Coaches / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Shannah Kennedy, Executive Life Strategist

Shannah Kennedy is the Co-Founder (together long-time collaborator Lyndall Mitchell) of The Essentialists, where they work to engage, educate and empower individuals, teams and organisations with essential life and wellness skills.

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

After spending years in sport management and sponsorship career mode, I realised I was the quintessential A Type overachieving perfectionist. I had no self care strategies and was a bit of a FOMO and burnt the candle at both ends having the time of my life in my dream role travelling the country and globe watching athletes compete.

I also saw the incredible highs that an athlete experiences and also the incredible and heart breaking lows, and little regard for life after sport. After close to a decade of working full pelt, my health sent me a big message, it was time to change.

I developed chronic fatigue syndrome which robbed me of my health, life and my mindset. Depression set in as I could not move my body how I wanted it to and my mind was just exhausted.

During this time I thought a lot about all I had seen in my incredible career path, and felt that no one really had a plan for life after sport. I employed a life coach to help me through chronic fatigue and teach me how to change my ways so moving forward I could have and experience longevity in my career.

The experience was incredible, to have someone guide me, to have someone challenge my way of being and thinking, and to teach me some self care and mental coping strategies. After I improved over a few years of hell, I decided to study life coaching to coach athletes into retirement – to develop a cracking life plan so they actually had a life to look forward to after sport.

Nearly 20 years later, after becoming one of the first life coaches in Melbourne, I coach for clarity, direction and purpose. I live with chronic fatigue and depression and have built an incredible life and business by learning and mastering The Life Plan, how to manage myself so I can show up daily being the best version of myself as the goal.

Over the years I built a very large and solid executive coaching business. I work with CEO’s, leaders, elite athletes, small business owners and entrepreneurs. Those that want to experience incredible success with longevity in career and a great base of wellbeing to support them through the process both personally and professionally.

This led to the speaking circuit where I travel the country sharing life and wellness skills for high performance and this progressed to writing books. The Life Plan is a global best seller and I have written others such as Simplify Structure Succeed, Chaos to Calm, Shine, Restore and Ignite.

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

No day is the same for me. Some days are for coaching, sometimes I am on a plane and giving a talk to 200 people, sometimes off to a company’s offsite to coach 10 people and sometimes no clients and just working on the business or doing some writing.

But I always wake up at 5.30am and have a great morning routine of breathing, affirmations, an hour of exercise and hydration before I wake up my family. I have a husband and 2 teenagers and a dog to care for. I then get to work by 8.30am to commence coaching at 9am. Most of my clients live all around the world so the majority of my coaching is over the phone.

Some days I have face to face coaching for those flying in to Melbourne or those that live in Melbourne who want to see me face to face. Around 1pm I have a quick break and eat and then get into the fabulous list – working on the business, meetings, conference and workshop preparation until 4pm.

However as mentioned I have no typical day as each week is totally different depending on how many clients, workshops, states I may be in.

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

YES! I love it. I coach people in cafes, and can work from anywhere. Writing books, preparing talks, workshops for companies can all be done anywhere, I am not tied to an office. This works brilliantly for me as I like to change it up, keep on my toes, gather different ideas and energy from constantly changing environments.

I work hard when I work and then when I turn off I really turn off. I often schedule in a lunch time yoga class, or walk on the beach or get a massage. I love looking at my diary and being the creator – success is living the life I choose. I want to choose my week, hence needed to learn the great art of saying no sometimes in order to stay authentic to myself and committed to my goals.

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

I have a written diary which sounds crazy to so many. However most of my clients now have them too with a week to a page – to really see a whole week, to plan it, to make it work for you, to have boundaries.

Some appointments are also on outlook however everything is in the written diary – it is my EVERYTHING. I daily flick through to 8 weeks ahead so I am all over how I can manage my time, my health, my fitness, my fun and family and my space. I want to own it, so I often look at it and create spaces.

I also recommend learning the discipline of really learning how to focus and getting rid of distraction. Turn the phone off for a few hours a day to just get stuff done. Give yourself hours of power to just get through the list and finish things.

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

I don’t think there is such a thing as work-life balance. I think it is work-life blend with the arrival of incredible technology. So for me it means flowing with it all, taking responsibility to create space for myself when I need it, and feeling in control most of the time. Life is like a river, that flows, and it has bends and twists occasionally and we need to move with it.

My morning hour and night time hour are what keeps me grounded, connected to self and feeling in control. The bookends of my day – the first and last hour – I like to dedicate to my practices and the rest of the day is a full time juggle which I celebrate.

Coaching, speaking, writing, meetings, finances, being a wife, working with 2 amazing teenage children and their lives and looking after my furry love, my dog Rex. But the first and last hour, I have the routines that really support me, make me happy and keep me feeling on top of things. Also we don’t sleep with our phones in the bedrooms, letting our minds switch off.

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?

Time management is a skill and the one skill that provides the greatest reward. Owning your time, managing it well, creating boundaries and honouring yourself is up to you. You are not your job.

Your job is what you do. You are the business, the asset, that needs to be looked after, to grow, to flourish and evolve. I spend more time planning than executing some times to make sure it is smooth and I sit with my husband and kids weekly to go through our diaries so we all feel calm and confident moving forward.

No technology in the bedroom is non negotiable for me. Turning the phone off. Allowing my mind to settle so I sleep well, as sleep is the greatest stress reliever there is and needs to be respected and guarded.

Movement is also a habit that has kept my physical, mental and emotional health in full check over the years. Even with chronic fatigue syndrome and depression that I treat, movement is medicine.

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

Yes! There are so many fantastic books out there that have guided and shaped me. You Can Heal Your Life, Extreme Self Care, The Judgement Detox, Essentialism, The 4 Agreements, and so many more!

Now we also have podcasts and Ted Talks so if I am ever interested in a topic I just listen and learn. I want to be a student for life, to keep learning and growing and finding fulfilment in all I do.

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

Plan it, write in down on a list and tick it off. Taking the time to be realistic, think it through and get that sense of achievement and fulfilment only comes from planning it. I serves as a map for the brain, a source of inspiration and motivation. Know why things are on your list, what are your big lofty goals that they support? Get clear, get inspired and enjoy the ride!

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

Yes, you are the asset. You are unique, you are special and you deserve the best.

The journey through your work, your life, your relationships and everything else comes from either a place of distraction and pleasing others, or by focusing on your own lane, to find clarity on what serves you best, what your recipe for success is and how you want to feel in life.

That comes from spending the time being connected to yourself, honouring what is best for you and finding fulfilment in your days. Plan a life that inspires you, serves you and excites you. Take baby steps and watch as the world opens up.

If you’d like to have a conversation with us about how you balance the grind, get in touch with us!

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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.