Want to see the results of long-term dedication to self-development? Meet Nick Crocker from Blackbird Ventures.

Nick is a General Partner at Australia’s biggest VC fund, husband and dad of two boys. He believes in leaving behind a better world by contributing with the best version of himself. And he takes all his partnerships seriously.

One of those “start-up people”

At 23, Nick was uninspired by his legal studies – “I had to drag myself to pass every exam”. Looking for something that energised him, he pitched a column idea to a local newspaper as a platform to interview others about their careers. This is when he met “start-up people” for the first time. Their desire for challenge, fulfillment and just-do-it attitude immediately resonated with him. Six months later he joined his first start-up, as CEO.

Since then, he’s become a major player in the Australian start-up eco-system as a founder, executive, advisor and investor.

“I look for founders to partner with, and when I find them, I look to be their first call in bad times for the next decade.”

The necessity of “elite” time management

Nick’s all about achieving great things with whatever you’ve got, and time is a resource he invests very intentionally. But like his quick ascent into the start-up world, he learnt fast because it mattered to him.

“I went from amateur to elite at time management out of necessity more than anything.”

Time tracking played a big part in improving his time-awareness and proving progress towards his goals – “if it matters, measure it”.

Nick’s schedule is determined by personal policies: daily caps on time spent in meetings, setting aside time for deep work, and delineating his work across the week.

For the past 14 years, he’s been following a goal setting, planning and review system to keep focused on what matters most, and take the right steps towards them. The approach was originally developed with the Elephants, a group of peers who keep each other accountable with total honesty and support. Today, he continues the system alongside his executive coach.

He credits the Elephants with providing much of the wisdom, boldness and support necessary to take the big leaps in his career and life. He similarly describes his 2-years of executive coaching to date as “life changing”, and sees coaching as a dramatically underutilised resource for founders.

For work and life

Valuing family, health and helpfulness, Nick’s approach to time spans the work/life boundary. He tracks his sleep quality and heart rate variability, so he knows when to prioritise rest or mediation.

He’s recently started weekly plan and review sessions with wife Julia to help smooth out the home logistics; “It’s actually insane how much preparation is required for something as simple as playing tennis on a Tuesday night.”

He describes being a great Dad as his most important job in life, enabled by being a great partner to Jules. But the patience required in that role has taken time to develop.

“I’m reasonably productive in most elements of my life, but you can’t compress the time you spend with your kids… There’s endless elasticity in how much love and attention your kids want, so I have chosen build my life around that.”

Advice to start-up leaders

What aspect of time management is most likely to hold back start-up leaders?

“The hardest thing is learning to say no, when saying yes was a key reason you got to where you got to. Saying no is the meta-skill we should teach people more.”

You can follow Nick on Twitter and his substack, Branches.