Directors / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Anjali Sharma, Managing Director of Narrative: The Business of Stories

Anjali is the Founder and Managing Director of Narrative: The Business of Stories.

Working with private and government organisations to determine their unique business challenges, Anjali crafts individualised solutions that incorporate storytelling.

This conversation is brought to you by HelloFresh, delivering delicious ingredients and simple recipes straight to your doorstep each week.

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

I was born and brought up in India. My father was a Colonel in the Indian Army. I have an older brother who is now a Colonel in the Indian Army. My mother has always been involved in many social projects. So, I am brought up in a very disciplined home where everyone is a stickler for routine.

I left India in 2001, in my early twenties, to be a flight attendant with Singapore Airlines. My career as a trolley dolly lasted for 3 years only. After which, I worked in corporate roles for over 15 years in Australia, Singapore and India.

In 2012, I started my own company Narrative: The Business of Stories, a story practice, through which I now help business leaders, data analysts, sales professionals and TEDx speakers find and tell stories.

My background constantly informs my work, so that it is not just theoretical, but based on extensive experience, knowledge and understanding of strategic issues facing companies and of the issues facing employees in delivering their best for their companies.

I’m now working with Global 1000 companies including Shell, SAP, Microsoft & Danone.

I am also a mother to a 12-year old daughter, which according to me is my most meaningful role. The lessons I have learnt as a mother, I have not been able to learn from my senior leadership roles and global working experience.

2. What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?

My current role is mix of many things since I run my own ship. As a founder of a business, you are the Chief Of Everything.

Here are some of the things I do almost everyday in a professional capacity:

  • Catch up with the team to make sure we are all aligned on the projects
  • Content creation which is mostly for documenting my own learnings from the projects I am working on
  • Consulting on communication strategies for products, services, campaigns and initiatives with clients
  • Writing corporate stories for clients
  • Coaching and mentoring women in leadership roles (passion project)
  • Speech writing for clients
  • Sometimes giving a keynote speech myself

3. Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you prioritise your workload?

I am big believer of scheduling my days. It is a technique I learnt from Cal Newport’s book Deep Work. Most people confuse scheduling with to do lists. Scheduling is very different. I actually shared the scheduling process in a blog a few years ago.

Here you can see how I manage my days in this blog by scheduling.

4. In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

I think motherhood is the superpower that teaches you work-life balance without you even realising it.

I remember a client telling me once – “if I don’t leave at 5 PM and pick up my child from childcare, I have to pay extra. That pressure has now made me so disciplined and injected balance in my life.”

Similarly, motherhood invites you to want to spend time, chat and play with them. I think that is a great balancer.

Some people call the very same thing the stress of motherhood and at one stage, I did too but now I am thankful for the times when on a Sunday evening, I catch myself watching a film with my daughter versus worrying about work. If it was not for my daughter, I would be a workaholic.

Motherhood forces you to balance.

I also do a lot of volunteer work with TEDx Singapore, Running Department ( a running community ), SOSD which is a Singapore-based organisation dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming stray and abandoned dogs. Voluntary work is a great way to balance my life.

5. What are some of the things you do to take time out and recharge?

As mentioned, I was born and brought up in India and back home, we all watch movies to recharge. Bollywood is one of the largest film industry in the world. We make movies for a global audience. I am brought up to take a break with Bollywood. It also is a way for me to connect with some very culturally nuanced humor that totally recharges me.

It is perhaps the only non cognitive load activity I am good at engaging with.

I also run a fair bit. Since 2015 I have been running as a pacer for Singapore Marathons. The training commitment is over a 12 – 14-week period and that commitment keeps me running and recharging.

6. What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

For success it would most definitely have to be the reading habit and not just professional but also personal success.

I was not brought up in a home with too many books around me but about 8 years ago I was killing time in a bookstore at an airport due to flight delay.

I randomly picked up a book titled, Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a New Generation by Jay Elliot and William L. Simon. I couldn’t put the book down. I finished reading it during the flight and that book became the catalyst to my daily reading habit. Reading has changed the way I think , parent , work and spend time.

For balance, it would be the habit to sometimes choose joy and just joy over anything else. I read a quote in a book sometime ago,

“Joy comes to us in ordinary moments, we risk missing out, when we get too busy chasing the extraordinary.” – Dr Brene Brown. This quote gave me the permission to just chose joy sometimes.

Meeting friends for lunch, going for long bike rides, watching movies are not once in a blue moon activities for me. I do them often.

7. Are there any books you’ve read that have helped you with work-life balance?

Yes, absolutely:

  1. Deep Work by Cal New Port
  2. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

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

I won’t say sleep, eat well, exercise because to me those are not negotiable. Without them you can’t possibly live a good life.

The question is how do I get the most out of your day? My response would be by scheduling my days. The same technique I mentioned earlier.

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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.