week? I fail often, but that's what helps me keep going. I don't like to fail. I don't like not knowing the answer. So I overcome it by educating myself. By asking lots of questions and understanding the why. Then I can be better prepared the next time a similar situation comes up.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.

CE: "The only difference between success and failure is giving up." It's my mantra. :)

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