Austin-based investor Matt Dennis spent more than two decades managing international equity portfolios for INVESCO before recently moving to start S5 Capital. He credits his ability to manage multiple mandates for both institutional and retail client portfolios, ultimately growing them to in excess of $30bn, to an intentional, organized, and productive approach to his day. Matt takes a structured approach to his daily schedule. His paradigm incorporates things such as the OPA (Outcome/Purpose/Action) framework, and numerous “productivity hacks” that he has picked up over the years, including chunking, and attacking creative work first and reactive work second based on research showing that motivation and energy are greatest early in the day, not in the afternoon. He also values the wisdom of focus and the leverage derived from habits imparted by such authors as Cal Newport, Stephen Covey, James Clear, etc.
How Matt Dennis Makes Time for Everything
Matt’s typical day is organized around productivity and personal investment time. He wakes up around 5:20 am in Austin, Texas and spends 30-45 minutes on a stretching/core/breath/gratitude routine before enjoying coffee and 20 minutes of reading. After his morning routine, he takes a shower and has breakfast with his daughters before sending them off to school.
At 7:00 am, Matt Dennis heads to the office, where he looks to prioritize his most important tasks during the first 90 minutes of the day. These tasks could include preparing for an upcoming earnings release and conference call, reading financial reports, refining an investment thesis, consolidating company notes, or reviewing his capital market day notes. During this time, he often wears noise-canceling headphones to help minimize distractions and increase the odds of facilitating a state of flow. In the second 90 minutes of his workday, Matt sifts through research and industry pieces from various resources, identifying those most relevant to his near-term focus and worthy of incremental analysis.
After a mid-morning email check, Matt takes 45-60 minutes to work out before lunch. He allocates the next hour refocusing on his priorities for the day choosing to push time for phone calls and email replies to the afternoons. At the end of his workday, he spends 5-10 minutes identifying 1-2 priorities for the next day and organizing his workspace, claiming that this incremental step has had an outsized impact on his productivity and ensuring that he stays focused on targeted outcomes since making this a part of his routine.
In his personal time, Matt enjoys cooking as a creative outlet, often making dinner before spending time with family or relaxing with personal reading or a Netflix show with his wife. Good sleep is a priority and he is often in bed early, typically around 9:45 – 10:00 pm.
In recent years, he has added a 3:1 balance rule, attempting to ensure that for every 3 work-related priorities he must include at least 1 item that is not work-related but rather dedicated to personal renewal, family, or friends. Matt’s main objective is a balanced day with time for all of his priorities.
Matt is also a proponent of the OPA framework to stay more focused on the big-picture Outcomes he’s trying to achieve, rather than find himself mired in useless To-Do lists daily. OPA requires that he create and prioritize the Outcomes he’s working towards, intentionally linking the Purpose for doing them, and only then brainstorming the specific Actions necessary to accomplish them.
Over the years, he has learned to appreciate the compounding effect of consciously filtering out noise, particularly given his focus on capital markets and the virtually constant stream of news flow that is available to investors. In order to mitigate this risk to productivity, Matt has adapted his process to avoid allocating unnecessary time to engaging with professional financial tools such as Bloomberg, which he believes can steal exceptional amounts of time from ill-disciplined investors given the dopamine hit that comes from clicking on news flow items in search of information that is often irrelevant to his investing focus. “I am an active user of all the data/news/research Bloomberg has to offer across asset classes and markets globally as it is a powerful tool to help manage money. However, over-consumption can also easily rob you of efficiency”, he says. While professional success is important to him, it’s not more important than his family, health, friendships, or personal goals. For this reason, he does not allow it to consume his every waking moment.
Advice to Those Starting Out
In addition to a thoughtful productivity framework and appreciation for the benefits of making time for people and things that bring you joy in life, Matt Dennis recommends that young professionals save more, take more risks early on, travel more, read more, embrace accountability, embrace the power of compounding in all aspects of life, identify and cultivate mentors early in their careers.
He also cautions: “Don’t waste precious time or energy with business partners or employers who don’t value culture and the best of what a good culture has to offer. They either walk the walk, or they don’t. If you are in a position to promote constructive change, engage. If not, move on. You won’t regret it.”
With a refreshingly well-balanced approach to life, in addition to a successful career, it’s advice worth noting.