Balancing the Grind with Colleen Callander, Founder of Mentor Me

Colleen Callander is an author, former CEO and the founder of Mentor Me, a platform where she mentors women from all different walks of life.

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

After 30 years in retail with 13 of those years as CEO of two of Australians Iconic fashion brands – Sportsgirl and Sussan it was time for me to start writing the next chapter of my life.

As a CEO, my mission was to engage, empower and inspire people to be the best version of themselves, and now in this next chapter of my life, my mission is exactly the same.

I started Callander&Co in early 2020 which consists of the ‘Mentor Me Women’ program, leadership and business coaching and keynote speaking.

I also wrote my first book Leader By Design, where I share my story from finishing school at the age of 16 to CEO and everything in between including how my upbringing influenced the women and leader I am today, hitting burnout, the power of kindness, how to find your superpower and how we all have the ability to become a ‘leader by design’.

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

The way I start and finish my day is super important. My day always starts with a walk to the beach – rain, hail or shine. It’s like putting fuel in my tank.

Beyond that, no two days are the same, which is just the way I like it. My day can start with 1:1 coaching, followed by meeting new clients or perhaps recording a podcast, an afternoon board meeting or a meeting with my publisher.

My office is now at home, so I really love getting out and about. I particularly love speaking at events and meeting new people and making a positive impact in other people’s lives.

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

One of the perks in having my own business is that I have the flexibility to work ‘my way’ and I can really work from anywhere as long as I have my computer and internet.

Even though I have flexibility in the way I now work, and the hours I work, I still like to have a start and finish time to bookend my workday. I also make sure I have boundaries now that my office is at home.

When I am in work mode there are no personal phone calls, no internet banking, no shopping online and no scrolling through Instagram, I am totally focussed. I have a set time each day where I stop replying to emails and taking phone calls, and I (and my family) become the priority.

By putting these boundaries in place allows me to create a great life in balance that works for me and my family.

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

I am not a huge fan of the term ‘work-life balance’; I much prefer to think about it as having a ‘life in balance’.

Why do we have to put life into two boxes – one being work and the other being life? That’s not how it works; life doesn’t fit into neat little boxes; they need to co-exist in balance.

After facing burnout in 2007 I needed to make some significant changes in my life to create a life in balance. Today, I live by an 80/20 rule for many things in my life. This means that 80 percent of my life needs to be in balance and 20 per cent can be out of balance or a bit chaotic.

I love the 80 percent balance because it brings calmness, control, routine and happiness to my life; however, on the flip side, I also like the chaotic 20 percent – it makes me more resilient, strong and grateful.

When my life isn’t in 80/20, I know that means I’m not working very smartly. As the level of chaos creeps up, I start to feel out of balance, out of control, overwhelmed and stressed. This is when I know I need to take action. I need to change, add or delete something in my life to get back to my happy 80/20 place.

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

I am a very routine person and always have been. There are a number of things I can’t live without and my calendar is one of them.

Call me old fashioned, but I still have a handwritten calendar – something about committing pen to paper, rather than using a digital calendar, works for me. Everything goes in it: work, family, social and health.

I like to have a total picture of what each week and month is looking like. Most importantly, in my calendar I block out time for me to recharge and reconnect. That can be as simple as morning walks, a massage, booking a date night with my husband or going to see a movie.

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

I have so many favourite books! One of my favourites is The Life Plan by Shannah Kennedy. Shannah was actually my life coach for many years and her book The Life Plan is fabulous and a must read for anyone wanting simple strategies to live with purpose, find clarity and achieve your goals.

The other one would be Start With Why by Simon Sinek. The book is all about finding purpose and passion, and when leaders and companies know their WHY only then can they have a positive impact on those around them through their vision, mission and leadership.

I apply learnings from both books in my life every day.

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

I am obsessed with my Garmin watch. I have to achieve my 10,000 steps every day. I am a total achievement junkie so ticking boxes works for me!

The app I can’t live without would be the ‘waze’ app because I have no sense of direction and I would struggle to get from point A to point B without it.

The one product I couldn’t live without would be my 50+ tinted moisturiser. I put it on my face every day no matter what the weather outside.

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

I don’t have any one particular person I would go to for work-life balance inspiration, but I am always reading and learning from different sources.

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

Many people talk about being stressed, overwhelmed or anxious and complain that they don’t have a great work-life balance. I really encourage the people I coach to pull back the layers and find out what is really causing their life to be out of balance.

Only then can you truly make material changes to work smarter, not harder; to prioritise what really matters; and to live your best life in balance.

I encourage them to work out what their ‘life in balance’ looks like now, and where they would like it to be. As I mentioned earlier my life in balance needs to be at 80/20, and only when we know what we want our ‘life in balance’ to look like can you start shifting the dial to move it towards our ideal ‘life in balance’.

Life balance is your responsibility. No-one is going to tell you to slow down or take a load off. No-one is going to make your schedule less busy for you. You have to be good to yourself before you can be good to others.

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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.