Balancing the Grind with Clarissa Harris, Managing Director at True Tribe

Clarissa Harris is the Managing Director at True Tribe, a boutique creative communications agency based in Naarm, Melbourne, Australia.

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

I’m the Managing Director at True Tribe, a boutique creative communications agency based in Melbourne. We work with a broad list of clients across fashion, tourism, government, lifestyle and hospitality with brands like Lululemon, Made Group, St Ali, Hard Yakka and Toyota on the books.

I studied a Bachelor of Communication (Public Relations) at RMIT and held a few in-house and agency roles. When I was 22, I founded True Tribe alongside my husband, Tim Harris. True Tribe came from equal parts excited, burning creative passion and frustrated, mind-boggled annoyance.

We saw a hole in the market for smaller sized agencies that could tackle projects with a hands-on attitude, so we joined forces and began working on some projects together. Before we knew it, referrals were coming in by the bucketload so we built up a dynamic team and formed what is now the agency.

Deciding we wanted to step into the agency circle and deliver an end-to-end solution when it came to clients needs. It was scary to think what the bigger players might have thought of us.

We realised the best way to overcome any form of imposter syndrome or comparison to your peers was to just keep your head down doing your best work. You’d be surprised at the creative output that can come from truly listening to your clients needs and embodying one task at a time.

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

As a mum to an energetic 3-year old no two days are the same. But I understand the importance of a good routine and really try to stick to it. Like most parents, I’ve come to realise time is so bloody precious which is why I now have a 4-day working week. And Mondayitis was really bumming me out. I’ll still do a sneaky check-in online but the rest of the day is usually a visit to the museum, library, state park or a play date with a friend. Really wholesome stuff. 

For the remainder of the week I work Tuesday–Friday.

At 5am the iPhone chorus barks, which I’m sure too many of us are familiar with. I get ready for an online yoga class with my PR buds, a ritual formed during lockdown which has nicely stuck. By then, the house is humming with everyone up. Mornings are a sacred family time for us to pop on some music, make breakfast together and set the tone for the day. 

After daycare drop-off it’s game time. Before I launch into work, I’ll look over my daily WIP, check in with the team and prioritise tasks for the day. Anything minor, gets bumped to the next day. The AM is where the bulk of my workload gets done. If I’m not responding to emails, in a consult, reviewing reports – I’m out on the field. Usually at a photoshoot, visiting clients or networking. Lunch time is non-negotiable. Always something delicious like a to-go banh mi, pub lunch or if I’m working from home a Food-Network inspired feast.

If I’m back at the desk I smash out my second chunk of productivity before the afternoon slump kicks in. I have my trusty timer which I set at 20-minute blocks to keep me focused. At 2pm my iPhone reminds me of “knock offs” at 3pm. A goal I am still yet to reach, but the early reminder, and the thought of a cold lager helps me suppress the procrastination and nail my afternoon tasks.

Sometimes when my cup of tea is empty, I know it’s time to reassess the to-do list as I get a refill. I wear a lot of hats between the clients we service, but taking our little girl, Scout the staffy for a walk around the local river or woodlands helps me think over and prioritise the tasks at hand for the rest of the day.

Closing the books, it’s daycare pick up and play while we make dinner. I like to include Zeph in the cooking process, so usually he’s stirring a pot or chatting at the bench while snacking. After bath and bed for the little one, Tim and I wind down with a glass of wine or beer and some bar snacks in front of the fire now that it’s winter. Then it’s nightly ablutions, chamomile tea, a spot of reading and sweet, sweet sleep.

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

Luckily enough, we were setting ourselves up to work remotely as much as possible pre-2020. We’d aim to travel twice a year to reflect, dream and plan for new goals in a five year increment, which is something we’d do for our business and personal lives too.

Each year our business got older, I feel like we worked a little smarter to allow more time to dream and recoup between big projects. This involved bringing on extensions of our team and including people who do “one thing, really freakin’ well” to offer the best we could when putting together a team on a case-by-case basis.

We still dream of that 4-hour work week, but as we’ve grown and developed we’ve had to reteach ourselves just as often to create space for work-life balance.

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

Both my husband and I are both really passionate about what we do. It can be hard work, but achieving what started out as a scribble on a piece of paper or an idea sent over email comes into fruition feels really bloody good. But we have also realised what good is it if you can’t pause for a moment to celebrate those wins? Or enjoy the perspective of completing a task? Or take the time to allow inspiration to come back into your life? The pauses are just as important as the wins.

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

Say hello to my little friend, non-alc beer! Haha. I’m sure a few of us brought the share prices of bottle shops up in the last couple of years. Finding a good beer alternative like Heaps Normal coming out of lock-down has been a godsend.

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

Absolutely. My top reccos are The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, Hack Your Own PR poddy and the Digital Picnic newsletters. 

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

I also reckon AirPods are the second greatest invention after the iPhone. With apps, my go-tos are Creative Cloud for editing, Telum for media databases and Trello for project management. Mindbody is also one of my most used apps.

The way fitness and wellness has become so accessible over the last two years has become a big plus. Even to just be able to digest what’s out there in one place or just try something completely new, like bouldering.

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

This is a tricky one. But if I had to pick one it would have to be Hetty Lui McKinnon. She manages to create some of the best freestyle recipes while balancing kids, family and work. I’d love to hear how she does it!

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

Even mentors need mentors. Learning and earning are inseparable. And if feeling guilty about how much Parmesan cheese you have on your pasta is the worst of your problems, life must be pretty good.

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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.