Maha Obeid is a Freelance Journalist who has contributed to publications such as the Herald Sun, AdNews, Eco Beauty Editor, SBS, and more.
Balance the Grind spoke to Maha about her journalism career, her daily routine as a freelancer, setting deadlines for all her work, and more.
This conversation is brought to you by Freelancer.com, the world’s largest freelancing and crowdsourcing marketplace.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your background and career?
At the risk of sounding old, I began my career as a copy-girl on The Sun newspaper, which later merged with The Herald to become the Herald Sun.
My mother wanted me to be a lawyer or psychologist (go figure) but I had always wanted to be a journalist.
Last century, cadetships were three years and available to HSC graduates. They were preceded by a one-year, trial period as a copy-person – a broad role that didn’t exclude picking up the Chief-of-Staff’s dry-cleaning.
I’m forever grateful for that opportunity as it taught me so much.
2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?
For the third time in my career I’m freelancing – I can’t even keep up with what I’m doing! One of my favourite roles is contributing news articles to Downsizing.com.au.
I await the editor’s brief and then break that down into planning interviews, arranging photos-visuals, and research. I love researching and often go down the rabbit hole so that’s where a good editor, like Downsizing’s editor Mark Skelsey, helps out.
3) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Apart from work that’s booked ahead, I never know what each day will bring.
But my personal routine is my anchor: I wake up at about 5am and enjoy the peace of each day. Then I check all my email accounts and listen to early AM on ABC Radio Sydney.
I live in the Inner West and try to ride my pink pushbike everywhere (please look out for me and leave one metre), so I head out for an early morning bike-ride and get side-tracked at a fabulous café for my morning coffee.
I recently helped a startup prepare for a big conference, so we broke that down into five-hour days with a (very convenient) late start of 10am.
Each day, the team briefed me, and I set out on preparing collateral. At the end of the day we had another briefing to review tasks and priorities.
That’s an ideal job for me as I learn so much and I love the interaction.
4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you prioritise your workload?
I’m deadline driven, thanks to my work as a news and feature reporter.
I still set deadlines for all my work – even when my clients set a deadline, I work ahead of that to cover all contingencies.
5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?
It’s a simple tool but I use the “Favourites” option on my iPhone and switch my phone to Favourites from 9pm onwards.
That way only urgent calls come through, such as my family. My dad lives in Lebanon and my night-time is his day-time so I make sure I’m available in case of an emergency.
As convenient as technology is, I don’t think we can be connected 24 hours a day and a lot of research shows that using phones and devices at night interferes with sleep.
6) What are some of the things you do to take time out and recharge?
As a freelancer, and a bit of a hippie, I’m always on a tight budget but meditation is free and very calming.
Ironically, I picked up that healthy habit while I lived in Dubai and did a great meditation course with a yoga teacher from the UK.
She switched her corporate life in the UK to live and practice in Dubai – luckily she burned a few sessions onto a CD for me and I still use those on my iTunes.
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?
When I was a cadet, the wonderful cadet counsellor advised me: “Aim for the stars and you’ll reach the treetops.”
So, I always have dreams/goals and ambitions which seem unattainable but just by having them they are often realised.
One of the best moments was working on the inaugural Doha Tribeca Film Festival in 2009, when I was a PR Account Manager, and living at the W Doha hotel during the star-studded festival.
8) Are there any books you’ve read that have helped you with work-life balance?
It may be passé today, but I loved The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck.
Throughout my life and career, I have taken the road less travelled and that includes work-life balance and taking care of my health.
I was inspired by my childhood friend Simone – sadly she lost an eight-year battle with cancer before her 40th birthday but I still remember her words when I was packing up everything to move to Dubai.
I worked in the Gulf from 2006-2010, in journalism and communications. “You have to do what you love.”
9) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
I always expect the best – a former editor told me I was a Pollyanna, but I find when I have a positive attitude, good things ensue.