Jana Firestone is a part-time therapist, freelance writer and podcast host at The Curious Life, a passion project she created when on maternity leave with her second child.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I started my therapeutic career in grief and trauma, working in Child Protection, then with victims of crime and for a number of years at the Coroner’s Court of Victoria.
As a therapist, I worked directly with families, friends and witnesses of sudden and unexpected death. This was incredibly rewarding work, despite the darkness of working with pain and sadness so intensively. Eventually however, it was time to move onto a new challenge and I began working as a therapist in schools with young people and their families.
I have always had a creative urge that can’t be ignored for long, so in 2013 began working as a freelance writer to lighten up some of the heaviness of my therapeutic load. I had some fantastic opportunities writing features and travel pieces for various publications and challenged my tech muscles writing for Gizmag.
While I was on maternity leave with my second child and was itching for another creative outlet, I found a way to combine my therapeutic skills and creative passions by knitting them together in the form of a podcast.
I created The Curious Life Podcast with the intention of shining the spotlight on important issues, through a veiled therapeutic lens, in conversation with intriguing people who have a unique perspective on life.
I’ve been very fortunate to interview a slew of incredibly inspiring people, both well-known and every day folk, who have shared their insights into the issues that are close to their hearts.
From behind the scenes in reality television, to ghost hunting, the refugee crisis, a Scientology expose and parenting from every angle – the content is broad and evocative and keeps me on my toes each time!
So far, I’ve been able to manage the hosting/producing and editing of the podcast around my current therapeutic role, and the marriage between the two has been surprisingly complementary.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Despite working three days a week as a therapist and theoretically running the podcast on the other days, no day is ever really the same. The bones of the day are there, but the detail can vary greatly.
I always start my day attending to emails and admin, which might include following up interview requests, managing the promotional side of the podcast and planning the schedule with my VA. Then depending on the day, I could be finishing the research and plan for an interview, meeting with a guest to record and then starting the editing process.
I also have two young boys to build all of this around so thank god for childcare, or none of this would be possible! When I have the boys at home, I try to maximise the time I do have, by cramming in some admin or editing during their nap times.
I have started trying not to work in the evenings, (apart from responding to emails as they arise) because of how much it was consuming me. I need that down time after wrangling the kids into bed, to spend some quality time with my partner and unwind from both of our days.
Although to be honest, we’re usually both so exhausted by the end of the day that most nights we’re just flaking on the couch in tandem!
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Absolutely. That has been the biggest game changer for me in terms of being able to work around the kids, both from home and recording interviews with guests offsite.
I have found it incredibly motivating and energising, to have the freedom and flexibility I haven’t had in previous roles. It keeps the day fresh and minimises that walls closing in feeling you get when you’re chained to your desk at the office.
4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?
It can be easy to let the self-doubt and the guilt creep in and feel like you’re spreading yourself too thin. The best thing I did for my own sanity was to hire a VA to help manage the social media side of the podcast. That lifted such a load from me (both literally and figuratively), that I feel like I’m more effective across the board.
Streamlining the responsibilities freed me up in so many ways, that I’m now able to really enjoy the creative aspect of the work and be much more present as a parent.
5) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I would love to find the key to that elusive work life balance, but it’s really something I’m fine tuning all the time.
When I’m getting it right, I feel like I have the time and energy for all the people and things that I love and when it’s out of kilter, I’m nowhere near as patient or present as I should be at home.
On paper I have all the answers about setting boundaries and sticking to schedules but it’s not always as straightforward as it sounds. The perfect scenario would look like a healthy balance between feeling fulfilled as a professional, as a partner and a parent, and as an individual.
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?
One of the biggest blocks to overcome is that anxiety about taking the first step. Whatever it might be – putting the feelers out about a new job, trying out a new skill, tackling the mountain of laundry that seems to be forming a life of its own.
Sometimes you just have to DO it. Take the leap, see how it goes. Taking that first step has always resulted in the next move and building momentum towards achieving the next goal, so now if I’m trying to get somewhere, I just do it.
Don’t overthink it. (Disclaimer* A healthy dose of overthinking may be required to get the ball rolling in the first place!)
7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?
The greatest gift I ever gave to my father was a Kindle. He used it once and then it sat collecting dust, so after a year or two I demanded he turn it over to me. I have always loved reading but found the busier my life became, the less time I made for it.
Rescuing that Kindle from the pile of unused gifts has been the best thing that’s happened to my reading and now I read every single night in bed. I can read without disturbing my partner and I feel so nourished by it.
I’m currently reading Louis Theroux’s biography (Gotta Get Theroux This) and stifling the laughs in the darkness. I devoured Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale sequel (The Testaments) and recently could not put down The Sunday Story Club, by Doris Brett and Kerry Cue.
Reading is such a luxury in our busy lives and is a big part of self-care and inspiration for me now.
8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
I try and get as much done in the morning as I can, being the most effective time of day for me.
I also try and allocate time/days to certain tasks ahead of time – if I know that on Thursday I’m editing and Friday I’m interviewing, for example, then I can let go of some of that brain wasting anxiety about the mounting tasks ahead.
When I’m clear about my plan and schedule, I’m so much more productive.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
So often we put this pressure on ourselves to have it all or do it all, but maybe the finding the balance is about accepting that it’s an evolving thing that will mean different things at different times.
Some days I’ll get the formula a little less or more right than others, and maybe that’s ok? Hopefully in the meantime, I can get a little better at taking a moment to find the joy in the little moments in life.
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