Balancing the Grind with Jenna Polson, Founder of TimeBeings

Jenna Polson is the founder of TimeBeings, a data-analysis and coaching solution that allows individuals to track and assess their time for their benefit first.

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

Today I am the founder of TimeBeings, a data-driven time coaching solution supporting start-up leaders and teams to own their time in both professional and personal domains.

TimeBeings started as an idea about 18 months ago, when I was parenting full-time and exploring whether entrepreneurship and work-life balance truly was possible. Thankfully, the research and results prove it is!

My background is in science, data analysis and advocacy, previously working in the energy sector. I loved the challenge of communicating complex infrastructure and policies with diverse stakeholders, advocating for public policy changes to government and advising executives on regulatory impacts to commercial strategy.

Those skills armed me well for my current venture; I combine time-tracked data, human preferences and tendencies with research insights to develop behaviour-change strategies that last.

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

My week is quite varied, with two parenting-focussed days, one work-focussed day and two days half-and-half. 

As a morning chronotype, I know my best time for analytical work is in the morning. I typically rise around 5:45am to get in an hour of work while the house is quiet. The curtains are scheduled to open at 7am to remind me to take a moment to pause and be thankful before the day really gets going.

My kids are up by the time I’m dressed and ready, either getting themselves dressed or playing together. We put on some music and make breakfast together, though I usually eat mine at the kitchen bench while emptying the dishwasher and packing lunch boxes. 

Our nanny arrives at 8:30 to help with the pre-kinder scramble. Then the house is quiet again, and I pop outside to let out the chickens before settling in at my desk for the morning.

I generally block out 1.5 hours in the morning for data analysis, then check my inbox before taking a brisk 10 minute walk up our hill to re-energise myself. Then I’ll often settle in for some writing and meeting with my last guaranteed work time for the day.

At midday I pop inside to relieve our nanny and have lunch with whichever child isn’t at kinder (and my husband if he’s working from home).

Some reading often takes us to ‘quiet time’, when I hope for an hour or two of extra work time while my child is napping or listening to an audiobook in their room. I leave shallow or more creative tasks for this time when my energy level is lower and I’m more likely to be interrupted. 

We pick up the kinder child at 3pm, make a snack and have some outside time – perhaps a walk up the hill or a jump on the trampoline. I aim to leave them playing while I prepare dinner, though I rely on TV every other day to carve out cooking time.

After we’ve eaten, my husband gets the kids ready for bed while I enjoy a podcast and tidy up. The kids get their goodnights, and my husband and I are usually settled on the couch for dessert, a chat, and an episode of something. Then it’s reading time, and I’m in bed by 10pm.

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

My business was founded during the pandemic, and fitting in with my family priorities was a prerequisite. Seeing clients face-to-face has only been necessary for group sessions. 

Working from home not only means I’m a more active parent during the week, but also allows for date-lunches with my husband, weekday bush walks across our property, and the convenience of having all my physical resources in one place. It’s the lifestyle I hoped for when I first decided to leave the corporate world.

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

Work-life balance to me is about being aware of my family’s needs, and my own, as they shift over time. It’s something we work on together and reflect on regularly.

The transition from full-time parent took some getting used to for each of us, but we know where our sweet spot is now. We’re conscious of allocating and trading off time for work, family and self so everyone’s needs are met.

And we’re happy to challenge norms to find what works for us. I don’t have a problem working on weekends, for example, because I’m comfortable with the amount of time I can spend with family across the week as a whole.

Of course, the kids have expressed the full range of feelings about my work commitments, as my 20-ish hours of work per week at first felt like working “all the time”. I make sure I finish each work session with a quick closure ritual to get me in the right frame of mind to be present and intentional with my parenting time. I know the kids can tell the difference if I hurry out, still in work-mode.

Personally, my outlet is a weekly adult gymnastics class, listening to podcasts over dishes at night, and enjoying our beautiful metro-fringe property.

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

I’m always testing out time management advice and theories! One of my favourites is the simple Parkinson’s Principle: that an activity expands to take up the time available to it. 

Swapping the order of activities in my routine has been a great way to test how much time I really need. For example, showering used to be the first thing I did each morning. Then I realised that my intentions to wake up early to get more work time were being sabotaged by my lingering showers. Because my time awareness is better while I’m working than showering, swapping these allowed me to be more intentional with my mornings. If I need an extra 10 minutes to work, I know how quickly I can get myself ready. But I can equally choose to give myself the luxury of a slower morning if I feel like I need it. 

Without testing my time, I wouldn’t have realised the choice existed.

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

I’ve loved each of Laura Vanderkam’s books, but 168 Hours is a great place to start. I’m enjoying listening to the Amantha Imber How I Work podcast, as well as How I Built This with Guy Raz.

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

I rely heavily on my Apple Watch to keep organised, using the timer and reminders every day. 

I like to swap around my planning system every few months (I’m a bit of a change addict!). At the moment I’m using the Moleskine Journey app for my task tracking and note taking, as well as a paper daily planning pad from To Do Women.  

For teaching the kids about sleep/wake/nap times, the Mella Clock has been indispensable.

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

My late Nan. It’s only as a working parent, with all my privileges and gadgets, that I’m starting to appreciate all she achieved as a single mum-of-three and school principal. I’d love to go back and ask for more detail on how she managed all the logistics!  

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

It’s hard to change what you don’t measure. Testing my assumptions about how much time I spend in different areas of my life is always enlightening and empowering. I’d recommend it as the first step to owning your time. It’s a real time investment. 

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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.