THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 107: Bobbi Rebell Kaufman, Reuters Multimedia Anchor and Reporter

Welcome to THE BALANCE PROJECT: a series of relevant and refreshingly candid interviews featuring inspiring and accomplished women talking about balance. I’ve always been curious about how women I admire manage the tragically glorified “doing it all” craze. So I asked them. As I suspected, no one really does “it all.” Everyone’s making sacrifices somewhere. And that should make us all feel a little better. I hope the conversation will be steered toward that reality rather than toward the flawed and dangerous assumption that we should try—or even want to try—to perfectly do “it all.”

By the way, looking for THE BALANCE PROJECT novel that was inspired by these interviews? It’s here.

No. 107: Bobbi Rebell Kaufman, Reuters Multimedia Anchor and Reporter

Age: 45
Where I live:
 New York City
Job: Chief U.S. Correspondent and Team Leader, Reuters Business Video. Reuters Millennials Money Columnist, Author of the upcoming personal finance lifestyle book Financial Grownup (2016)
Kids: A son, 8, stepson, 15, and stepdaughter, 18

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Photo by Claudio Marinesco

Have you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
When my son was born, I went back to work four days a week. It was a six-month deal. Then management switched, and they didn’t realize it wasn’t permanent. So I got away with it for six years! It was great to have Fridays with him, and to catch up on all my wife and mom errands. But I also turned down the promotion to team leader the first time I was offered it, because it would have required a five-day a week commitment.

I also had to make some difficult concessions. For example, I was offered an interview with then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. But it was on a Friday. I could have hired a babysitter and come in to do it. But I feared that would create a dangerous precedent. I decided if I wanted to be off on Fridays, I had to stick to it. I passed on that interview. Fortunately, I have been able to interview him several other times in my career.

A new boss came in a couple of years ago and it was back to five-days a week anyway, but he did give me more opportunities, including another shot at that promotion. So I did get the promotion in the end.

Now that I’m in charge of my group, I strategically delegate so that I work “virtually” when I can. I made a decision to have my deputy work in the bureau 6am to 2pm, and I work in the bureau 10am to 6pm. From 6am until I’m in the office, I am “on” by email—I approve stories and respond to requests from our colleagues in London and around the globe. But I delegate a lot too—like the morning global news coverage call at 9:30am. That’s the time I am in transit to the office, so my #2 takes the call every day. We go over the agenda by email beforehand, but it means a little less virtual face time with the global leadership team. And I have my morning between dropping my son off at 8am, until 9:30 am to pursue other things. That includes important time with friends, working out, doctor’s appointments, errands, and now working on my upcoming book, “Financial Grownup.”

Once I hit the newsroom, it’s all hands on deck non-stop. I rarely get a break for lunch, and because my job involves being on camera, I have to be there in person, with my full attention and focus. There is no being late. Ever. So that pocket of time between drop off and work has been a lifesaver!

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
I think we should define “it all” on an individual basis. I do have it all as I define it. I have a great husband, three great kids, and a great job. Everyone is healthy, we have enough financial resources to do what’s most important to us, and we all get along.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
Focused time with my husband. We see each other a lot—but with three children (we have full custody of my teenage step kids), time in the same place is not the same as time paying attention to each other. Often, even if the teenagers are home to watch their little brother, and we could go out, we are simply too exhausted to leave the apartment. We are working on it.

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
I am getting better at saying yes to more work-related events after work. Networking is important. Purely because of my position, I receive an endless stream of invitations to various media events. For years I have rushed home not to miss bedtime. I said no close to 100% of the time, and missed out on making a lot of valuable connections. Now I try to accept one invitation per week. But the guilt is there.

Do you have a favorite time management tool, hack, or other strategy you use that helps you achieve balance?
Podcasts and audio books are great. I often have to read books for work, especially if someone I am interviewing has recently written one. So I listen to books while watching my son at his various activities. He sees me paying attention to him, but I’m also getting work done. My recent podcast obsession is Tim Ferris who talks a lot about how to be more efficient. For financial advice, I like Farnoosh Torabi—she is realistic in her advice, and does not get preachy, like some other financial experts. For tech/lifestyle stories, I recommend my friend Manoush Zomorodi’s podcast “Note to Self” on NPR.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance?
From a mentor? My boss, who led my group before me, had to talk me into taking the promotion. I didn’t want to be in charge and have to be the “bad guy.” He looked me firmly in the eye and told me it was time to be the grownup. That advice also inspired the title of my upcoming book Financial Grownup which is about coming to terms with having to deal with money as a grownup, even if we don’t feel ready and would like to avoid the whole thing. At a certain point, we are the grownups.
From your mother?
 “If something doesn’t work out, regroup, and move on.” She was my rock during my divorce from my first husband in my 20s. My world was ending, and she got me to look forward, not back. Oh—and try to smile!
From your spouse? “Don’t stay up all night trying to get everything done.”
From your kids? “Pay attention to what’s going on right now. Be in the moment and put down your cell phone!”

