As a leader of a company, you are there to set an example – and our commercial director, Paul Sparkes, takes pride in that fact.
Inspiring our team on a daily basis, he chatted to Business Leader magazine about what his morning routine entails, his favourite piece of technology, and whether or not he’s a fan of meetings…
What time do you usually wake up?
Usually between 06.30 and 06.45, courtesy of our family cavapoo, Betsy, who acts as the household alarm clock – particularly when it’s time for breakfast and a walk.
What do you typically have for breakfast?
It varies with the seasons, but most working days will comprise of either yoghurt and granola with some fresh fruit or a bowl of porridge – depending on the weather. At the weekend, when I have a little bit more time on my hands, my go-to is always smashed avocado on sourdough bread – you can’t beat it.
What’s the rest of your morning routine before you start work?
The first thing I do is read my to-do list, scan through any meetings and appointments that are in the diary, and take the dog out for a walk. I like to use that ‘quiet’ time before the world wakes up to mentally plan my day, while surrounded by fresh air and Yorkshire countryside – it makes for an inspiring mix.
Once I’m back at the house, I’ll put BBC Breakfast on in the background while I finish getting ready, have something to eat, and wave the children off to school.
First thing you do at the start of a workday?
I’ll already have a loose idea of what’s on the agenda when I sit at my desk, but I’ll ensure everything is written down somewhere – in priority order – before checking my emails to see if there’s anything else that needs to go on the plan.
How do you prioritise your work?
A combination of deadlines and importance. I’ve heard various methods which work for different people, but I typically block out time in my diary to tackle things which need a significant amount of focus – and treat these much like I would a meeting.
I’ve also switched off pop-up notifications to limit the amount of ‘noise’ that can act as a distraction when I’m in the middle of a particularly strategic piece of work, and tend to close Outlook completely during meetings, to ensure I’m fully engaged in the conversation-at-hand.
Do you plan meetings or are they a waste of time?
Meetings come with the nature of the job, and I find them incredibly valuable – provided there’s an agenda, even if it’s not publicly shared. Before I go on any call, I know exactly what I want to be working towards as an outcome – and what could affect it.
That said, my opinion of them has changed dramatically post-pandemic. We no longer get the same facetime with our colleagues as we used to, and I firmly believe there’s another value to meetings – one which ensures we’re really communicating and not simply talking.
Do you have a working lunch or is it good to take a break?
It’s incredibly important to take a break – although admittedly, I rarely do. I’m much better at stepping away from the laptop when I’m working from home though, as I’ll get some fresh air taking the dog for a walk – and generally feel much better for doing so, too.
When does your working day finish?
It can vary, but usually between six and half past – although I keep an eye on my inbox throughout the evening. That said, I’m getting much better at genuinely ‘switching off’.
How do you prepare for your next day’s work?
Without fail, I’ll write my to-do list for the following day. It allows me to box off the current day, and the next morning I know exactly what’s in the diary and the things I need to get done. I sleep better when tasks are compartmentalised, and I know what lies ahead.
What’s your favourite piece of technology?
I’m a big lover of smart home technology, and my favourite gadget is the robot lawnmower. The reason being that ‘perfect grass cutting weather’ never makes an appearance at the right time – usually coinciding with the opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends.
Now, the robot has its own schedule – which we can adapt if it’s raining, or we’re engaged in a particularly tense family football game – and I don’t need to worry about factoring the Flymo into my weekends.
How do you switch off?
I find that being organised – be it in my work or home life – helps me to relax. We’re also very lucky to live in the Yorkshire countryside, so getting outside offers a great way to forget about things – I also make sure my phone is stashed away in the rucksack so I can’t check the screen every couple of minutes.
My big passion in life is skiing, and I’m a self-confessed adrenaline junkie – so speed, heights, and a little bit of jeopardy is good for me and keeps me alive!
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
‘Don’t try to be the smartest person in the room.’ I learnt that early on in my career. You don’t need to know everything and do all the extra tasks that come up. Play to your strengths, know what you are good at, and surround yourself with the right people. Quality combined talent really can create something fantastic – so aim to be a good facilitator and empower people to make the difference.