THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 97: Gillian Zoe Segal, Author and Photographer

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, the novel that was inspired by these interviews? It’s here.
  • The Balance Project interview series recently celebrated its first birthday!
  • Fortune ran a feature about The Balance Project.
  • Want to be a part of The Balance Project? Complete the interview.

No. 97: Gillian Zoe Segal, Author and Photographer

Age: 45
Where I live:
 Manhattan
Job: Author and Photographer
Kids: a daughter, 12

Author's photo final copyHave you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
It is pretty easy to have balance when you are writing a book because you can make up your own hours.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
I think that having it all is realistic—BUT, as I have learned from my Getting There subjects, no one can have it all at once. You must first figure out what having it all means to you, then prioritize the various stages of your life.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
When I set out to do something I get really focused on doing the best job possible. On account of this I can allow non-pressing issues to slide. For example, I will let my home get increasingly cluttered. At a certain point, I can’t stand it anymore and will devote a big chunk of time to dealing with various things and “spring cleaning.”

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
Focusing and banging things off of my “to do” list.

Do you have a favorite time management tool, hack, or other strategy you use that helps you achieve balance?
When I really need to get something done I close up all access to social media (this includes turning off all sound notifications) and isolate myself. This enables me to really focus and be efficient.

I always keep a small spiral notebook with a running “to do” list. When everything on a page gets crossed off, I rip the page out. When there are no pages left I start a new notebook. I almost always have one of these notebooks with me.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance?
From a mentor/co-worker? My hero, Warren Buffett told me, “You have lived a successful life if, as you grow older, the people who you hope love you actually do. I have never known anyone who does not feel like a success when they have gotten close to my age and have a lot of people who love them. I know enormously wealthy individuals who have dinners held in their honor, hospital wings named after them, and all that sort of thing, but the truth is that no one thinks much of them. I have to believe that at some point they realize it, and everything gets quite empty after that.” If that is not awesome balance advice, what is?
From your mother?
 Before I gave birth to my daughter, I was somehow under the impression that my life wouldn’t change that much, and even made social plans for the weeks following my daughter’s delivery. Boy was I wrong (cut to me breast feeding around the clock and not sleeping more than 4 hours in a row). Around that time my mother told me that taking care of a baby is not difficult if you don’t try to do too many other things at the same time. I quickly changed my tune, took all social pressure off myself and was able to relax and enjoy the early months of being a mother. I knew that the restaurants and parties would still be there when I was ready to re-emerge—and I was right.

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?
I would do more yoga and read more.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
I wish someone had told me that success comes in a variety of flavors, can be achieved by a variety of different personality types, and that it is possible to make a career out of any passion. Working on my book, Getting There, taught me this. My subject Jillian Michaels started out as a trainer and now runs a health and wellness empire. The famous film score composer Hans Zimmer  (The Lion King, etc) started out as a struggling musician and now runs his own production company. The list of these kinds of examples goes on and on!

What do you hope to know by time you’re 60?
I hope that I look back on my life and feel that I made the most of it—in all respects.

What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Keeping my apartment organized and paying my bills!

Whose job do you wish you had?
Oprah’s.

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
I am glad I am not a politician. I am known for being a straight shooter and would hate to not feel free to speak my mind.

Favorite book?
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

What are you reading right now?
The Education of a Value Investor by Guy Spier.

Biggest vices…
Activity? Surfing the Internet. I fall for every juicy headline I come across.
Food? I continually battle a sugar addiction!
Website? I’m a surfer!

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
7—but I wish it were 8! I really value sleep and notice a decrease in both my brainpower and tolerance level when don’t get enough.

What do you read every morning?
I pick up my phone (which is also my alarm) and check my email, LinkedIn notifications, Facebook notifications, and Twitter notifications. I am always surprised at all the action that occurs while I am sleeping!

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: have good priorities.
I wish I: could travel more.
My daughter: impresses and inspires me every day.

Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
“I don’t see why not!” I love going on adventures and experiencing new things. If an interesting opportunity is presented to me and I don’t have a good reason to decline, I will accept. I’m rarely sorry.

Anything else you’d like to add?
In my recently released book, Getting There: A Book of Mentors, thirty leaders in diverse fields share their secrets to navigating the rocky road to success. In an honest, direct, and engaging way, these role models describe the obstacles they faced, the setbacks they endured, and the vital lessons they learned. They dispense not only essential and practical career advice, but also priceless wisdom applicable to life in general. Getting There is for everyone—from students contemplating their future to the vast majority of us facing challenges or seeking to reach our potential.

GT COVER s copyAbout Gillian:43592
Gillian Zoe Segal is the author of Getting There: A Book of Mentors and New York Characters. She received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan and a law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. She lives in Manhattan and is also a photographer.

Find out more about Gillian:
www.gillianzoesegal.com
Twitter: @GillianZoeSegal
Facebook: AuthorGillianZoeSegal

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

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