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Balancing the Grind with Sally Clarke, Co-Director at Human Leaders

Sally Clarke is the Co-Director at Human Leaders, a peer-to-peer learning community and movement that puts humans first at work and beyond.

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

After burning out as a finance lawyer at one of Europe’s top firms, I delved deep into spirituality, writing and travel, living in multiple countries and leading yoga, personal growth and meditation retreats.

In 2017 I shifted into coaching and developed a passion for burnout: specifically, how individuals can heal after burnout, and what organisations can do to prevent it. This resulted in extensive research, including the 2021 Global Workplace Burnout Study, and two e-books now available on Amazon.

Most recently, I became Co-Director at Human Leaders, an incredible peer-to-peer learning community and movement that puts humans first at work and beyond.

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

I am totally a creature of habit, my routines create a foundation of rest and ease for me! Each morning I meditate; go through my schedule and emails with a cup of tea; do yoga; have breakfast, coffee and Wordle – then delve into my work day.

I’m most productive in the morning so I really try to maximise the time I spend at my desk before lunch around 1pm. Often I’ll then go for a walk, bike ride or run somewhere near my home in the Netherlands (beach and forest are favourite destinations) and return to my desk for a few more hours of meetings, writing, connecting and prepping speaking events and workshops.

I make a vegetarian dinner around 7pm, and relax by catching up with friends, reading a book, listening to podcasts, before another meditation and bedtime around 10pm. 

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

I’ve worked remotely since 2011, which is a natural fit for my freedom-loving personality. I adore being able to go for a surf, a run or otherwise get my nature fix in between my work responsibilities. Using the principles of Cal Newport’s Deep Work philosophy has helped me design a way of working that best suits my character and my need for both focus and float. 

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

I don’t like to think in terms of work-life balance. I believe we are always alive, thus, it’s all life! That having been said, having been through a burnout, I am passionate about ensuring that my identity is not dependent on my work: my relationships, my health, my hobbies, my volunteering.

These and other things bring me enormous meaning, so that while my work is important and impassioned, it plays a healthy role in my life.

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

After going through a second ACL (knee) reconstruction last year, I’ve been religious about ensuring I do my rehabilitation exercises so I can stay active.

Through the pandemic, my meditation practice has also strengthened significantly, which has created a wonderfully deep sense of calm and perspective during challenging times. 

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

I love Tara Brach’s podcast on Buddhist meditation and practice, and I reread Wild by Cheryl Strayed every year. In terms of newsletter, you can’t go past the weekly Human Leaders newsletter which we share on LinkedIn and by email. It’s full of the latest research and insight into human-centric leadership.

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

I try not to let my joy hinge on gadgets or technology – other than the platforms which have allowed me to stay in touch with my family and friends spread across six continents in the 20 years I’ve lived abroad. Being able to chat with my Mum in South Australia, or my brother in Brazil, for almost no cost is an enormous blessing.

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

Kelly Slater. He’s so driven – I’d love to understand his vision on the interplay of work and non-work realms of life.

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

As a burnout expert, I’d love to share this: In simple terms, burnout is caused by non-alignment between who you truly are, and how you spend your day-to-day (work) life. Taking the time and effort to tune into and act on what authentically drives you is essential to your wellbeing, and to an authentic and fulfilling life.

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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.