Balancing the Grind with Liz Fosslien, Head of Content at Humu

Liz Fosslien is the Head of Content at action management platform Humu, and the co-author and illustrator of the Wall Street Journal best-seller No Hard Feelings.

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

Sure! I’m the co-author and illustrator of the Wall Street Journal best-seller No Hard Feelings and an expert on how to make work better.

As the Head of Content at Humu, I design nudges and resources that make it easy for leaders and teams to improve every single week. I also lead interactive workshops about how to effectively harness emotion in the workplace at organizations including Google, NPR, and Viacom.

Prior to joining Humu, I was the Creative Director at Parliament, an executive learning and development company, the Executive Editor at Genius, and an analyst at Analysis Group. And before all that, I studied Mathematical Economics at Pomona.

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

Since COVID hit, I’ve started waking up a lot later than I used to in my pre-WFH (work from home) days. Old me was up and at ‘em at 6:30! Now it’s more like 8:30.

I’m most creative/focused in the mornings and late evenings, so I try to block off a decent chunk of time before noon for writing, editing, or strategy work (and for a big cup of coffee).

I try to consistently spend an hour over lunch away from my computer. I’ll do a mix of cooking, reading, or putting together a puzzle. If I’m having a really bad day, I’ll go back to bed and watch an episode of The Great British Bake Off.

Afternoons tend to be pretty meeting heavy. I try to have max 3 hours of back-to-back meetings. Any more than that and I start to get grumpy. When you’re working from home, it’s too easy to be butt-in-chair for an entire day.

In an ideal world, I’d wrap up my last meeting at 4pm, exercise, have dinner, hang out with my partner, and then do some more work from 7-10pm ish.

I guess it’s still unclear exactly what I do. A list of recent tasks: draw an illustration about decision fatigue, pull together a content marketing strategy for Q2 2021, write copy for a campaign, design nudges to help leaders better support their teams, fill out this questionnaire.

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

Yes, I’m lucky to be able to WFH right now. I love the lack of a commute, and the flexibility that comes with WFH. I do my best work basically anytime except standard working times (i.e. 7-10a and 7-10p) so it’s nice to be able to shift my working hours around a bit more.

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

Work-life balance means always having time for the people you love (including yourself). I put blocks on my calendar for alone time, partner time, friend time, etc. I don’t have Slack on my phone. When I’m on vacation, I delete my work email from my phone.

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

Yes I’ve stopped and started my routine of obsessively checking Twitter multiple times this year. Currently I’m in an “off Twitter” phase. It feels overall good, though I’m less informed about the world and sad about the memes I’m missing.

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

I love the book Spineless, which contains large, beautiful portraits of marine invertebrates, the backbone of life. I listen to NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! as I fall asleep.

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

I love checking the weather app. I don’t know why. I live in San Francisco where the weather doesn’t really change much. 

The best thing I purchased last year was a Roll Recovery R8. It looks like a torture device but it’s very good for massaging your arms and legs. I have a lot of problems with wrist, arm, and shoulder pain, and this was recommended to me by an engineer. It’s great, and has helped with my pain issues a lot.

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

I want a minute-by-minute rundown of what Kris Kardashian does all day. That woman created an empire. I want to know her secrets.

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

If you’re a hard worker, you should probably spend more time doing “unproductive” things, maybe even to the point where it starts to feel uncomfortable.

I have a really hard time taking breaks. I spent all of December looking forward to my two week vacation at the end of the month. When it finally arrived I promptly fell into a great depression because I had no idea what to do with myself.

But after a few days of binging The Great British Baking Show and scrolling Pinterest and feeling like a loaf, I suddenly had a million ideas for illustrations. And after a few days more of reconnecting with friends, I realized I had also gathered a bunch of funny and heartwarming stories to bring concepts I’m writing about to life.

It’s a cliche, but you need to take breaks.

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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.