Creative Directors / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Sherry Holub, Creative Director at JV Media Design

Sherry Holub is the Creative Director at JV Media Design, a digital agency specialising in website design, graphic design, and digital marketing.

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

During college I started doing graphic design on a freelance basis. I was lucky in that my father had stated his own business when I was a child. That was a great example to me, so I wasn’t afraid to do the same when I graduated from art school.

I also saw the opportunity to take the skills I’d been developing with my freelance projects, combine them with my artistic talents, and go “all in”, as they say. I founded JVM Design in 1995 shortly after getting my BA in art.

My current role is Creative Director, but as a small business owner in charge of a small team, I get to wear a few different hats. I frequently participate in marketing and strategy, interfacing with clients, and design work.

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

Someday I may be able to reach my goal of waking up between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., but at the moment, it’s more like 8 (I’m self-admittedly one of the “night owl” people).

8 a.m. – When I get up, my cats come to greet me, I give them both some extra attention, get out of bed and drink a class of water.

8:15 a.m. – Qi Gong followed by some extra stretching and sometimes I sit in my infrared sauna

8:40 a.m. – Next up is a cold/hot 5 minute shower. I don’t drink coffee and there’s nothing like cold water to shake off any sleepiness.

9:00 a.m. – I make breakfast every morning and truly buy into the “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” thing. I have a green shake with additional protein and maca.

My typical breakfast is grain-free waffles and blueberries or other fruit and occasionally some walnuts. If I have some extra time I may go out on the deck and fuss over my potted plants or talk a walk out into the front yard to look things over or water.

9:30 a.m. – I have a home office on purpose. I’ve never been one of those types who needed to go off to an office in order to focus on work.

The office is the only upstairs room in the house, so it is a little bit separated. I have my computer set to wake up at 8:30 a.m. so it’s good to go when I get up to my desk.

Most days, I dive right in and check email right away. Since I’m the lead with managing most projects, engaging with clients, and fielding new project inquiries I like to do a quick check if anything needs my attention first thing in the morning.

I also field questions and help existing clients with small tasks for about the first hour. I may also check my Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. – I’ll typically try to schedule calls, meetings, or appointments between this time. If I don’t have any, I concentrate on a more intensive or creative task.

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. – I’ll usually eat lunch between this time, sometimes making it and sometimes going out to one of the local restaurants. Occasionally I’ll meet up with my 81 year old dad after his golf game on Thursdays and have lunch.

1 p.m. – 2 p.m. – This is my alternate time for calls, meetings, or appointments. If I have none, this is blocked off for for intensive or creative work tasks.

Between 2-4 p.m., I work on smaller tasks and check on/respond to email. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I drive one of our team members home and usually take a few hours off to do any shopping or errands. Tuesdays and Thursday, I may work until 6 p.m.

After 6 p.m. – When I get back home, if it’s Tuesday – Thursday, I’ll do between 15-30 minuets of exercise, down a protein shake with some added Creatine and make some dinner.

Occasionally I’ll also relax and watch some tv and in the summer months I’ll often go outside and fiddle around in the yard until sunset.

Around 8 or 9 p.m. – I’ll head back up to the office and check email from that last few hours. If I haven’t gotten my work tasks done for the day, I’ll spend an hour or 2 more on those before calling it a night.

I’ll create the to-do list for the next day then I’ll go back downstairs and relax, play with the cats, read, go in the sauna, watch tv, or even do a house chore or two.

The last hour before bed is all very low-light level, no screens, and no stress. I may do some foam rolling or stretching, Qi Gong, reading or listening to music on headphones and call it a night.

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

Absolutely! I wouldn’t have it any other way. All but two of my team are full time remote as well. Honestly, I think it’s the best way to be able to have your own routine.

As long as work gets done, remote working allows the flexibility to fit other things in at any time.

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

Controlling the morning (with your own morning routine) usually helps to balance you before you officially start working and prepare you to face whatever may happen that day.

Blocking off time for intensive or creative tasks ensures they get done. If you manage remote team members, using an online project management system (I use Basecamp) is a really helpful tool to keep things on track and organized.

Scheduling phone calls, meetings, and other appointments during certain chunks of time or certain days helps you plan better.

Most of all, if you’ve got a lot of work to do, make sure you’re doing things to counter-balance all of that. I may work long hours frequently, but I also spend a decent amount of time taking care of myself too.

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

When I first started out I was a pretty typical creative person and would often burn the midnight oil. It wasn’t unusual for me to work until 3 or 4 in the morning. Protip: that catches up with you!

I probably lasted longer than most, but eventually that took a real toll on my overall well being. When I finally realized I couldn’t keep that up, I got way more serious about forming new healthier habits around work as well as in my personal life.

This is around the time I got more serious about practicing Qi Gong, getting on an earlier schedule, and making sure I had downtime where I wasn’t staring at a computer screen for work.

For me, work-life balance is very individualized. I also feel that striving to achieve a “perfect” ratio of work and non-work is a bit of a trap.

It’s something you have to experiment with and over time you learn what recharges you, what drains you, what’s neutral and how much of each you do to find your own balance.

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?

Qi Gong is #1, hands down. It’s one part meditation/zen-like state, 1 part physical exercise, 1 part internal exercise. It’s calming and recharging at the same time. It’s good stuff!

My second best habit is my overall morning routine. I try to stick to that as no matter what else happens in the day, I’ve taken that time for myself and gotten the day off to a good start.

My third best habit is simply doing the best work I can. I sincerely care about every client and every project. When you tie those aspects to your work, it makes for a great work ethic and it’s like an anchor for success and doing great things.

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

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Brunett – A delightful novel with one of the main themes being when things are worked on and attended to, they thrive (coincidentally, I needed a reminder of that when I picked this one up). I actually first read it as an adult even though it’s really an English children’s book.

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (translated) – The first time I read this was in my early 20s and sparked my interest in Taoism as well as gave me a new perspective on many things.

Opening Energy Gates Body: Chi Gung for Lifelong Health by Bruce Frantzis – This was the first book I read that guided me more down the path of exploring Qi Gong.

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

Be present.

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

No matter what work you do, developing a great work ethic is always a good thing. When it comes to balance, remember that one size does not fit all. Experiment to find what feels right for you and be prepared to change things up once in awhile.

For life, I’ll leave you with this quote: “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered” (G.K. Chesterton).

If you found the above conversation helpful and inspiring, be sure to check out Balance the Grind’s guide to achieving a healthy work-life balance.

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.