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Filmmaker / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Tiffany Shlain, Emmy-Nominated Filmmaker & Speaker

Tiffany Shlain is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, speaker, and founder of the Webby Awards.

She has premiered four films at Sundance, including her acclaimed feature documentary Connected: An Autobiography about Love, Death & Technology.

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1. To kick things off, can you tell us about your career background and current role?

My background is that I founded the Webby Awards in my twenties, which honours the best of the web. And so, I had a big career in technology and then went back to my first love, which was filmmaking and I’ve been making movies. I run a film studio in San Francisco, and I just wrote my first book last fall called 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week.

So basically, to describe what I’m doing now; I’m a mom of two daughters (one 17 year old and one 11 year old) who are awesome, married to a Berkeley professor who I collaborate with a lot and I make movies and been having a lot of fun sharing the ideas in the book and doing book talks.

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

During the pandemic, it’s so different than normal. When I was working on the book, I was getting up at 5:00 AM to write from five to seven before anyone woke up in my family, which was great.

During the pandemic, I have been up much later and sleeping later. But I’ve been getting up at around seven and journalling. I don’t look at my phone when I wake up. I try to do all these interventions throughout the week in addition to one complete day of no screens every week, which my family has done for over 10 years.

So, I write in my journal when I first wake up. Then after doing that for like 20 minutes, I will go to my email and the news and then I work out. And then my girls come downstairs and I make them a smoothie, it’s different every day.

And then I talk with my filmmaking partner and we’re working on a movie right now. And then I’m doing a lot of book talks for 24/6. There’s been this whole renewed interest around screens and boundaries. I’ve been doing a lot of talks for my book 24/6.

Lately during the pandemic I’ve been doing a weekly zoom baking show. That’s every Friday at 10 I called, It’s Zoom How to Bake and I have special guests, writers, thinkers. It’s very fun.

So there’s always something for that. And you know, the pandemic, it’s hard to get much done. So I’m doing a lot of cooking and cleaning and everything that we’re all trying to juggle.

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

Oh my gosh, yes. Thank God, I have a film studio in San Francisco that I used to go in two days a week.

But during the pandemic my filmmaking partner moved to Maine to be with his family and we’re really questioning whether we’re going to keep the studio cause we’ve been doing so much stuff remotely.

So that could be a big switch for us. But yes, I’m happy working remotely. I’m really enjoying being at home more. And I used to travel a lot, giving talks and now I’ll be home a lot more, so we’re getting a puppy. That’s exciting news.

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

I think the biggest secret sauce for that for me, and it’s why I wrote the book about it, is taking one complete day off a week from technology. We call it our technology shabbat. And it’s just the best thing we’ve ever done.

It’s Friday night to Saturday night, but I write in the book all these kinds of strategies that you can do at different days of the week. But for us it’s great to do it Friday night. We’re Jewish, we’re not religious, but that’s when everyone else does it.

We turn off all the screens for a full day and it seems to give such balance back to the rest of the week. And I feel very connected with my family and myself during that day and we cook a lot.

Then throughout the week, I try to get up early to write and I try to have a night-time ritual too of taking a bath and reading and writing in my journal before I go to sleep too. As I get older, I really understand that rituals bring a lot of balance and meaning to your life.

5. Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years work life balance?

One of the biggest books is this five-minute journal I got, which is like writing in a journal in the morning and before you go to bed. And it’s really helped me centre myself in the morning and think about my day. I really love it. It’s called the Five-Minute Journal.

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

Lots of hugs with my daughters and my husband.

And if you could read, especially right now when you can’t hug anyone else is more hugs are needed.

7. Do you have any last thoughts on work life balance you’d like to share?

I think the biggest one is that, well first of all during the pandemic, just lower your expectations and forgive yourself and be kind, because you just can’t be as productive, but there’s a lot more life happening and just make sure you’re there to see it and appreciate it.

I think we’re going to look back on this period as a real gift if we choose to make it that way, of rethinking things and being home and presence. And I’d highly recommend trying one day a week with no screens. I talk about all these ways to get your family involved and what to do, in my book, but it’s just been the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. So, thank you. That’s it.

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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.