Jasmine Cook is the Director of Seven Storeys, a marketing, communications and content creation consultancy specialising in hospitality, tourism, lifestyle and F&B.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
Storytelling has been a constant thread in my career.
I started out as a fresh-faced journo, fortunate to find myself editing a top financial trade magazine by the age of 22, managing several writers and the end-to-end process of delivering a 120+ page monthly publication.
While most people my age were out mid-week drinking, I was glued to a computer screen arranging a flat plan and editing articles until 10pm. The wide-eyed enthusiasm of youth and a lot of coffee saw me through.
But finance journalism didn’t set me on fire. So I followed my heart, and nabbed a job as a travel writer, journeying all over the world to explore and cover different destinations. I loved every minute – the places, the people, the food, the stories!
I spent a lot of time in planes and in hotel rooms, travelling 1-2 weeks a month. A dream job, for sure, but living out of a suitcase without much routine, having to cancel a lot of personal commitments due to last minute work travel, eventually takes a toll. As any travel writer will tell you, it’s not all as glamorous as it sounds.
Wanting to remain in travel, I decided to challenge myself and career swap, moving from journalism into PR. I joined a small agency which specialised in tourism and hospitality, and soon realised I loved this side of the fence even more than the other. I’ve not looked back since.
I’ve held marketing and communications roles in a number of agencies (as head of marketing for one, general manager for another), for Destination NSW and in two five-star Sydney hotels.
The idea of going solo had always been in the back of my mind – my partner has been encouraging the idea for as long as I can remember – but the timing never felt quite right. Then COVID hit, my job and the agency I was working for began to disintegrate fast, and I thought, it’s now or never! If I can make a start-up work during a pandemic, anything is possible!
I took the plunge, Seven Storeys was born, and I have been helping businesses and people affected (some crippled) by the effects of Coronavirus for almost 6 months now.
So it’s just the beginning of this new chapter. And a big change to my work-life balance.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
As soon as I wake, I reach for my phone and read through my emails, check the news highlights and scan my clients’ social media accounts – while I’m still in bed. Then my two year old, Grayson, wakes up and it’s go go go.
My partner eventually zips Grayson off to daycare (he does drop offs, I do pick ups – it’s just a short three-block walk from home, singing The Wiggles all the way).
Once they’ve gone, I soak up the silence for a moment, then head upstairs to my office, settle in at my desk with a coffee and read Lisa Messenger’s book Daily Mantras to Ignite Your Purpose. I’m not usually into books like this, but a friend very kindly bought it for me when I launched my business, and I like the idea of starting each day on a positive note.
I action my emails (if my inbox is in control, so is the rest of my life, if it’s not, well, chaos ensues until I’m on top of it again), read more on key issues affecting the industries I’m working with (at the moment, that’s travel, hospitality, vegan/plant-based and interior design), and review my to do list, which I always set the night before.
I like to cover off all the niggly little things in the morning before getting stuck into bigger chunks of work. I used to be the opposite – I would eat the frog first thing – but working for myself and trying to maintain part-time office hours means I’m doing a lot of my frog-eating at night, when clients aren’t about so I can be available to them during the day.
On any given day, I can be ghost-writing an article, working on a new website, building a new brand, designing content for social media, pitching stories to media, creative directing a film shoot, proofreading documents, or creating a marketing strategy. It’s a varied job, with plenty of juggling required, which is what makes it so interesting!
Come 5:30pm on the dot, I need to pack up and pick up my son. After dinner, bath, bed routine, I jump back online to cover off any outstanding urgent work, and set my to do list for the next day. Then the light goes off, my office door gets closed, and I try not to look at anything work related again until the morning.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Of any role I’ve ever held, this one affords me the most freedom and flexibility. But I also have the toughest boss of any gig to date.
Working for myself means I can work anytime, anywhere. My office is at home so I don’t spend any time commuting, I don’t buy my lunch out, I’m not tempted by too many takeaway cappuccinos, and I don’t get pulled into umpteen unnecessary internal meetings. I feel very streamlined and productive in this regard.
However, I’m also working with multiple clients, in different locations on different projects with different timelines. Always a juggle! And can mean a few late nights or early mornings in order to meet deadlines for everyone, with work produced to a standard I’m proud of.
I currently have three “office” days (when my son is in daycare) and two “mum” days (no daycare) as part of my push to keep a part-time balance to my work. This inevitably means on the days I have my son at home, I’m working when he naps and at night. And in busy weeks, I squeeze work into weekends.
I may need to reassess the part-time plan at some stage, but for now, I’m keen to keep it up and make it work.
Forward planning and transparency is key. I avoid scheduling meetings on my non-office days, but my clients know I’m always available if needed for anything urgent. And if I get really stuck, my partner is always happy to step in and find a way to make his work flexible too.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
The meaning of work-life balance has changed for me over the years – most significantly, when my son came onto the scene.
Motherhood takes away most (if not all) of the “me” time, certainly in the early days. I find myself having to choose between what’s best for my son and what’s best for me – and I always choose him. Which is not always good for me!
This has been compounded by running my own business, as most “me” time is now filled with work. I’m still finding the best way to balance this out and etch in more downtime.
I feel I’m getting the balance right when I can focus and truly be in the moment. That means when I’m with my son, I’m not thinking about work, and when I’m working, I’m not worrying about what’s for dinner.
In a week, if I’m on top of my workload, the fridge has food in it, my son’s happy, I’ve had a proper conversation with my partner, and I’ve seen a friend or two, that’s the holy grail right there.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
The Covid pandemic has a lot to answer for. Lockdown really messed with my fitness mojo. I’m slowly getting back into yoga and pilates. I had big plans of going for a run each morning to clear my head, but that’s still on my to-do list. (The cold winter mornings have not helped!).
I have breakfast and dinner together with my family every day, always at the dining table, never in front of the TV. It’s a great way to set up and debrief each day. It also gives me an excuse to cook at home more (we used to go out a lot!), which is also great for clearing the mind.
I’ve recently reignited my before-bed reading routine, making sure I get through a handful of pages each night, to help switch off my brain and ensure my phone screen isn’t the last thing I see before I shut my eyes.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I’m particularly drawn to stories about people. Fact or fiction, I mix it up. Stories of adversity, of change, of challenge, of how people balance their lives. I learn and draw strength and inspiration from the stories of others. It helps me find perspective in my own challenges and, ultimately, gratitude.
I’m a bit obsessed with ABC’s Conversations for this reason. So many fascinating people with diverse backgrounds and gripping stories to tell. I also like The Guilty Feminist podcast, again as it covers the plight of people, particularly women. And Where Should We Begin with Esther Perel – a psychotherapist airing one-off counselling sessions with troubled couples. FASCINATING. Addictive, even.
There are some great industry-centric podcasts out at the moment – products of the pandemic – especially in hospitality and tourism, two of the hardest hit industries. I’m currently following Deep in the Weeds and Dirty Linen.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Clockify is my go-to for time keeping. I use it to track time I spend on certain projects, which allows me to forecast for upcoming projects and calculate whether I can take more work on (or whether I need to scale back).
My PC, laptop and phone are all connected up and linked – my internet browser, Google Drive, calendars – so I can work fast on any platform, wherever I am.
And lavender spray. I love lavender. It has such a calming effect on me. I spritz my office on stressful days, and around the room before bed.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I’d love to hear more from CEO of Canva, Melanie Perkins on how she balances her world, particularly given she achieved such success so early in her career.
I’d also be interested to know how Premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian has been coping in 2020, with the pressures of the bushfires and then the pandemic. You know, the honest version of how she is, how she copes, the real behind the scenes – not the polished political version.
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