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Balancing the Grind with Bronte McHenry, Head of Media at Startmate

Bronte McHenry is the Head of Media at Startmate, a start-up accelerator working with founders, operators and investors across Australia and New Zealand.

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

I officially kicked off my career as Chief Production and Sub-Editor at SmartCompany. Three years in, I was ready for a change. I didn’t have a good sense of how my skills could transfer, so I applied for an events and outreach role at Startmate, figuring it would be a great stepping stone, exposing me to roles, technologies and founders. In the end, it was less of a stepping stone, and more of a landing pad.

My role at Startmate has evolved a lot in the past 12 months. It currently focuses on what we dub ‘distribution’, which is a mix of content, PR, marketing and community-building. I’m currently working with Lauren Capelin to build out a three-year distribution strategy that will serve Startmate, our portfolio and our alumni. If you think Startmate is ‘everywhere’ now, just wait until the end of the year. 

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

6-9am: Morning routine

I wake up at 6am and read. At 6.30am, I go to F45 or for a run, and generally get home just before 8am. I listen to The Daily Aus and 7am while I eat breakfast, and aim to be out the door by 8.40am.

I head to a cafe in Richmond (Serotonin, Jethro or Axil, depending on where I am working from that day). While I walk, I check my Asana to-do list, do my daily Slack stand-up, and reply to Slack messages. My aim is to arrive at the cafe knowing exactly what my day entails. (I’ve only tripped over once.)

9-10am: Newsletter nerd-out

I spend the first hour of my reading some of the 60 newsletters I’m subscribed to. I read to stay in-the-know with news, get inspiration for Startmate’s content and learn about best-practice tips, tricks and ideas. This hour is always a rabbithole. I’ll start in my inbox and end up somewhere else on the web, reading a random case study on spam filters, but it’s always a creative boost and I always learn something useful.

10am-10.30am: Coffee chats

I often get a morning coffee with a member of the Startmate team, a Fellow or a Startmate alumni. It’s really just an excuse to inhale more caffeine. 

10.30am-6pm: Work, work, work

At about 10.30am, I’ll attack my Asana to-do list with pizzazz (and eventually relocate to the office or my desk at home). What I work on depends on what day of the week it is: Mondays are for 1:1s and meeting prep, Tuesday is for editorial work, Wednesday is fenced off for deep work and big projects, Thursday is for admin and meetings, and Friday is all about upskilling and documentation.

6pm-onwards: Friend time

I tend to have plans every evening, by nature of struggling to chill the F out — my current calendar has DIY, social netball, dance class, life drawing, movie nights, bookclub, dinners, dates and work events in it. I try to disconnect as much as I can, but I struggle to not think (and talk) about work if it’s been a particularly good or bad day. I’m a work in progress on that front.

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

I’m lucky to work at a remote-first company, meaning we have systems in palce to enable me to work from anywhere. I just got back from 10 days in Hobart, I’m about to spend two months in Bali, and Auckland and Brisbane are on the cards for late-2022. My ambitious goal is to spend at least 75% of 2023 traveling across Australia and APAC more broadly.

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

I’ll preface this answer by saying I’ve never been balanced in my life. I do everything at max speed, am prone to losing interest in things, people and projects, and have ridiculous expectations for what I should accomplish in a day. (Lol.)

With this in mind, I define ‘work-life balance’ as ‘fitting it all in’. I know I’ve lost balance when I’m sacrificing time with friends, my DIY projects and my books in favour of work and deadlines. And equally, I know somethings gotta give when I don’t feel I am giving myself the mental and literal space to do the best work of my life. I know I’ve struck balance when my day is packed with work, time with a friend, and some of the little things that bring me joy.

This might sound a little chaotic, but I have two hacks that make it pretty manageable. The first is integrating my work and social lives. I am a firm believer in bringing your full self to work, I’m very close with my colleagues, a lot of my friends work at startups, and I frequently meet friends at cafes on weekdays for working dates.

The second is (sometimes ruthless) prioritisation. If a task won’t move the needle in some way, I’ll bump it. If I can bundle life-admin tasks, I do. If I can turn a fun social event into a monthly tradition, I will.

Now that you’ve seen inside my mind, please just roll with it when I suggest we turn our adhoc catch-up into a monthly rendezvous at a set location with organised fun and a learning component.

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

  • I now use Asana religiously, in both my professional and personal life. It’s a game-changing piece of software.
  • I now use Toggl to track my time.
  • I’ve introduced morning reading blocks because I used to dawdle before exercise. It’s a much more efficient way of giving my body time to wake up.
  • I switched from the gym to F45. I have so much more brain space now that I don’t have to plan my workouts. 
  • I’ve stopped planning too far ahead. It’s silly to think in five-year chunks when the truth is I have little idea who I am, where I am going and what I want.
  • I now listen to classical music when writing. I have no data to prove this is a win, but it’s a vibe. 
  • I started seeing a psychologist. I’m far more aware of my coping mechanisms and shortcomings now. They are still there, of course, but I now have scientific names for them.

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

Podcasts: The Daily Aus, The Twenty Minute VC’s 20Growth episodes, The Future of Everything, The world ahead and Planet Money.

Newsletters: Not a Newsletter, Big Technology, Not Boring, What the Health?!, Send and Grow, Simon Owens’s Media Newsletter, Lenny’s Newsletter and Why this is interesting? 

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

Asana, Descript and my Garmin.

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

Roxane Gay. She creates and consumes at a jaw-dropping pace, while also being an inquisitive and challenging thinker. I’d like to know her hacks. 

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

When I started answering these questions, I asked my best friend Ellie: “Have I ever been balanced?” She started laughing, and replied: “How honest do you want to be in this interview?” I am honest to a fault, of course, so my passing remark is that if you’re anything like me, you probably shouldn’t aspire for balance in the literal sense.

Instead, figure out what activities feed your soul rather than your ego, how to bolster your resilience, and what makes you unequivocally happy, and aspire to pack these into your life instead.

Before you go…

Check out more daily routines from Barack Obama, Arianna Huffington, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet and plenty others.

About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.