Balancing the Grind with Marina Mara, International Media, Brand & Reputation Advisor at MARINA MARA

Marina Mara is an international media, brand & reputation advisor at MARINA MARA, a bespoke consultancy with a presence in Australia, the U.S. and SE Asia.

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

I own a global media, brand and reputation management agency, representing entrepreneurs ready to transition into public figures.

I’ve been in Media from the age of 19, starting from humble beginnings in television with Network Ten Australia, scoring a graduate role in my first year of university.

Fast-forward 23 years, with an unwavering dedication to my craft as a strategist and creative in media, my focus now is solely on personalities and their ventures.

I have had the pleasure of representing some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs in the U.S., Europe and Asia; brilliant minds with power and purpose, television personalities, interior designers, finance experts, global thought leaders, and most recently, NBA officials.

I’m the key advisor for a number of public figures, but equally, on the opposite side of that spectrum, I also support the entrepreneurial ecosystem as a mentor to start-up founders, particularly in the early stages of their commercialisation.

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

Not a single day is the same. To some, this may seem hectic. To me, this feels complete.

The richness of my days includes extremely fast-paced rhythms filled with adrenaline (airports, media interviews, client meetings, deadlines and board presentations) juxtaposed with a slow flow (my non-negotiable morning coffee hour, evening decompression time with my son, daily steps, and lots of self-reflection and self-education).

On many occasions, I’ve started my day in one city or country and ended it in another.

I am highly disciplined with how I manage my time but also generous when required. While most people plan to tick off 3-5 main tasks per day, my workflow, which also includes life admin and personal commitments, often has 15-24 completed items on any given day.

This was not something I achieved overnight, nor was it something I found easy to accomplish at first. It was a level of discipline I worked up to, much like a muscle, because I knew it was essential for my survival as an entrepreneur and global agency owner.

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

It’s one of the reasons why I gravitated towards entrepreneurship. I never subscribed to the idea of working set hours in a set environment. I found it stifling and limiting to the natural rhythms of my creativity and productivity.

My entire agency runs 100% remotely, with over 17 people worldwide in our team who also function the same way.

It fits wonderfully into my life and allows me to be in charge of my day and own it, incorporating other vital elements such as rest, movement and fitness, time with loved ones, life admin, self-reflection, and yes, even time for daydreaming, which from my personal experience is essential for growth, flow and expansion.

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

The work-life balance narrative takes up so much air-time, and in my view, the more we obsess with it, the more we disallow it. I created my happy medium by not focusing on it. Notice I didn’t refer to it as ‘balance’ because to be truly balanced, you have to experience imbalance first; otherwise, you cannot identify your happy medium or find your homeostasis.

There will be days where the schedule is reactive, where my output is required to run in 10x mode, and I am sprinting. I work in Media, which is fast-paced and ever-changing; that’s to be expected. Then there are other days where my mental bandwidth is limited, even depleted and in need of slower rhythms. I don’t go against it; I honour it.

We need to abandon the idea that we are superhuman and start listening, even communicating with our bodies and allowing our flow state to navigate, not some rigid trending schedule prescribed by a productivity guru.

Not making ‘balance’ an item on my to-do list was pivotal. Everything changed for me when I decided to ignore popular opinion and start playing by my own rules.

Balance is not about being in a continuous state of zen, flow, or calm; in other words, a flat line. Life has a heartbeat. When you exercise, it accelerates; when you rest, it slows down. For me, it’s the comfortable acceptance that balance incorporates both sides of the story, including what others would call ‘imbalanced’.

I trust my inner compass and know that I happily sprint when things need to get done. Then I naturally allow myself to recover. “Sprint, recover, repeat” is my motto, and it’s no coincidence that in sports, this builds stamina and increases performance.

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

Balance is impossible without flexibility, and rigid routines may hinder your most precious commodity – your energy.

While I’m a big fan of the 5am club, a productivity concept made well known by Robin Sharma, I am also in alignment with myself and responsive to my body’s needs for energetic replenishment.

Some days require more ease than others; some days require additional speed. Having experienced burnouts in the past, I know that my primary connection is to myself and not to my schedule.

When I was building my company in the early years, I would consistently rise before 5am and commence my working day shortly after. It made sense from a timezone perspective as it allowed me to align my hours more closely with the geography of my clients in New York, Los Angeles, and London.

It felt good, and it enabled me to maximise my productivity and achieve big goals in a centred, condensed amount of time. It was a routine that served me well until one day it didn’t!

Due to weekly travel between the U.S. and Australia, this routine was impossible to maintain without repercussions on my sleep cycle. These days my routine is gentler, and I focus on maintaining a level of grace and ease with anything I do in business, including my productivity.

I rise naturally without an alarm clock, and my workdays commence at 10 am, no earlier. I have also implemented healthy calendar standards for my daily time blocking that allow me to capture and perform all my work and personal life tasks in a balanced way.

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

I respect the work of Nir Eyal, the author of Indistractable, a valuable read that shares science-based insights and tells readers how to manage the curse of modern-day life, distraction.

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

My entire team and our clients use Monday, a highly secure workflow system that allows us to communicate, collaborate, plan, build and execute from the one place, the one app. I can’t imagine life without it.

Having a global schedule that handles multiple time zones and daily requests for client calls, mentoring, and media interviews, I needed an intuitive calendar booking system that seamlessly incorporated other business integrations. After testing numerous calendar scheduling tools, Appointlet is my preferred tool for this function.

Google calendar is a must. I feel a wave of anxiety run through my body when I see busy professionals use a paper calendar with sticky notes and fluorescent highlighters. Paper is unreliable and time-consuming.

It can be lost, it has zero integrations, and in my view, it’s unforgiving when it comes to moving things around, which in my world happens a lot. Paper is archaic and unsustainable for fast-paced entrepreneurs.

My Google calendar gives me a realistic view of my daily schedule, with notifications I set and forget. Every Sunday, I time-block the week ahead, and when Monday comes, I execute each task with flow and certainty.

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

When it comes to learning about other people’s routines and borrowing aspects that might work for me, there is not one particular personality I’d be interested in reading about, but many and from diverse disciplines, specifically those who have successfully commercialised their creative genius.

My discerning nature seeks information that’s validated, tried and tested by multiple sources, not just one. I then curate what I think will work for me and reject the rest. I’m open to receiving this information from diverse sources, always remembering that everyone has their own journey and tips or hacks should not be followed like gospel.

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

Guruship is dead. All the answers you seek are within you. When it comes to matters relating to your work-life balance, it’s no different. It’s time to carefully curate your own life, respect your mental, emotional and physical DNA, and lead with intuition, tenacity, and grace.
If you needed permission to do so, this is it!

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.