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Balancing the Grind with Harriet Kingaby, Mozilla Fellow & Co-chair at The Conscious Advertising Network

Harriet Kingaby is a Mozilla Fellow and Co-chair at The Conscious Advertising Network, a voluntary coalition of brands, agencies and tech providers on a mission to end ad abuse.

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

I did an environmental science degree and knew I wanted to work on climate change in any way possible. After some interesting first jobs in energy efficiency, renewable energy and dishwasher certification, I landed on communications and branding.

I love all the research you have to do to profile audiences, and work out the right way to reach them. I’ve spent time in Brazil, France and Germany, mainly freelancing and working with purpose led businesses, startups and social enterprises.

A few years ago, I founded the Conscious Advertising Network with Jake Dubbins of Media Bounty. We are a voluntary organisation on a mission to ensure the ethics catches up with the technology of modern advertising, with members from The Body Shop to the NUS. I’m also a Mozilla Fellow, working on AI, ethics and advertising.

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

My workdays at the moment are quite different to normal because we’re on lockdown here, but this is what I am doing right now. I am most productive in the morning and evenings, with a big slump in the afternoons, so I structure my day to fit.

I’d normally manage the below about twice a week with 3 days of meetings and office time in between. Sometimes I go back to work in the evenings, I’m not perfect and running a project on top of a Fellowship can require juggling.

7:30 – alarm goes off and I check the news, scan emails and put the radio on to BBC Radio 6 to start the day with music.

8am – breakfast and I leave the house for a ‘commute’ – usually a walk or run around our local park to see the ducklings.

8:45 – at my desk, with tea. Rather than starting with emails, I try and make a ‘to do’ list and get something delivered first thing, before switching back to emails when I get less productive. Today, it was feedback on my report, so it can go out for the next round of reviews.

10:30 – coffee, a break, stretch and a snack.

11-12 – I usually reserve for calls. Today was with a task force of volunteers for The Conscious Advertising Network.

12:30 – 1 – I now love making lunch and have sworn not to go back to Pret sandwiches when I get back to the office.

1-2 – collating and setting up meetings I’m hosting tomorrow. I hate meetings with more than 2 people without agendas so try to make sure everyone has the right information and knows why they’re there.

2-4 pm – I take this off because it’s when I’m least productive and the sun is (sometimes) shining. I’ll usually try and get out in the garden if the weather allows, do some exercise, and do one of my lockdown hobbies, like French.

4 – 6:30 pm – more delivery work before my brain stops working.

We usually eat about 7:30pm. Evenings are varied, I try and catch up with family and friends over video calls, and am getting really into cooking again. Last month was Indian cuisine, this month has been more about stocks and casseroles. Like most Brits, I am coping with evening wine to accompany dinner. It’s a rock and roll party lifestyle as you can tell.

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

For the last 8 years, I have mainly worked for myself. It has its ups and downs, but flexible and remote working is one of the perks. I work best in the mornings and evenings, so it allows me to work with my own body more.

The challenge is not getting sucked into in-person meetings where I have to travel into Central London. After lockdown I am going to be stricter with my time and diary.

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

I am getting better at working with my body. My biggest problem is saying yes to too much, and overestimating the amount I can physically do. Over the years, I’ve worked with coaches to understand and manage myself better.

Work life balance to me means that work stimulates me mentally, and gives me some purpose, facilitating a happy life. It also means setting boundaries and saying no to facilitate a good life.

For example, my time off is sacred, I don’t work weekends unless it’s unavoidable, and I do my best to empower people I work with to take initiative and do things without my intervention. Being ‘irreplaceable’ has its drawbacks when you want to enjoy a midday margherita on the beach and your team is still emailing.

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5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

It is so hard to achieve balance and when I was younger, I found it hard to prioritise my needs and wellbeing, especially when I was running my first business as a consultant. Now, I organise my days around exercise.

If I am working from home, my partner and I will agree a time and what we are going to do before we start work at the start of the day. If I am in the office, I’ll book classes in advance, or set a time and routine the day before. It doesn’t always work, and I don’t exercise every day, but it is a good way of making time for yourself.

I also periodically do something called ‘Morning Pages’ from The Artist’s Way. It’s essentially writing 3 pages of unfiltered words first thing in the morning. It’s an excellent unblocker if you are feeling stressed, anxious, or you need some clarity.

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

I love reading, and I read a lot of sci-fi. The recent Anne Leckie trilogy was amazing, anything by Ian Banks or Iain M. Banks, and ditto Wiliam Gibson. The Missing Cryptoqueen podcast had me hooked and I’m currently enjoying BBC Sounds On Drugs.

In terms of newsletters, the Euractiv EU policy one, and the New York Times keeps my news a bit more international (it’s hard here in the UK not to get sucked into the dire national news cycle), and Azeem Azar’s futurism newsletter is excellent.

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

I set a work goal and a personal goal. That might be ‘ship this’ and ‘do 15 mins French’. It might also mean being committed to a longer work day, or forgiving of myself depending on how I’m feeling. Lockdown and the global news agenda right now is tough so a little personal check in is helpful. We need to stay sane as well as productive and mental health is important.

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

Jacinda Ahern. I don’t know how she does what she does, but she is so inspiring.

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

I am very privileged, lockdown life has been an inconvenience, rather than anything else to me. Everyone’s circumstances are different and there’s always someone who looks like they’re having an amazing time.

One of the best lessons I’ve had to learn is that social media is life advertising and aspiration, not always truth. If you’re getting sucked in and you can, delete the app, ask a friend to change your password, or even get in touch with the person you’re idolising to ask them for advice. I’ll bet the reality is quite different to the online gloss.

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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.