CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Louisa Dahl, Founder & CEO of Interactive Minds

Louisa Dahl is the Founder & CEO of Interactive Minds, a company which runs regular events and programs to keep marketers informed of the latest industry trends, changes and opportunities.

She recently wrote a book called The Deliberate Digital Marketer which identifies the steps that marketers can leverage to position themselves for success.

This conversation is brought to you by HelloFresh, delivering delicious ingredients and simple recipes straight to your doorstep each week. 

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

I started off as a marketer nearly 20 years ago and worked for several organisations, a startup, two government departments and an advertising agency prior to co-founding my first business, a digital agency. Two years in I had an opportunity to exist the business and then did some consulting.

At that point I was looking for a way to keep my digital and marketing skills fresh and network with others in the industry and I saw an opportunity to create an event series that would bring people together and help them learn from peers.

I started my next business, Interactive Minds with a previous colleague and nearly 11 years later we are holding events in three capital cities as well as running programs and virtual training to help marketers to stay current and do their best work.

I started this business when I was pregnant with my first child and I’ve been very lucky that it’s been a business I could do “on the side” initially and then subsequently grow into a business with lots of scope and interesting parts.

2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?

I’m the CEO of Interactive Minds and my role is very varied!

It can involve anything from strategic planning and budgeting through to program development, managing sponsors, identifying topics and speakers for our events and training and managing the team. I also spend some time creating content whether it be for our podcast, Facebook Live, videos or other.

I run a mastermind group for senior marketers and I’m also passionate about continual learning so I’m always reading articles and books, listening to podcasts and doing online courses to keep my knowledge current and the ideas flowing.

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

I start most days by taking my three kids (aged 6, 8 & 10) to school. This can involve up to three separate drop offs and once they are out of the car I’m straight into listening to a business related podcast. I am usually at my desk around 9am and each morning I have a stand-up meeting at 9:30am with my team.

After that, today I recorded a live Q&A session with marketing leaders which involved me interviewing them in a session for our members.

Following that I had about 2 hours of back to back phone calls booked in with a potential speaker for an upcoming event, a trainer for one of our sessions, a sponsor and a team member. Then I recorded my weekly Facebook live video.

I grabbed a quick lunch which I ate at my desk reading some articles on LinkedIn and I had a quick internal meeting and then an hour to action some work before I setup for a podcast interview – today I interviewed someone for my show and they interviewed me for theirs, back to back.

Then I drove home (listening to more podcasts) to organise my kids and get them fed, showered and to bed and pack lunch boxes! I then got back online around 8:30pm to finalise a few other action points from the day and to respond to this interview and I. will get to bed around 11pm.

Whilst I had a long day at work today, this year I made the decision to only have 1-2 of these long days a week and the other days will pick my kids up from school at 2:30/3pm. Due to my short days, I’m frequently back online for a few hours each night to do some more work and make sure I’m ready for the next day.

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

I am a big believer in scheduling so if I want to do something, I allocate time in my calendar to get it done. It can result in my calendar looking fairly hectic but I use different colours for scheduled task time vs meetings vs home related appointments so I can understand it at a glance and identify the flexible moments.

I try to prioritise activities across the business so that myself and my team are working on only 3-4 big projects at once. This is hard though as there are lots of things we are trying to achieve with a small team, but it definitely helps us to have clarity when we agree on our priorities up front.

I work from home a few days a week to save on travel time and to minimise interuptions. I find it very valuable to try and have a meeting free day each week and it’s something I strive to achieve as I can get so much done when the day isn’t split up.

If I find myself getting distracted, I use the pomodoro method (effectively working in 20 minute, focused stints) to get work done.

I find this really useful and during that 20 minutes I don’t check email or answer phone calls or move away from my desk. It works particularly well on my days when I’m working from home and occasionally I schedule a whole day using Pomodoro.

5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

I’ll be honest and say that it’s very hard and I do better at some stages in my career than others.

I have made changes this year which mean that I’m spending more time with my kids, but it still doesn’t leave a lot of time for “me” as I try to make up work time at night too. I do make sure I have some down time on the weekends and that I try to work as little as possible when the kids are with me.

6) What does work life balance mean to you?

I believe work life balance is a generic term that implies we have the right amount of work in our life to be fulfilling, but that leaves us time to have a meaningful life outside of work. I think this differs for every person so there is no one answer or ideal that I strive for, but rather we each know if we are working too hard or not working hard enough.

For me, I have already made a decision to prioritise my kids so the balance I’m trying to achieve is usually between work time and “me time”!

If we measured my balance by whether I’m getting enough sleep, or fitting exercise in, unfortunately I would say this year I haven’t been doing a good job! But I do manage to run a business and still get to nearly every school event and be there for my kids, so I have to take those as wins!

7) 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’m very deliberate with my time – if I can save time by having a phone call instead of a face-to-face meeting or let other people handle decisions without me, I try to do it.

I also do my best to be present in the moment and give my attention to those I’m with. Largely this means putting my phone away for conversations and trying to not think about other things I need to be doing.

I am very goal focused so I like to define what success is and keep that front and centre. I have charts on my walls with goals and priorities and sometimes sticky notes with specific goals. I like the visual reminders to keep me on track.

I try to remember to be grateful for the flexibility I do have, which after 14 years of working for myself, I can take for granted! That occasional coffee with a friend, the chance to attend my child’s athletics carnival or even working from a coffee shop all contribute to my balance and frame of mind!

Finally, I try to make sure both myself and the team are celebrating our wins each week. I believe it’s really important to celebrate these as we go.

8) Are there any books on work life balance that have helped you over the years?

I read a lot of business books and whilst they aren’t specifically on this topic, some related ones I have enjoyed are:

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

I always know in advance what I have coming up and make sure I’m making choices to make the most of my time for the next day. Whether this is making a decision to work from home or the office or be smart in how I group my meetings, optimising my limited work hours is top of mind.

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

The concept of life balance isn’t something we can solve once and not think about again. My life balance was very different four years ago and even two years ago and it changes based on the needs of my family and the needs of my business.

I always thought that as my kids got older, it would be easier to work more and have more time for me, but I’ve actually found that this isn’t entirely true! Rather it ebbs and flows and requires constant adjustments. It’s a work in progress!

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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.