Balancing the Grind with Dr. Audrey Tang, Psychologist, Wellness Expert, & Author

Dr. Audrey Tang is a psychologist, wellness expert, leadership trainer and award-winning author of Be A Great Manager Now; The Leader’s Guide to Mindfulness and The Leader’s Guide to Resilience.

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

I was a teacher before taking up the opportunity to continue my studies through a PhD. During my writing up and for a few years after I continued to teach as a programme manager in further education, before moving into organisational Learning and Development with the NHS (who also trained me as a coach). 

In 2014 I decided I would break out on my own as a trainer, and I knew I also wanted to write a book – Pearson gave me that opportunity as well as broadening my training client base through our promotional work for all 3 of my titles: Be A Great Manager Now (2016); The Leader’s Guide to Mindfulness (2018); The Leader’s Guide to Resilience (2020), so now I write, train and speak in the fields of wellbeing, leadership and soft skills, also hosting community radio show on mental health (The Wellbeing Lounge, NLive Radio), and podcast “Retrain Your Brain”

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

I am freelance, so I manage my own time, and every day is very different. As a broad stroke it starts with my exercise routine, then writing/clients/training/media interviews/editing for my radio show and podcast – depending what has been booked in.

For example today, I did a 5k run, followed by some errands, then this piece (interchangeable with other writing I do for the media, or my books/articles), I also need to be online for a pre-recorded event airing today in case I have to respond to comments, I then have a podcast interview with another journalist, following which I’m delivering training, and if there’s any spare time I might get to work on any outstanding editing or organisation for a theatre production I’m running for charity at the end of the year. All this during the working day will then hopefully give me a couple of hours in the evening to spend with my husband.

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

I’m very much both flexible and remote. Freelancing, especially in my field – where coaching may hold a regular slot, but training does not – means I have had to learn to create a healthy balanced routine.

I ensure my exercise regime is at the start of the day, so evenings and some Saturdays are free for clients who require them ad hoc. I have an open calendar with my husband so we both know what we’ve got on – colour coding work events and social ones.

I am also aware of the busy seasons when it comes to training events, and will plan around those – both for budget and availability, and as a general rule I keep 3 evenings free for my husband, and one weekend day for friends.

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

I like to think of work-life balance as having the opportunity to get all those wonderful things work can give you:

  • Purpose
  • Remuneration
  • Connection/Interaction
  • New skills/experience with old ones
  • Recognition

With being able to live – ie. engage with the people and things you love outside it, often because work does allow you to afford it.

What I think has helped me the most is to know I have the agency to make active choices in work and in life – perhaps easier as a freelancer – I know the bottom line I need to achieve each month, but I also keep in mind that I can say “No” as well.

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

For me, very little changed over the past 12-24 months, except I didn’t need to commute and I was delivering to a camera not face-to-face. So I upgraded to a gaming computer so I could stream webinars without any issue.

Another work-based change I made was to stop using slides and start producing workbooks – something I will continue to do on a return to face-to-face, as this deepened the effect of the tools I offer giving my audiences something more workable to use in their own time. Personally I also set my office hours at 10am-4pm, and this year I took up swimming (I have only ever swum on holiday) – to complete a charity challenge for DiabetesUK and two endurance challenges for Level Water.

What started as a charity thing has turned into something I feel the benefits of, and I look forward to my pool time three mornings a week because I put my earplugs in and it really is a time I can just focus on my breathing and disconnect from everything else. This was a very pleasant surprise, so it’s something I believe I will continue, even when the challenges are over.

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

You mean apart from my own!?

I jest, but, one thing I would say is that in everything I offer to an audience – training, articles, comments, books, coaching, podcasts the lot I always include practical tips and tools ie. things you can put into practice straight away:

  • Block time for yourself
  • Set your office hours and time zone

Two things that are easy but can bring great benefits!

A third is to be active in creating a work life balance. I do it anyway because I’m freelance, BUT self care is not just about responding to stress, but it can also be creating a life you don’t need to recover from.

So in answer to your question, anything which offers tips and tools that I can practice is great – whatever the topic.

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

I’m going to indulge a little here and say in terms of products I also LOVE co-operative board games (or of course Escape Games). When Escape Games first started I noticed how wonderful they could be in training because in a safe environment teams could be put under pressure, observed and guided in reflection based on recent experiences. 

They also often engage the quieter people in a team who are given the chance to speak up and be seen in a different light by their colleagues and themselves . I have even “prescribed” the co-op board game “Pandemic” (yes, it really is a thing!) to families because in working together they also have those realisations and one of them even said “It’s so nice to be doing something where I work with my son as a team, rather than compete against him”. 

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

I love autobiographies – but don’t necessarily read them specifically for work-life balance, but rather for their life lessons, which to me feeds into my work-life balance. Sometimes, making the shift to find that balance is more mental or emotional – understanding what is driving you to err too much on one side, or unpack certain critical thoughts or feelings, and often those who write autobiographies have their “ah-ha” moments which can resonate with something in you. 

Right now I’m reading Viola Davis Finding Me and she talks about when she was asked on a film set “Who are YOU”, and this wasn’t the “reliable, dedicated, hardworking 53 year old she had become” and this got me thinking about my own values and who I really am beneath my professional life – or brand – and in terms of work-life balance, how I can make sure that both “me’s” are in alignment. (My balance is not so much what I do, but who I am!)

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

Always remember that as well as responding we can create. All too often we habitually become “responsive beings” and the better at problem solving we are the more we almost look for a problem to solve, because it gives us a hit of dopamine(!) and it is something we are used to.

Then we wonder why we aren’t quite feeling fulfilled, or perhaps finding enough time for ourselves.I try to consciously, intentionally live my life with pro-active choices as well as know I can respond or react as need be.

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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.