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Balancing the Grind with Alison Hill, CEO of Pragmatic Thinking

Alison Hill is a registered psychologist and CEO of Pragmatic Thinking, that works with organisations to build better leaders, grow better teams, and shift cultures.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

For the past 15 years I’ve been working as a psychologist in a range of settings, from clinical environments to working within a chronic pain program, to supporting people returning to work after workplace injury.

Amongst these experiences I realised the important role that our workplace connections have in our lives. Work is a human experience and requires all of us, and leaders especially, to understand people.

In my current role as CEO of Pragmatic Thinking I guide both my own team as well as work with executives and leaders inside organisations to drive the behaviour and motivational aspects across their organisations for real and sustainable change.

Currently a big focus is the key learnings within our new ‘Work From Anywhere’ book, supporting workplaces to shift into a hybrid model of working as teams navigate the new way of working. 

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Every day is different based on the projects and work that we’ve got on. Like many people, the last 12 months have seen my travel ratio decrease dramatically, and the rise of video meetings. 

Most recently we had a team connect day here on the Gold Coast. We met at our local beach, kicked the shoes off, walked together in the sand and reflected on what we’d learned in this first third of the year.

Then we cafe hopped, continuing to dive into genuine conversations about our culture. The afternoon was a farewell to the team followed by a number of video calls with clients, and catching up with one of our facilitators who’d finished delivering a virtual training session to leaders both in Australia and Internationally from our state of the art, custom built, TV studio.

Generally my day starts early, and finishes picking up the kids from school and ushering them around to their afternoon activities, before taking our very cute French bulldog for a walk.  

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine? 

There’s a huge amount of flexibility in the work that we do. In May 2020 we made the decision to permanently create a team that worked in a hybrid way, mostly working from home and coming together for connection and collaboration at least monthly, as well as when needed.

Our team quickly started to see the benefits in their life and in the way they manage their own energy across the day and week.  For me I live on the beautiful Gold Coast and so I try to get up and see the sunrise at the beach most mornings.

There’s flexibility in being around to drop our children off to school and pick them up most days. In our team we have a cultural rhythm of ’seize the midday’ where we encourage and celebrate each other by stepping away from work in the middle of the day and get outside into nature. This can be a walk, exercise, roller-skating or simply lunch in the sun. 

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

The closer that work is aligned to your own values, to your own goals and stretches and challenges you, the less there is a large divide between the work that we do and the life that we live.

Trying to find a crossover is key to reducing angst in either area of our lives. Having said that there is still a role for resetting away from work and in having a life. For me it’s a constant check-in and calibration.

I’ve realised too that there are seasons where work is a core priority. For example when we’re in book writing mode or have a major project to deliver I’m writing instead of packing lunches or I’m taking phone calls after hours.

There are other seasons where life takes a priority; for example earlier this year my father went into palliative care and it was an unquestionable decision for me to take the time off work and be 100% focused on family.

The best way that I come at it is about energy management, when my energy is depleted what can I do to feel re-energised and connected. Then go do that. 

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life? 

Over the last 12 months I’ve sat back down at the piano and tried to teach myself two new songs. I grew up learning the piano so I’m enjoying the freedom of getting back to playing.

Travelling less has also meant that I’ve been able to consciously invest more into my local community and friendships. I’ve caught up with friends for coffee and been more involved in local events than I’ve been able to before and it’s something I’m keen to continue. 

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Oh, I’m an avid reader and podcast listener so it’s hard to have favourites. In terms of books, in my work I return to Dare to Lead by Brene Brown; there’s magic on every page of Julia Baird’s book Phosphorescence; Felicity Harley has an amazing collection of women in her book The BS of Balance; and any of David Whyte’s poetry will pull me back to the heart of what matters.

When it comes to podcasts, aside from my own show Stand Out Life, my top ones are Will Anderson’s Wilosophy, Dare to Lead with Brene Brown, The Tim Ferriss show, and recently the kids and I have been loving listening to The Junkee’s with Kitty Flanagan and Dave O’Neil. 

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Over the last 12 months I’ve been using an Oura ring to measure my sleep patterns. Through an app on your phone you can see how much deep sleep, REM sleep and light sleep you’ve had each night as well as measures Heart Rate Variability which is a good measurement of stress response and recovery. It’s been invaluable for me in prioritising sleep and tuning into what my body needs each day. 

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?   

Without a doubt, David Attenborough. His passion and fascination for what he does is not only evident through the TV screen it’s also through the tenure of his career. His looks like a life well lived. 

 9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers? 

My final thought would be to be kind to yourself and let go of any ’should’ you might carry. Gratitude is the healthiest emotion we can feel, and the quickest antidote to the sense of ’should’ and what we expect life to look like. Send someone a quick email today and write someone else a hand-written note to say thanks and notice how it changes you.

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About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.