Balancing the Grind with Jenny Devonshire, Founder of Pause2Perform Corporate Wellness Portal

Jenny Devonshire is the founder of Pause2Perform Corporate Wellness Portal, a corporate wellness company providing workplace wellbeing and performance programmes.

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

I went to university and studied Psychology. Whilst I loved the course, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it and after I moved to London I fell into the career as an Executive Assistant.

However, I found being in an office all day being sedentary wasn’t for me and as I had always had a passion for health and fitness I decided to train as a Personal Trainer. I started working at Virgin Active and loved making a positive impact on people’s lives. 

I have always had a thirst for knowledge and am always looking to better myself so I proceeded to undertake various courses so that I could be the best personal trainer I could be.

Interestingly, many of my clients had back problems, largely from sitting at desks all day, which led me to training Matwork Pilates which really developed my understanding of anatomy and how to help those in pain, and perhaps start to shape the long-bubbling idea to bring wellness into the workplace.

I had been practicing yoga for many years at this point and was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go to India to complete my 200 hours of teacher training. It was here I realised the secret to improving my sleep – another ‘aha moment’ building behind the scenes and leading me to where I am today.

I had suffered from insomnia since being a teenager, meditating daily, being away from technology in the evening before bed and following a strict routine had a huge impact. I still use these techniques and my sleep is so much better these days.

It was about this time that I noticed that whilst some people would do everything I told them to do and have amazing results, some people would have all the knowledge but yet wouldn’t do the things they needed to do to get where they wanted to be.

Having studied Psychology I realised there was so much more to behaviour change than just knowing what to do. This led me to studying NLP and coaching. I wanted to have more techniques to help my clients make the change they so longed for. Coaching and accountability are fantastic ways to elicit change, along with looking at people’s limiting beliefs which are often holding them back. 

During lockdown I decided it would be a good time to really challenge myself and not waste the opportunity of having more time on my hands, so I signed up for a Masters in sport psychology.

Having not been in academia for 13 years this was a real stretch, but it showed me that I am capable of working really hard and applying myself and I have found it really interesting. This will lead into training as a performance psychologist so I can help people realise their potential and perform at their peak. 

I have worked with all sorts of clients, including Millie Mackintosh while she was on her honeymoon in Greece with Hugo. Many of my clients include busy mums and business owners and the one thing they all have in common is that they struggle to find the time to look after themselves. 

So many of my office working clients complained of either pain, stress or lack of energy which gave me the idea of launching Pause2Perform. I wanted to make feeling good accessible and achievable for everyone.

So many people lose their health by working long, stressful hours only to suffer later in life. I want everyone to feel great whilst still doing well in their careers. Taking a pause and focusing on your well-being can make you perform better as well as live better. I have a strong focus on performance and productivity so people can achieve more in less time, function at a higher level and ultimately have more time to prioritise their health.

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

I have a rather extensive morning routine, there is a saying that if you win your morning, you win your day. I find if you start your day right, everything else follows.

I really prioritise sleep and I am definitely a lark not a night owl so I usually wake up naturally about 6am. I have a black coffee in bed and write my journal, the technique is called ‘morning pages’ and the idea is you write two pages without thinking about what you are writing. Doing it first thing means it is coming from your subconscious rather than your conscious mind and really helps to get all your worries out so you can clear your mind and move on with your day.

Next, I meditate whilst undertaking photobiomodulation, which is red light therapy. Red light is great for healing, it can help reduce cognitive decline and also helps to wake you up in the morning. Meditation really helps with focus and also has been shown to increase the grey matter in your prefrontal cortex so a must for anyone wanting to improve their cognitive performance. 

After my meditation I sit with my back against the red light as this boosts your mitochondria, which are the powerhouse of your cells and they decline with age so I want to keep mine healthy for as long as possible. This is also when I practice Wim Hof breathing.  

The Wim Hof Method has so many health benefits including boosting your immune system, improving concentration, increasing willpower but the main one for me in the morning is the fact it gives you lots of energy and makes me feel amazing. After this I do a short yoga sequence to stretch my body and get it ready for the day, sometimes it might just be 10 minutes depending on work, otherwise I might spend 30-40 minutes on my mat. 

Some days I will be working at 8, I do find I am my most productive in the morning, so I try to harness this. I am lucky that I can often work at times that suit me so I can prioritise tasks that require more brain power at times that suit me but there are other techniques you can use to moderate this if you have no option but work at times that aren’t ideal for your biology. 

One technique I really like is the Pomodoro technique, this is where you set a timer for 25 minutes and really focus for this short time, turn your phone onto aeroplane mode and turn off any notifications. After the 25 minutes you have a 5-minute break and then repeat for 4-5 ‘pomodoros’. After this, you take a 20-30-minute break to recharge. This is a great technique if you struggle with procrastination or a lack of focus. 

