‘I actually have three notebooks in front of me’: A day in the life of Crystal Anderson, vp of product at MX
- As one of the central figures in all things product at MX, Crystal Anderson is no stranger to a busy schedule.
- But her passion for writing and her love of sports help keep her day centered. Here’s how.
MX is a Utah-based financial data platform. As vp of product, Crystal Anderson’s role involves all things product, from organization, to management, to design.
Anderson has been with MX for about a year now, and has been in the financial industry for over twenty years, with almost all of that time spent in product management or product development.
But it’s not finance that kicked off Anderson’s passion for product, but rather a hunting and fishing TV show, where she was working as an editor at the time. The big ah-ha moment came when the owner of the show approached her about a new idea he had in mind concerning scent elimination – as in hiding your scent from the animals you’re hunting.
Until then, the main go-to for scent elimination involved spraying your clothes with urine. The idea was to use the new enzyme technology that was being developed to create a zero scent environment without having to rely on too many not-so-pleasant odors.
“He introduced me to this idea that there was actually a career where you can have a need that wasn't being met, and that you could actually go create something to meet that need,” said Anderson. “And I was just blown away that it was actually a career that I could have.”
Fast forward around twenty years, and Anderson is working with product all day, every day.
Needless to say, there’s a lot to get done.
But an addiction to writing and a solid work structure helps Crystal see things crystal clear.
Here’s a day in her life:
Early morning: Reflecting on yesterday, revving up for today
I really try to be intentional about how I start my day. It just makes a huge difference.
For me, that means using the morning for either meditation, reading, or journaling – I journal quite a bit.
There are days, of course, where I just want to grab my coffee and sit and watch TV. But there've been maybe two or three times I’ve actually done that in the last ten months.
Then, at around 6:30, I’ll wake my daughter up.
Like everyone, I've been working from home since March 2020. And I’ve actually come to love it. Before working from home, she and I were rushing through our mornings – basically giving her a granola bar and running out the door. And there were a lot of tears, because we were both in a hurry.
Today, though, I’ve really come to love our morning routine. It's something that I will make sure that we maintain, because it just makes our days – my husband’s included – start off so much better.
So now we start our day together at around 6:30 – she’ll get ready, brush her hair, get dressed and all those things. But now I get to make her breakfast every morning, which means she and I both get to start our day with a nutritious meal.
It's also our time that we get to spend together in the mornings before we get ready. It's much more peaceful. I take her to school and then that's when my day starts.
Work: Switching gears and switching notebooks
So I have that hour in the morning which is my personal time, where I really try to make sure I’m not doing anything work related, and that I'm doing something for me to sort of fill up my cup.
But then I start my work with focus time, as well. At MX, we try to avoid meetings between 9 and 12. It gives everyone a chance to spend that time in a distraction free environment – whether it’s time for engineers to code, for designers to design, or for our product managers to do research and write vision documents.
And so I spend my day the same way as my team does, which means I do that focus time in the morning.
I will take meetings every once in a while, but the bulk of them tend to take place in the afternoon – or in my case a little later since I’m in Mountain Time.
As for the day’s tasks – I like to make a to-do list.
To me personally, I know that I commit things to memory when I write them. It's just the way that I learn. I don't go back and read what I wrote very often. But what I find is that just the act of writing helps me remember. It's also very soothing. I like to write with a very specific pen, for example.
And so I actually have three notebooks in front of me right now – I've got my personal journal, my to-do list notebook, and my regular notes notebook.
I like to use what I write during my focus time to get ready for the day and really prepare myself for the afternoon meetings.
A sports lover’s approach to team building
My husband is a sports talk show radio host. So we are a big sports family – it just worked out that I found someone who also loves sports.
Part of what I really love about it is the ceremony and the meaning around something that could otherwise be kind of benign. I mean the whole idea of hitting a ball and then running around an area would feel like a pretty meaningless activity if there weren't ceremonies and tradition around it. But I just really love what it does for human connection.
And if I reflect on it, I think that that's probably how I approach team building and even my own life. We're doing all these ceremonies and things, but it really only becomes meaningful when it's about human connection.
Evening – shutting off work, making way for family time
One of the other great things about working from home is that when my daughter gets back at around 3:30, she'll come in and say hi. I'm still working then, but I do feel like if she needs something or wants to come in and tell me about her day, I can take that time to be there for her.
I do work for several more hours, but at around 6:30 or 7 I try to shut it down. And if there's more than I need to do, I really try to do that after my husband and daughter go to bed.
There are certainly nights that I have to work overtime, but for the most part, I really want to make sure that I’m reserving this period for family time. It’s very important to me.
Our dinner is usually done right about when I’m getting off of work. So we'll eat together, and then my daughter will read to us, or we'll go outside and play soccer – she's really into soccer.
And, you know, that all sounds really beautiful, but I also just love to veg out and watch TV. I don't like anything that's too emotionally taxing. We just got around to catching up on ‘This is Us’ – and my husband was like, “Are we ever going to watch this?”