Balancing the Grind with Sofianna Ng, Head Editor at Addlly AI

In our latest Balancing the Grind conversation, we sit down with Sofianna Ng, Head Editor at Addlly AI. Sofianna walks us through her unconventional path from a junior freelance copywriter to spearheading the editorial team at a pioneering generative AI startup.

She gives us a glimpse into her daily routine, filled with coffee-fueled mornings, diverse tasks, and the hustle of startup life, alongside her commitment to carving out “Sofianna time” for work-life balance. She also shares the importance of switching off after work, time blocking for productivity, and the value of coaching and mentorship in navigating career challenges.

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I first started out as a junior freelance copywriter, before I packed up my bags and moved to Sydney with no job and $600 to my name. That was quite a learning experience being in a new culture and environment. After six years, I returned to Singapore and entered traditional publishing as an Editor. But I realised that traditional print media was dying, and I needed to find a new niche.

At that point, everyone was talking about tech and digital transformation, and I decided that I wanted to jump on the bandwagon. But how? I’m not an engineer. My “easiest” option was to switch from lifestyle writing for B2C, to tech writing for B2B. Fortunately, I was a bit of a tech geek, so that helped with the transition.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with both MNCs and start-ups, while also doing freelance on the side. Today, I am the Head Editor with a generative AI start-up, Addlly.AI. 

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

I don’t start the day without coffee. Yes, I am THAT person. Once I’m fueled up, I typically start my day at my desk at 9:30 am where I go through emails, respond to Slack messages I might have missed and follow up on what the team is working on or needs me to help with. 

Start-up life is different. We have our daily BAUs which for me includes writing / editing blogs, checking on our social media content, daily / weekly team meetings and client work. But as we’re growing, there’s stuff that pops up which requires immediate attention, such as Press Release announcements. For example, we recently had a successful round of seed funding and won Bronze in the ASEAN Digital Awards. We’re also looking to expand into the Indonesian market, and things like this don’t follow a fixed timeline.

We’re also looking to grow the team so there’s also job postings and interviews to do. It’s busy, but a good kind of busy.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

For me, work-life balance is about making the best use of your day. And I like to leave my work at the office so when I am at home, I do not look at any work. In fact, unless I am WFH (which is rare) I leave my laptop at the office.

So to ensure my productivity when I am at the office, I do time blocking – any task that I have for that day, it goes on my Google calendar and I block it. This includes “personal” appointments as well. Not only is this method effective in ensuring that you prioritise what needs to be done, it’s super useful when:

  • You have to do timesheets (I used to in previous companies)
  • You have a finicky boss who micro-manages and needs you to report on what you’re working on or have been spending time on (we’ve all had one of those) 
  • Your team has access to your calendar and can see what you’re working on and request shifts or de-prioritization
  • You’re on leave, have a medical appointment, headed to the gym during lunch, etc. Including this in your calendar helps your team know where you are without the awkwardness of having to ask “Where are you?” or “chase” you, or assume you’re free for a last minute meeting.

I find this method, if adopted team-wide, helps to  create transparency and security. It also helps organise your day accordingly and at the end of the month, do a time audit – you get to see what activity or work you’re spending a lot of time on and ask yourself – is that taking up too much time? How do I cut this down? 

And it doesn’t just cover work. If you notice you haven’t been hitting the gym as much or working on your passion project, this helps alert you on how your time is spent, and how to either make more time for the things you love, or cut down time on the things you dislike. This will help you achieve work-life balance with less anxiety. 

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

I used to be the person that you could reach at all hours, from 8:30am till sometimes, 10 or 11pm at night. Not anymore. Now, I turn off notifications after 6 / 6.:30pm. I always ensure that I complete a task or leave it at a good place to pause so I don’t have this “job incomplete” feeling hanging over my head, work-wise. And I always check with the team before I sign-off in case they need me to look at anything first before I go. 

I also recently took up coaching as I’ve been mentoring for a few years now, and took the next step by completing a course. I find that coaching – receiving and giving – helps because you meet different people and it opens up new ways of looking at things. Which of course, includes work-life balance. One thing I’ve learnt is that work-life balance is personal, and what looks like work-life balance for one person, is very different from another.

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

I have been enjoying Don’t Worry: 48 Lessons on Achieving Calm by Shunyo Masuno. It’s a beautiful book, and beautifully illustrated. It is something you can read over and over again easily as it helps you pause and reassess.

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I feel like we live in a world where being or keeping busy is like some badge of honour. Like “CEOs who wake up at 5 am (now 4am) and what they do to succeed.” If that works for you, then hey, kudos. I prefer sleeping in and resting. If I could say one last thing, it would be – don’t underestimate the power of doing nothing, and a good cup of coffee 🙂 

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.