Ingrid Messner is a mentor, coach, facilitator, speaker and the author of Naturally Successful: How wise leaders manage their energy, influence others and create positive impact.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I have always been an explorer, wanting to understand how things work and how everything is connected. My special interests are nature, people (psychology and different cultures), and health.
For more than 20 years, I have worked as a coach, mentor and facilitator supporting organisational leaders and their teams to optimise their wellbeing and performance.
I originally came from the corporate world, but I have also worked in smaller businesses and not-for-profits. My business acumen, deep connection to nature and first-hand insight into more than 50 cultures give me a unique perspective on success and how to get there.
Recently, I shared a lot of my learnings in my book, Naturally Successful: How wise leaders manage their energy, influence others and create positive impact.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I usually start my day at 6am with a combination of exercise and quiet time in the bush or at the beach. When I’m back in my home office, I do some writing and hold Zoom meetings and phone calls with clients and other stakeholders. My evenings are usually spent with my family or friends.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
I’ve been working in flexible and remote working arrangements since I had my kids more than 25 years ago. Thus, I’ve been through all variations of remote work! Videoconferencing has made a big difference, but phone and email still work quite well.
It’s a matter of how well you communicate with your stakeholders. With most people working from home now, the level of acceptance of remote coaching and meetings has increased, which is a good thing.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I see work-life balance holistically. There needs to be a sustainable balance between my personal life, social interactions, work and public life. Every month, I do an energy-audit map of all areas of my life. It helps me become more aware of what’s working well and what needs attention.
I then decide on my priorities and time-block my calendar according to topics. This ensures self-care gets its fair share of attention and that I do my creative work when my energy levels are at their best.
I have also learned to accept that it often does not work out as planned, so I need to be flexible. Meditation and mindfulness have definitely helped me stay calm. That’s something many of my clients value.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
About a year ago, I completed a neuroscience course and learned the value of sleep, especially lunchtime naps.
I first heard about the 20-minute power nap when my doctor recommended it to me after a viral infection had negatively impacted my energy levels. But I didn’t act on his advice as it seemed a bit over the top!
However, when I read the neuroscience data on power naps, I tried it, and now, I have a lunchtime nap most days. It has made a huge difference to my performance and wellbeing.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I have many favourite books! I keep a copy of My People’s Dreaming by Max Dulumunmun Harrison on my desk to remind me to search for answers in indigenous wisdom first.
Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant is a book I often recommend to clients and friends who are struggling with a difficult period in their lives. It offers many different perspectives and practical tools to build resilience and find joy in life.
I listen to two podcasts regularly:
Huberman Lab by Dr Andrew Huberman, a professor of neurobiology at the Stanford School of Medicine whose goal is to understand how the brain senses, evaluates and responds to the world around us.
Deep Listening by Oscar Trimboli, a keynote speaker who is passionate about using the gift of listening to bring positive change to homes, workplaces and cultures.
I subscribe to a variety of German-language newsletters on coaching and new ways of living and working. These remind me of my mother tongue and offer very different cultural perspectives on sustainable living.
Patagonia’s newsletter helps me stay up to date with sustainability in outdoor clothing and environmental and social activism. For a more spiritual outlook on life, I often read Jack Kornfield’s newsletter.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
All my hiking and camping gear. Time spent in nature serves so many of my needs and keeps me healthy and sane. Bushwalking on difficult terrain trains my balance system, which the viral infection impacted. When I’m outside, I find new perspectives and solutions, chat with friends, and constantly learn from and about nature.
A few weeks ago, I bought a WHOOP wristband to monitor my training efforts, recovery rates, sleep and heart rate variability. It’s a great learning tool to better manage my energy levels and performance.
My iPad Pro with Apple pencil allows me to be creative wherever I take it, plus I’ve got all my files at my fingertips. It has totally changed the way I work (and play).
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I like reading about people whose life is (or was) very different to mine. English primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall, current Premier of New South Wales Gladys Berejiklian, Greek goddess Artemis, Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton and Elon Musk come to mind.
I find it inspiring to read about things that are at the edge of what I might have considered previously. It is good to expand my perspective on what’s possible.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Many people have started to believe there is no real balance, only work-life integration.
Since I have become more aware of the laws of nature and concepts like homeostasis (the tendency towards a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes), plus dealing with my own balance system, I know that balance is something we all must always strive for.
It is never constant; it is an ongoing process of adaptations. To fully accept and live this way is a liberating and energising feeling.
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