Michelle Lomas is the founder of marketing consultancy, Xtrordinate, where she works with early-stage companies and brands on their marketing strategy.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’ve been in the marketing industry for the last 16 years. I started in media planning and buying in one of the largest media agencies in the country, and then progressed into brand partnerships and then into content marketing.
After years working for big brands in both agencies and publishers, I finally bit the bullet and am now in the first year of running my own marketing consultancy.
So far it’s been really rewarding and equal amounts hard, but I’m enjoying the shift to being my own boss and being able to work with the people and brands that excite me the most.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I start my day between 6 and 6.30am with a quick coffee and then straight to the gym. I like to get my workouts done first thing, and I almost never miss a workout during the week. I find it helps me stay balanced and manage my stress levels.
Once I get back home it’s breakfast with the family, a quick walk with the dog while listening to a podcast and then I’m onto my computer at 9am. I make it a rule never to jump onto my emails till 9am. I find by avoiding work and spending my mornings reading and doing things that bring me joy I have a more productive day.
A typical morning for me might be answering emails, getting some work done for a client or doing some writing or ideating. Mornings are the most productive for me, so I like to keep them sacred for my most involved work.
Working from home, I now have the amazing ability to have lunch with my son and husband which I treasure. So I will usually take the time to sit down and have a quick meal together at lunch. Then my afternoons are usually filled with meetings either in person over coffee or zoom meetings presenting strategies and running workshops with clients.
By 6PM I’m finished for the day and already making dinner for my family. Once my son is off to bed and the house is quiet, I’ll do some reading or writing for my blog.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
The main reason I became a consultant was to be able to find more balance in my life. My career up until this point was high flying – often spent running around all day in meetings, long nights working regular weekends in the office, and travelling more days out of the month than not.
While I loved the crazy life, when I became a mum my priorities shifted and I realised that the old high flying career wasn’t fulfilling me anymore. I needed to find a better balance.
Being a consultant means I can choose how hard I work, when I work and for who I work with. Some weeks I might only spend a few days working and choose to spend some extra days with my son, or I might choose one morning to take my son to the park and work a little later in the evening to make up for it. It’s liberating to know I have control of my own time.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Two years ago before I became a mum I would have said that it was about finding the time to better myself – more reading, gym time, grow my skills or exploring a new hobby. But now that I’m a mum for me it’s really about having the time and headspace to focus on my family and be able to really spend mindful time together.
I’m someone who tends to work hard and never say no. The hardest thing I have to work on personally is not over booking myself with work and making sure I’m also kind to myself if I’m choosing to prioritise my own time.
I’m also really conscious of being mindful when I’m ‘off-duty’ and not continuing to think and stress about work – something I’m still working hard on!
I deploy little techniques to make me more productive during the day so I can feel like I have achieved more and can switch off at night – such as completing the quickest tasks like writing emails, paying bills etc first thing in the morning, and reserving my most productive blocks of time for strategy creation.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Shifting careers has been a big change in my life. Going out on your own can be hard. It’s easy to fall back into the ‘safe’ trap when times get tough and go back into finding a full-time job.
The most beneficial thing I have done is start to journal my career progression and put my fears to paper. I deploy visualisation techniques to ground me in where I want to be in my career, and journal often to keep me on track and focused.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I’m a marketer who likes to stay on trend, so I like to subscribe to newsletters like The Hustle and Morning Joe, and I never miss Benedict Evans newsletters which are full of insightful articles and links to the best and most interesting news of the week.
If I listen to a podcast I like to be motivated, rather than listen to industry news or entertainment. Some favourites include The Tim Ferriss Show, Dare to Lead with Brene Brown and A Bit of Optimism with Simon Sinek.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
My ear pods. I’m literally on calls for hours each day, and I like to walk when I talk rather than sit at my desk. I’ll take meetings while walking the dog or pacing my house.
Muse has also been really helpful for me in learning to meditate. It’s an amazing device that stays on your head as you meditate and measures your brain waves.
If your brain waves are indicating that you are wandering off, the app will gently alert you that you are drifting out of mindfulness and need to focus. I highly recommend this to anyone who has trouble meditating and needs some support.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I personally love to hear about people who have managed to create and produce great things as side hustles or through adversity. Like Marc Benioff who created Salesforce, Sara Blakely who famously created Spanx out of her apartment at night, and Whitney Wolfe who is killing it as one of the youngest and most successful female tech entrepreneurs of our time.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
The definition of balance is completely defined by the individual and can be fluid. Your perception of what constitutes a good balance will shift over time as you enter new life stages and stages in your career.
If you are someone who loves your work and uses all your spare time reading about the industry you work in, then that’s totally ok for you. And if you are someone who only works 9-5 but has the most productive and busy day, that’s also totally ok. Only you can decide what balance means for you.
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