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Balancing the Grind With Kate Richardson, Consultant at KateRichardson.co

Kate Richardson is a Consultant at KateRichardson.co, a career development and training practice designed to help people develop the confidence and skills to succeed in a 21st century career.

This conversation is brought to you by HelloFresh, delivering delicious ingredients and simple recipes straight to your doorstep each week. 

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

I’ve got a background in advertising, marketing and media and am lucky enough to have worked with some of the smartest, most creative brains in the business to build some of the world’s best brands.

About 18 months ago, I decided to leave my role as General Manager of a digital agency and take a sabbatical – if you ever get the opportunity to do this, go for it. For me, it marked a turning point and gave me the space and confidence to tread a new path.

I’ve always loved the coaching and mentoring side of leadership, and helping people develop their careers. So, a few months ago, I launched my own career development and training practice designed to help people thrive in the new world of work.

Because an increasingly on-demand culture, disruptive shifts in tech and a growing desire for meaning are changing the nature of work. Our careers are shaping up to be a lot more adaptive, and much less linear – I am my own case study!

This means we all need to take more control of our careers – we can’t rely on organisations to do this for us. So, in my practice I partner with companies that want to empower people to take greater ownership of their careers as well as individuals who want to take charge of their own path.

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

My days are really varied as I’m consulting in-house for companies, running workshops, coaching people in external offices as well as working from home and making damn good use of Melbourne’s best cafes.

No one day looks the same which has made it challenging to establish some good, healthy work practices like only checking email at certain times during the day and carving out time for what Cal Newtown terms ‘deep work’. But this is also why I love it!

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

Being in charge of your own diary is one of the best things about working for yourself. I might choose to have lunch with a friend on a Friday, and then do some hours on a Sunday when I can dedicate clear, focused time to getting ahead on a ‘thinking’ piece of work. Or spend a few extra hours of an evening doing admin or work that doesn’t require much mental energy.

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

Every Sunday I do a lovely little exercise I pinched from Adam Grant. I write down 3 things I’ll do and 3 people I’ll help in the coming week. Recently after a few days of waking up thinking of all the things I hadn’t yet done I added another two moments of reflection with 3 things I’m grateful for and 3 things I’ve achieved in the last week.

This ‘3 things’ exercise sits atop of a handwritten plan for the week ahead. There’s something about spelling it out by hand that I find grounding. I then block out time in my diary using colour to denote different types of activity.

For example, pink equals thinking time while blue is for delivery. This allows me to quickly get a sense of how I’m spending my time across a week or even the month and whether I’ve got the balance right.

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

Having launched my career development and training practice only recently, I’m finding it challenging to make enough time for work, rest and play.

But to me work life balance simply means being in control of my own day. I may work long hours over a particular period, but that’s my choice. And I can then schedule some downtime the following week to catch up on stuff at home or meet people for a coffee.

I get up super early two mornings a week for personal training but might kick things off a bit later on the other days. Recently I’ve started taking time out to walk a friend’s dog Peggy which is a treat for us both. So, I’ll do some work in the morning, and then head over to pick up Peggy for a walk.

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?

One of my values is love of learning, and this has propelled my career in all kinds of interesting directions. I’m a proud generalist, or T shaped person as they say – I’ve got a few core skillsets but I’m really into developing new ones, and applying my existing strengths in new contexts.

I’m passionate about expanding my knowledge and experience whether that’s through learning from smart people around me, challenging myself to do something new or formal education.

It’s a great passion to have in the new world of work where a shift towards lifelong learning is fast becoming an essential part of leading a successful career.

As is developing a ‘growth mindset’ – which comes from research done by Stanford Professor Carol Dweck who has identified that the most successful people in life always believe they can improve. They don’t see their skills and abilities as fixed.

A growth mindset also means you see challenges as learning experiences rather than opportunities to fail and so you’re far more likely to take risks – like starting your own career development and training practice!

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

There are two books I regularly recommend to clients. One is Herminia Ibarra’s Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader. It’s a practical guide which sets out a clear path for aspiring leaders – redefining your role, building out your network and letting go of being authentic all the time in order to evolve your identity as a leader.

The other one is James Clear’s Atomic Habits. He’s a brilliant writer, and his insights into human behaviour and how identity is at the core of real, sustained behavioural change are really powerful.

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

Plan it the week and day before. There is a great story that James Clear shares about the Ivy Lee method for peak productivity. It doesn’t involve any apps or time saving devices because it harks back to the early 20th century.

At the end of each work day, you simply write down the six most important things you need to do tomorrow. You prioritize them, and then you work through them systematically.

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

I did an experiment this year where I decided to get up at 5.30am everyday for a month so I could be at my desk earlier and become more productive.

It might work for others, but for me it was a spectacular failure and I ended up just being super tired. I think you need to find what works for you, and your own rhythms and ignore the pressure to hustle and use every minute of every day.

I think we’ve become a bit obsessed with efficiency-oriented productivity. We need to remember that our minds need time to wander, our brains need space to be bored and that sometimes this is the most productive thing we can do.

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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.