The Stella Women Series: Five Australian Women Who Get It All Done

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Life can feel like a juggle. Between work deadlines and family commitments, it can be hard to find time to put ourselves first. 

We’re not here to tell you to embrace #HustleCulture or spend every minute of your day working or doing something productive. The opposite in fact! We want to share the stories of inspiring women who are finding ways to get it all done (whatever that means for them).

From lawyers to award-winning business owners to haircare professionals, we sat down with five talented women who are navigating the juggle in their own way. Get ready to learn how to manage your calendar, how to optimise your energy and prioritise like a pro.

Natalie Wade, Founder and Principal Lawyer Director of Equality Lawyers

Natalie Wade is the founder and principal lawyer director of Equality Lawyers, on a mission is to fight for justice and access to people with disabilities and ensure private legal services are inclusive and understanding of disability. 

Natalie was awarded the 2016 Young Lawyer of the Year for South Australia for her work on the South Australian Child Protection Systems Royal Commission and her contribution to law reform for people with disabilities. 

“I try to stick to a routine. Most people think of routine things like getting up or going to work at the same time each day. As a disabled person who lives with high care support needs (i.e. I can’t get myself out of bed and I cannot use workplace bathrooms etc.), those everyday routine boundaries are set in stone for me because I need to have support workers assist at an agreed time. It doesn’t matter how busy I am or how big a week has been, I have to get up at a certain time and go to bed at a certain time.

However, I have found that I have been able to optimise my daily routine by keeping some set routine within my work tasks. For example, I will (where possible) check emails for 30 minutes in the morning when I arrive but cut it off at 30 minutes (I could spend all day checking my emails!) and then I try to have meetings in the afternoons because I prefer doing written work in the mornings. I also just admit that I am always hungry at exactly 12 pm so I am a stickler for keeping a break at that traditional lunchtime. When I have a routine that allows me to have a “flow” to my day, I get more done.

My best tip [for how to get the most out of your day] is to watch your self-talk when you are juggling a lot, whether it is personal or professional commitments. It is really easy in these busy times to tell yourself that you are not getting enough done or you cannot do it all (even though you are!). 

When those conversations are happening in quiet moments when you’re in the shower or trying to get to sleep or even worse, in moments when you’re running late or another urgent thing hits your desk, check yourself. Self-talk has a huge impact on our productivity and belief in ourselves, it’s important to keep it positive if we want to keep achieving.” 

Hareta McMullin, Founder of Third Space People

Hareta McMullin is the founder of Third Space People, an employee experience strategist and leadership mentor redefining what HR, culture and leadership mean. Third Space People supports founders and small to medium-sized businesses using evidence-based practices to develop leadership and workplace culture programs. 

“From a practical perspective, I time block my calendar and colour code it to different business activities. I approach it like I’m using lego blocks to build out my week. All the blocks are fluid and can move depending on other priorities that pop up. 

At the beginning of each week, I complete a quick 15-minute ‘week in review and preview’. I look at where I’ve spent my time vs the outcome vs my energy levels and change the blocks accordingly for the upcoming week. 

I know I’m most energised and productive in the mornings so that’s when I do the work I find the hardest. Like clockwork, I tend to slump around 3:30 pm so I save the easy stuff for then. As a solopreneur and working mum, my mornings are chaotic. After daycare drop-off, I have gotten into the practice of taking 15 minutes for me to reset before jumping into work. I make myself a cuppa, listen to a guided meditation and journal to calm my nervous system and set the scene for my day.”

I’ve given myself the permission to remove the enormous pressure I place on myself to ‘do it all’. I’ve accepted that there is a never-ending list of things I want or need to do, so I have stopped chasing that elusive blank slate. This has been incredibly freeing and has helped to remove the pressure.

Deciding what not to do is just as important as deciding what to do. If I keep pushing something out, it’s likely not very important. Making the decision to remove it from my list completely free’s up so much mental space. This could look like not doing it at all, outsourcing it or asking family or friends for help.”

Christina Hobbs, Co-Founder and CEO of Verve Super

Christina Hobbs is the Co-Founder and CEO of Verve Super, an ethical super fund run by women for women. Verve Super started out of a sense of urgency to disrupt traditional super funds and address the 35% super gap between men and women and give women a chance to control capital and invest in a more sustainable and more compassionate future. 

