Balancing the Grind with Sarah Galletly, Managing Partner at Orchard

Sarah Galletly is the Managing Partner at Orchard, a marketing agency with offices in Sydney and New York, which she founded with three partners in 2006.

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

For the last 14 years I have been a director at Orchard, a marketing agency based in Sydney and New York. My three partners and I started this with just the four of us in a tiny office in Rushcutters Bay and it’s now grown to over 100 people – needless to say my role has changed a lot along the way!

I’m now mainly focussed on operations – looking after our amazing team of people and the way that we deliver projects for clients.

I started my career at PwC in Adelaide, which was fantastic for building a work ethic and a structured approach to meeting a client’s requirements. I moved from Adelaide to Sydney as a Management Consultant with PwC and then moved into project management in agencies (Spike and Grey) before founding Orchard.

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

I always get up early so I start the day with either a gym session at Orange Theory (now that the gyms are back open, hurrah), or a walk to the beach and a short online pilates class. I’m usually back home by 7:30 to get my two boys up and ready for school.

My workday is usually a mix of internal team meetings, client meetings, some focus time and some time spent keeping my inbox under control. I usually have my meetings in the morning, starting with short team meetings to talk about what we each have on for the day and to sort out any roadblocks.

I’ll try and block out time in the afternoon for any tasks that need concentration as I find that I focus best in the afternoon. I also try not to leave the team or clients hanging too long so I’ll check my emails and messages every couple of hours to make sure there’s nothing urgent.

Working from home during COVID has made it harder to differentiate between work and home life, so I try to leave the study after my workday finishes and take the dog for a walk around the block, have a glass of wine or hang out with the kids. I’ll usually log back on later in the evening to plan out the following day.

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

At the moment I am in the office 2-3 days a week and otherwise working from home. That’s quite a good balance as it allows me to avoid the commute (and get more focus time) a few days a week, but still have time to collaborate in the office.

COVID isolation has made me realise how much I love being around the team so for me it’s important to have that time in the office (full disclosure, I also snack less when I am in the office).

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

Personally, it’s a balance between three aspects: work, family and me. When I am really busy I can usually shoehorn in work and family but any me time is the first to go!

I find I am much happier and balanced when I have that time to exercise, hang out with friends and spend time decompressing, even if it’s watching a crappy show on Netflix. There are times when my work hours can be very demanding and I’ll generally try and work through that methodically knowing that it will eventually level out again. It helps that I enjoy what I do.

My biggest lesson in trying to find a balance in a life with kids is to give myself a break and realise that I can’t do everything perfectly. That might mean lunch orders instead of home-made lunches, a last-minute kid’s costume for book week or asking for help from a work colleague to meet a deadline.

For me it’s about playing to my strengths and picking the things I know I can do well (and that’s definitely not book week costumes).

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

Pre-COVID I had changed my fitness routine at the start of the year and started going to group classes in the mornings with friends. This made a big difference in my motivation levels and exercising in the morning has a knock-on effect for me throughout the day.

The isolation that came with COVID changed that routine again, and I found it hugely important to get out and walk every morning so I didn’t feel like I was stuck inside the house all day.

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

I listen to loads of audiobooks and podcasts, either in the car when I’m commuting or when I am out walking or running. For podcasts I love non-fiction (The Drop Out, Who the Hell is Hamish, This American Life, Freakonomics Radio).

For audiobooks I mix fiction with some slightly nerdy non-fiction (I’m listening to “A Short History of Nearly Everything” right now). Anything work-related I prefer a paperback or kindle.

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

One app I love is Blinkist. This lets me duck in and out of summaries of different books that I otherwise wouldn’t read. I often find with psychology and productivity books then the key messages can be pretty quickly summarised and then I can work out which books I might want to explore further and read in full.

My favourite gadgets are my apple watch (mainly as a fitness tracker) and my Google Home – both get a lot of use!

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

Mike Cannon-Brookes would be interesting. I’ve seen him give a great presentation and he seems like someone who would be quite grounded while hugely successful.

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

Play to your strengths and remember sometimes done is better than perfect!

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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.