Balancing the Grind with Abbie Freestone, Director – Climate & ESG at Rewild Agency

Abbie Freestone is the Director – Climate & ESG at Rewild Agency, a strategic sustainability consultancy helping organisations with sustainability measurement, strategy & education.

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

My career background has always been working in the built environment, from working within architecture, development, urban design, and planning firms in stakeholder engagement, communications, and business development roles.

Through these roles, I was able to gain experience in environmental and social governance (ESG) areas, which is where my passion for corporate sustainability and climate action grew. I decided to go back to university (seven years after completing my undergraduate degree) where I completed a Master of Environment and Sustainability with a specialisation in Leadership for Sustainable Development.

I am now a Director at Rewild Agency, a sustainability consultancy helping businesses with sustainability measurement, strategy, design, communication, and education. In this role, I assist organisations to understand, manage and mitigate their climate impacts as a business, while embedding sustainability within their long-term corporate strategy and day-to-day business operations.

I am a registered Climate Active consultant, a B Consultant, and a certified ISO 14001 Lead Auditor.

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

My workdays are quite varied, typically they involve a range of client meetings – ideally time-blocked close together to free up time before or after for client work. Recently, a standard workday for me involves:

5:30am – 7:30am: Waking up and catching up on client work if required (lately this is required 2-3 times per week, but sometimes I can go a full week where I’m able to wake up a little later).

7:30am – 8:15am: Walking my beautiful Border Collie, Sammy. Sometimes I’ll stop at the local bakery and buy some fresh bread or a bagel (for breakfast) on the walk. This is often my favourite part of the day! I always seek out the sun on these morning walks and sometimes listen to a podcast, but other times I just enjoy the silence of walking with Sammy and saying good morning to neighbours along the way.

8:15am – 9:00am: Make tea (T2’s Melbourne Breakfast is my go-to) and eat breakfast while catching up on emails and planning for any client meetings that day.

9:00am – 12:30pm: Either full of project work, client meetings or workshops (such as work in progress catch-ups, new client discussions or internal review, planning, and brainstorming sessions with the Rewild team) or a mixture of the two.

12:30pm – 1:30pm: Sometimes I’ll duck out to get a chai or smoothie at lunch and take Sammy with me – or just walk around the block to get some fresh air, but often I just catch-up on emails and spend 5-10 minutes sitting in my courtyard in the sun (if it’s poking its head out that is).

1:30pm – 5:30pm: Additional client meeting or work time.

5:00pm – 6:00pm: Walk or run with Sammy again – if my partner isn’t home in time. Or sometimes we walk together to catch-up and debrief on our days.

6:00pm – 7:30pm: Generally, break time for cooking, eating, and/or relaxing with my partner.

7:30pm – 9:30pm: Often additional work time such as catching up on emails, life admin or additional rest time.

9:30pm onwards: Wind down and sleep time – I’m usually very early to bed in order to recharge the batteries for the day ahead!

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

Yes definitely, I spend most of my time working remotely. I’d say 25% of my time each week involves in-person meetings, but the remaining time I manage myself depending on my energy levels and other commitments.

An example of this means I can stop work early to walk Sammy while it’s still light in the winter months and then catch-up on additional work when I get back or after dinner, which I’d prefer to do instead of working through till 5:30pm or 6:00pm – by which point it’s already dark.

That being said, as our team grows – I will need to be in the office more to collaborate closer with our team and help support younger staff that can really grow from in-person work time. But regardless of where I am working, I’m determined to maintain and encourage others to embrace flexible working arrangements, based on what naturally works best for them and their lifestyles, preferences, and personal commitments.

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

Work-life balance is a goal I am constantly striving for. For me it’s about choosing what to prioritise when – and not sweating the small stuff if I need to take a few hours off here and there because life calls.

I am very passionate about (and committed to) my work, which means I work very hard – both within work hours and outside of the workday. But I also seek opportunities to take time off, such as in between client projects or when my partner (who is a teacher) is on his school holidays.

I think it’s also very important to listen to your body and know when you just need a break and should keep the laptop closed. Often for me, weekends are a great opportunity to catch-up on work and emails that I can’t get to during the week – but occasionally I sense that I need a screen-free weekend – and even though there’s always work there to do. In those instances I make the decision to take a break, even if it means I need to squeeze more work into the following week ahead. It’s always worth it.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

About 9 months ago I started blocking out time in my diary to do deep work that often involves getting in the zone or into a ‘flow-state’, which I find impossible to do in windows of 1-2 hours or less.

This is often in the form of meeting-free days or blocking out larger chunks of time for 2-4 hours or more, which I categorise in my diary as ‘X client work time’ and colour-code to distinguish from my meetings. I have found this instrumental to realising when I need to say no to meetings, based on the amount of time required to complete my existing workload.

I’m also a long-time fan of a hand-written to-do list, which I have used ever since I can remember. The process of crossing out the list each day or week with an old-fashioned pen and paper is deeply satisfying and I am yet to find a note-taking software that compares (and I have tried many)!  

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

My all-time favourite podcast is ‘How to Fail by Elizabeth Day’ – I find it incredibly cathartic, inspiring, and reflective. Elizabeth Day is an incredible storyteller and some of the guests she interviews have really heart-warming stories to share.

I always take something away from each guest she has on, regardless of their background and the ‘failures’ they discuss. Often when I listen to podcasts, I enjoy listening to those that are more about philosophy and psychology than my exact line of work, given I’m living and breathing that all day everyday. So it’s refreshing to learn about something different in my spare time.

I also love ‘How I Work’ by Amantha Imber, which has some great insights and perspectives on productivity and ways of working. I learn lots from Amantha and her guests, too. I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for tips and ideas on workflow, time management, productivity, and the like.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

For me, Outlook is my best friend as a result of the time-blocking I mentioned earlier – but Slack, Monday, and Teams are also prominent apps on my phone that I use frequently! I’m also a big fan of Miro for brainstorming and diagramming exercises and I love Adobe InDesign for formatting reports and proposals.

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

Kirstin Hunter – former co-founder and CEO of Future Super and current Chief People, Risk and Legal Officer at Brighte (among other mentorship, directorship, and advisory roles). I was lucky enough to have a mentoring session with Kirstin a few months ago and she had some fantastic advice that really stuck with me.

One of these pieces of wisdom was that she sees her rest time as part of her job description that is an essential component of her role, given she can’t show up as a good leader and mentor for her team if she’s not looking after herself first. She sees prioritising work-life balance as crucial for her to execute her role and responsibilities effectively. As a result, I’d love to learn more from leaders like Kirstin in future.

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

I have by no-means reached my ideal work-life balance set-up and it’s something I’m constantly striving for. But I think if we can all start to listen to our bodies more, learn from our mistakes, and know when to put our screens or pens down – then hopefully we can all learn to live and work with a little more balance each day. We, and all those around us, will certainly be better for it.   

Before you go…

Check out more daily routines from Barack Obama, Arianna Huffington, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet and plenty others.

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.