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Balancing the Grind with Emma Norris, Writer, Author & Coach

Emma Norris is a writer, author, and imperfect action coach from Sydney, Australia.

Her work has featured in publications like Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Marie Claire, QANTAS Magazine, Delicious and Mamamia. Her first book, Progress Over Perfection — A Guide To Mindful Productivity, came out this year.

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

Yes! I’m currently a writer, author, imperfect action coach. I studied Media and Journalism at university, which led to me interning at the women’s magazine, CLEO. Through that, I eventually landed a job in the photo department at TV Week, before moving into various writing roles on weekly magazines.

I was living my dream and loved the fast-paced publishing environment, but the industry was changing — and fast. I decided to pivot into digital publishing, working for one of Australia’s biggest lifestyle blogs. During this time, I witnessed first-hand what it took to run a successful online digital publication.

Throughout this time, I was also attending events with a lot of influencers and bloggers who present a polished, perfect image of themselves. As someone who worships at the altar of carbs, almost always has a bird nest-sized knot in her hair and falls over/drops food/says something awkward at least once a day, I couldn’t relate.

I wanted to provide an antidote to this image of polished perfection. So, I decided to start my own blog — one that celebrates being raw, real and perfectly imperfect.

So, I created A Girl In Progress, a lifestyle destination for women working on themselves, FOR themselves. I wanted to inspire, entertain and empower women and show them you can work to become the best version of yourself, while simultaneously accepting yourself exactly as you are.

While doing that, I ended up dabbling in many different things — including copywriting for brands, social media management freelancing for magazines and digital publications. I also wrote a book, Progress Over Perfection — A Guide To Mindful Productivity with the US publishing company, which just came out.

Then, my dream role of Deputy Editor at Girlfriend magazine came up, so it was time to go back to magazines! I worked four days a week at the magazine, giving me time to also keep my freelance work and the blog alive (although, balancing  admittedly them resulted in some very early mornings and working weekends) 

My contract just finished up there, so now, I’m back to freelancing, running A Girl In Progress and our soon-to-be-launched writing company Progress Studios. I’m also currently doing a life coaching certification at Beautiful You Coaching Academy.

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

It sounds so cliched, but every day truly is so different! As well as running A Girl In Progress and freelancing for a couple of different brands, I’m currently working a couple of days a week for the legends at Plann, a social media scheduling app. 

On a usual day working for them, I get up at around 7 am and if I’m being good, I’ll do my morning routine (which I’ll go into later!)  Then, I’ll make a coffee on the barista coffee machine my partner’s brother gave us (it’s been an absolute life-changer during self-iso!) I’ll sit down at my desk and then either go through my emails or do a task for A Girl In Progress or write an article for another client. 

Then, after breakfast (usually goats cheese and avocado on toasted Turkish bread) and a shower, I’ll get started on Plann work! Usually, this involves pretty much non-stop writing, with some strategy and smaller tasks thrown in. 

Before COVID-19, I would normally walk to my nearest Pilates studio around lunchtime. But as that’s off the cards at the moment, my new routine has been to sit out on the balcony and have a phones-free lunch with my partner, which has been really nice. 

Then, after lunch, it’s usually time for writing. I actually tend to do more admin-style or editing tasks before lunch, and deep writing in the later afternoon as that’s when I seem to do my best work. Then, once I clock off at 5.30 pm, I’ve been doing Emma Dillon’s workout app from home, which has been amazing.

 Then, it’s time for dinner and Netflix — our favourites at the moment are Schitts Creek, Community and Restaurants On The Edge. I TRY to be off my phone by 9 pm and do a meditation before bed, but I’m going to be honest and say it doesn’t always happen.

Then, it’s time to shower and head to bed — we aim to be in bed by around 10.30. We normally read before bed — I always have a few on the go! At the moment, I’m reading The Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday, The Woman Between Us by Greer Hendricks and the 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris again.

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

Absolutely! Having freedom over where (and to a certain extent, when) I work is a non-negotiable for me. Even when I worked at Girlfriend, I was lucky enough to only work in the office two days per week. I don’t think I could work in an office full-time again!

