Balancing the Grind with Sarah Nelson, Founder & Director of Sarah Nelson Advisory

Sarah Nelson is the Founder & Director of Sarah Nelson Advisory, where she advises founders, owners and executives across startup, health, tertiary, creative and environmental industries.

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

My current role as founder and director of Sarah Nelson Advisory brings together a career in communications, brand, marketing and operations across a range of public, private and NFP organisations.

Standout moments have been creating Sydney School of Entrepreneurship and a long association with Barangaroo.

I’m also a member of the Centennial Parklands Community Consultation and President of my daughter’s school Parents and Friends Association.

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

It all kicks off with a coffee from my husband (thanks honey!) and then we walk our daughters to school. I love holding their hands and the random chats about all sorts of things and feel this is the best start for all of us to any day.

Then we continue on for a lap around Centennial Parklands, which now seems an easier time as a couple than date night! I love the time to talk about work and life and daily routine for time in nature and exercise.

I’m at work as such by 10am as per the current client and brief I’m working on which can range from joining team meetings, phone calls, emails, writing a stakeholder mapping and engagement plan, facilitating a business planning process, preparing a speech or presentation, competitor analysis and general relationship building and new business development.

Instead of racing through breakfast or lunch I’ve recently started reading a book as a break while I eat have found the return of this practice fantastic for relaxing and critical thinking.

Dinners tend to be homecooked and we love having people over for dinner and yarning around the fire pit.

After stories and more chats with the kids there’s time for some more reading or writing and this is where I tend to be most active on LinkedIn as some digital networking or I’ll use the time to round out my work day with any final tasks or editing given I start a little later in the day.

Bed is typically early – around 930pm.

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

Pre COVID it was definitely a blend – research, writing and strategic work from home and client facing work in their office or place of work. Since March I’ve been 100% remote and I must admit to looking forward to a fusion of the two when we can return to the office.

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

Self-awareness – it has taken me a long time to wrestle with various definitions and approaches of work life balance. As an independent consultant there’s always an element of change in my day, what I’ve described above is the ideal.

Balance is my ability to include all of these elements without any emotion, particularly stress or guilt. I know that I’m simply better and my wellness and productivity is greater when exercise, nature, down time, meaningful work and community service are all in the daily mix.

I’m getting better at not making excuses or feeling bad about prioritising these elements –balance is key to my peak and sustainable performance.

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

Yes – I had a bit of a health scare a few months ago so would advise everyone to get their bloods checked and particularly for owners that have had kids make sure all vitamins and minerals are at a suitable level for you.

Now I’m really protective of my time in nature and sleep. To do this I’m ruthless about leaving devices in the kitchen instead of bringing them into the bedroom and try as hard as I can to maximise the time before bedtime and after waking before checking my phone.

The difference is incredible. I don’t succeed everyday but really notice the difference on days I do manage this discipline.

Also, for mental health, listening to music, time in nature, reading books and energy work (I’ve recently got into Kundalini Activation Process) gets me out of my own head and back into my the universe which is humbling and essential for perspective and health.

I also reached out for a mentor to guide next phase of business and career decisions and found this invaluable support.

Particularly within quarantine I found I had become a bit stuck in my thinking and my perspective was getting a bit repetitive and negative and so reaching out to a network of generous, caring and incredibly experienced and wise women really supported my get back into my normal strategic and happy rhythm.

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

My daily podcast essentials are the 7am podcast by Schwartz Media for news and current affairs and The Slow Down for art, perspective and poetry.

I tend to use LinkedIn more than email for newsletters and insights and I quite regularly edit and curate who I follow on Instagram according to current work, clients, interests or activities.

Books are just fabulous – most recently I’ve enjoyed everything from Phosphorescence by Julia Baird, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, What You Do Is Who You Are, by Ben Horowitz, The Old Man and the Sea by Hemmingway and God Bless You, Mr Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut.

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

Spotify! I love music so much and having immediate and mobile access to any possible artists, song, genre and increasingly podcast is awesome. I love it!

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

I feel we have access to almost anyone!

Globally, We live in an age where insights are so accessible by a range of media and there’s increasingly a culture of sharing – take Michelle Obama starting with her memoir, then Netflix documentary, and now Spotify podcast.

I also see you’ve profiled Michelle’s routine on the Balance the Grind website, bravo!

Instagram takeovers and hashtags such #sharethemicnow are incredible responsible and bring a diverse range of perspectives if there’s anyone or anything that I’m curious to learn more about.

Across Australia, insights shared by Mentors in the Mentor Walk network are really valuable.

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

A personal interests of mine is how we can be more effective when we take a proactive view of legacy. I’ve found that the more we see work as separate to life, the more depleted we are in every way.

Personally and professionally. When we take the time to identify and articulate personal values and a sense of what you would like your legacy to be this becomes a guiding force and framework to make all kinds of decisions.

So now I orient everything in terms of what I would like my own legacy to be which makes me feel more organised and like everything is making a contribution to my overall definition of success.

I love helping clients through this process as well. My advice would be to take the time (or message me if you’d like my framework) to figure out your legacy. Because legacy should be like superannuation, the earlier and more you invest in it, the better!

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This conversation is brought to you by Think Bespoke, providing LinkedIn training for individuals and organisations in Melbourne and Sydney.

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.