Looking at your diary for the coming week, can you see space for downtime? Space that isn’t allocated to doing, giving and outputting but rather just being, pottering and resting?
In a world where the cultural norm is to ‘hustle’ in our work and squeeze more into our schedules, Julie Haslam founder of The Downtime Agenda is an advocate for slowing down.
The Downtime Agenda is an online hub dedicated to the things we do when we’re not doing things. Julie’s aim is to remind us that rest, recuperation and comfort aren’t indulgences, but rather necessities. And she can attest to the importance of restorative practices after being diagnosed with Graves Disease – an autoimmune disease of the thyroid, often associated with prolonged stress.
Once a full-time corporate marketer with a life concierge side business, Julie’s diagnosis forced her to re-configure her life. She now freelances her marketing skills, giving her flexibility to also operate The Downtime Agenda.
The body keeps score of our mental and emotional wellbeing. If we choose to ignore it, it will continue to raise its voice with us, until eventually, we can no longer pretend not to notice. The body will always win. As human beings, we are wired for challenge but to thrive sustainably, we’re required to retreat to revive.
So take a look at your diary again, and make sure you’ve got some downtime on your agenda this week – it’s good for you and it’s good for business.
GIVEAWAY! Julie is offering a gorgeous downtime gift for one lucky reader. To win a $50 gift voucher for The Downtime Agenda and a beautiful throw blanket for those ‘snuggle up with a book and cup of tea’ moments, comment below or on our Instagram post and tell us your favourite way to slow down, rest and recuperate.
What did you want to be when you grew up and why?
I changed my mind more times than I can count. An architect, a doctor, a vet, a stripper (only for a fleeting moment), an actor, a business woman in a power suit, a potter, a designer… and they’re just the things I can remember. It’s incredibly difficult as a child to know what you want to be when you grow up, it’s still difficult!
What did/do you study?
I studied a Bachelor of Commerce with a major in marketing.
What has been your most scary/courageous leap you’ve ever made (preferably in your business/career/life direction)?
I had a well-paying, enjoyable, comfortable job for a great brand but I have always wanted my own business. Two years ago I decided to put the corporate world on hold and start freelancing so that I could work on launching my own business, The Downtime Agenda. Freelancing is great because it provides you with flexibility while still being able to earn an income – you just need to be careful with how you manage workload.
What were you doing before you made your leap?
I worked for about five years in marketing for Audi. Prior to that, I was at large advertising and media companies Clemenger BBDO, M&C Saatchi and Bauer.
Who have been the biggest 3 – 5 influences in your life, in terms of your career and doing work?
1. Nick Haslam
My husband. Nick is kind, practical and sensible. He brings great balance to my spontaneity and creativity.
2. Adam Johnson
Adam is the Creative Director of Xtra Shiny, the creative agency I do a lot of work with. We have worked together on a number of incredible projects over the last 10 years and have become very close. He is a great sounding board. I always have wild ideas and he helps me to work out which ones to pursue and which ones to park.
3. Kim Boehm
He was the MD of Clemenger BBDO during my time there. He is a great leader and incredibly skilled in getting the best out of the people who work for him.
What did you have in place before you made the leap?
Having freelance work lined up has been absolutely key. There is no way I could have jumped into this at full throttle, it can take a long time to build a business.
What was your defining ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment that led you to the leap?
It was more of an ‘I can do this’ moment that led me to start The Downtime Agenda. I have a lot of confidence in myself, sometimes too much!
About three years ago, I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disease that causes the thyroid to produce too much thyroid hormone. Graves is often triggered by severe stress so I think that some emotional trauma I had experienced at the time, coupled with an incredibly stressful period at work was what did it for me.
My doctor instructed me to take three months off work. It was obviously a difficult time but I realised it was important to stay positive and at the same time, slow things down – not only for my general wellbeing but also my ongoing employment. It was at this time that I realised my value to those who rely on me professionally and personally, was directly affected by how much time I committed to my own wellbeing. I then became inspired to start a business that centred around committing time to our wellbeing and over the next couple of years The Downtime Agenda evolved.