“I currently have a one-year-old, so there’s very little optimising to be done. My days start around 5 am-5.30 am when my daughter wakes up. From there I’m on a set routine of getting her fed, ready for daycare, pumping out a day’s work, and then picking her up, and getting her ready for bed and asleep by 7.30 pm, then I’m eating dinner and get myself ready to sleep.

I’m currently focusing on ensuring that I have at least 60 mins each day of non-work me time (haven’t quite achieved that yet!). Optimising for me at the moment looks like just trying to get some spaces of breathing room during the day to let my mind relax.  

The past year of managing a start-up and a new baby has been intense. My advice to new parents, or would-be parents in the same situation, is to plan really well beforehand. In order to make things work we had my parents-in-law move in for six months so I could return to work when my baby was three months old. We’ve had a live-in Aupair ever since.

The reality is that if you have two parents working full time you will need significant support to just get through the days. We had to adjust our lives significantly to make this work, we moved house to accommodate the au pair and trimmed down other expenses – I’m really glad that we planned this out well in advance.”

Julie Mathers, Founder of Flora & Fauna 

Julie Mathers is the Founder of Australia’s largest eco store, Flora & Fauna (you might have recently seen her in Zac Efron’s new Netflix show Down to Earth). Julie is a purpose-driven entrepreneur invested in building sustainable businesses that are better for the planet, people and animals. Flora & Fauna were also listed in the Deloitte Tech Fast 50 in  2019 and 2020. 

“I am big on flexibility and have been for a long time. I have two toddlers and I want to spend as much quality time with them. I also have a thriving business and want and need to spend a lot of time with that. And, I love to run, so I need to fit that in. I have a lot of competing priorities so I find I am big on breaking my day into bite-size chunks so I can be as efficient as possible. I find very early morning is perfect to get some uninterrupted work done.”

I also make sure I only have meetings if there is a reason and purpose for that meeting and if I am not going to add value I’m not in it. Trust and empower your team to lead and manage and then you don’t need to be in every meeting either. But, in reality, it is not easy at all, and there are many times when I can’t get everything done because I’m taking on too much and I always want to run at pace.” 

I re-prioritise constantly and make sure what I’m working on is adding value. There’s a great book called When by Daniel Pink. It helps you understand the secret of perfect timing and really helps you think about when you might be more efficient or the best time to have a meeting if you’re trying to close a deal. I’ve read it and changed how I approach what I do and when and it’s helped significantly.”

Zarah Garbrah, Founder of Embrace Your Frizzique

Zarah Gabrah, the founder of Embrace Your Frizzique, is redefining the Australian hair care industry, carving out a space for people with curly and afro hair. Embrace your Frizzique is much more than just haircare products but a full-scale movement that empowers and educates people on how to care for, nurture and reconnect with their hair. 

“An optimal daily routine for me starts with planning the night before. Most of my days are very busy and if they aren’t, they usually end up being back-to-back. I’m still learning to slow down if I’m being honest.

I work 9-5 and run my business on the side which consists of creative projects, hair services and running a crowdfunding campaign for my upcoming hair product line. I’ve found planning the night before really helps, especially as a neurodivergent person. This starts from the clothes I wear, even what I plan to have for breakfast and ensuring I write down or add it to my calendar, even the most mundane or little tasks.” 

I love to start the day out of the house even if it’s a busy WFH day. I take a walk even if it’s just to the cafe down the road. Fresh air, exercise or just some type of movement really helps me release stress or anxiety that I have carried from the night before and it helps me get into a good flow for the day.

I’ve really had to unlearn a lot of the structures that I thought equated in productivity and instead focus on what works for me and the work I do. My biggest tip would be to find a realistic and healthy routine that works for you and your lifestyle and don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself to get it right. 

Everyone’s lives are completely different, so no routine is the same. I highly encourage anyone with a lot on their plate to take a moment to do some breathwork. Secondly, if you’re someone like me who over-commits, don’t be afraid to say no to things, if it means making time for yourself. Burnout is so real, so having boundaries is key for longevity. Some days my routine works and others it doesn’t, but the most valued perspective I have is to simply try again tomorrow.”

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