Balancing the Grind with Isabella Jolly, CEO of The Impact Lab

Isabella Jolly is the CEO and founder of The Impact Lab. They help commercialise and grow businesses that have a positive social IMPACT fostering support for women, technology, the environment, children, society and culture.

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

My career has been quite varied in terms of industries starting out in film and television 20th Century Fox, moving to online subscription Reeltime Media, digital publishing at and then the last 12 years in digital growth.

I’ve run my own consultancy, built businesses within Fairfax Media Services, was Global Marketing Director for the Mysale Group, and more recently Global Marketing Director and then CEO of The Healthy Mummy, empowering women to live a healthier life.

I’ve mostly worked in fast paced, low resource, high growth expectation businesses that are in start-up to pivot phase which is absolutely where I thrive the most because I’ve always been about finding a solution and creating efficiencies and processes.

I have managed global teams across ANZ, ASIA, EUROPE, USA. I have recently realised my ‘north’ and I am using my growth and commercial experience to create impact for brands which create a positive impact on society (women, environment, culture, children, politics etc).

I believe that being a conscious consumer and a conscious human, aware of the impact we have on the world around us, is incredibly important and powerful and I am working with brands who are active in this space. So I’ve founded The Impact Lab.

In line with this, I am currently working as Commercial and Growth Director for Global Sisters, an incredible not for profit that is supporting women to become financially independent by providing them with the tools, support and networking to establish their own businesses.

I am in a wonderful space right now and there is a lot of impact that can be made.

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

Despite the changes in the way we work as a result of COVID-19 my day is still relatively the same, except that I also have three kids at home with me while I work.

My usual day is to wake up early around 5am, have a coffee or green tea, and spend 5 minutes reflecting in the quiet space of the day. I then usually spend about 1.5 hours with a clear mind really working through projects I need to have no distraction on and evaluating my lists of things to do.

I am a huge list maker. Once the house is bustling, its computer off and sorting out breakfast and the daily activities for the kids. By about 930 I am back online. I usually try to break up the day with a run around lunchtime or early afternoon with the kids.

Depending on work load and deadlines after dinner I may do some work, but my preference is that after 6pm its ‘home’ time. In the evenings we will always take the dog for a walk, and I end the day reading fiction.

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

Again, writing this during Covid is interesting as we are all working remotely. However, I have set up The Impact Lab to be resourced by fully remote teams, and working with clients means I have the flexibility to manage my time.

I am a bit of workaholic but my 2020 mantra is around working smart, not just hard. I think with advancements in technology, a shift in the way we work due to the current COVID-19 climate, and if you are efficient and able to priorities tasks – that remote working is an important part of a work week.

However I also thrive on collaboration and feel that weekly meetings, catch ups and face to face interactions enable you to work better on brainstorming and fine tuning as well as building core relationships. I think there is definitely a need to balance both options.

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

Great question and perhaps 6 months ago I would have had a different response for you.

As of today and my goals for 2020 work-life balance means hitting my personal and professional goals, whilst being a mum of three, a full time carer to my husband, and a contributing person to my community and friends.

I set myself goals in each of these areas and work to achieve those. This allows me to break up my time and balance things for work, things for pleasure, things for family, things for friends and the community.

Being focused, being forgiving on yourself and being able to laugh at yourself are three things that help manage so many channels in my life.

5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

Top 3 things for me is to:

  1. Set goals
  2. Keep lists
  3. Maintain humour

I am an avid list taker, lists enable me to visualise all that I want to get through in a week, and then break it down into a day and then cross things off when they are done.

This is absolutely how I stay on track and its very visual so easy to see what’s ahead of you and what you have delivered. Plus it is super satisfying to cross things out.

In terms of goals I set myself goals in each area of my life and I just work towards them. For example I always wanted to be CEO of a business which creates impact and I achieved that firstly with The Healthy Mummy and now with The Impact Lab.

In my personal life, I have set the goal to run a half marathon in November (was May but it got moved to Covid) which is 21km around Sydney! I am not a runner but I am raising money for Motor Neurone Disease. My goal was to raise $5K for MND NSW, but in three weeks I raised just under $25K.

Training for this is something that I involve my kids in, so they stay fit, mentally healthy and understand that its for the benefit of others. Once I achieve goals, I just set new ones.

Sometimes they are big like the examples I have given and sometimes they are small like sorting out a bedroom. But achieving micro or macro goals is super rewarding and inspiring.

Lastly humor is therapy and being able to find humour in a respectful way of even the toughest circumstances allows you to gain perspective. I highly recommend it!

6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

I read a lot of health/science related books, fiction and cooking books and a couple of great ones are:

  • The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidage – it talks about the neuroplasticity of the brain and how we can forge new channels and fire up new neurons by creating new pathways to rewire the brain.
  • Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollen – a fantastic book on the science and origin of simple cooking I love this book and have read it many many times.
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama – a wonderful biography about balancing being a public figure, wife, building a public health campaign and being a woman
  • Lean In and Option B by Sheryl Sandberg – both books are great read from a successful woman who has had to balance life, challenges, motherhood and the public eye.

7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

I have to start my day with a caffeine, and I have to review my ‘list of to do’s’ to make sure that what is important and needs to be done that day is done. Prioritise the day.

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

That would have to be the fabulous Jacinta Arden. New Zealand PM. She is young, wonderful, mother, balancing politics in a male dominated field on a global stage and is doing it exceptionally well. She is strong, but comes across as human and true to her core. She is pretty inspirational.

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

I think understanding who you are, and what is important to you is the most important thing.

Once you know what you want and start to visualise that as a goal, it will set your priorities for you at that time. This will allow you to manage what you do, how you do it, who you do it with. And once you reach your goal you will feel fulfilled and can set a new one.

I think that overall the key word in this question is ‘balance’ because when you are balanced, your core is strong and then an infinite amount of things are possible.

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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.