CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Catherine Ngo, Founder & CEO of Keynoteworthy

Catherine Ngo is an editor, copywriter and content strategist specialising in HR and industrial relations. She is also the Founder & CEO of Keynoteworthy, a diverse speakers platform.

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

I have several roles and this has been intentional. I find it hard to just stick with one in this age of digital disruption. I’m not into just the one 9-5. I would get bored.

But in a nutshell, my career background is that I’ve spent over ten years in HR and communications working across top ASX listed organisations such as Westpac and IAG.

These days I balance my career between multiple projects. Firstly, my love of wordsmithing. I’m the senior writer and editor for Australia’s leading HR publication, WorkplaceInfo and SaaS product, HR Advance. I also run two businesses – a content writing business and a speakers agency called, Keynoteworthy.

I’m also an amateur stand-up comedian (could be a career who knows) and love to use humour to bring people together.

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

One word. Chaos. I think the craziness is what keeps me sane. I love doing so many different things. I cannot sit still for long.

A typical workday always starts with breakfast (coffee and toast). This is non-negotiable. If you see me, I’m petite and if I have nothing in me, I will get blown away by the wind.

Mornings are also like being a soccer coach and rushing my son to ready for daycare. Plus get my two dogs walked, fed and then getting myself ready. Then off to work.

I concentrate on my ‘money-making’ activities in the first half of the day. These are activities that require high concentration and more ‘brainpower’. I avoid morning meetings because I know I won’t be as productive which is why most of my meetings, phone calls and admin work is in the afternoon.

After work, I head home. Most nights I don’t have time to cook even though I love it. I get take away a lot and add steamed veggies in where needed.

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

Yes, I do work from home often. My work allows for remote working and that’s the flexibility of it. As long as I get my work done by deadlines and that expectation is clear, I’m good.

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

I have to admit, I don’t have a good work-life balance and its because I am juggling multiple projects and jobs at once.

I think having work-life balance is an aspirational goal but I also believe we cannot have everything all in one go. At least for working parents anyway and I’m OK with that.

The scale is always weighted more on one side than the other and tips back and forth. I have a start-up business too so I am working 70+ hours a week.

I do make time for ‘life’ stuff like going to the gym or getting a massage. The self-care stuff does take a backseat more than it used to because I now have multiple jobs and family commitments. But I’m conscious to book ‘me time’, otherwise I will forget.

I think the key is to be self-aware if you’re too heavily weighted on one side or the other, because they won’t be sustainable in the long run, nor is it healthy.

5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

Learning how to maximise my daily schedule and calendar and being smart about it.

Also setting boundaries and being strict about your time. We’d all love to have coffee all day however they take so much time, especially since Sydney is not easy to get around and commute time is getting longer.

I also love that with smartphones, it enables us to be more productive and efficient while commuting. At the same time, it can cause burnout and pressure to always be ‘on’. I do balance it with just putting on music and being aware of my surroundings.

6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. She says, “Be the weirdo who dares to enjoy” and “You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.”

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

Writing a good old traditional to-do list at the start of the day.

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

I would say single mums or people who have it tough and how they manage the demands of life. I don’t want to read interviews with celebrities. It doesn’t do it for me.

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

Be kind to yourself. It’s a noisy and busy world we live in and sometimes we may not have work-life balance 100% of the time. I think the key is to be self-aware and ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength and acknowledgement that we cannot achieve everything on our own.

I use Airtasker a lot to outsource chores. It means that I can spend more time with family or catch up on work. I understand that not everyone has the luxury or the budget for this. It’s a conscious choice I made after understanding the value I can bring to my work and my family.

Also, at the end the day asking yourself, what you’ve achieved, how you can do better and what you’re grateful for. This simple exercise also helps with self-awareness.

If you’d like to have a conversation with us about how you balance the grind, get in touch with us!

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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.