Sarah Tu is the Marketing Manager at Australian meal delivery service, My Muscle Chef, where she leads the direct to consumer marketing team.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
Sure thing! I spent the first 5 years of my career specialising in social media at global media, PR, and digital agencies. 2 years into my time at my last agency, AKQA Media, I was responsible for leading the social and creative team.
Fortunately for me, I had an incredible leader in Yash Murthy – he leaned in on my career, fearlessly pushed to make things happen, and always championed my skills, drive and impact across the business.
2 years ago, I made the decision to move client side with a view of using all of my skills and experiences in a broader marketing role to help startups scale and grow. Currently at My Muscle Chef, I lead our direct to consumer marketing team and am responsible for driving brand growth, customer acquisition, and retention.
I have an incredible leader in Clementine Churchill, who has built up an award-winning marketing team over 3 years and managed to never skip a day in the gym – she’s an incredible inspiration to me and living proof you can have a successful career and balance the grind.
If you were to do a further deep dive into my career, you’d also uncover a brief stint as a juggler and an internship at the Starlight Children’s Foundation (where I was doing incredibly rewarding work with an inspiring team bringing happiness into the lives of sick kids!).
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Equal parts chaotic and systematic.
7:30am: Frantically wake up – usually by my partner telling me I’m late or my alarm on its third snooze. This is followed by a rapid succession of dry shampoo and toothpaste, while leaving a hurricane path of destruction in an attempt to put my face on for the day.
9:00am: I spend an hour on the train commuting to work and genuinely enjoy the time to myself in silence – yep, no headphones. By the time I arrive at work, I’m refreshed and can blitz through a review of key business metrics, my calendar, emails, and to-do list.
9:15am: My team does a morning stand up to go over priorities for the day and on Fridays we share our wins of the week. I recently gave up coffee but still join my team for a walk to the cafe each morning as it’s a great way to get my steps up for the day.
9:45am: Meetings or deep work while slowly working through the overnight oats on my desk.
11:50am: Another email blitz while thinking about lunch.
12:00pm: Food! Our team always makes a point of getting away from our screens for lunch – even on busy days when it’s just for half an hour.
1:00pm: See 9:45am.
2:45pm: 2 laps around the river that our office overlooks. It’s become a bit of an unscheduled ritual for a colleague and I and we’ll usually spend the time as a walking WIP or just to get some steps in for the day outside of the office.
4:00pm: Pre-work out snack or protein boost. Working around people who have so much knowledge about the impact of nutrition and fueling your body for optimal performance, I went from poor eating habits like skipping breakfast and avoiding carbs, to enjoying the benefits of eating lots and shifting my mentality from bad foods to enjoyable foods in moderate doses.
5:40pm: Leave the office. My team makes a routine out of doing this every day. It means there’s rarely ever a sprint for the train, and no man (or woman) is left behind. There’s always work that can be done, but we always make an effort
7:00pm: Head straight to the gym on the way home from work. I’ve set myself a goal of being able to bench press my bodyweight and deadlift twice my bodyweight, by the end of the year, so it keeps me quite disciplined in going 5x a week while eating well.
8:30pm: Late dinner, meal prep for the next day of work ahead and wind down for the evening. I spend this time making sure I’ve ticked off my habits for the day while setting myself up for the next.
This sometimes means pacing up and down our hallway to get my final step count up for the day or rearranging my calendar to ensure I can get the right number of workouts in between social commitments for the week.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Being a fairly social creature, I enjoy going to the office and being around people despite the longer commute. That said, I schedule work from home days 1-2 times a week which means I always know life admin (and the pesky pile of laundry) can be done on a Wednesday or Friday.
It also means I always know my availability to be at home if I need to attend a fire inspection, let a handy person in or stand by on the phone while sorting out life admin.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
It took awhile for me to accept that work-life balance is something that will never be perfect – and that’s okay. Early on in my career, I made the mistake of thinking work-life balance was this unobtainable and impossible concept if you wanted to succeed at work (hot tip: it’s really not).
As someone with perfectionist tendencies and a bit of an “all or nothing” approach to work and life, I often find it’s easy to spiral if one aspect of my life isn’t quite where I want it to be.
Once I let go of the expectation that I had to be perfect every single day in every aspect of my life, I became more comfortable with the ups and downs that come with balancing the grind. Only then was I able to focus on consistency over time and moving forward anytime there’s a setback.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Sure have! Global pandemic aside, it’s been a wild 12 months for me professionally and personally. Back in April 2020, I struggled during lockdown physically, financially, and mentally. I was recovering from burnout, had a back injury that prevented me from doing the kind of workouts I enjoyed doing, and was working reduced hours which meant putting a cap on the “fun” budget.
Fast forward to April 2021, and I was 10 months into my first Marketing role, a finalist for B&T’s 30 under 30 Awards, hitting new PBs at the gym and down two dress sizes. I owe this all to the routine and non-negotiable habits I’ve established with my (amazing) coach, Morgan Langford.
My routine includes: 12k steps a day, 5x weights sessions a week, hitting my nutrition goals (like getting enough protein, eating 5 servings of vege, and still working enjoyable foods into my diet), and closing all 3 rings on my Apple watch. Beyond the physical benefits these new habits have brought me, I’ve benefited mentally from structure in my day – and it’s also had a flow on effect on work.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
For all good things nutrition, exercise, and a few truth bombs on mental toughness, I love listening to Nutrition Talks with Tyson the Trainerr (yes, that’s with two r’s) and The Bodybuilding Dietitians.
My good friends at Astute Agency are also about to make their podcast debut so I’m eagerly anticipating the day they get their lives together and make it happen.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Products: I always have a tub of crunchy biscoff spread in my pantry and a mean mix of crunchy noodle kaleslaw salad from Woolies in my fridge.
Gadgets: Apple Watch, iPhone, AirPods – I haven’t managed to ditch Apple just yet.
Apps: My Fitness Pal, Trainerize and Up Bank.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Gunther Steiner. He’s forthright, knows how to have a laugh, has had his fair share of challenges in a highly elite sport, and has made a career out of being on the road most days of the year – hopefully by now he knows a thing or two about balancing the grind.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Absolutely! If you find yourself unhappy about work, life, or the balance between the two, the reality is you’re ultimately in control of your own wellbeing and happiness.
Give yourself permission to draw boundaries at work around your personal life – it doesn’t make you any less ambitious or successful than the person next to you willing to clock 18 hours a day on their timesheets. Yes, that means giving yourself permission to go to that gym class you committed to going to even when deadlines start to pile on.
I think the media, advertising, and marketing industry can be a little brutal in normalising behaviours like pulling all-nighters, cancelling plans when favours are needed, and taking your laptop home “just in case.” That’s not to say you shouldn’t work hard or want to deliver your best.
Ultimately, if you’re struggling to dig yourself out of a seemingly endless hole of deadlines remember that you are responsible for defining your own boundaries (and sticking to them), setting expectations for your workload, communicating when you need help, and building up a career that’s equal parts fulfilling and manageable around the other parts of your life that give you joy.
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