Balancing the Grind with Anna Northwood, Strategy Manager & Producer at MGI Entertainment

Anna Northwood is the Strategy Manager & Producer at at MGI Entertainment, an entertainment marketing agency working with brands, celebrities and influencers.

Learn about the daily routines of some of the most successful people in the world. Sign up to our newsletter today & receive a free gift that will help you achieve your goals!

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

I have always been interested in how different things, such as design and art influence the human experience. After school I naturally followed my interests in doing a BA, majoring in Art History and Sociology as well as qualifications in Interior Design and UX Design. 

At the time I felt like I was jumping from one thing to another, but I have come to see how intrinsically linked these areas are and I am now grateful to have a unique knowledge base with which to approach creative projects. My recent projects include Interiors and Branding Strategy, as well as Project Management and Producing. 

My current role as Strategy Manager & Producer within MGI allows me to work in several capacities depending on the needs of the project, which is something I really love about the job.  

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

A typical day would involve me working the morning from home, we are given the flexibility to choose and I find that very helpful and it really has a positive impact on productivity. 

I would likely start the day at home, often with a phone call with one of our Creative Directors Byron Keane. This morning we talked about a project that we are delivering this month for commercial TV – which is quite exciting as well as a campaign we are doing with the Black Dog Institute. 

We then might have a zoom meeting or two, catching up with the team on a current project or a client meeting to discuss an upcoming opportunity. Often these meetings will take place face to face, in which case it will be hosted in our Barangaroo office. 

I’m lucky enough to be able to catch the ferry to Barangaroo so my journey into work is quite pleasant. The ferry means that on a busy day I can spend that travel time on the phone or laptop and on less busy days I can catch up on some reading and just enjoy the trip. Generally, when we come to the office we will have a team lunch, that helps us keep those busy days balanced. 

If I don’t get a chance to take a walk or do any exercise during the day, I will make sure to do that in the evening. Sometimes work will need to be done in the evening, but my husband and I always make a conscious effort to take the time to eat dinner together.

After work is done for the day, the phone switches to ‘do not disturb’ mode till the morning. Working on creative projects people often have great ideas at 1am, so keeping my phone quiet at night is something I have learned is really important to maintaining a healthy relationship with work. 

3) It’s an interesting point about creative people having great ideas at all hours of the day. So how do you balance those moments of creativity with maintaining boundaries on your work and life? 

It’s impossible to really control when your ideas will come, I will sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a new perspective on something, or ideas. I do find myself sometimes sneaking into the lounge room at 4.30am to write. It’s not always work related though, so I don’t feel like it’s intrusive and even when it is – if it’s something that has come to me at 2am it’s normally worth waking up for. 

4) How would you describe your working style? Are you at your most creative in the mornings or afternoons? 

If the project grabs me I’ll be into it any time of day, once I’m sure I understand exactly what is required and I’m in the flow of it, that is my favourite place, I love that. Though, it does tend to happen more often in the afternoons – I remember collaborating with an old colleague of mine and we observed that in the afternoons when we got a little bit tired we felt less inhibited and made faster progress on creative tasks.  

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

To me it’s about creating sustainable patterns and habits that produce great work-related results but that don’t lead to burn out in the long term. There are a lot of work places that preach wellness but they often fall short when it comes to actually putting people first. 

MGI allows people to work in a way that works for them, and for me that means balancing time in the office with time working from home, it also means managing my own work-load and hours. If I feel like going for a walk in the middle of the day or attending a pilates class that is something I am able to do, as long as I am able to deliver the work and get results.

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

During COVID I moved house which meant that I got to do lockdown in two different locations – I appreciated that, it made it feel a bit less like Groundhog Day. However, I moved from a house to an apartment so it also meant a loss of space. To make up for the lack of outdoor space I started going for walks each day, it became a really important part of my daily routine. 

Taking the time to get out of that work and rest space, to get some exercise, fresh air and a change of scenery is now essential for me. Importantly, when you walk, your creative-problem solving abilities are enhanced so I find that taking a walk will often produce a good idea. The positive impacts are endless, so I have kept that up post lockdown and plan on maintaining that permanently. 

7) What would you say have been the most helpful books, podcasts or newsletters for you this past year? It doesn’t even have to be career or personal development-related.  

Well, the book I’m reading at the moment is A Carnival of Snackery by David Sedaris who is my absolute favourite author. It’s the second book in a series of his diary entries, so while it is in no way related to personal development or strategy, his writing style inspires me.

When I read his books, I tend to write more and I feel that has an overall positive effect on my creativity and happiness. Also, I really like Mark Manson’s books for an easy refresh of perspective. 

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

I would like to see how Zoë Foster Blake balances her time, she has a great career, a young family and she seems to always have a smile on her face. 

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

I would say that there is great value in disconnecting from technology every day even for just a short period of time, a 20 min walk without a phone is valuable. To be in the present moment, not in front of a tv, phone or laptop is like a palette cleanser for the mind – It’s the closest I get to meditation, and is so worth it.

Before you go…

If you’d like to sponsor or advertise with Balance the Grind, let’s talk here.

Join our community and never miss a conversation about work, life & balance – subscribe to our newsletter.

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.