Balancing the Grind with Tiff Ng, Chief Storyteller at The Social Story

Tiff Ng is the Chief Storyteller at The Social Story, a social and content agency for social enterprises and passionate entrepreneurs.

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

I’m a social storyteller, running an agency to help small businesses develop creative and socially aware strategies to share their impact.

Particularly in this time we’re living in, businesses have an increasing role in social responsibility and we help them navigate that by developing solutions to showcase their commitment to diversity, sustainability and social consciousness and create content that positively impacts their audience.

I’ve spent my career between the social activism and advertising space. I studied Communications in university, while I was volunteering for World Vision and youth activism organisations.

However, my many internships in marketing and advertising eventually led me down a more corporate route and I started working in a number of agencies in Sydney.

After some years in the grind, I decided to take a sabbatical to travel and also work on some freelance projects. But I fell upon a community of other remote workers and entrepreneurs that spurred me onto building my own company and pursuing a life of work and travel.

Three years later – and COVID lockdowns aside – I’m still doing that.

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

No day is the same for me. Most of my work is either on a running monthly cadence or project-based, so my days structure around that.

However, typically, I wake up and check my emails. With clients around the world – and myself, usually travelling – there is often a few things to tick off the list straight away.

Once that’s done, I’ll get a workout or a stretch in to wake up the body and get it moving, particularly before a long day sitting with the laptop.

After a shower and brekky, I sit down to do some of the more intensive work like developing strategies or copywriting that might take a while to get into a good creative flow state to pump out.

This is the most unstructured time as sometimes, inspiration will hit and you’re writing for hours; and other days, you procrastinate a little bit more till you can get around to it.

I’ll take another break around sunset to relax or walk my dog before the early evening sessions.

Right now, many of my calls fall into that slot due to time differences in Europe and the US. I also have a few community management clients where I’m rostered to be online and answering any customer service enquiries during the evening.

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

It’s hard to think of ever going back to a role that was not flexible or remote. This way of life has definitely made my work better in many ways.

For one, it’s opened up new opportunities such as my community management clients where I’m working opposite hours to many of my Australian clients – or flexible enough to work the nights while I’m still in Australia right now.

Secondly, the ability to work with my creative flow has allowed more time to postulate different ideas and work without interruption – a luxury that oftentimes was overlooked in the fast-paced agency world.

Finally, you can’t really overlook the beauty of being able to travel while you work.

It’s easy to feel inspired and motivated when you look outside and it’s a beautiful new city you get to call home or you’re meeting a community of other remote workers who bring fresh insight but the same passion to their work as you do.

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

For me, work-life balance is about reimagining what work means. In my corporate career, my work defined me. It took up most of my time and emotional energy, leaving little room for other hobbies or creative pursuits.

Shifting that thinking about how we approach work and even how the life part makes work better and more efficient was a game changer. No longer were we just sitting down ’to work’ for the sake of it.

I allowed myself to take the break, the midday gym class or the day off because I knew I was going to just waste my time pushing paper around if I continued to sit at my laptop.

Opening up that time and space meant I also had the capacity to think about other side hustles I might want to be pursuing or things I wanted to learn.

It’s worth noting that my work is busier than ever but somehow I feel I have more hours in my day because I’ve been able to unlock that mental space to also think about the other things I want to be doing.

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

I’m a big fan of a challenge – like a 30 days of meditation or a 4 week workout program. In that sense, yes, I’ve tried a lot of different habits and routines over the past year.

The things that have been most valuable have been near-daily workouts and journalling to serve both the body and the mind each day.

It’s also a routine that is easy to keep up when you’re moving around quite a bit as I used to do.

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

Seize the Yay is a fantastic podcast that interviews affluent entrepreneurs about how they got started but more importantly, who they are outside of their work and often public persona.

The Aussie host – Sarah Holloway – has interviewed the likes of Gary Vee and Osher Gunsberg to uncover a lot of the things you don’t hear in interviews with them – from their struggles, to their weird hobbies they might have.

In the same vein, How I Built This is a brilliant insight into the beginnings of many of the world’s successful businesses and startups. It’s fascinating to see the different life experiences and failures that often lead to genius.

And just for fun, My Dad Wrote a Porno always manages to put a smile on my face. It’s a great unwind from work and always a little bit of cheeky fun to listen to in public (with your headphones of course!).

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

It might be cliche, but I don’t know where I’d be without my phone and my laptop. Without either, I cannot work, point blank.

My mobility and flexibility are all down to these devices and I am grateful for them, but they definitely own me.

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

I was going to say Michelle Obama because I think she’s a fascinating, inspiring woman who has done so much good with her platform.

But the more I think about, one of the Kardashians actually would be interesting. When their ‘work’ is seemingly to just live (and be filmed doing it), how does that balance come through?

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

Work life balance looks different for everyone. It all comes down to our value of work.

Is work just a thing that pays the bills so that we can leave it behind when it’s done to then live? Or do we want to love our work so much it doesn’t feel like ‘work’ but need to put boundaries on to avoid burnout?

Both are valid and can lead to a fulfilled and balanced life. It’s up to you to decide what makes sense for you and the passions that you want to pursue.

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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.