Interviews

Balancing the Grind Dr. Karen Sutherland, Social Media Educator, Author, Researcher & Consultant

September 30, 2019

Dr. Karen Sutherland is a Social Media Educator, Author, Researcher & Consultant, currently working as a Lecturer at the University of the Sunshine Coast where she leads the social media and public relations disciplines.

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

I’m a social media and public relations educator, researcher and consultant at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Lead Public Relations as a discipline and I am the Program Coordinator of the Bachelor of Communication (Social Media).

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

As I write this I am away on a macadamia farm in Sarabah, Queensland working on the final chapters of my book, Strategic Social Media Management: Marketing, Advertising and PR, to meet a 1 November deadline for my publisher Macmillan International Higher Education.

It is mid-semester break at USC, so my week will be spent writing. During times like these I generally work 12-14 hour days to make the most of the time that I am away from the University.

On a usual working day, I wake up between 4am – 5am. I check what has happened overnight in terms of email and social media. I make coffee. Then, I have regular yoga practice that involves chanting, asana, pranayama and meditation. I do this every day no matter what my schedule is although on some days I can spend more time on it than others.

If I can fit in a gym session too I do, otherwise I am at the computer usually by around 8am to begin my day.

If I have classes I will be on-campus for most of the day. If not I will work from home on course preparation, writing, research projects, funding applications and preparing social media workshops and coaching sessions for the community and my clients.

My days are long, but I try to stop working by 9.30pm. I always finish the day with meditation even if it is brief.

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

Yes, it does. I have to be on-campus for meetings and classes, but I can choose how I structure my time as long as I keep performing. That is one of my favourite things about being an academic.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

I put my phone on flight mode and turn on my out-of-office notifications when I really need to focus on a task. Otherwise the constant emails and notifications make it challenging to make any progress.

Sometimes I need to take a deep dive into a task so I do what I can to make that happen. Spending a week on a macadamia farm to finish my book is the perfect example.

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

It is very important for mental and physical health. I’m not sure that I have achieved it. I make sure that I book in time with friends, schedule holidays in advance, get outside in nature (weekend beach sunrises are my thing), try to exercise regularly, eat well and keep up my yoga practice.

Sometimes I have periods where I have to work intensely, but I always follow that up with some extra self-care such as a massage or something to help me recover. It is important to look after yourself, because you’re the only person responsible for your own wellbeing.

6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

My regular yoga practice. I have been practising daily for more than 12 years and it has had a profound impact on me. I am calmer, less stressed and worried and my energy levels are high. Consistency is the key. Also, stop when I am too tired to continue rather than push through exhaustion. When I need to rest, I rest and then I perform better.

7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz really helps me to put life situations into perspective:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions and
  4. Always do your best

8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Laughter. I try to find the fun in whatever I am doing. An additional thing is service. Who did I help today? If I have gone the entire day only focusing on myself then that is a problem.

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

Remember that work is not everything. Avoid tying up your whole identity in your working life because it is temporary. Enjoy your work now and work hard, but remember it is only one stage in the entirety of your life. You are not your work.

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