Balancing the Grind with Luke Vanderzeil, Community Manager at EnergyLab

For our latest conversation, we had the pleasure of chatting with Luke Vanderzeil, the Community Manager at EnergyLab. Luke shared his career journey with us, starting from his early days in documentary filmmaking with dreams of tackling climate change, to moving into sustainability education, and eventually discovering the climate tech startup scene.

In our conversation, Luke gave us a glimpse into his typical workday, which includes everything from a speedy bike commute to making sure the office is stocked with essentials like coffee. He talked about his themed workdays, like marketing-focused Thursdays, and fun traditions like Toastie Thursdays, where he whips up toasted cheese sandwiches for the team. Luke also shared his approach to maintaining work-life balance, including his unique work hours, the Pomodoro method, and his evening workout routine.

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I always wanted to work in a field that I felt was having a positive impact on the planet. I originally started out in documentary filmmaking with ambitions to make a movie about how to tackle climate change. When I realised the enormity of such a task I moved into sustainability education and then discovered the climate tech startup scene from there.

Having joined EnergyLab as their Community Manager in 2023 I can honestly say it is the perfect combination for my skill set; working with people to help solve the climate crisis. Currently, I am working on our event calendar for the remainder of 2024 and working with my team to build out our community strategy so that our members have a seamless experience during the course of our programs.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

Our main office is in Sydney, Chippendale which includes coworking options for founders working in the climate tech sector. A typical day for me involves riding into the office on my push bike, trying to set a new record for the fastest commute from my home (current personal best is 7 minutes) and then opening up the building and getting ready for the day ahead.

I say hello to all the founders, and make sure everything is stocked up (can’t run out of coffee!), post on the business LinkedIn page and then set out my main tasks. I love a good system, so all my days are themed so I can focus on one area of my role for that 8 hour period. For example, Thursdays are when I focus on our marketing.

I put together one of our newsletters, contact our relevant ecosystem partners, plan out the socials for the following week and update any relevant events that are in the works or about to be published. Every two weeks we have Toastie Thursdays, which is exactly what it sounds like. I whip up toasted cheese sandwiches (with pesto and chilli of course) for all the founders in the building, and a cheeky one for myself.

Then I close up the building, clear the inbox to zero (essential!), and set the tasks for the next day. This is a pretty standard day as opposed to when I am running an event things get pretty busy, but you get to see everyone enjoying the evening you have put together for them.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

It has taken me many years to come close to having a stable work-life balance but after much trial and error, I reckon I am pretty close. I am NOT a morning person at all so I am extremely grateful that EnergyLab allows me to work 10am to 6pm instead of the regular 9-5.

This allows me the greatest chance to get 8 hours of quality sleep but is also beneficial in that I can close up the office once most members have left. The Pomodoro method has also been a game-changer for me. Having 30 minutes on and 5 minutes off allows me to reset my brain, have a quick break, hydrate as well as alternate between sitting and standing at my desk. I always have lunch away from my desk.

I think it is very important to eat away from your computer in a different space. Add to this a walk and snack around 4 pm plus going to the gym 4-5 days a week and I think it is a winning combination, as long as you pick exercise that you enjoy.

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

Yes! The biggest and most successful change for me was moving all my workouts to the evening. This has allowed for more sleep in the morning and a feeling of genuine tiredness when going to bed at night without a restless mind.

It was annoying at first to rearrange my entire schedule but it was definitely worth the effort and riding straight to the gym from the office also means there is less chance of me skipping a session as I already have my gear packed and ready to go. My sport of choice is basketball and playing in a social team with friends also adds incentive to improving your skills and fitness to be able to contribute to your team.

Having that dedicated social event in your calendar each week really helps to elevate my mood as well. Also, drum and bass playlists, don’t sleep on them. Not for everyone, but they really help me lock in to get the work done.

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

I am sure many people would have read these already but Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker and How Not to Die by Dr Michael Greger have easily been the most influential books on my day to day life.

When you realise that sleep is not just a pillar of health, but the foundation we should place the other pillars such as diet, exercise and mental health on top of, things really change for the better.

In any industry, it is easy to get caught up in the work. Overworking in the sustainability field is particularly ironic I find. How can you help the world to become more sustainable, if you are not instilling sustainable habits for yourself? You need to be able to look after yourself before you can look after others.

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

You can’t do it all. It sounds really obvious but is definitely harder in practice. As someone with very high perfectionist standards that I am constantly trying to lower for my own well-being, you can feel like a total failure if you miss that gym session, don’t get 8 hours of sleep, or feel too tired to meal prep on a Sunday, but that is ok.

You can’t get it all right all the time. The biggest thing for me is having those activities that make me feel rested and recharged as part of my schedule. Story-driven video games, painting Warhammer, nature walks, yoga, movie nights with friends, these all help me to relax and to be a more supportive partner, colleague and friend. As long as you stay true to your unique way of getting things done and relaxing, it is all going to work out just fine.


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