Balancing the Grind with Bec Madden, Strategy Director at Archetype

Bec Madden is the Strategy Director at Archetype, a global marketing agency partnering with category creators and industry leaders around the world.

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

After working in retail and hospitality for a few years during school and university, I officially started my career in magazines, working on entertainment and youth publications as a writer and editor.

This was at a time when commitment to the craft was managed in equal measure to commitment to the social aspects of the job – think flights to flamboyant lunches in Byron and outrageous launches with rockstars. Hard to walk away from, but I eventually did to explore greater digital opportunities in the equally outrageous world of advertising. 

As advertising has evolved it’s become fertile ground for exploring new skills and I took advantage of that, trying on new hats quickly.

I worked as a creative churning out everything from radio scripts to fashion copy, through to leading creative shoots. I worked as a social media manager and creative delivering concepts and strategy for brands like Chobani with digital-first approaches. 

After much umming and ahhing, I finally happened upon strategy, and it was love at first insight. Most of my career has been like this – happy chance encounters that have led me to places of great joy (and joylessness). But nothing has really rocked me more than working in strategy.

I have really found my happy place. Today, as Strategy Director at Archetype, I get to sink my teeth into a broad cross section of business and client challenges, from branding and creative campaigns through to channel planning and everything in between. No two briefs are the same and it’s fun.

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

Since coming back from maternity leave, I mostly work from home, which makes it so much easier to balance the grind. I feel like this allows me to be less hectic and focused to deliver, while also being able to focus on the small people in my life in a more meaningful way.  

Since coming back, I have forgotten my old ways and have well and truly joined the 5am club. Kind of unavoidable with a 11-month-old, but I’ve really learned to love it – I’m so much more productive and energised (go figure, I’m definitely not getting more sleep).

This morning, for instance, I woke up at 5ish to feed the baby, followed by a Zoom bootcamp session for 45mins for that much needed exercise fix. Once both my children got off to daycare my day really began.

I meditated with Deepak for 10 minutes and then hit the ground running with a strong coffee in hand at 9am. Honestly, the combination of exercise and meditation has really changed the game for me and I’d recommend it to anyone – never looking back to my late nights, late rising ways! 

Depending on what I’m working on, my day-to-day changes all the time. From going deep on research and planning a client’s strategy through to creative reviews, I’ve often got my head down in the work, with blinkers on until I’ve cracked an insight or milestone and I’m ready to move on.

Part of the balance here for me is really ignoring or tuning out distractions. If I responded in real-time to everything in these moments, I’d never get anything done. 

I try and chunk out my day, micro sprints if you will, to switch up my mindset but also fit things in. In the afternoon I’ll try and focus on more menial tasks if I have them before getting one last deep dive into a strategy. Sometimes I’m up late but in the downtimes I’m finished and out the door to get the kids at 5.30. 

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

One hundred per cent. Even before the pandemic, my boss (and Archetype) has encouraged us to WFH at least one day a week. They’ve also been incredibly flexible for start and finish times to allow for daycare delivery and pick ups.

That level of flexibility has been important for me to deliver great quality work, which is less about the hours, more about the outputs. This has really helped me thrive and not get caught up in the stress of hustling hard at every moment (even though this still inevitably happens, but it just takes the pressure off).

The pandemic has really changed the culture around flexible working. I think with most people working from home at least half the time we’ll see a more permanent shift to this, which is incredibly important for the work-life balance.

For me it means I now have more time for my kids, for cooking nicer meals (less fast and dirty) and most importantly, for me.

I think the hustle means, as a parent anyway, the more mindful, healthful ways of living are the first things to fall away, and so this time has meant I’ve been able to commit to ‘me’-goals and helped me live a fuller life. I still have the late nights on projects, but this is really complimented with much more calm. 

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

Work-life balance, to me, essentially means time dedicated to me and my life while also having access to flexibility that helps me deliver great work. I am so much better when I have that balance. I’m clearer headed, I have more energy and I deliver better work. 

Like many people, I have a tendency to push through mental blocks or stressful situations, but it’s only in moments of down-time, when I have a few extra moments to be more mindful with my work, that I appreciate just how impactful walking away from the work to clear my head can be.

It makes me so much more productive and delivers better results 100 per cent of the time. That’s as much a reminder to me as it is to anyone reading: just step away! Ha. 

Talking to people is another big one for me. I’m such a social person and working from home, alongside my very busy partner, means I crave conversation.

I’m a strong believer in people power, that ideas come from all places and people, and having access to my peers to spark ideas and round out thoughts, also just for general life banter, is part of balancing my mind. I try to chat regularly and do 1:1s to really bridge the connection gap right now. 

Finally, bushwalking has been a real decompressor. After reading about a woman who turned to hiking to cope with brain trauma my eyes opened to the power of nature healthy body and mind.

A topic I’ve been acutely aware of since having a baby. I’ve always been an outdoors gal, but getting into the bush regularly has become a real thing for me. It’s so soul enriching and cleansing. And, it can be a social and family affair. Best ideas happen walking in the bush. Absolute fact. 

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5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life? 

Yes! I’ve stopped sleeping in (sigh) and going to bed very late. I’ve started rising early. I now have alerts on my phone to wind down and get off social media. I mean, I’m not perfect at this but it has definitely helped me change my behaviour and get me up early. 

Meditation is another one. I never really took to it before but I really do love it and benefit from it. 

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I love this question. There are so many podcasts. So many I still want to listen to as well. I predominantly like having a mix of story-telling and science meets social anthropology podcasts, while also trying to listen to things that keep me across the industry too.

Here’s a snapshot (podcasts and other):  

  • RadioLab is an all-time fave from the science-anthropology point of view.
  • Download This Show is obviously essential if you want to keep up with tech-culture. 
  • Benedict Evans newsletter for all things tech, he has a great summary of the week’s developments. 
  • Dare to Lead, by Brene Brown – I love “clear is kind”.   

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?


Product: My Dragon Girl Nars lipstick. 

Gadget: Beats wireless headphones. 

Apps: Oprah Deepak meditation app  

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?   

Pip Edwards! She makes it look so easy, that girl. 

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

Get out in nature, it will recharge you in hidden ways. 

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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.