I have always had a genuine love for helping others and this business allows me to do that. I have been surprised by the number of people who are stressed or burnt out who have come to me seeking advice. Although I am not formally qualified in this area, I can see that I am able to add value to others by helping them with strategies to slow down and find the balance they need.
How did/do you overcome/work with the fear that comes with leaping? How do you decide to choose courage?
Choosing ‘courage’ honestly wasn’t too difficult for me. I think, like most people, I didn’t truly appreciate the benefits of working in the corporate world until about six months out of it. Being on a great salary, having expenses paid for, a team of people to help, endless resources – these are the things we take for granted when we work for someone else. The fear for me has actually come into it after having made the leap. This is the time when you realise, holy heck, I’ve actually invested a lot of time and money into this and given up something amazing. You have good weeks and bad weeks. It’s the bad weeks that bring the fear back. The good weeks remind you why you started the business in the first place and encourage you to keep going.
How did you fund your leap?
The Downtime Agenda was funded with my own savings. I really wanted to ensure the business was well established before seeking any external investment.
What other leaps have you made?
I started a Lifestyle Management Business called ‘Leave it with us’ about eight years ago but realised that it wasn’t scalable unless I had the funds to turn it into a tech business a bit like Airtasker, which I just didn’t have. Nor did I feel I was ready for a leap that big at that time.
What leaps didn’t work out? What did you do about it?
I guess you could say that ‘Leave it with us’ didn’t work out as I only ran it for 18 months. In saying that, the business was profitable from the start. I was very lean with spending, promoting it via direct mail and as a services-based business, there weren’t a lot of start-up costs. I closed the business down and fortunately was able to do so without any loss.
What are you most fearful of? How do you deal with it?
I am fearful of letting down those who have supported me in taking this leap, particularly my husband. I had to convince him that starting my own business was a good idea and he has been incredibly supportive of that. When you have a bad week, you can’t help but worry that you’ve made the wrong decision. It’s important to remember that it’s not always smooth sailing and that although this week might be quiet, next week could be completely different.
How would you rate your level of happiness about making your leap? 1 being sad, 10 being rad.
What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?
I love the sense of pride that it brings. I am proud of what I have launched, what I have achieved and the way that I am inspiring people to slow down and take time for themselves. People who are stressed have actually started reaching out to me for advice, it wasn’t something that I expected to happen.
What’s the biggest downside to making the leap? And how do you get through it?
I would have to say loneliness. I have always worked in big companies surrounded by lots of people. It can be really tough working on your own. I’d love to find the right partner, someone whose strengths complement my shortfalls.
What might be your next leap?
I’d like to stick with this one for a while!
What are your favourite words to live by?
Something that Simon Davey, Co-Founder of Happy Melon Studios said to me when I interviewed him, ‘Busy is a reality, pausing is a necessity, stress is a choice.’ I really like it and often remind myself of that when I’m feeling stressed.
Who do you admire who also made the leap?
Jacqui Lewis, Founder of The Broad Place. Jacqui is a friend of mine and I admire the leap she made from running her own creative agency to becoming a Vedic meditation teacher and running a school for creativity and clarity. The leap was massive and so different to what she was doing previously, I really admire her courage.
A piece of advice for someone with an itch to leap?
Do it! But I recommend doing it gradually. Ensure you have all of your ducks in a row before giving up a steady income.
Right now I’m:
Hearing: The Happy Melon Studios playlist on Spotify. And the lawn mower, it’s one of my favourite sounds.
Eating: Hot cross buns.
Drinking: Any kind of tea, I am a collector.
Reading: Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang.
Loving: The change of season.
A confession: I’m writing this blog post from my bed, under my doona, in between watching episodes of Downton Abbey, sipping tea and nibbling on Mother’s Day chocolate. Definitely embracing downtime today.