Spencer Yang on Finding Balance on Both Sides of the World

Spencer Yang is Senior Product Manager at Coinbase, the leading cryptocurrency exchange in the US. He is a Singaporean based in Las Vegas, and enjoys snowboarding, wakesurfing, and playing poker, among other hobbies.

On quiz results

I am a Perhapstinator based on the quiz, and it definitely seems to be accurate. I find that certain activities appeal to me over others, so I will precrastinate on those I enjoy and procrastinate on those I don’t.

Deadlines – whether they are self-enforced or set in stone – help me to get tasks done. I tend to prioritize tasks that others are depending on me for, over timelines that can be self-managed.

Having a firm vision drives outcomes and process

At work, I have a firm vision of my goals. Because of that, I am able to prioritize and focus on things that drive towards the desired outcomes. I usually don’t miss deadlines and plan sufficient time to get things done well.

I enjoy working with others as I find it helps to create better outcomes. When there are more people involved, having a central view for every project becomes critical for each stakeholder to get on the same page. Since I am in a product role, it’s important to share my vision with stakeholders to get their buy-in and commitment.

Being responsive keeps global relationships going

I enjoy interacting with friends and I’m usually quick to respond whenever friends get in touch or when they have questions I can help with. Since I’ve lived in both Asia and the States, I need to be extra proactive in keeping up with friends across different time zones.

My family is also living apart from me, so I converse with them virtually too. I try to be available for them and make the time to call them often. On the other hand, I’m not great at getting gifts for family members. I usually procrastinate until the last week – or even the actual day – before getting it shopped and shipped.

Creating a healthy and invigorating schedule

I keep a weekly schedule of exercising 3 times a week in order to stay healthy. When I travel, I tend to lag behind on my exercise schedule, but it has been fairly easy to stick to it in the past year due to the lack of travel! These days, I go for a run by the Las Vegas Lake around 7am.

While I’m on top of my exercise and diet, I procrastinate on getting regular health check-ups. However, I seek treatment quickly when things don’t feel right, and go to the doctor immediately. 

However, I am a precrastinator when it comes to finding interesting activities to do or places to see. Over the past year, due to the lack of travel activities, I discovered a new sport: wakesurfing. I am often the person who plans the wakesurfing sessions, pre-booking them ahead of time, and getting everyone together for them. It’s a good sport, I enjoy it so it boosts my mental health, and it’s a fun small-group activity outdoors! (P.S. This was in Singapore, which handled the pandemic well and allowed for activities up to eight people.)

The dark side of procrastination and learning to overcome it

Growing up, I wasn’t always a precrastinator. In fact, I used to procrastinate a lot; the harder the task, the more likely I was to procrastinate. The tasks were really not that difficult in hindsight, but that’s just me looking back with the benefit of experience.

I often put off completing assignments and studying for tests during middle and high school. I prioritized other activities such as games or sports over school work. Unsurprisingly, it caused my grades to slip – but I also realized that as long as I put my mind and effort into it, I could overcome my tendency to procrastinate.

My experiences have motivated me to not let myself slip again, and to always tackle the hard things first. This attitude has undoubtedly helped me later in life.

Finding the balance between precrastination and procrastination

Precrastination has benefited me greatly in my work. It helps me to get ahead of things and makes sure I’m productive and can fight for and deliver important projects.

However, precrastination can sometimes weigh down on me. I feel the urge to push for things to be done ahead of the deadline. I sometimes find forced procrastination to be helpful just to break the loop of always “just doing things”.

That being said, procrastinating has given me anxiety. When I feel like I’ve procrastinated on something too much, I get this feeling of pressure at the back of my mind, and it causes me to lose sleep. Thankfully, it hasn’t led to any long-term issues for me!

Apart from work, being precrastinatory has helped me to actively seek and plan trips with my family to discover new experiences. I often plan personal trips around business trips, when possible, so it maximizes new experiences. I find it one of the more fulfilling parts of precrastinating.

The profit from procrastination

As a funny foil to my precrastinatory nature, I can recall an instance in which procrastinating actually led to a better outcome. I was in charge of managing the treasury for a previous company. We manually converted the cryptocurrency we received to USD. By procrastinating on converting these cryptocurrencies, I accidentally helped the company earn significant amounts from conversion. The price of the cryptocurrencies went up in value while I was just sitting on it. I count this as one of the best outcomes from procrastination I can recall. I coin it: Procrastination Capital.

Using tools to plan your time and reduce interruptions

A notebook and a pen are my best friends for getting started on difficult tasks. Sketching an outline of the plan is always a good place to start.

I’ve also found that utilizing Google Calendar to block out times for productive work in your day is hugely helpful. This just means adding “deep work” times to your calendar so they are unavailable for meetings with you.

Oftentimes, co-workers will schedule time for meetings with you based on what’s convenient for them, so you have to actively manage your own calendar. If you don’t schedule your time in this way, you may end up with slivers of time during the day in which it’s hard to focus, with no gaps of 2 hours or more for the deep work you want to get to that day. I try to avoid that by consciously blocking out time in the calendar for myself.

Ultimately, most of us put up with things in our lives that don’t give us joy. I think it’s a privilege and a journey to fill our lives with what we truly enjoy, and do the things that we really want to do.

Spencer Yang

What being preinclined means to Spencer

We don’t have a time machine to turn back time to when we’re younger. To me, that means living so you don’t kick yourself for passing up opportunities or deprioritizing important people or activities in your life. If I become aware of doing or not doing something, that I’ll look back on in the future and ask myself why, it’s a sign for me to take action to course-correct it.

However, I’ve also learnt to be kinder to myself. It’s important to forgive yourself for the times you slipped up, in order to find your lessons from it and build new habits that allow you to move on. Self-compassion is always the best way to start. Self-blame can lead to more destructive behaviors, which will certainly take you further from being preinclined.

Ultimately, most of us put up with things in our lives that don’t give us joy. I think it’s a privilege and a journey to fill our lives with what we truly enjoy, and do the things that we really want to do. It’s something we can all strive for!

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