For me working out is a non-negotiable, it is never ‘if’ always a ‘when?’. As I have exercised regularly for many years, it is a deep-rooted habit so I find this quite easy. Even if it wasn’t, I would still make sure I exercised regularly as it really helps with so many things.

It boosts blood flow including to your brain so it will be functioning better, improves sleep at night which has a plethora of knock-on benefits. It also helps to counteract the negative impact of sitting at a desk all day. Even doing some squats every hour will have a positive impact on your health, it doesn’t have to be an hour in the gym.

My days vary, sometimes I will be training clients in person or teaching classes via Zoom, other times liaising with businesses to see how I can help them and their employees to improve their health and productivity levels.

I like the challenge of managing my time, the trick is to schedule everything in your diary so nothing is forgotten, even such things as a 5-minute stretch. Also, I only focus on one thing at a time, multitasking really isn’t possible. When we try, we are tasking switching which is very inefficient and means tasks take longer in the long run. Much better to do one thing well and then move onto the next.     

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

Currently I work both remotely and in person. Before COVID I spent a lot of time travelling all over London to different clients and businesses but lockdown changed all that and I was able to deliver a lot of my services via Zoom.

I taught various corporate classes and it was great for colleagues to be able to come together in a non-work capacity and have a bit of fun rather than just endless online meetings. Exercise is also a great way to improve your mood which has been more important than ever in the current climate. 

With the gyms closed I exercised more at home which meant I did save a lot of time, I did more intensity rather than heavy weights but my strength and fitness wasn’t affected which shows you don’t need a gym to get results. My workouts can also be 30 minutes long and still achieve the same results as longer workouts meaning I can get more done whilst maintaining my fitness. 

I love the fact that with online training I can reach more people. My mum has been coming to my online Pilates classes so I now see her twice a week without fail. I also really like working in person as having that human connection is really important and those slight nuances about how people may be feeling can be lost when online.

Being able to work online means I can do more as I am not losing time with travel but I like to incorporate in person sessions as I feel not only can I deliver great value this way, I also get a great deal back from it. 

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

Work life balance means not dedicating all your time to work at the detriment to your health or relationships. All of these areas are important and whilst you can let one slip in the short term, say for a deadline, long term they all need to be nourished in order for you to live a happy and healthy life. 

I balance my life with my work by making sure everything is scheduled in my diary and trying to limit wasted time. When I am at the gym, instead of wasting time on my phone, I will be fully committed to my workout so that I finish it in less time.

Same with work, I fully focus on one task at a time and work out exactly what needs to be done so I don’t waste time procrastinating. It is amazing the amount of time we lose searching for interest or playing on my phone. If you cut this out, you can get so much more done in less time, making it easier to balance work and life.

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

During periods of uncertainty, routines can really help as they provide structure to your day and provide some calm amongst the chaos. I already had my morning and bedtime routines but working from home more did allow me to put more structure into my day with regards to building my business. 

The challenges of lockdowns made me realise just how important our health and mental wellbeing is so it gave me the motivation to build my online portal, this is an online resource which has everything I believe you would need to help with stress, anxiety as well as boosting performance and beating procrastination.

Businesses can sign up and make this accessible for all their employees to access whenever they need it. I hope that it can help to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of many employees in the future.

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

I LOVE podcasts, I find them really inspiring and whenever I am lacking in motivation, I find that they help me get back on track. I listen to a mixture of educational ones which I use to increase my knowledge which I then digest and use to educate my clients. Some of my favourites are Dave Asprey at Bulletproof Radio, Found My Fitness, The Genius Life and The Doctor’s Farmacy. 

I am very much into longevity and living well for as long as possible. I don’t believe that as we age, we have to experience the common ailments associated with this which is why I am always reading about how to delay the aging process.

My favourite books about this include Boundless by Ben Greenfield and Superhuman by Dave Asprey. Another favourite is Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. I must warn you though, after reading that you will be terrified of not getting 8 hours a night! I also read about mindset and improving performance and use the techniques to help my clients up their game.

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

I love my Oura ring, it is a fitness tracker so I can monitor my well-being. It provides my HRV balance which is a sign of how well I have recovered from the previous day.

As someone who is more likely to over exercise than under exercise, it’s good for me to see if I should be taking it easy.

I also couldn’t live without my red light, it really helps in the morning with waking up, especially in the dark winter mornings. But it has also really helped with an ongoing hamstring injury that I have been suffering with.

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

Liz Earle, she has sold a successful business as well as launching a new one whilst raising two children as a single parent. I know that she prioritises health so I would be intrigued to hear how she does so. 

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

I would like to encourage anyone not prioritising their health to make it a priority. Our immune systems are more important than ever at the moment and for those that feel they don’t have the time, I would like to assure them that by exercising and eating better, they will have more energy, focus and be so much more productive that in the longer term it will give them more time whilst also making them feel so much better.

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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.