Balancing the Grind with Diana Spellman, Founder of Serenely Sorted

Diana Spellman is the founder of Serenely Sorted, a system to help people change their mindset and behaviour to reduce tidying and eliminate mess.

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

I’ve spent 20+ years in the market research industry, leading project management teams, delivering automation and systems/process improvements. After 12 years living overseas, I returned with my family to the UK three years ago, during which time I have completed various contract roles working from home.

In the past year, my idea for my new business has been in development and I am now focussing on this full time. This is a pivot for me – into a new area of tidying/organisation/behavioural change but 100% using the skills I have built in my corporate career to look at this area in a completely new way.

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

Right now, due to lockdown, things are very different – but they are also very different because I have launched my business during this period and finished my latest corporate contract. We have a five and seven year old at home right now so that adds to the fun and challenge!

So I’ve gone from a regular corporate style hours, to a set up where I’m trying to eek out every minute to push my business forward. And of course it’s incredibly varied at this early stage as I’m fulfilling all roles – from IT to marketing to content creator.

7.30 I try to be at my desk by this time or before to get some time in before the kids need breakfast. My first task is to prepare my social media posts for the day. I write them, prepare any visuals then email them to myself so that I can post them at the right time from my phone easily.

8.30-9.30 Family time to get breakfast and during lockdown we’ve been doing PE with Joe Wicks.

9.30 Back to it. I have a very focused phase working until lunchtime. That’s one of my real home-working skills – I can get my head down and deeply concentrate for hours at a time. Much more so than I ever could in an office!

My main activities right now are finalising my online course ‘Learn the Serenely Sorted System’, fine tuning my website and growing my following. Doing everything by yourself on minimal budget means a lot of self-learning and steep learning curves!

The afternoon is challenging at the moment given the kids are with me, but I’m back focused from about 4-6.

I may be preparing for an evening live session on Instagram – I’m currently sharing a concept per week and a “Serene Sorter Story” with someone already following the system and what it has done for them. The concept resonates with all kinds of people from busy working parents to empty nesters.

After the kids dinner and bedtime, if I’m doing a live session that takes me to around 9pm. Then it’s dinner, perhaps a glass of wine and binge watching one of our favourite shows.

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

I’ve worked from home for the past three years. I was lucky that when I was looking for contracts upon return to the UK, I had good connections who were OK with me working remotely from Chester (two hours by train from the London office).

With colleagues across Europe and the project stakeholders global it really didn’t matter where I was. And there are so many tools to help foster team spirit remotely – and they work. It was quite a shift though from my last office based job in Hong Kong.

I love remote working! Gone are the days when I was itching for Friday night post-work drinks – I now value being able to leave my desk and pick up my kids from school within 10 minutes.

The downside to working from home for me was that I could always see the mess. Living a busy life left little time between work and the kids and I resented spending my ‘free’ time tidying. I did however, feel MUCH happier when my house was tidy – I just hated the time doing it.⠀

So my professional brain started to kick in and my time spent on systems/process improvement and training made me think about my mess, and realised that it wasn’t the stuff that was (necessarily) the problem, it was how I was behaving around it.

Through that simple penny-drop moment of me coming into my house and putting my bag into its End Home rather than onto a chair as per usual (eliminating mess and tidying time!), Serenely Sorted was born.

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

The big challenge now is that I have so many ideas I could work 20 hours a day as I’m LOVING what I’m doing. So the balance that I need to find now is managing my passion vs. family time.

But Serenely Sorted has definitely helped there too. I love things being organised but given the demands on my time for work and family I always resented the time lost forever due to endless tidying. One of the key aims of Serenely Sorted is to rid ourselves of that ‘mess stress’.

During lockdown, this merging of home and work life has happened for everyone, so I created a ‘Reducing Lockdown Mess Stress’ free course on my website with four simple and practical ways you can manage the daily mess quickly and get back to tidy.

I personally find I can relax much more easily in the evening if I’m not staring at the day’s activity – a clear surface definitely clears the mind!

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

I’ve learned to leave work in the laptop at the end of the day. That’s extra hard when you work from home as it’s always ‘there’. I think this just comes from maturity and experience, we’re able to leave issues behind and come back to them rather than dwelling on them in non-work time.

This is also really where having a new mindset to mess and implementing the Serenely Sorted System has helped me. Through simple systems and new behaviours I was able to completely eliminate tasks that I hated – I never have nor need to sort a paper pile now, with some ‘deep level’ filing just once every six months.

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

To be completely honest, I haven’t been a big reader in the last few years since having kids but I pour over articles I find in my area of business to see what’s out there and how my concept compares.

I’m also actively looking at the kind of publications my ideal client will be reading to see how I can seek PR opportunities and collaborations. Through lockdown, we have used YouTube like never before for fun stuff, but equally it’s my go-to right now for anything I don’t know how to do technically.

There are amazing people out there creating brilliant practical content that gets me at least 80% there. I also follow a lot of professional women’s networking groups, flexible working promoters and publications, such as MIBA, Mother Pukka and Crunchy Tales. For giggles, as a parent I can’t recommend Hurrah for Gin enough.

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

I can’t do without my Instagram posting apps! I’m posting all the time so I used Canva (although good old trusty PowerPoint is also great!), InShot, and a tool called ‘Space’ that ensures the text is laid out nicely. These are essential for me daily.

I’ve also invested in a microphone, wide angle lens for my phone and small lighting stand to ensure my live sessions and videos are as professional as possible.

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

Joe Wicks. I had never heard of him before lockdown. He has built his highly successful business around nutrition and exercise over the past 8 years and his story is really inspiring – his motto of ‘Work hard, have fun, be nice’ really resonated with me. His take on this should be of practical use to anyone.

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

I used to run time management training and the basic principles are always worth revisiting. I always have my list of things to do for the week and for the day and tick off as I go. This helps keep focus as you know what your next task is as soon as you have finished the first.

Minimising interruptions also ensures maximum productivity – right now I have a closed door policy that my kids have to keep to: if it’s closed they must not interrupt as mummy is working hard!

Taking breaks is important but as a tea drinker I find my natural need for the next cup of tea coincides with a good moment to take a break!

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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.