We’ve often heard from founders that running a business can be a 24-hour experience. Still, recently, many of us are denouncing hustle culture for a balance of our own. As women who wear multiple hats, how we spend each moment of the day matters.
For Black women, time is precious, but often we forget that the time we spend outside of building our empires is just as important. In this ESSENCE.com series, we’ll get the scoop on how some of your favorite entrepreneurs and executives are spending time off the clock to refuel, recenter and to remember their north stars.
Alexis McGill-Johnson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, New York City, 49
Alexis McGill-Johnson leads the nation’s largest reproductive healthcare provider with 49 affiliates across the country. Right now, her team is in crisis mode planning, and she spends time advocating to protect women’s reproductive rights to Congressional members and government leaders about an upcoming Supreme Court vote that could overturn Roe vs. Wade. As the face of the organization, she speaks with donors and partners about Planned Parenthood’s mission.
Being the head of Planned Parenthood is a role filled with responsibilities, but this mother of two does her due diligence to ensure she finds time for self-care while helping others find it for themselves. One of Planned Parenthood’s initiative Tone, a series of self-care playlists made by and for young women of color. Tone is a collection of affirmations, meditations, and words of self-care wisdom featuring the voices of Black and Latinx wellness leaders — including folks like Sasheer Zamata, Blair Imani, Isis King, and Brittany and Germani from Black Girl Bravado. Tone is one way that McGill-Johnson is helping others find self-care, but ESSENCE.com had a chance to discover how she is dedicating the time to have moments to renew her vision and imagination with time off the clock.
Running is her favorite morning activity.
McGill-Johnson is a longtime runner, and once she gets her children off to school, she tries to squeeze one in before she starts her workday. “It’s one of the things that just helps me stay grounded. I try to run to the reservoir in Central Park and back,” she shared.
She lives for a morning happy hour.
We all love happy hour, but McGill-Johnson loves hers for the morning time. “I have my coffee, and I do some kind of word puzzle. That just gets my brain going,” she said. She enjoys Wordle, The New York Times Spelling Bee or the crossword. “Most of my day is thinking about how to tackle big, complex problems like facing access to reproductive care. So it gets my brain into problem-solving,” she said.
Entertaining others bring her joy.
Like many women, McGill-Johnson appreciates quiet moments for decompressing, but she also enjoys using her “me time” to entertain people at her home. “I still love to gather people for a dinner party or grab coffee with people and just stay connected in a real way,” she said. While off the clock, she spends time on the details to prepare for her guests, down to the menu and decor. “All of it keeps me sane,” she expressed. As part of an entertaining routine, she buys flowers for her home. Each week she picks out fresh lilies for her to place in her foyer. Tending to them is a constant joy for her. “Every day on my way to the kitchen, you can see the flowers starting to open up, and it just kind of marks the week and the time,” she said.
The pandemic forced her to rest.
Testing positive for COVID-19 during the holidays forced McGill-Johnson to reevaluate her need for more downtime. The last year has been busy for the Planned Parenthood team with court cases in Texas and the Supreme Court in full swing; McGill-Johnson wasn’t able to retreat until she was forced to rest. “It forced isolation, and it forced relaxation in a way that I totally came to appreciate. I had to get off the grid,” she said. During this quarantine time, she set goals to be intentional about building more time off into her calendar to recharge herself. McGill-Johnson planned two trips for the year, and one of those trips is to celebrate her 50th birthday in Italy to visit Rome and Tuscany.
Why being “off the clock is important.
“I think particularly as Black women; we don’t always get the luxury of taking care of ourselves, like before something goes wrong,” she said. McGill-Johnson’s very intense and engaging job recognizes the importance of bringing that same energy to how she cares for herself. “When you’re constantly on the go, and you don’t give yourself that break, you lose the opportunity to be your best self and to tap into your best imagination,” she shared. McGill-Johnson believes to have vision and imagination; you have to resource the time, dedication and intention for clarity. “Give ourselves permission to think and to slow down,” she added.