Welcome to the second edition of the Mindful Makers, where I ask some of the most curious and creative minds out there how they manage to balance productivity with mental health. This week, we have a special guest: someone who, alongside a handful of extremely talented content creators, has inspired me in my writing journey. Khe Hy is the founder of RadReads, a blog and newsletter with 15,000 subscribers, which explores topics such as personal finance, productivity, relationships, decision-making, and more.
Khe worked in finance for fifteen years, where he was the youngest managing director at BlackRock, before becoming an “accidental entrepreneur”—his words—when he quit his job in 2015 with no plan. He went from chasing success, money, and status, to a quest to understand “what it means to live an examined life.” RadReads is the result of this unique transition.
Today, Khe is a teacher, coach, and speaker. Not only is he incredibly creative and prolific, Khe is also one of the kindest people I had the opportunity to connect with online. He spends countless hours connecting with people, teaching them his productivity techniques, and sharing inspiring stories with his community. I was lucky myself to have him walk me through Notion and other software when I was stuck. And today, I feel privileged to be able to share some of Khe’s wisdom with you.
We talked about time, mortality, productivity, note-taking, and finding the big dominos in your life. I hope you enjoy the read.
One of the top articles on Ness Labs is about time anxiety. You previously wrote that “stress is a perverted relationship to time.” How has your relationship with time evolved? Is there any link with your passion for productivity?
My complicated relationship with time arose from a place of scarcity. A feeling that really ties into my mortality fears. As a secular (semi-spiritual) person, I could only find a way to define myself and a life well-lived via external achievements. And you need time to achieve these things. Ultimately one dies, and the slate is wiped clean. That scared the shit out of me.
Said differently, I feared being irrelevant. So I tried to overcompensate for that fear by cramming as much as possible into an ordinary day. Which is not a very enjoyable way to live. More importantly, it deprives you of some of the most amazing gifts life has to offer: love, nature’s beauty, people, contemplation.
I think this will resonate with many people. How does this look like on a daily basis—what does a typical day look like for you? How do you split your time and strive to be your most productive and creative?
I wake up around 5h30am and have 90 minutes before one of my kids wakes up. I protect that time from screen time and will either write, read, meditate, or some combination. It’s really important to set myself up to succeed by laying things out the night before, removing temptations—no laptop, phones are in a drawer.
- 7:00AM – 8:30AM. Chaotic dad mode, getting kids dressed, fed, combed and out to school.
- 8:30AM -1:30PM. I monitor the waves, tides and winds to see what the surf is doing. I try to find the perfect time to go and call up my homies to see who is down. Outside of that time, I try to do my more creative work: writing, course development, marketing campaigns, and videos.
- 1:30PM – 5:30PM. Mostly calls, coaching sessions and as the day winds down, much of my low-energy work, such as email and slack responding. I’ll also try to find time to go for a walk or light jog, because, you know… Southern California!
- 5:30PM – 7:30PM. Full on dad mode again: baths, food, homework, stories, bed time. I try to be totally disconnected here.
- 7:30PM – 9:30PM. Unwind with Lisa (my wife), watch a show, read fiction.
I love how it feels pretty calm outside of the chaotic dad modes, and you still manage to get a lot done. Before we talk about productivity, I want to talk about note-taking. You recently stated you were not interested in “note-taking tribalism”—can you explain what you mean?
I’m inspired here by Buddhist philosophies around identities and the sense of self. An identity is fleeting, hence I try to detach from the identity. Imagine someone who was told that they are smart or attractive, and they attach to that identity. One day, they won’t be smart nor will they be attractive. If you have become attached to that identity, you are setting yourself up to be unhappy. This can be petty—I am a Notioneer—or deep—I am Lisa’s husband. With time, things fade.
That’s not meant to be depressing, but instead, an invitation to open up to the present. What do I love about Notion? The beautiful combo of design and engineering. And I’ll just leave it at that.
With regards to note-taking tribes, specifically, all I care about is people finding the right tool and system that enables them to find joy, serenity and pursue their life’s work.
Talking about Notion… You created one of the most popular courses to learn how to make the most of Notion. What do you think is one of the more less-known superpowers of Notion?
I love creating a minimalist setup then leveraging “views” (via “Create Linked Database”) and “relations” to create a comprehensive system. For me this means five master tables: notes, PARA, tasks, people, and library. Combining this all into a unified and streamlined system, there’s zero friction in finding and displaying my data.
This looks great. There is so much content out there about productivity. What’s one simple tip you would give to someone who is completely new to productivity systems and doesn’t want to feel overwhelmed?
Find the “big dominos” in your life. These are actions that set-off a chain reaction of additional actions. For me, that’s developing unique ideas through the act of writing. This flows into course creation, marketing, systems design, customer research.
Once you have identified the domino, chip away at it every day. This will be pretty tricky because you often won’t see results right away, but with patience (and as a fast tortoise) you will discover the compounding growth.