CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Lija Wilson, Founder & CEO of Puffling

Lija Wilson is the Founder & CEO of flexible work platform Puffling, helping businesses source senior off-market talent, delivering flexible work options and promoting gender diversity.

This conversation is brought to you by HelloFresh, delivering delicious ingredients and simple recipes straight to your doorstep each week. Save 40% off your first HelloFresh box with Balance The Grind.

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

I’m the founder of a platform called Puffling. After 15 years in senior marketing and digital roles, I found my career had come to a cross roads after having children. I simply wasn’t able to find a part-time opportunity without compromising on seniority and salary. So Puffling was launched as a solution for senior talent wanting careers with flexibility.

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

Most days I try to exercise before the chaos kicks in. I live on Sydney’s northern beaches so head to CrossFit for the sun rise at 5.45am.

I’ve always been one to catch the worms but since having kids, I no longer hit the emails at 7:30. After ticking off exercise, I coordinate kids with my husband (we have three under 6 who are at different drop offs) and now start work around 9:30am.

A few days a week, I’ll meet with clients, present flexible work solutions to attract or retain talent and often speak on panels or at events. I have an office space close to home and the kids schools, so a few days a week, I’ll have non-meeting days from there and focus on growth plans, strategy, product planning and having contact with talent.

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

Very much so. My life has now been designed around flexible work which means I work different hours but also do a lot more remotely – using video calls, phone calls and condensing meeting and face time as much as possible. Generally, I’m offline between 4-8pm and will do a few hours of catch up in the evenings.

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

I’ve become much better at prioritisation and not having meetings for the sake of meetings.

Video calls are great, you get to the point and agenda items much faster but still have some interaction and connection.

I use Trello for all prioritisation and do my best thinking and idea generation in the pool or walking on the beach. After a crazy day or week I have learnt that disconnecting and giving your brain some time to refocus really helps your productivity and creativity and especially, your ability to problem solve.

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

I don’t really subscribe to the ‘finding perfect balance’ theory to be honest.

Sometimes, things tip in favour of work and other times they need to tip towards a personal direction. We can become a bit obsessed about cracking the code on the perfect balance of both but the reality is that we have to remove some of that pressure and enable the two areas to be a bit more fluid and stop beating ourselves up on our management of the juggle and seeing some kind of invisible see saw sit perfectly horizontal.

Having kids has been the best thing that ever happened to me and I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to raise a family and work flexibly.

I love working. I love the sense of purpose and achievement. I love the contact with interesting people. I love the problem solving and application of creative thinking.

When I love what I do and I’m ahead of the work curve, I think I’m a better mum and wife and person. I’m more organised, more focused, less uptight and I absolutely live for weekends and nights in with the family.

Exercise for me is also a mandatory – even if it’s a quick walk. On the days I don’t find time for something outdoors, I’m an annoying, unproductive, frustrated human.

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?

Spending time every Monday setting a plan for the week – 15 minutes is all it takes over a first morning coffee.

Trello is great for me in planning and prioritisation.

Setting some time aside each week to connect with people ( often something you don’t do enough in a start-up or solo operator ) and doing some industry reading is also really important and helps you elevate yourself with energy and focus.

Some weeks are chaos, but the pattern for our family stems from a Sunday night. If we kick off the week organised, happy and well rested on the home front with a tidy house, grocery delivery, meals cooked in the fridge and some time together watching a movie after a fun weekend in the sun under our belts – generally, we are set up for a great week ahead.

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

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

Pull myself up when I start to google random things and open new tabs, refer to weekly list of priorities a few times a day and drink coffee.

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

At the end of each day, we need to find enjoyment and happiness in our work and home life.

Striving for that contentment, even if it’s not the perfect job or the big pay packet or the perfect set up at home. I think it’s about celebrating small wins and understanding that sometimes, life needs to fall in waves and that is what helps find the balance of a calm sea in between.

If you’d like to support Balance the Grind’s mission to promote health work-life balance to a global audience, you can join our Patreon membership for as little as $1 a month.

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.