Eryl Thomas is an integrated strategist who has held Head of Strategy and Planning Director positions in global brand, digital and creative agencies.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I believe the popular title is an Integrated Strategist after 20 years in brand, creative and digital strategy positions.
Someone I admire called this the holy trinity of strategy – which if I had a bit more comms experience would be a great position to be in. Right now, I’m consulting and freelancing for some of my favourite agencies while working on some side hustles.
2) What does a day in life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I’m training myself to work in a new way that keeps me available as well as productive – I’ve had to change my approach now that I sell every hour of my workday as a tangible deliverable. In the past, as a freelancer, I was constantly spinning plates of my availability.
My diary was a shit show and I was stealing time from my personal life or existing clients to do new business or learn stuff.
The three changes I’ve made are:
- Pre-plan and agree my time the day before as if I’m my own PA
- Give myself uninterrupted chunks of time to create outputs and I’m super strict about no distractions
- Give myself time to be distracted by zoom meetings, research, case studies, podcasts, courses, etc.
This more-free flowing time tends to happen in the afternoon. For me, the day must start quite restricted, and task-focused so I get some wins and then don’t bother with procrastination.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Absolutely. I have to be flexible, and I work better this way. None of us will view flexible working the same after lockdown and we should be 100% looking at how it improved our work as well as the damage lockdown has caused. We need to know what we get out of being in an office as there are so many wonderful benefits.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
It’s not cliche if it’s true; I really do try to do what I love and choose to work with really good people. Then the only thing to balance is availability – which I’m working on structuring better.
I’ve been a working mum for two years and that has been a big eye-opener to understanding what’s important and how to be more empathetic.
There is a lot of restructuring and new strategies that need to happen now we have finally admitted that the old ways only worked for a privileged few. I think there is a case for over-correcting to instil sustainable balance.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer three years ago, so I’ve only just started to reboot my life. When I first came back to work, I thought I would carry on as normal. Normalcy isn’t ideal – for anyone, so now I just focus on making it easier to be healthy and happy.
Now decision-making is simpler, I find it easier to push imposter syndrome aside, not overthink and just get on with really enjoying the job. I get to play the appreciation game each day which is a blessing.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Now, this lights me up. I love learning. I purposely slow myself down because I get so sped up by the strategies and frameworks from all kinds of problem-solving areas.
Current popular books are The 5am Club (almost finished and would dearly love a working parent’s perspective on his suggested schedule), It’s Not Your Money(Tosha De Silva), and The Barefoot Investor. Audible books on parenting by Phillipa Perry and various ‘quit lit’ titles to support my reduced drinking habits alongside The Calling by Rha Goddess.
Podcasts are my antidote to housewife duties and professionally I really like Mark Pollard’s Sweat Head and the Challenger Narrative work from Eat Big Fish in the UK. The Genius Steals and Ogilvy’s weekly insights report is great. The Royals did an excellent lockdown special report on different sectors and I’d love to see that return.
7) Are there any products, gadgets, or apps that you can’t live without?
My three wellbeing apps – also the holy trinity which is Yoga with Adrienne, Gabrielle Bernstein Meditations, and I’m trying out James Smith Fitness.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
The ones who don’t have time to write their responses to these questions – it’s taken me 12 months to complete but it’s a nice reflective exercise.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Get strategic with yourself and do an honest audit of how you achieve your best work and build a strategy that allows you to create those ideal working conditions more and more frequently.
Apply design thinking to your working life; get feedback, build your prototype work conditions, make it efficient for the people you work with, and then put it into testing.
Trust me, it’s in everyone’s best interests for us to keep finding better versions of successful working. You will make your life easier, yourself happier and your work better.
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