Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Kym Elphinstone, Founder & Managing Director of Articulate

Kym Elphinstone is the Founder & Managing Director of Articulate, one of Australia’s leading communications agencies specialising in the arts and contemporary culture.

Photo: Daniel Boud

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

I trained as a lawyer but my true love has always been the arts. After moving to London, and whilst working for a law firm, I immersed myself in art by doing courses at Sothebys and Central St Martins in the evenings and soaking up all the incredible galleries and museums in every spare moment.

After moving to Sydney, I started a postgraduate degree in art history at the University of Sydney and landed my first role in the visual arts as head of PR for the Museum of Contemporary Art. It was a steep learning curve, but the immersion in contemporary art was heaven to me.

A highlight during this time was a secondment to New York’s New Museum to help launch their new building on The Bowery.

In 2009 I left the MCA to launch Articulate which has grown to become Australia’s leading communications agency specialising in the arts and contemporary culture.

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

I usually rise before 530am, either to exercise or for some uninterrupted work time when I catch up on writing, reading or emails. Once everyone in our house is up, there’s the usual flurry of activity getting everyone out of the house for the day to work and school.

The rest of the day can change a huge amount, depending on whether I’m interstate for an exhibition or project launch, or onsite for meetings with clients at galleries and art institutions.

The ‘office’ for me can range from Cockatoo Island (one of the site’s where our client the Biennale of Sydney presents artworks from around the world) to Carriageworks where our head office is located, to commercial galleries and art museums around the country.

Evenings may be attending exhibition openings and launches, but given my start time, rarely tend to be late finishes now.

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

Absolutely and by careful design! I’m a huge believer in working in ways that best suits the individual, which means our team is a mix of those who prefer a more traditional office environment and those who work from home either locally or regionally.

Our head office is located within the multi-arts precinct at Carriageworks in Sydney’s Redfern which is also a longstanding client of ours. It means we are surrounded on a day-to-day basis by a dynamic suite of exhibitions and installations by some of the world’s most exciting artists.

For me personally, every day is a mixture of time in the office, working from our home office, attending client meetings and launch events around Sydney and beyond.

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

To me, work-life balance means you are living the life you are passionate about. Ideally you should be in a flow state as much as possible – where you feel like you lose time.

That means being completely invested in what you are doing at any one moment, whether you are presenting to a client, meeting with the team, spending time with family or stealing some precious solo time. It’s a fluid goal and I believe it gets spread out across time periods greater than one day.

I don’t believe you can achieve the perfect work-life balance everyday, but rather if you look at periods of time, then you can work towards this.

For instance, you may be going through a busy time with work when multiple projects are launching at once which is inevitably going to sway your life balance towards the work side of the equation for a while. However if you work diligently during that period, there is always a time that will be less busy when you can swing the pendulum more towards leisure time.

I also find that momentum has a big impact on me, so if I’m working on multiple projects and working at high speed, then I’ll tend to not feel like relaxing until those projects have been delivered. On the flip side, it can be challenging to extract yourself from extended periods of downtime.

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?

Becoming an early riser changed my life. To be honest I was forced into this somewhat after becoming a parent, as I found it was the only time I could grab some moments of peace and stillness before the world wakes up.

The habit stuck because you can’t argue with the results: two hours of interrupted focused work in the morning is often more productive than an eight-hour day of distracted work time.

Yoga and training have been the other life rafts for me and have kept me sane and functioning during periods of high pressure and stress.

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

Parteo’s 80/20 rule was a game changer for me and helped me learn how to say no and peel away some of the excesses in my life – both in business and personally.

I’ve always been fascinated by how different people manage their time, so have an insatiable appetite for this area. Some highlights have been The 5am Club by Robin Sharma, 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam, The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer and Indistractible by Nir Eyal.

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

Getting up early – whether it’s to catch up on work, exercise outdoors or to simply marinate in the rare silence, it makes a huge impact on the quality of my day.

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

Great question. I can’t put my finger on a single person but it would definitely be by a working mother.

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

One of my favourite quotes is “How you do anything is how you do everything”. I interpret it that you should approach your work with as much passion and dedication as you would for your leisure time.

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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.