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It’s tempting to idolize those who have reached the upper ranks of their fields, to want to climb right up the ladder behind them, to just get there. But what often goes unnoticed is the quiet hustle—the daily grind necessary to sputter along to success. We pulled back the curtain to find out exactly how high-achieving women structure their lives, from what they do when they first hop out of bed to how they stay focused during the day.
“I wake up at the same time—between 6:30 and 7 a.m.—and I turn on the kettle. It actually whistles quite loudly [when it’s ready] and that’s my signal to get going. Some mornings I’ll light a candle, and then I’ll take a few minutes to meditate.
I use an app called Calm, which provides guided meditations. It sounds silly, but one minute of mindfulness just gives me clarity and peace.” — Kilee Hughes, 41, founder of Six One Agency, a boutique PR firm
“I’m up between 5:15 and 5:30 a.m. The first thing I do is check e-mail and respond to messages. Then I take a shower and prepare things for my kids. I take the 6:40 a.m. shuttle to work, and I get in around 7:30 a.m. Getting an earlier start allows me to clear my in-box, finish drafts and then start on conference calls as early as 8 a.m. I’ve been very produc- tive by the time most people get in, which is around 9:30 a.m.” — Bari A. Williams, 36, commercial lead counsel at Facebook
“My alarm clock is my 6-month-old daughter telling me it’s time to feed her. While I’m feeding her, I do some scrip- tural reading as my form of meditation.” —Balanda Atis, 43, chemist at L’Oréal
Wine and bubble baths. I love a good pinot noir and zinfandel with a great dinner. After that, a lavender- scented bath or shower is fabulous. It gives me time to relax, clear my head and figure out the solutions to some problems. No one bothers me in there. It’s a winning trifecta.” — Willaims
“Spending time with friends—and people who can understand my path—is very therapeutic for me. Recently I had 23 women over to my house for a game night. We played Taboo. We laughed and danced and got absolutely crazy. It’s these moments that bring me back to what’s important.” — Hughes
“I really enjoy sharing science with others, primarily school-age kids who don’t quite know all that science entails. You see a shampoo, a conditioner, a makeup product, and you just never make the correlation that there’s a science behind it. Science doesn’t always have to be boring. Talking to young kids, especially young girls, helps to motivate me—it keeps me focused and it’s a good de-stressor. Kids are always great.” — Atis
“I love washing my face. I use it as a transitional process. Right before I get my kids up, I rub a little oil on my face. When I come back home, I do an in-depth wash to get myself ready for work. Then around lunchtime, if I need a break, I wash my face again as a way to hit reset.” —Jodie Patterson, 45, founder of doobop.com, a beauty e-commerce site
PREPPING FOR BIG MEETINGS
“In anything you do I think it’s critical to be prepared, to be in the moment and to do your homework. I try hard not to multitask, and instead, listen and learn. I’ve been in plenty of pitch meetings in the past, where the person leading wasn’t listening. They would say, ‘Yep, we know what you need.’ I think that that’s the wrong way forward. You can’t assume. You have to go in knowing that there are multiple factors that play a role in the decisions that are made on a daily basis.” — Hughes
“For negotiations with opposing counsel, I play trap or rap music. There is nothing like some Lil Jon to get you motivated. I’m also from Oakland, so hyphy music will also do the trick. The hard beats, the chants are all hype music to me. My mother also texts me every morning between 6 and 7 a.m. Usually it’s scripture to inspire me. Sometimes it’s rap lyrics or both.” — Williams
“I put myself in the shoes of our consumers. I want to make sure that no stones are left unturned and that we’re satisfying
the needs of our diverse consumers from around the world.” — Atis
“I use index cards a lot. I’ll have a stack stapled together for a speech that I’m writing and a stack for another project. Then I’ll type them up. The process of casually writing and preparing is really important.” — Patterson
SQUEEZING IN EXERCISE
I set my exercise schedule for breaks in the day. I will eat lunch at my desk so that I can leave work a little early to do a workout. If I’m not able to make it to my Pilates class, then I walk. I’ll do the whole 10,000 steps thing.” — Candice S. Cook, Esq., 37, founder of The Cook Law Group, PLLC
“If I’m really stressed, I’ll sprint for 30 minutes in my neighborhood. I’ll sprint a block, walk a block, sprint a block, walk a block.” —Patterson
“I played volleyball in college—so it’s easier for me to develop a workout routine for myself. I know the types of exercises that can quickly help shape my body. I do yoga, I bike, I run. I’m also a member of ClassPass, which gives me access to lots of different fitness studios. You name it, I’ve tried it.” — Hughes
“I look at fashion and entertainment to spark creativity. If you watch some of the latest trends, you can see how they might correlate to what you do. Some years back we were trying to find innovative ways of lengthening lashes. At the time I was reading something on clothing textiles. The article went down to the microscopic level in terms of the indi- vidual fibers. And it got me thinking, Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could use fibers to create longer lashes? I did some more research and found that it was a possibility for us. With that we launched one of our first fiber- containing mascaras for lengthening.” — Atis
“One of the reasons I came to Facebook was to work for a company that is seeking to provide access and opportunity via its platform. My largest internal client is the internet.org group. Its mission is to connect the unconnected, and that’s done by deploying UAVs, WiFi boxes and laser technology to rural areas in developing countries and underserved urban communities. “A lot of my inspiration comes from being in communities that are honest and authentic and diverse. I find it incredibly frustrating when people are talking about the groups they’re in and they’re only industry groups. We suggest that lawyers become members of all the bar associations. That stuff is great, but that’s really not where you grow. It helps you to be a better lawyer, but it doesn’t help you be a more holistic member of society or your community. You do more when you learn about how what you do plays out against what everyone else is doing, and about what’s happening in different fields and how that can apply to what your clients are doing.” —Cook
One of my proudest career achievements was doing the deal to bring connectivity to a largely minority population in San Jose, California. There’s nothing better than seeing the tangible results of the work I do, particu- larly when it can provide life-changing opportunities to my community. It is a constant source of inspiration.” — Williams
“I use an app called Sloth. It’s a timer, and I use it like a game. I’ll set it for 15 minutes and focus on one assignment. When the time’s up, I’ll take a short break. Everything I do is in bite-size chunks. I keep two to-do lists—one for business, one that’s personal. During the little breaks, I’ll do something personal, like schedule a dinner with friends, text my brother, write a card.” — Hughes
“Since I usually work from home, I don’t have a busy office as many people do. Most of the people are out of my house during the day, and I have quiet time. I go to the spot that feels most perfect that week. Sometimes it’s the couch by the window that gets a lot of sunlight. No matter where I am, I have my computer and my phone, because it has my notes on it. I then spread everything out; I like a visual display. And I usually have some water with lemon. I create a little hub and just sit and work for hours.” — Patterson
“I use a philosophy called Eat the Frog First. It’s all about doing what you don’t want to do first and getting that out of the way, because the things that you love to do, you’ll just tick off as soon as that large project is finished. If there’s a behemoth that’s in front of me that I know needs to get done, I’ll work hard to handle it or, at the very least, take it down a few notches so I know I’ve gotten started.” — Cook
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