Alex Lefley is the Director for the Edelman Melbourne Brand team, with over a decade’s worth of experience working in PR and communications, with the last eight years specialising in social media marketing.
In addition to working at Edelman, Alex lectures at the University of Melbourne teaching an advance practical module for the Masters of Marketing Communications degree.
Balance the Grind spoke to Alex about working in London and making the move to Australia, what his current role at Edelman entails, breaking up his day into planned and unplanned activity, switching off emails to concentrate and more.
This conversation is brought to you by Freelancer.com, the world’s largest freelancing and crowdsourcing marketplace.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your background and career?
I come from three generations of marketers – (my grandfather and parents) so you could say it’s in my blood.
Following a degree in Geography from the University of Sussex I jumped feet first into a Masters of Marketing from University of East Anglia (UEA) before heading to the bright lights of London.
I kicked off my career working in London for two great agencies before making the move to Australia eight years ago looking for adventure and a different career experience.
Over the last eight years in Edelman I’ve held several roles and currently lead the Melbourne brand team.
In addition to my role at Edelman, I teach at the University of Melbourne and am a shadow board member for the Victorian Institute of Sport as part of the Observership Programme.
2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?
I am the Director of Brand at Edelman in Melbourne from a day-to-day basis my job is split broadly into three core areas.
Firstly: Client management: working in partnership with clients on campaigns and activity, providing counsel and supporting the team in developing campaigns that deliver against business objectives.
Secondly, business management: ensuring the brand team is running as effectively as possible and that we’re hitting our goals.
Finally, but by no-means least, staff management: coaching and supporting staff as they progress through their careers.
3) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
One of the great things about my job is that there is no real typical day – a cliché uttered in many interviews of marketing folk I’m sure.
Saying that – any given day might run along the following lines.
More often than not, I’ll be woken by my three-year-old son, Wilfred – occasionally my alarm will go off but sadly that’s a rarity!
We’ll all get up, showered and dressed then it’s drop-off time at his kinder before jumping on a tram where I’ll check emails for any red flags before either reading the NYT morning briefing or skipping through Flip-board for the morning’s news.
Getting into the office by about 8.30 I’ll work through a few emails from overnight – the odd request from one of our global teams or the like and it’s time for the morning coffee run with the team – a sacred ritual in our office and a chance to catch-up with them all.
From there it’s a day packed full of finishing off proposals, briefing our creative team or presenting to clients.
Lunch is a walk with a colleague to one of the many great food places near our Collins st office before heading back to do the Herald Sun quiz with the team – sadly with mixed results.
The afternoon is often filled with finance and management meetings before wrapping up the end of the day with catch-up with one of the team (over a wine ideally).
I try to be out the door by 6 – 6.30pm so I can make it home for story-time with Wilf before unwinding from the day with a wine, dinner and something terrible on TV.
4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you prioritise your workload?
Great question. Sadly, I think it’s a learned skill that comes with a lot of practice and mistakes being made!
I try to break up my day into planned and unplanned activity – planned activity can be any meetings or tasks that you know have to be done that day whilst unplanned is anything that might drop into your inbox.
Out of a working day I try to only plan 50 – 60% of the day – that means if something comes in at the last minute I’m not putting pressure on my day if nothing comes in, great – I can bring things forward as needed.
As part of that – I always suggest really getting to know how to use Outlook, there are plenty of tools and shortcuts within the program that can make life simpler and help you keep on top of emails – it requires a bit of investment up-front in terms of learning how to use it but once mastered it’ll make your life that much easier!
5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?
I’m incredibly lucky to work at a supportive organisation like Edelman with leadership who set a great example.
We have flexible hours which means I adjust my hours as needed – be that for early child-care collection, personal training sessions in the morning or a Pilates class at lunch (not that I ever do this one).
In addition, we are encouraged to have a 7pm – 7am email blackout which means there’s no expectation to be online all the time – allowing for the team to really try to switch off and make the most of their evenings.
Finally, I believe it’s about making a conscious effort to every now-and-then do something just for you.
For me that’s a trip to Duttons to look at cars I’ll never be able to afford – for a friend of mine it’s building LEGO and for others it might be a monthly mani-pedi, it’s about finding what works for you!
6) What are some of the things you do to take time out and recharge?
Spending time with my family is often the quickest and most satisfying way for me to recharge mentally – if not physically, having a toddler is exhausting!
I also find it’s important to ensure you’re creating time for your friends and for me, quality is more important than quantity.
For example, I have a friend who works on the same block as me and we often have lots of small catch-ups over a coffee and a quick walk which while at the time never feel long enough – do help recharge the batteries in the middle of the day.
Outside of this, for me it’s about the little things – a mini road-trip down the coast for a walk on the beach, cooking for my family or heading to the pub to chat nonsense with my friends for an hour or two – these tend to keep me grounded and focused.
7) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?
Really carving out time at the start and end of the day to make sure I’m clear on what needs to be done today, and then tomorrow.
I also routinely switch off emails during the day when I need to concentrate so I can have an hour or two uninterrupted – if it’s really important someone will call you.
It’s not a habit as such but finding a place to work where you are surrounded by people with a shared passion and approach to work-life balance really helps.
I’m lucky that I work with people who are great at their jobs, fun to be around and will also extend a hand to help out anyone who needs it or just make a terrible joke to lighten the mood – every little bit helps.
8) Are there any books you’ve read that have helped you with work-life balance?
Not directly, but Shoe Dog by Phil Knight is worth a read as much about how not to do it as how to do it.
9) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
Get my email under control first thing – once that’s sorted, my mind is clear(er) for the rest of the day!
If you’d like to have a conversation with Balance the Grind about how you manage work, life and balance, feel free to get in touch with us!