Anna Ross’s routine resembles a well-oiled machine. From rising at 5:00am and answering emails in bed before scooting off to yoga, to twice-daily meditation and daily reading, the founder of local manicure and skincare brand Kester Black values a strict regime that ensures her time is purposefully spent.
‘It’s taken a while for me to find my rhythm, but it works so well. I have three hours in the morning completely to myself and I can do whatever I want.’
This morning routine is the glue that holds everything else together. ‘I find that if I don’t go to yoga or meditation, I can totally feel how behind I am in my day-to-day work’ she says.
Often we associate a strict routine with overwork, but Anna is an advocate for work-life balance. ‘There’s never going to be a point where somebody doesn’t want something from you, so you need to learn to manage your time so that it’s efficient for you.’
Such efficiency carries over to the daily operation of her business – Anna has a ‘no meeting’ policy, and Kester Black staff also benefit from having Fridays off, afternoon meditations, and a ‘morning cuddle’ ritual where everyone shares what they enjoyed the day before and how they are feeling.
‘I’ve worked at some bad businesses, so my goal with Kester Black was to make it an awesome place to work that people want to stay in.’
Creating a lovely environment for staff reflects Kester Black’s general ethos. Last year, Anna won the Telstra Australian Young Business Women’s Award, and it’s not hard to see why – the brand is sustainable, Australian-made, vegan, cruelty-free, inclusive, and gives back through initiatives such as YGAP’s ‘Polished Man’ to support ending violence against children.
‘I want my business to be successful, lovely and make money, but I also don’t want to work myself into the ground over it. I believe that you can have that.’
My body clock is pretty on track to wake me up early – otherwise my cat King George Von Whiskers II will wake me up!
The first thing I do is I grab my phone and check the Sleep Cycle app. Then I’ll reach down for my laptop and start to check all my emails and pretty much do all of my accounting and invoicing in bed. It’s an actual addiction – but I have an hour before I go to yoga and I think it makes everything as easy as possible for when I finally get to work.
Then I get up and whip on some clothes like a mad woman, make a smoothie and ride my bike to yoga. I meditate for twenty minutes at the studio after class and then I ride my bike to my office.
I’ll shower at the office and get back to my emails. I get 100 emails a day, so it’s emails all the time. My inbox is super-systematic. Everything is left in my inbox until it’s answered and I file it into a folder when it’s done. At the moment, there’s a lot of stuff lingering in my inbox, which gives me panic attacks.
I use Google calendar for payments and that sort of stuff. My personal to-do list is in my email draft, and then we have a project management to-do list which is always in Asana (management software).
When Sophie arrives we have a short catch-up and for a while we would have a ‘morning cuddle’ where each of us would say five things they liked from the day before and how they are feeling today. It just helped us to be on the same page, but we’ve been bad at remembering to doing that lately!
Jacinta works remotely, so I’ll have a chat to her as well and then we all work on GChat and Asana.
My day consists of answering emails and liaising with Sophie and Jacinta. If I’m doing the product development, I’ll be speaking to our manufacturer first thing in the morning and seeing where we’re at with our orders.
I’ll also check in with Sophie and make sure the Instagram schedule is going okay. We schedule social media posts in advance, which takes such a long time because we have a strict colour theme, but I think it’s totally worth it.
Often I bring my own lunch, but lately I’ve been quite lazy, so I’ll walk up Smith Street and usually go to Smith Street Alimentari.
In the afternoon the list-ticking slows down, but I’ll get back to the computer and do the trickier things leftover from the morning.
Another thing to note is that I hate meetings – they are often so unproductive. I would do anything to avoid a meeting, and often ask someone to just call or email. If I do have to have a meeting, I try to make it a walking or standing meeting.
We co-share a space, and all of us meditate for twenty minutes in the afternoon. Well, if they’re not doing meditation, they’re napping. It doesn’t matter because naps are awesome, too.
I’ll wrap up all of the tasks that I didn’t get done and we finish by 5:30. I make sure nobody does overtime here – I don’t think it’s productive.
If there is a lull period where we don’t have much to do, often we will knock off early and either go for a drink or go plant shopping.
I usually ride home, make dinner and check my Instagram. I often go out for dinner with my boyfriend or friends, and in that case I ride from work to the restaurant.
If I’m doing a speaking gig, it is usually after hours too, and I’ll have spent the afternoon freaking out about how I haven’t written the speech and finally print off some notes and head straight to the talk.
Before bed I’ll read a book – usually business books like The E-Myth, Good to Great, or anything to do with communication styles.
I go to bed pretty early because I get up at five o’clock. The second my head hits the pillow, I am out. I don’t drink coffee because it can cause you to have disruptive sleep and it’s harder to get up in the morning. Then you need a coffee to get going, so I have never gotten myself into that trap.
No work Fridays.
I believe in three-day weekends so we don’t work on Fridays. I’m still available though, but I’m going to start going away camping or something and actually switch off my computer.
When people get an out-of-office response from us on a Friday, they can sometimes get a little upset, but I think more companies are going to adopt this approach to work soon enough. It’s so important to look after staff wellbeing and this is one way we manage this.
It’s important not to work yourself to the ground. I want to have a nice life where I spend lots of time with the people that I love, my cat and my boyfriend, but do meaningful things with the time that I do have – give back, continually learn and grow, and work really efficiently.
This story is part of our monthly collaboration with Madeleine Dore of Extraordinary Routines.