Balancing the Grind with Daniela Kaiser, Senior Interior Designer at AJ+C

Daniela Kaiser is the Senior Interior Designer at Australian architecture firm, AJ+C, where she works as part of the aged care and health & wellness team.

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

My career path has been very straightforward. I studied interior architecture and have been working in this profession ever since. I did venture into architecture for some time but I prefer to do interior design.

I am very passionate about aged care and seniors living having specialized in dementia design. In my current role, I’m working on a broad variety of commercial projects both in size and sector.

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

Well, the last couple of months have been everything else but typical with COVID-19 bringing sudden changes to socializing and the work environment.

I usually like to start my day slowly with a strong cup of tea while reading the news. While working from home I still get dressed like I would go out to get into the right mindset for the workday, track pants are a no-go for me.

There is no typical daily structure I just work off my to-do list and that includes anything from fee proposal and invoicing to concept design, tender, and construction documentation. Most days I exercise either strength training at lunchtime or cardio after work.

In the evenings I enjoy spending time on my couch reading a book or talking to friends on the phone. I finish off my day meditating before I go to bed.

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

Until recently my job was a typical 9 to 6 office job. My company transitioned to remote work in march and for the first time, I feel that work has shaped around my life and not the other way around.

If there is one good thing coming out from this pandemic it’s that employees will want more flexibility and companies have seen that it’s possible.

I hope that I will have the opportunity in the future to keep working from home at least a few days per week.

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

The boundaries of my work and life are a bit blurred sometimes as a lot of things I enjoy doing in my free time are somehow career and design related. I also like to learn new skills but as I enjoy it I don’t see it as work.

The majority of my workday I spend sitting, mostly in a bad posture and in front of two large computer screens. Being physically active is very important for me to keep a good balance as is limiting screen time after hours.

My work involves a lot of problem-solving and creative thinking which is difficult to turn off. Particularly during concept design, I get very excited and my brain is full of ideas that’s why I practise mindful meditation to calm my mind.

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

About a year ago I stopped watching TV, also I don’t have a Netflix or other streaming account and it was the best thing I ever gave up. I have so many interests and like to explore new things but I always felt I have no time.

Since I have started to go to networking events and be more engaged with people in the construction industry. I started writing articles and I have more time for creative projects. I enrolled in online courses, read more books, and spend more time with friends.

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

I don’t have any favorite books really, I constantly add new ones to my list. I’m in a book club with a couple of friends so I mostly read fiction; recent books I enjoyed are Boy Swallows Universe from Trent Dalton and The Goldfinch from Donna Tartt.

Science fiction is a genre I like to relish. I just finished reading the The Three-Body Problem trilogy from Cixin Liu, absolutely fantastic. Reading sci-fi sparks my imagination and nurtures my creativity.

For personal growth, I read online articles e.g. from Harvard Business Review. And I enjoy listening to TED talks especially when I don’t have much time or when I do cardio training, to keep me entertained.

I have only recently started to listen to podcasts there are so many interesting ones out there. Talking about work-life balance I can recommend The Anxious Achiever where successful leaders talk about how mental health has affected their work and how they overcame issues like depression and anxiety.

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

I couldn’t live without books or the internet.

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

Any woman working in a high-stress job like the emergency department of a hospital who has a family with multiple children.

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

My work-life balance follows a more fluid pattern. I try to pay attention to my needs and adjust accordingly. When times are stressful and I have a lot going and work long hours I get more introverted and require plenty of time for myself.

That’s when I pull the brake and concentrate on exercise, healthy eating, and meditation. At other times when life is more relaxed, I spend a great deal socializing going or meet friends and happily skip a lunch training session or swap meditation for dinner and wine. I’m still figuring it out, sometimes I win sometimes I don’t.

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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.