On Daily Routines, we profile successful leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, executives and athletes to explore their routines, schedules, habits and day in the life.
In 2015, American TV producer and writer, Shonda Rhimes published her memoir, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person, chronicling a year in her life where she said yes to everything — especially to the things that scared or challenged her.
The idea came out of a conversation she had with her sister, who felt like Rhimes was saying no to everything non-work related.
“It was almost everything. If I was invited to a movie premiere, if I was invited to a screening, if I was invited to a party, if I was invited to an award show, if I was invited to be on a talk show, if I was invited to give an interview, if I was invited to speak somewhere,” she explained to Terry Gross during an NPR interview. “It didn’t really matter what the invitation was. Sometimes it would just be – an actor would invite me to dinner at their house. I would say, no.”
A self-confessed workaholic, Rhimes world revolved around going to work and coming straight home. During her 2016 TED talk, she gave the audience an idea of her incredble workload:
Three shows in production at a time, sometimes four. The budget for one episode of network television can be anywhere from three to six million dollars. Let’s just say five. A new episode made every nine days, times four shows—so every nine days, that’s 20 million dollars’ worth of television. Four television programs, 70 hours of TV, three shows in production at a time, sometimes four, 16 episodes going on at all times. That’s 350 million dollars a season. My television shows are back to back to back on Thursday night. Around the world, my shows air in 256 territories in 67 languages for an audience of 30 million people.My year of saying yes to everything – Shonda Rhimes | TED
Still, something had to change. Busy with work or not, she felt like her world was shrinking. After making the decision to embark on her ‘saying yes’ journey, Rhimes’ life changed. For a showrunner who was, at the time, juggling major TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, it made her life “10 times busier but 10 times more effective.”
“What was great about saying yes to things was that it made me realize that I was a workaholic,” she told Fast Company. “I was completely burned out and had reached a place where I was probably not that productive. When you’re suddenly say yes to things and stepping out into the world, you’re getting a whole new viewpoints on things. If you’re a creative person, that’s exactly what you need.”
Since then, Rhimes left ABC to join Netflix in a historic $150 million deal. “I’m getting this award for inspiring other women, and how can I inspire anyone if I’m hiding,” she said during a speech at an Elle’s Women in Hollywood event. “On behalf of women everywhere, I will brag. I am the highest-paid showrunner in television.”
If you do not define yourself, I guarantee you, someone else or something else will define you, for you, and that’s no good.Why Shonda Rhimes Doesn’t Believe in Imposter Syndrome | Allure
On a typical day, Rhimes is up at 5.30am, that is, unless she’s totally exhausted from the night before. Getting up early is a priority for her, especially with three kids in the house — she adopted Harper in 2002, Emerson in 2012, and welcomed Beckett via surrogacy in 2013. She uses the early morning hours for self-care — journaling, catching up on news, or sometimes just staring out the window.
After breakfast and getting her kids ready for school, Rhimes will get ready to head into the office, but she’ll spend an hour at home working. “I have found that if I spend the first hour of my day at home, I get more done and less people steal my time,” she says. “I think my biggest problem with time is that I need most of it for creative space, [but] there is a giant part of my job that is running my business.”
When it comes time for me to write, I don’t outline and I don’t do any of that stuff. I just sit down and write. If it’s not honest emotionally then it’s not good, and that’s my only rule.Shonda Rhimes’ Rules Of Work: “Come Into My Office With A Solution, Not A Problem” | Fast Company
As a showrunner, producer and writer, Rhimes is involved in a staggering number of projects, all of which need her input in some form or another, which means she gets about 2,500 emails a day. The resentment she felt at this absurd number led to her implemeting a rule in her life.
“I don’t read work emails after 7 PM or on weekends,” she told Terry Gross. “Work will happen 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year if you let it. We are all in that place where we’re all letting it, for some reason, and I don’t know why.”
This rule has helped her feel more present when she’s with her children. “Your mind isn’t drawn back to work, you’re not always glancing at your phone, you’re not always concerned about what could be,” she says. “I’ve learned to stop worrying about what might be lurking in my email box.”
At the end of the day, no matter how busy work is, Rhimes makes sure she gets home to spend time with her daughters. “The fact that I am available and reading nighttime stories to my children every night, I’m very proud of that,” she says. “Because I know a lot of people who don’t make it home until after their kids are sleeping.”
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