My Working Day – Parry Malm – CEO at Phrasee

As the leader of a company, you are there to set an example, to lead and inspire a team individuals to achieve a series of business goals. But how do these business leaders go about their daily routine?

Business Leader spoke to Parry Malm – CEO at Phrasee, about his working day.

What time do you usually wake up?

5:30 am, at which point I spend 25 minutes practising interpretive dance, then go for a 10 km run, and finish up by ironing a 3-piece suit for the day. Just kidding. In reality, by 7-7:30 am. I usually find myself rudely awakened by the dustman.

What do you typically have for breakfast?

I’ve not had breakfast with any regularity since the 90s. The scientific evidence shows that there is no link between breakfast and both mental acuity and weight control; total caloric intake over the day is the determining variable, not its phasing. Also, I have a strong suspicion that breakfast’s perceived importance is the result of 20th-century propaganda perpetuated by, and for the benefit of, the cereal industry.

What is the rest of your morning routine before you start work?

I have a two-month-old boy. There is no routine. There is only survival.

What is the first thing you do at the start of your working day?

Check emails on my phone for anything interesting that came in from our US business overnight. Exciting, I know!

How do you prioritise your day’s work?

I don’t believe in making lists, as they restrict my ability to think creatively. Instead, I’ll go through the results that customers like eBay, Virgin Holidays and Groupon get from our tech overnight, review comms for the team and do anything that takes under 5 minutes first. Then, pick the big, meaty jobs, and focus on that.

Do you plan meetings or are they a waste of time?

When I worked in other companies, I always thought meetings were a waste of time. However, my opinion on them has softened. So long as you have an agenda going in, and defined outcomes going out, they tend to be productive.

Do you have a working lunch or is it good to take a break?

Breaks are super important; the human brain is not designed to concentrate for 8 hours straight. I figure that my brain has a maximum productive focus span of 45 minutes, at which point my cognitive ability becomes either inefficient or distracted. So I generally take breaks every hour or so for a few minutes.

One longer break per day is an absolute necessity. We have a gym in our building, so twice a week at midday I have a personal trainer who shouts at me for 60 minutes while I lift heavy stuff.

When does your working day finish?

I leave the office between 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm. As a general rule, I don’t switch my laptop on at home unless absolutely necessary; I don’t want my brain to perceive my home as a workspace. However, the evenings tend to be when I think about hard problems, outside the confines of business-as-usual. So I probably don’t ever really switch off.

How do you prepare for the next day’s work?

I don’t do any specific thing with any regularity.

What’s your favourite piece of technology?

Aside from the obvious answer of Phrasee. I would begrudgingly say my iPhone. I don’t particularly like it; that is, I don’t particularly like how in the last 10 years it has become the confluence of all aspects of my life. But, there’s no going back now.

How do you switch off?

Fantasy football and fantasy ice hockey. They allow me to think about how to take huge amounts of disparate information, both qualitative and quantitative, and synthesize it into working theories. Also, I love ripping into my league mates when I win, and taking my lumps when I lose.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Got two here:

  • “Never let old ways of thinking hold you back.” – my dad, a PhD physicist turned inventor
  • “Don’t take sh*t from anyone.” – my mom, who was president of her union