Recently I was interviewed by Balancing the Grind on work-life balance. It's such a hot topic at the moment and rightly so. For me, it's less about balance and more about what works for me at a particular time. My priorities change, sometimes work is a priority and personal and family life takes a back seat. Other times, work is put on hold for my family. There is no set formula. A lot of pressure is put on us to try to find the perfect balance. I'll take give and take any day, who wants to strive for perfection? Definitely not me.
Want to know what my balance looked like during lockdown? The photo below says it all. Working at the dining table as one daughter does her schoolwork on her laptop and the other is hanging off me as I try to focus. Washing drying in the background and the house a mess. I'm smiling because I wasn't trying to do perfect, if I was I would have been crying!
To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I have been an entrepreneur since my late teens, it actually started when I was a kid but that’s another story! I studied fashion design in my early 20’s. I have been a costume designer, had my own jewellery brand and dabbled in wedding dresses. I have been an environmentalist nearly all of my adult life and this has always directed my choice of career.
I also owned and operated farmers’ markets for many years and ran food, music, and wine events. I have worked with my husband owning and running businesses for many years and we have had our fingers in many different pies, from festivals and the art industry to the property service industry.
When lockdown happened in Melbourne, I realised as much as I loved my life, something was missing. I went back to my fashion roots and created a sustainable clothing brand called Abbie James. I released the first collection this year, The Venice Collection, and opened a sustainable clothing boutique three months ago on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy which features my own brand and independent sustainable brands.
What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
My weekdays start at 5am when I wake up before my alarm and before the rest of the house. I make myself a litre of lemon water which I drink quickly then I head to the gym which I am lucky enough is opposite my house. When I get back, I am helping my two daughters get ready for school, then doing the school run.
If I have time after this, I may have a coffee in my favourite coffee shop and journal or plan my day (if I didn’t do it the night before).
From there, I am either in the Abbie James shop for the day, at showings for either my own brand or for other brands we stock in the Abbie James boutique, or I am designing for my next collection or working on my other businesses.
Some days I’ll work longer, and my husband will pick our youngest daughter up from school. But if it’s my turn, I’ll have a shorter workday and we hang out, cook dinner together, do some grocery shopping or walk the dog until her big sister gets home.
We always have dinner together as a family, and we take this time to chat about our day and how we are all feeling. After we have tidied up from dinner, I sit in bed with my girls, and we all read. I am a big reader, and this is the time when I read a non-fiction book that either relates to business, personal development, or the environment. When my girls are asleep my husband and I will sit down and chat and then I will wind down with a novel and have an early night.
What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
To me it’s less about thinking of a balance and more about being in tune with how I am feeling. I know when things are getting out of balance because my mind begins to race, and my thoughts come at a million miles an hour.
There was a time when I wasn’t so in tune with my body and its limitations and I pushed things too far, I became really sick and had chronic insomnia. Now my family comes first because if everyone is healthy and happy, I am able to focus on my business a lot more which creates more flow and balance.
In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
When I moved back to the city earlier this year, I stopped meditating and exercising because I was out of whack with my routine. Both habits are so important for my well-being as my life can get busy at times. I am back into the routine of going to the gym each morning, but I am meditating on an ad-hoc basis and am focused on carving out time before bed to meditate, I just need to do it before I am too tired!
Do you have any favourite books, podcasts, or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Yes! So many.
Atomic Habits by James Clear really helped me because I need a little push when it comes to being organised and creating positive habits.
I am in the middle of Stolen Focus by Johann Hari which every single person who owns a device should read.
Net Zero, How We Stop Causing Climate Change by Dieter Helm
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
I recently binge listened to Cate Blanchett and Danny Kennedy’s podcast Climate of Change. Amazing!
I was recently interviewed on the Powerful Stories Podcast by Tory Archbold. I have listened to every one of her interviews, I love them, she has had some great guests which I have learnt a lot from.