If you had one extra hour in each day and you couldn’t work or be with your family, how would you spend that hour?
There is a dance interval training class I absolutely love called AKT in Motion. It’s crazy hard but so much fun. I leave feeling 18 years old and ready to take on the world!

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
I was prettier than I thought.

What do you hope to know by time you’re 60?
That my kids are all happy.

What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Child transportation logistics! Its just nuts getting everyone where they have to go on the right day at the right time. Even if half the time a nanny is doing it, I still have to keep track.

Whose job do you wish you had?
I’d love to have the time, focus, and talent to write fiction. Also I really want to produce documentaries. So many ideas, so little time.

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
My husband’s! The demands of being a management consultant are relentless. With financial news, I work business hours. It is contained, and I have some control. He is on 24-7 and has to be available to travel at the drop of a hat. He is my hero.

Favorite books?
I’ve been in a book club for more than a decade so it’s hard to pick just a few. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was a great thrill ride. Bossy Pants by Tina Fey was so entertaining and inspiring All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr had a real impact.

What are you reading right now?
My current obsession is a novel by Elyssa Friedland called Love and Miss Communication. It’s about a lawyer who is so overly tied to her social media that her life gets out of control. It is the anti-balance project and real warning that we all need to prioritize.

Biggest vices…
Activity? Taking the 5th on that.
Food? Mint chocolate chip ice cream in bed at night. So bad.
Website? POPSUGAR! Love it.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
8. Sleep is a major priority. Being overtired is the kiss of death in my business.

What do you read every morning?
Reuters.com (of course) and our competition (to remain nameless), and theSkimm. But I am really big on news podcasts like NPR and Marketplace. I am mobile, so listening while walking is the most efficient way to get up to speed ASAP. Also Reuters has a new app Reuters TV. I love watching my friends—and it’s an awesome app.

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: am very fortunate to have come back from some early disappointments in life, like my “starter marriage” and divorce, to have the family and friends I have now.
I wish I: had had more self-confidence at an earlier age.
My kids: Keep me on my toes! There is no getting anything by them. And I am eternally grateful for all their help learning to use all this new technology!

Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
“Don’t be afraid to ask.” I regret not reaching out and asking for help earlier and more often in my career. Working on Financial Grownup, I was initially hesitant to get in touch with friends and acquaintances who could be of help. Almost universally, they have bent over backwards to support the project and be as helpful as possible. I regret the missed opportunities I might have had, because I wrongly assumed people would be put off by the ask. Give people a chance to say yes to you.

Anything else you’d like to add?
The 2 best pieces of advice I have received from mentors:

  1. Say yes. Never miss an opportunity.
  2. Say no. Never be afraid to prioritize and not do everything.

Total contradictions, but both brilliant.

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Photo by Claudio Marinesco

Photo by Claudio Marinesco

About Bobbi:
Bobbi Rebell is the Chief U.S. correspondent and team leader at Reuters Business Video. The unit syndicates content, including updates, newsmaker interviews, and self-contained packaged reports to hundreds of broadcast and online clients around the world. She is also the Reuters Money millennial columnist, syndicated internationally on clients including CNBC.com, Yahoo Finance, Money.com and Time.com. Bobbi is the author of the upcoming Personal Finance Lifestyle book Financial Grownup.

She started her career as an intern for industry icons including Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs, and Stuart Varney at CNN. Bobbi then worked her way up from news associate at CNBC, to various producer roles there and at CNN. She got her big on-air break at Nightly Business Report. From there, she moved to Reuters as a financial anchor and reporter, delivering updates from the NYSE and Nasdaq MarketSite. In addition to running the syndication service, Bobbi appears on Reuters video content including Reuters Insider, Reuters TV (mobile app), and custom programming for a range of international clients through the Reuters Customized Video Solutions (CVS) product.

She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and has a Certificate in Financial Planning from New York University.

Find out more about Bobbi:
www.reuters.com; www.financialgrownup.com
Twitter: @bobbirebell @fingrownup
Facebook: BobbiRebellKaufman

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WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT WORK-LIFE BALANCE? CHECK OUT MY NOVEL THE BALANCE PROJECT!

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