Balancing the Grind with Caitlin Lloyd, National Head of Strategy at Tribal Australia

Caitlin Lloyd is the National Head of Strategy at Tribal Australia, part of the DDB Group, one of the most awarded interactive agencies in Australia.

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

My current role is as National Head of Strategy at Tribal Australia, part of the DDB Group. I made the jump from media to creative over a year ago but my experience in digital goes back to my first job as an affiliates executive for a loyalty website back in the UK.

From there, I worked on the technology side at a comparison site based in Paris before making a ten-year commitment to media agencies across London, Melbourne and Sydney.

Aside from advertising, I qualified as a yoga teacher three years ago and have also worked part-time as a Communications lecturer and academic tutor at UTS. Teaching students really tests your ability to connect with others and nothing has been as effective at making sure every word counts.

Clients are typically paying for your expertise so are generally willing to give you the benefit of their full attention. 19-year-olds suffering a hangover and exhausted parents trying to sneak in a workout are much less obliging. 

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

My partner and I decided recently to move 20km out of the city to buy ourselves a patch of green space and I’ve been grappling with the longer commute as a result.

Surprisingly the 25-minute walk at either end of my bus journey has made a huge difference to how I feel by the time I get to work or back home again. Travelling that physical distance gives me some much needed thinking time and I’m convinced makes me more pleasant by the time I get to my destination. 

Each workday is different, but I spend most of my working day grappling with client problems and chatting with colleagues to test my thinking before presenting insights back to the business.

As my role is national, I spend a lot of time on video calls with our Melbourne office, but in general, I find a 10-minute desk/corridor chat is far more productive than 20 emails back and forth.

As a strategist, it’s easy to get lost in your thoughts and I have to constantly pull myself out of the rabbit hole and get a second opinion. Luckily, I’m surrounded by wonderful thinkers but it has meant getting comfortable with being vulnerable and sharing ‘half-baked’ work before it’s perfect. 

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

Absolutely. I currently spend three days in the office and two days at home but have worked remotely at least one day a week for the last five years so was pretty well adjusted before lockdown.

At Tribal, we also try to adapt to people’s routines, whether that’s starting and finishing late or early or working from where they’re most effective.

I have quite a good bullshit meter when it comes to knowing if I’m deliberately procrastinating and need to be more disciplined or if I’ve hit a genuine roadblock in my thinking.

If it’s the former, I minimise distractions. Turn off email. Put my phone on airplane mode. Assure myself I don’t need to make another hot drink. If it’s the latter, I take myself for a walk or physically move spaces to see if that new environment can spark something.

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

I don’t really believe in the concept of work-life balance. Work is an integral part of my life, it’s not something I’m trying to squeeze in or escape from.

Most people who are lucky enough to get to a point in their career where their role is genuinely suited to their interests and skills would probably agree that their work self is an extension of their home self. I don’t act any differently with colleagues and many of my closest friends were met through work.

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

After having a period of burnout two years ago, I chose to let myself off the hook when it comes to routine.

Although I know from experience that yoga, meditation, and eating well are all crucial to my well-being, I don’t schedule them in at any set time, but I do make sure that I get going as soon as I feel the urge. If I delay it till later, it just won’t get done. 

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

I read a lot of non-fiction but a few of my favourite authors are Malcolm Gladwell, Hugh Mackay and Cal Newport.

I’m also a regular podcast listener and subscribe to Grounded by Louis Theroux and How to Fail by Elizabeth Day. While I try to limit my news consumption, it’s hard to resist anything written by Anne Helen Peterson or Caitlin Moran.

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

I have a real love/hate relationship with my phone and technology in general. I lived without a TV for ten years but now I seem to be permanently tethered to Netflix, Spotify, WhatsApp and BorrowBox.

I look at my Screen Time report with a wince and a promise to myself that next week will be different. In my defense, I’m very close to my family and due to the time difference with the UK, by the time I’m logging off my work computer, it’s the perfect time to chat to my brother on his commute or sneak in a FaceTime with my nephews. 

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

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We were born almost exactly a year apart but she appears to operate almost as a different species.

Watching Knock Down The House, I was blown away by her energy and determination and I’d love to know more about how she made the switch from bartending in the Bronx to becoming a US representative.

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

Balance is elusive. Most of us are conditioned to fail because of the way our brains are built. I want to reassure people that multitasking is a myth; all we’re really doing is task-switching.

For me, getting into a flow state is crucial to actually getting shit done instead of just appearing to get shit done. When I’m able to lose a sense of time passing, I get beyond the surface insights that separate a good strategist from a mediocre one.

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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.