Mostly, I work from my home office in Sydney, but I’m currently trying to manifest a desk space with beautiful ocean views 😉 But I also love having the freedom to work from wherever — I’m currently writing this from my parents’ place on NSW’s mid-North Coast, where I’ve been able to spend a few weeks.

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

For me, the ultimate work-life balance would be to become a digital nomad — to be able able to work while travelling the world! However, obviously due to COVID-19 that’s a little while off for now. So, I’m currently working to set up systems and passive income streams in my business (such as courses and products) so when that dream becomes a reality I won’t have to work 24/7 — I’ll actually be able to enjoy the places I’m visiting. 

Overall, work/life balance doesn’t mean just not working, because I don’t think I’d ever be able to do that. I’d be insanely bored! It just means having the freedom and space to not have to hustle constantly and to be able to take a day off or go on a trip without worrying about work or money.

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

So many! As awful as Coronavirus has been, I have to say that all this time at home has really helped me implement some really positive new habits. 

Firstly, what I’ve stopped doing — spending so much coffee and eating out! I was already implementing this before self-isolation, but it’s really helped it along. I used to order two coffees per day and buy my lunch every single day, but I realised how much money it was sucking up. Since I stopped doing that, I’ve saved loads.

I’m also trying to use the digital wellbeing settings on my phone to automatically turn it on grayscale and keep me off my phone after 9 pm. I have to admit I don’t always stick to it, but I’m working on it.

In terms of positive habits I’ve started, definitely meditation — ideally in the morning and night. I find that even just taking a moment to breathe has made a huge impact on how I feel and my stress levels.

Another is journalling. I bought both my partner and I ‘The Daily Stoic’ journals which prompt you to think about philosophical topics, so that’s been really nice to do together. I also bought myself Gabrielle Bernstein’s ‘Super Attractor’ journal, because I’m one of those people who believe in the law of attraction.

I use that to not only write down things I’m trying to manifest, but also to work through any issues I’m having in life or business (using the Unf*ck Your Brain method, as mentioned below!)

We also recently got a pull-up bar at home, so I’ve enjoyed ‘greasing the groove’ by doing at least one of those per day. I can currently do 6, and my goal is 10!

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

I’m a huge podcast fan, so I’ll recommend some of my favourites:

The Goal Digger Podcast by Jenna Kutcher: She provides super actionable business and marketing tips on every topic you could ever image

Bobo and Flex: Two hilarious women chatting about everything from philosophy and psychology to relationships and feminism

Unf*ck Your Brain by Kara Lowenthiel: This podcast has literally changed my life— it’s all about changing the way you think about things, and mastering your mind. It’s what made me want to become a coach!

Rise and Conquer by Georgie Stevenson: I always feel super inspired and motivated when I listen to this one — she covers everything from goal-setting and routines to body image

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

There are so many, but the ones that come to mind are:

Focusmate — This has been a game-changer for my productivity and work efficiency. It pairs you with people from around the world for 50-minute productivity sprints. You both say what you’re working on, work away silently on video on the session, then check in at the end about how you went. It sounds strange, but it works for me and now I can’t live without it!

My Best Self Co Diary — I’ve tried pretty much every diary on the planet, but this is the one I keep coming back to. It’s a quarterly planner that allows you to break your goals into weekly and daily tasks. It also has space for your top 3 priorities every day, which I’m huge on!

Superhuman — I use this to manage my multiple email inboxes. It’s a super streamlined email software that makes it really easy to mark your emails as ‘done.’ It makes me far less likely to miss things, and also allows me to get to the elusive ‘inbox zero!’

Momentum — This is a Chrome extension that is basically like your own mini desktop screen — it opens every time you open a new Google tab. I mainly use it to pin my ten billion deadlines to the top, so I can always see what’s coming up and not miss anything!

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

It would have to be Zoe Foster-Blake! Like many writers, I’ve fangirled over her for years. She’s notoriously private, but I would love to know how she balances writing with running multiple businesses and raising a young family!

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

Don’t feel like you have to subscribe to someone else’s definition of success or productivity. I’ve learned that this looks so different for everyone. Just because that other entrepreneur is earning $400,000 a year working 24/7, doesn’t mean that’s right for you or even what you want.

My book Progress Over Perfection: A Guide To Mindful Productivity is all about being productive on your own terms and creating routines that work for 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.