Balancing the Grind with Elaine Li, Senior Creative at Howatson+White

Elaine Li is a Senior Creative at Howatson+White, a recently launched independent agency with offices in Sydney and Melbourne.

Interested in talking about how you balance the grind? Get in touch with us here!

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

I’m an art director and photographer born and raised in Hong Kong. I spent a few years in Melbourne, Chicago and San Francisco before moving back home to join Ogilvy HK.

Three years ago I moved to Sydney with my (life) partner, and joined DDB Sydney, creating work like Burnt Christmas Tree for Red Cross, and Coors Big Game Dream for the Superbowl with my (work) partner Jared. I’m currently a Senior Creative at brand new agency Howatson+White.

Outside of work I love taking photos, and have been fortunate to build an audience with my photography on Instagram – give me a follow!

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

We recently got a puppy (@toki_the_monster), so my day starts a lot earlier than what I’m used to. I wake up at 7, take the dog for an hour-long walk, then start the work day at around 8:30.

Work takes up most of my day, which ends probably around 6 or 7pm. If it’s not too late, I make dinner (which can be either very therapeutic if I have time to spare, or stressful if I’m hangry), then try to relax and turn my brain off for the rest of the night.

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

My role as an art director does allow for flexible or remote working, but I think it’s a little harder compared to some other roles in the industry.

Creative is such a collaborative process, it’s usually easier to chat through ideas and executions in-person or over the phone. As a team we just have to make sure we work around everyone’s schedule to ensure work doesn’t take over.

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

Coming from Hong Kong, work used to be the highest priority in my life. Everyone I knew was always busy working, and that was just the norm. But since moving to Australia, I’ve realised that it is actually possible to have a career while maintaining work-life balance. Over time I’ve definitely valued that a lot more.

Achieving that goal is hard. I constantly remind myself to shut off from work, and give myself actual time-off on weekends, or even ask for days off after working overtime too much.

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

Like everyone else, COVID has changed everything. Travelling is a huge part of my life, and I used to travel overseas about 6 times a year.

It took me quite a while to come to terms with being stuck in one place, and not knowing when borders open up again. Now I’m just trying to enjoy all that Australia has to offer, and see as much as I can in this country.

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

I really should, but I don’t read much or listen to podcasts! I draw inspiration from everyday life, people watching and of course social media. It took me a while to get into Tik Tok, but man there’s so much creativity and fun insights on that platform.

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

It’s cliche to say, but my phone and my camera! Taking photos is my creative outlet, and I can’t imagine life without it. 

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

Anyone who’s in a demanding industry but is still able to raise a family. 

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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.