Paul English is all about efficiency. A designer and cofounder of the popular travel search engine Kayak, Paul once wrote that he rarely ever spoke to his fellow cofounder outside of normal business hours. He’s also garnered attention from Fast Company and the New York Times for his five-word performance reviews, a management tactic that would make Hemingway proud. Clearly he prefers not to waste time.
The startup world is famous for its precarious work-life balance, but Paul is living proof that the two can indeed coexist. Case in point: Though his new travel company Blade is in the tender early stages, he still devotes eight hours of each day to sleep. Yes, eight.
When he’s not running a business, Paul teaches part-time at MIT and works with Summits Education, a nonprofit based in Haiti. In his own words, here’s how he keeps busy by keeping rested.
For the last 20 years, I slept about four to five hours a night. Sometimes when friends got emails from me at three a.m., they would ask, “Was that the end of your night or start of your day?”
I was lucky in that I could have a pretty high-energy day after only four to five hours of sleep. But, now, I think that going only four or five hours a night might be fine for someone for the the time being, but it will cause them to have a stroke when they get old and decrease their life expectancy — or I read something like that, which makes sense.
I try to avoid electronics from nine p.m. onward, except for my Kindle.
I’m bipolar, and [one of my meds] has the nice side effect of giving me eight hours of sleep a night. I go to bed around 10 p.m., read for about an hour or listen to podcasts, and fall asleep about 11. I wake between six and seven a.m.
I often have vivid dreams, and I keep a notebook next to my bed. I sometimes write in my notebook when I’m awake.
I had two recurring dreams growing up. One was about the solar system, and infinity. I keep looking further and further out into space ,but could not see the end. It scared me. I was probably only about six-years-old then.
In the other, I was on a wooden boat, and the ocean was swells, but with a black-and-white checkerboard pattern. I studied the shapes of the squares as they rose and fell over the swells. I even watched the squares as they got pulled into the outboard propellor, and watched the squares get cut into tiny pieces and disburse.
Jet lag doesn't impact me much. When I get on the plane, I set my “watch” to the destination’s time and make myself transition. For the first day in another time zone, I drink tons of water, eat fruit and exercise. These things help snap me into the new time zone.
What’s on my bedside table? The latest Kindle; my iPhone 6+; a notebook and a “pilot’s pen,” which has a small LED light in it, useful for writing at night; and a Boston Acoustics receptor clock radio. This is the best clock radio ever made from a UX standpoint, but sadly it was discontinued.
No coffee. Just tea. Or hot chocolate at Barrington's on Congress Street.