Updated: Apr 20
This morning I listened to an episode of the Tony Robbins Podcast where Jenna Kutcher was interviewed on her productivity habits (click here to listen now).
If you're not familiar with Jenna, she runs a multi-7-figure business with around 10 different revenue streams, hosts a popular podcast called GoalDigger, has a large social following, runs courses, is a speaker, lives in Maui 3 months of the year and runs AirBnB's, and just became a first-time mom. Even more maddening (or delightful?) is the fact that she comes across as completely down to earth and relaxed, someone I'd actually love spending time with!
The way she describes her life is one of complete time freedom -- how on earth does she achieve this while juggling all those balls in the air?
Well first, she doesn't believe in "work-life balance". That image of a perfect scale -- where you keep taking away from one side to give to the other so both are even -- it's a myth. (And, I believe, one that keeps working moms in perpetual cycle of guilt. I feel guilty thinking about my family while working. I feel guilty thinking about work when I'm with my family....)
In the world of Tony Robbins there's an updated term: work-life integration. And Jenna has mastered it.
The first step is having a very clear goal: For Jenna it is not more, bigger, better... world domination! That path very quickly lead to massive frustration and burnout.
Rather, the real question is: what is enough?
What are the priorities? How much money do we need to make to cover our bases, and then actually live and enjoy our lives? Time is her most precious commodity, and she fiercely guards it.
For her, the kicker was spending time with her family (something that her hectic more-more-more approach took away from her). So she decided, screw the money. She radically scaled back her workload - she was a wedding photographer at the time, and turned down about 50% of her client work requests, I believe - which finally opened up time to focus on what's next, which took her in a whole new direction.
She asked that crucial question that all creative entrepreneurs must ask eventually: how can I make this business run without it being me doing all the work?
'Maybe I could teach photography online?', she thought. A spark. She got really good at creating a system, and then handed it off to hired help. Then she did it over and over again, with her team growing at each turn.
With her team of 10 in place, the business runs smoothly even when she decided to go hands-off. And she does. She blocked off 365 days of zero commitments when her daughter was born -- and in fact the business is thriving. Her main job now is being the visionary for the overall direction of the company, and also its face and voice.
Today, her work-life integration could not be more literal, as she nurses her baby one minute and jumps on an interview call the next.
Is she superhuman? No. She battled all the things along the way (and likely still does). Impostor syndrome (who am I to hire someone? I can't afford help!), and also felt silly not having a very solid mission statement or a WHY for a long time (I don't know! I'm just doing my thing here!). She'll be the first to tell you that her reluctance to spend money growing her business held her back for way too long.
But at 31 years old, she's now made it her goal to save enough money to retire whenever she wants - and if you ask me, she could probably retire today.
Here's Why I Love This Story
The key to Jenna's work-life integration is that her business brand is her. She doesn't need to wear a bunch of different hats because she herself is the brand - this is how she can seamlessly toggle between talking about motherhood on her podcast, to talking about photography with her students, to sharing empowering words to her million or so followers on Instagram.
When creative entrepreneurs and multi-potentialites ask me if they should start new social accounts and come up with new branding for what they do -- especially when it's a slight variation on what's already being done -- I say no way! Simply have the things you do and talk about expand outward, because YOU are a brilliant human being who's doing things and expanding outward.
At the centre of your brand is you, and that's what links everything together.
One caveat: If there's a part of what you do that could be packaged up as a company or asset and sold at some point in the future, then it having its own separate brand identity and voice is not only fine but a smart strategy.
However many creative people cannot imagine selling off any one part of what they do, because it's about them. And I'd only advise this if they are absolutely certain that they can create content that is unique and of good quality for more than one account. Otherwise, stick to one!
The other takeaway that got me in the feels is about social media -- Instagram in particular (because I tend to avoid Facebook anyway, aside from work commitments). The interviewer sets it up by saying we're living in a time of people being fed up with fake perfection on social, and going on social media diets and so on. How does Jenna prevent herself from getting consumed by it all?
Her answer was truly delightful and really helped me face my own struggles toward social media.
Loving Getting Social
She said she actually loves social media, for the ability it provides to connect to others. (She teaches her students to never "post and ghost", meaning, to post something and then disappear.) She finds the right time to post, let's say for example when her baby is down for a nap and her husband is busy, and then seizes her window of about 20 minutes. She'll share something and then stick around to engage with the audience, reply to comments and really connect - isn't that the whole point? After 20 minutes, it's back to regular life.
She also said something else that was really interesting to me as I've struggled to find clarity of purpose with my own Instagram account for my happiness blog, ZenShmen: she sees her Instagram page as her legacy. Someday, her daughter will see those glimpses of a day in the life of her mom. She doesn't want it to be filled with forced perfection but rather a real depiction of her life.
Suddenly, a lightbulb went off for me. If my kids are going to read my words one day, then let each hard-won truth I've learned be written as a gift to them, for their future growth.