Designers / Freelancers / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Elizabeth Pek, Freelance Product & Experience Design Consultant

Elizabeth Pek is a Freelance Product & Experience Design Consultant who has been involved in developing market-leading products for 20+ years, across many industries including in financial services, telecommunication, health & fitness and media.

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

I’ve been involved in designing and developing products (services and experiences) for more than 20 years and I absolutely love it!

I’ve worked in many different industries such as health and well being, media, telecommunications and financial services in predominantly design leadership roles. I enjoy the creative process of problem solving as well as working collaboratively with a diverse group of people, which encourages me to learn and grow.

Earlier this year, I left a full time role as Director of Experience Design at BT Financial Group after a restructure and I’m currently transitioning between roles. I am savouring the freedom and using this time to build my freelancing business, and doing some consulting work with the wonderful team at Brainmates.

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

I’m still getting used to a new life routine after 24 years of working full time, juggling life with motherhood and looking after elderly disabled parents. Recently, I’ve made a conscious decision to work part-time (3-4 days a week) for the next few months so that I carve out time to invest in myself and in relationships that matter to me.

Right now as a business owner and consultant, my workday really varies depending on what I have on that day.

Typically when I’m working on a client project I’ll either be on site or at the office during business hours, and usually that involves a combination of working individually and working with stakeholders (teams, customers, project sponsors).

When I’m working on my business, I’m generally working from home or at a cafe somewhere, but I try to keep ‘office’ hours so that I have some boundaries. No matter what day it is though, I have some daily routines to get the day going and to end the day, which I find keep me centred.

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

I’ve found over the years that being able to work flexibly and remotely is essential and brings out the best in me.

When I’m in the thick of writing documentation, designing a solution, or deep in analysis of customer data, I really need a different physical space (at home where it’s quiet and at early mornings) than when I’m seeking feedback on my work and collaborating with teams (usually best face-to-face during business hours).

I am a goal centred person so depending on what I’m trying to achieve and where the project is at, will set the context of the working space I need.

I really believe in living life wholeheartedly and bringing our whole self to work, and with our lives / responsibilities becoming more and more complex, I think you can only do that if you’re able to work flexibly!

I’ve been very lucky in my carer to date that I’ve always found businesses and managers who are outcomes driven than ‘bums on seats’ mentality which allows for that flexibility, and I’ll continue to look for that.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

I’ve found to get the most out of my day / week, I need to be organised which means planning ahead, writing out to do’s, scheduling key appointments in advance and regularly reviewing where I’m at.

I usually plan the week ahead on Saturday morning over breakfast with the family. We have our Google family calendar, and our Trello to do list in front of us.

We chat about what we want to achieve (as a family and individually), write them out as to dos, prioritise tasks, assign who’s doing what and make sure everyone’s clear on that. I then do a similar process planning my work goals, and to dos (using a separate Trello board and calendar) so that I would have a clear picture of my life for the week ahead.

Planning / scheduling ahead also helps me to compartmentalise and timebox activities, so that I’m able to put my attention and energy on the things that matter most.

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

I used to think work life balance meant having enough time to get through everything I want to achieve at work and also carrying out my family responsibilities.

Last year both my husband and I had a significant increase to our responsibilities and work pressure that it lead to health problems and burnout. Thankfully we are now on the other side and our health is back on track!

During the process of ‘beating’ burnout, I realised I had to take ownership of my habit to prioritise work over everything else, and had to change my attitude towards self-care and play time.

Now my definition of work life balance includes prioritising time and energy for self-care and hobbies as well as family and career, which led to a decision to experiment with working part-time for the next few months.

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?

I love to reflect and to practice mindfulness, and I believe these are the cornerstone habits that help me be more effective and have that sense of balance.

I usually meditate using the Headspace app at the start and end of my work day; this is usually done as part of my commute or after breakfast / before preparing dinner if I’m working from home.

We also have a rule of being home in time for the family dinner on a weeknight where we practice gratitude together. To help us catch-up, we go around the table, asking each other the highlight of our day, 5 things that we are grateful for from the day and what our ‘fabulous struggle’ was.

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

These are the books that I feel have significantly improved my life:

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

To get the most out of my day and the number one thing I do is to pray, connect with the most loving energy we all have access to and set the intention for the day/night. I strongly believe in allowing the universe to help us all achieve our highest and best good.

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

Not really original, but I think it’s important to enjoy what life has to offer as much possible, and to reframe set backs and challenges as opportunities to take stock and appreciate yourself and life where ever it’s at.

After all, ‘My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get’ – Forest Gump.

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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.