Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Megan O’Donnell, Founder & Strategy Director MOD&CO

Megan O’Donnell is the Founder & Strategy Director of strategic consulting business MOD&CO, helping companies define a compelling brand purpose and bring it to life.

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

I spent nearly 20 years as a Strategist working for Digital, Creative & Brand agencies in the UK and Australia.

After loving agency side and working with some amazing brands such as Qantas, Sony, Toyota, Red Bull and Kmart, I decided to jump ship and go client side, where I joined an ASX 50 company as a General Manager of Marketing for nearly four years.

At the end of last year, I finally took the plunge and set up my own strategic consulting business, specialising in helping companies define a compelling brand purpose and then helping them authentically bring their purpose to life both internally for staff and externally through their offer and customer experience.

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

My life is quite surreal at the moment as we have moved to a beautiful seaside area on the South West Coast of Australia.

We are living in our family holiday home, where our children can continue going to school in a place where there are currently no COVID-19 cases, so we feel very lucky. It does however mean that I am very dependent on virtual networking and remote working to keep my new business alive!!

A recent workday involved getting the kids organised and off to school, a much-need drive through coffee, then back home where I spent the rest of the morning researching and preparing a half-day ‘Purpose’ workshop for the board of a business that I am working with up in Perth.

I then squeezed in a quick walk on a local bush trail to clear my head for an hour or so, then I got dressed (silk shirt and bright red lips up top and jeans and slippers below) so I could attend a Zoom meeting where I was a guest judge for the City of Sydney, Retail Innovation Program which was incredibly inspiring.

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

As I have started my own consulting business, I am currently working entirely on my own terms which essentially means both flexibly and working from a very remote place (literally!).

To be honest it has actually been quite challenging as I was only just getting used to ‘hustling’ for myself when COVID hit so I have gone through feeling guilty and almost a sense of failure that I have not been as busy as I used to be.

But I have also absolutely loved being able to focus on my wellbeing, reading and researching more and creating an online course for my business with the extra time.

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

Work-life balance is incredibly important to me and was the primary driver behind leaving my career in the Corporate sector and pursuing my own consulting business. Quality time with my family, on my terms, was really important.

My husband and I have worked really hard and we are at a stage in our life where we wanted to ensure we were really present for each other and our kids and could do things like travel with them whenever it suited us.

I also make sure I make time for my health and wellbeing, I find exercise really important for both my physical and mental health, it also really helps my creativity. I guess in summary travel, time with my family, time to read and feel inspired and exercise all contribute to me being far more creative and effective in my professional life.

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

Since starting my own business I was able to take the whole of January off to travel with my family and take a few short trips with my husband which was brilliant. I have been able to do school drop off and pick-ups more regularly and train at least 4 times per week which has made a huge difference to my wellbeing and stress levels.

I have also started to meditate more consistently, which I was never able to do previously (always found it too hard to switch off my mind). Overall I am trying to practice what I preach to my clients and be purposeful with my life and try to make a meaningful difference in whatever way I can.

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

I have found inspiration from so many different sources during this time from listening to Tiffani Bova’s ‘What’s Next’ podcast, my Trendwatching, Dezeen, Thrive Global and SmartCompany eNewsletters, watching TED talks to reading Gabby Bernstein’s Super Attractor book.

I feel like every week I am discovering new sources of inspiration, which I guess is a wonderful upside to unusual and in many ways incredibly trying times we are going through at the moment.

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

In my corporate role, I couldn’t have a Mac so I am loving using a Mac again and being creative and visual with my work (and being less reliant on Excel Spreadsheets!!).

I love using Evernote for meeting notes, journaling and capturing ideas as they pop into my head. LinkedIn has actually been really great for staying connected and networking during this time.

I bought my husband an Oura ring for his birthday and I really wish I had bought one for myself as the data he gets on his sleep quality and activity during the day is brilliant. I use MyFitnessPal whenever I need to get back on track after an indulgent holiday period.

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

There are a couple of celebrities that seem to have been able to create a balance between family life, building a business empire and making a difference such as Jessica Alba and Reese Witherspoon that I admire.

I am also interested in how Jacinda Ardern is able to do it, with a young family and running a country during a global Pandemic.

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

I really wish I had prioritised my work life balance earlier in my life. I wouldn’t go back and change anything but I can’t help but feel silly now that I was so worried about having an ‘Executive Planning Director’ before having a baby.

I also wished I had started resistance training with weights a lot earlier as it has been a game changer for my health and fitness. Travelling with kids is worth it and remember to play and have fun!

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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.