Balancing the Grind with Keshia Hannam, Editor-In-Chief of Eastern Standard Times

Keshia Hannam is the Editor-In-Chief of Eastern Standard Times, a new, global media platform just launched in Australia and led by an all female, all Asian editorial team.

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

I am a New York based, Australian-raised, Hong Kong born storyteller. I’m currently serving as Editor in Chief for Asian media platform Eastern Standard Times – the new voice of Asian youth globally.

I’ve been involved in the media industry since I was 17, working on local radio stations on the Sunshine Coast and eventually moving to Hong Kong to pursue written journalism. Now my job at Eastern Standard Times involves supporting a team of incredibly talented writers, producers, directors and editors, 99% of whom are of Asian heritage. I sometimes get to jump in there to script, host and direct. 

I grew up living as an immigrant across Hong Kong, Australia, and the UK, and now in the US. This experience has made me obsessed with how belonging and assimilation can affect identity. I have previously written and worked for media organisations such as Fortune, National Geographic, Forbes, Vogue and CNN as well as co-founded womens’ safety organisation, Camel Assembly, and worked with innovation platform, Mettā in Hong Kong.

Through Eastern Standard Times, I am determined to change the nature of the Asian narrative in Australia, which is too often controlled by media entities that don’t live, understand or embody the nuances that make up Asian culture. I hope that Asian Australians feel like they can be proud of who they are, versus who people expect them to be. 

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

I have been travelling a lot lately; launching EST in different markets, meeting with producers and creatives in those markets to build our network, and to ensure the stories we tell are as authentic as the people who live within them. 

I landed in Sydney from New York end of June to celebrate the launch of Eastern Standard Times and meet with our local production team here – Andrew and Chris Yee – both are amazing talents with Chris producing work for some of Australia’s best-known brands, including VIVID Festival Sydney and the Opera House as well as speaking at Sydney’s 2019 & 2021 Semi Permanent festival on Future creative youth and industry.

Andrew is a journalist and content creator who has collaborated with Australian cultural institutes, including The Art Gallery Of New South Wales and 4A Centre For Contemporary Asian Art and is also a cultural consultant for Netflix. 

My schedule is jam-packed daily – mainly with media meetings, working lunches and filming. I am also juggling working across multiple time zones which includes meeting with the team in NYC and stints in Southeast Asia meeting with various production teams – which is the reality of working as a global team. 

My average day starts at 5am, waking up to take calls with the US before they go to sleep. Then I try to work out – I am a trained personal trainer, as well as an exercise fanatic and have been studying martial arts for 3 years and yoga for more than 10, so I usually try to get a workout after meditation and morning pages.

Then it’s on to meetings for the day, which I love (I am a big people person). Australia’s food and coffee scene is incomparable so getting as much of those experiences amongst conversations about race, equality, representation and accountability are favourite intersections. I usually zap out by 10pm usually. 

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

I have never liked the term work-life balance–it infers there is a trade off rather than integration. I definitely don’t nail this, and fall prey to the clutches of capitalism and hedonism like anyone else.

But I have unlearned a lot in recent years, and work very hard to stay alert and ensure my identity is not tied to my productivity or achievements. In saying that, learning what really matters to YOU, what you spend your days thinking about, as well as what makes you uncomfortable and figuring out why, leads to a purposeful life.

Purposefulness will mean different things to different people, but as long as you know when to stop, when to celebrate, and when to take things seriously, intuition tends to be the best guide. 

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

My rituals and habits have been evolving over the last ten years. Books like Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Joe Dispenza, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown taught me that mental, emotional, spiritual and physical wellness can be structured.

Martial arts, yoga, any kind of embodiment practice will lead you to creating space to listen to yourself, whether through meditation or more artistic expression like writing. These are essential to me weekly, though I try not to be rigid about them as they can quickly become an empty routine without intention. 

The highest form of self-love can be discipline for some people, and for me that is definitely the case.  

5) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Oh yes, many! 

I was changed by Tyson Yunkaporta’s Sand Talk. I am always regretful about how little Australian culture and education truly respects and incorporates First Nation’s knowledge into our early and present lives. Mr Yunkaporta has written a book I think every person should read, especially Australians. It is profoundly creative, methodical and expansive in a way that few storytellers are able to capture. 

I am an avid Brene Brown fan, and believe she is a gift to our generation. Learning about emotions really unlocks so much – especially (in my experience) for men. We would be a healthier, more peaceful society if we embraced her teachings.

Her podcasts (on Spotify) and recent book Atlas of the Heart, where she maps out 87 emotions she describes are gathered into 13 land masses, each labelled as a destination: “Places We Go When We Compare,” for example, or “Places We Go When it’s Beyond Us” are remarkable. Most people have trouble naming more than three: happy, sad, angry. Imagine what happens when we know the difference between jealousy, envy and resentment.

I always look forward to Anand Giridharas’s newsletters on politics and culture, money and power. While those topics in a vacuum can be abhorrent, the way Giridharas is able to approach all topics with curiosity, acerbity and kindness is so rare and gives me hope for a majorly messed up world. 

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

The three authors and thinkers above would be an out-of-this world collaboration. If you made me pick one human, Michaela Cole (British actress, screenwriter, director, producer and singer as well as the creator of the revolutionary series I May Destroy You) is a walking phenom and confrontingly authentic creator who I’d gladly sit at the feet and learn from everyday.

Watch her series if you have not (trigger warning it has many references and scenes related to trauma and sexual violence) and listen to Louis Theroux’s podcast Grounded episode featuring her to understand why. 

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

When you know why you are showing up every day, everything is worth it. When you don’t, little is.

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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.