Interviews / Marketing & Advertising

Balancing the Grind With Mikaela Crimmins, Planning Director at Orchard

Mikaela Crimmins is the Planning Director at Orchard, where she is responsible for co-leading the strategy across social, data, UX/CX and brand.

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

After studying a combined degree in social research and Indonesian, I had ambitions to work for DFAT or AUSAID. A few kindly-worded rejections later however, I realised I needed to pivot, or at least find an industry that welcomed ‘hutzpah’ and creativity in the bucket loads. I eventually found it.

More than 10 years later and I have changed roles from account services to strategy, moved from healthcare to digital, to brand, and now proudly call myself a “Jill of all trades”.

Orchard is now my work home, where I have the privilege of co-leading a strategy team of legends, spanning social, data, UX/CX and brand.

Here, we get to tackle gnarly marketing problems daily – which challenges me both analytically and creatively. The best part is that these problems are always evolving, the people I get to work with are always diverse in mindset and attitude, and I never get bored. I have a really low threshold for boredom!

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

Every day starts in a similar way. Alarm clock rings, I hit snooze usually 3, maybe 4, times. On the fourth alarm, my wife will nudge/kick me out of bed. Every morning starts with either taking our daughter, Vinnie (a mini schnauzer), to the park or an attempt at exercising.

I would love to paint a pretty picture of me hitting the gym in my Lululemons at exactly 5.30 every morning, followed by a protein smoothie, but the truth is my intention to exercise and reality don’t always meet, regardless of the fact I know I’ll feel better when I do exercise.

I walk to work, as I like the time to listen to podcasts and bask in my own thoughts, arriving at work just before 9am. My days are never the same but they’re usually a mix of client meetings, deep analytical work, and staying on top of the ever-evolving landscape of brands, marketing and technology.

I also try to get out of the office whenever I can. It’s important to make sure you’re not ‘planning in a vacuum’, and I find Uber rides or even dog park chats great ways to keep across what’s influencing Aussies.

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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?

It sure does. Gone are the days that being at your desk is the mark of a great employee. You do you. If working from home, the office or working with the odd Pump Class sprinkled in, leads to better outcomes – then do that.

I want to work for companies and alongside people who are rounded individuals that do great work. Being metaphorically chained to a desk doesn’t interest me and frankly, it ends up producing ‘grey’ work.

Most days, I will be at the office because I feed off of others’ energy and need to work in teams, but if I have a big project that requires deep thinking, then I’ll work from home and scatter in the odd dog park walk to recharge.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

Admittedly I’m not always the best at this. However, new year, new me and all that, so these are the three things I am trying to be better at:

1. Done is better than perfect: In the past, I strived for perfection but that would often lead to procrastination or taking far more time on tasks than necessary. Now, I aim for ‘done’. This attitude means you can often finish tasks quicker, allowing yourself more time to refine and perfect later. Less pressure results in better outputs.

2. Delegate because a problem shared is a problem halved: I am surrounded by people who are experts in their disciplines, and as such I have no qualms leaning on the expertise of others. This means we can solve problems quicker and get to share in the wins together. Who wants to cheers a beer with themselves?

3. Protect what’s important: There are certain times in my schedule that I won’t sacrifice for instance, family time with my wife and fur child, or my weekly basketball game. This time recharges me. Everything else is up for negotiation. My advice is to identify the ‘times’ that are most important to you and allow flexibility for everything else.

Sometimes the source of this fulfilment will come from work and other times, my family and friends. As long as I am close to achieving ’roundedness’ in my life, I don’t really mind where it comes from.

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

I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of the term ‘work-life balance’. It assumes that they’re separate, one is better than the other, or in some cases, one is ‘bad’.

I’m more of a pragmatist and rather than aiming for work-life balance, I strive for more of a rounded life: a bit of routine, a bit of career, a tonne of fun, and always a challenge.

Sometimes the source of this fulfilment will come from work and other times, my family and friends. As long as I am close to achieving ’roundedness’ in my life, I don’t really mind where it comes from.

6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

I heard Daniel Pink speak at SXSW a few years back and he recommended a way of working based on your body clock. If you’re a bit of a lark (which basically describes me), then you will work best when:

  • You do analytical work in the morning
  • You do administrative tasks in the early afternoon
  • Brainstorming and creativity peaks are scheduled for late afternoon and early evening

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

Protect my ‘thinking time’. My job is strategy, and I find it almost impossible to do deep analytical thinking in 30 min increments. As such, I always make sure I have at least two 90 minute pockets of time in my day to do ‘deep thinking’. Throw in a few good tunes and zero interruptions (i.e. no emails and meetings), and I’m bound to be my most productive.

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

Finding balance isn’t just about what you do, it’s also about who you are. Kindness is king. Being kind to yourself and to others is paramount – the rest is just trial and error.

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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.