Freelancers, Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Lucinda Starr, Freelance Writer & Blogger

July 24, 2019

Lucinda Starr is a Freelance Writer who is currently contributing to publications Broadsheet Media, Concrete Playground Sydney, BuzzFeed and the women’s lifestyle blog A Girl in Progress.

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 background and career?

My career in digital publishing began just over 5 years ago with an internship at the digital city guide, Concrete Playground Sydney.

I was in my first year of a Bachelor of Arts at Sydney Uni at the time, so this experience was pivotal in shaping my career trajectory.

I was taught how to conduct interviews, follow a style guide and craft stories about innovators and creatives in the food and drink, arts and culture and lifestyle industries.

After another internship, this time in the Digital Marketing team at Sydney Film Festival, I landed my first full time role in marketing at a boutique digital agency.

Working in a tight-knit team, no two days were ever the same. Although I grew tremendously in the role, both personally and professionally, I really craved the support and mentoring opportunities of a bigger, more established team.

So, I decided to make the leap to the full service digital agency Switched On as a Social Media Executive in late 2018.

This was both the most challenging and rewarding role I’ve been in yet. My days flew by, for better or worse, and I was trusted by my team to lead and execute social campaigns for a broad range of clients.

I even dabbled my toe in influencer marketing, a truly eye-opening experience. But, I was burning out. The hours were long, the deliverables huge and the workload relentless.

No number of free cheese platters and staff dinners could bandaid my crippling anxiety and debilitating sense of overwhelm.

I decided to resign in early 2019 to pursue my passions in writing and editorial, a decision that terrified and excited me in equal measure.

Fast forward to now and I’ve been working as a freelance writer and social strategist for the past 4 months. I’m creating work I’m proud of, pursuing post-graduate study and finding time to do more of what I love.

I’m currently working as a contributing writer for Broadsheet Media, Concrete Playground Sydney, BuzzFeed and the women’s lifestyle blog A Girl in Progress, alongside a number of project-based roles with digital publishing agencies.

2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?

As a freelance writer, my day-to-day varies greatly. Some days you’ll find my working from the office of one of my clients, while others I’ll be perched in my local cafe writing up an article or blog post.

A lot of my role involves conducting interviewing, writing long-form editorial content as well as pitching new story ideas to editors.

I also work in social strategy, assisting agencies and brands to create digital campaigns including everything from messaging frameworks to media tactics. The diversity of work I do really keeps me engaged and inspired.

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

My day usually begins quite early, typically around 6:15am with a walk to the park with my puppy.

She’s a bundle of energy, which is great because it gets me out and about before the sun’s up and still gives me plenty of time to get to my desk by 8am.

With a coffee in hand, I start by blocking out my calendar for the day ahead. I like to work in 1 to 2 hour blocks to maximise my time (and avoid multi-tasking!), so I priories my time based on deadlines and what’s due first.

Most days I’ll start with my more creative writing pieces, such as long-form articles and interviews so I can tackle those while my mind is fresh before lunch.

In the afternoon, I’ll usually work through proof-reading and editing my work, responding to client emails and general admin that needs doing (like invoices etc.).

I like to finish my day by 4:30pm so I can hit the gym or head to a yoga class. I find ending my day with movement does wonders for my overall mood and mental health, and let’s me decompress from my work day.

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

Besides blocking out my time in my calendar, my number one rule for productivity is to switch off all notifications.

As soon as I’m at my desk, I’ll put my phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode and made sure to have all email notifications off on my laptop.

Why? Because every time I see a message pop up, my mind immediately jumps back into my inbox. In order to really ‘get in the zone’ and produce great work, I need to be entirely focused on the task at hand.

If something is really urgent, my phone will let through calls that I can respond to accordingly.

5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

This one is still a work in progress for me, but I’ve found freelancing to be the best way for me to find balance.

Working remotely eliminates commute time, leaving me with nearly 2 hours extra each day to fit in reading, exercise, meditation or just lounging around on the couch if I feel so inclined.

I try to avoid working after 7 pm so I can spend quality time with partner and dog, and make time to schedule in lunch or dinner dates with family and friends throughout my week.

6) What does work life balance mean to you?

To me, work life balance means being present in aspects of your day. It’s about deciding to avoid your inbox on the weekends so you can enjoy breakfast with your partner, and treating your 6pm gym class like any other non-negotiable meeting in your diary.

It’s about defining your priorities and making conscious decisions that align with what you value most.

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?

Batching my time on email has been a great habit that has saved me hours over the years. I’ve consciously decided to avoid being always available and, instead, work to my own goals and deadlines and fit email communication around that.

I try to only open my inbox 3 or so times a day, otherwise I can get lost for hours in there, mindlessly responding and filing messages as they come in.

Another habit I’ve tried to implement is taking a lunch break. No, I don’t mean scoffing my lunch at my desk between meetings. It’s about getting outside, reconnecting with the world and getting some perspective.

Even if I’ve got tonnes on my plate, this time is so valuable. After my break (and a much needed dose of Vitamin D) I come back to work more focused, productive and in a much better mindset to smash through my to-do list.

8) Are there any books on work life balance that have helped you over the years?

I recently took a course in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), which was focused on managing upsetting emotions by learning to think in a healthy and balanced way.

Although not solely focused on work life balance, the course was invaluable in teaching me practical strategies to deal with overwhelm, anxiety and guilt.

The program was based on the book Change Your Thinking by Sarah Edelman, a must-read for anyone who struggles to stay in the moment and switch off from their work day.

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

As a writer, I’m constantly looking to further my skills and find new ways to craft prose.

I try to start ever day by writing creatively for 30 minutes, giving myself time to practise and experiment with new techniques. No one ever sees this work, its purely to ensure I’m trying new writing strategies every day.

Although I understand the benefits of meditation, I’ve always struggled to incorporate it into my daily routine. However, I find yoga to be a great method of grounding myself and sharpening my focus before or after a busy work day.

Because the practise is anchored by the breath, I feel as if I’m doing a moving meditation. It’s the best way I’ve found to switch off, be in the moment and stop ruminating on emails or items on my to-do list.

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

As someone who ditched the 9-5 for freelancing, one of the most valuable things I’ve learnt is that you’re never trapped by a job.

As rewarding as climbing a ladder and earning a promotion might feel, it should never come at the cost of your health, happiness or relationships.

Define what’s important to you, what your ideal life looks like and actively question if you’re allowing yourself to work towards that every day.

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