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. 117: Julie Hochheiser Ilkovich, Media Specialist/Career Expert

Age: 33
Where I live:
 Brooklyn, NY
Job: Managing Partner & President, Editorial Operations, Masthead Media Company | Career Expert 
 No kids. I do have 2 fur babies (cats named Rocky and Desmond)!

Julie Hochheiser Ilkovich_HeadshotHave you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
Yes! I used to work for big companies, which I loved, but my work schedule was incredibly demanding. I started my own media company and a wonderful result of that has not only been flexibility, but now I am 100% in control of my schedule. Launching a new company has its challenges, of course, but having control over my schedule and being my own boss are two incredible perks that I don’t think I can ever give up. I now have real balance in my life. I still have to work a lot, but because I can be flexible with my work hours I can integrate in all of the things I want to do with my life (spending time with my husband, working out, seeing my friends and family, volunteering, etc.). I really believe that I have achieved as much balance as possible. Some days are still crazy. I don’t believe that anyone has balance 100% of the time, but I have gotten pretty close.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
I absolutely believe women can have everything they want when it comes to their own lives. I definitely don’t think a woman should be judged as to whether she has it “all” or not when it comes to her career, if she has a family (or even wants one), and what she does with her spare time. Each person’s happiness, her “all,” comes from finding a balance that works everything she wants into her life. It’s definitely not easy and may not look the way society thinks it should, but I do believe it is possible for everyone to find some kind of happy balance. Do I think it is possible for someone to have a successful career and a fulfilling home life, which is how we often define “having it all”? Absolutely! But to me, “having it all” might mean being a fierce single woman with a great job and a rich life volunteering or a CEO who decided to have kids on her own or a former executive who decided to stay home with her kids. There are so many ways to live a fulfilling life.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
That’s an easy one—email! No matter how organized I am or how long I spend checking my email, I am constantly buried in it. (And the unanswered emails sitting in my inbox constantly creep into my thoughts.) And then just when I start to feel caught up… tons of emails I need to respond to come pouring in! It’s very important to me that I don’t spend a lot of my free time emailing. I even took my work email off my phone because I found myself mindlessly looking at it when I should have been relaxing.

I have spent years honing my email organization solution, which includes checking my email in this order:

  1. Deleting all junk/trash.
  2. Replying to all urgent starred/flagged emails.
  3. Reading my email from the bottom up and responding to anything that HAS to be dealt with TODAY.
  4. Once this is done, start at the bottom again and respond to anything that SHOULD be dealt with today.
  5. If I have more time, keep on responding. But if not, I will let myself work on another project so email is not running my life.

I also use Boomerang for Gmail, which allows me to schedule emails to be sent later, reschedule emails to come back into my inbox, and, most importantly, remind me if someone has not responded to my email (so I can follow up). This tool helps me take control of my email because I can schedule emails to bounce back into my inbox when I might have time to respond to them—instead of just having a ton of emails sitting in my inbox staring at me.

My overall solution is to stick to my email organization method, hope for the best, and not stress if I ever have 50 new emails sitting in my inbox when I get to the office in the morning.

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
Definitely working defined hours. I used to work 24/7. Then, last year my husband and I took a working trip to Belize and lived there for 6 weeks. It was life changing! When I was there away from all the noise of New York City, I started to work a defined work day. If I got up at 7 AM I didn’t start immediately working at 7 AM. I would run errands, cook breakfast, and enjoy my morning—and then start working at 8 AM or 9 AM. In the evenings, even if we didn’t have any plans, I would log off by 7 PM so we could enjoy some time together. (I know it sounds like a long day, but it’s nothing compared to how many hours I used to work.) And I made sure to take a lunch break every day. Working these defined hours really showed me how productive I could be if I just worked in a more focused and (more) limited way. I have mostly been able to stick to this work/life balance since we came back from Belize and I am now a more productive worker.

Do you have a favorite time management tool, hack, or other strategy you use that helps you achieve balance?
For me, time management and achieving balance is all about staying organized. I live by my calendar, and make sure to schedule in everything I need to do. I make sure to block out time (and even sometimes entire days) where I need to get either professional or personal things done. I make sure to plan ahead for “me time,” including workouts and manicure/pedicures. I also schedule in quality time with my loved ones because if you don’t, that is something that quickly gets lost in the craziness. I have weekly dates with my husband on the calendar and monthly standing dates with friends who I know I want to make sure I spend time with. I also live by my to-do lists. I use Basecamp to help me organize my to-do lists and it has changed my life! (Full disclosure: It costs $50/month and my company pays for it. You might be able to find a cheaper or free option!) This tool helps me organize checklists by assigning due dates and moving things around. I categorize my tasks by a short list of what I need to do today—and then a longer list of what I need to do in the future. This method helps keep me organized and focused. It really helps me tackle one day at a time and keeps me from feeling too overwhelmed.

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’d either spend it:

  1. Spinning with a friend for 45 minutes (I’m a SoulCycle addict!) and spending the rest of the hour sipping an iced coffee and chatting.
  2. Walking around my Brooklyn neighborhood and talking on the phone with a friend. (Or even better, taking a walk with a friend!)
  3. Catching up on whatever TV shows I missed this week while enjoying an iced coffee and some dark chocolate.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
When I was 20 I wish I had known how much of a journey a career can be. I think we all used to think of careers as very linear—you got one job that led to the next job that led to the next promotion, etc. But these days it’s so much easier to translate your experience into new, entirely different jobs and industries, and it can actually help your career to gain experience in different companies, rather than just sticking with the same company as you gradually get promoted. Times have changed! I think it would have been helpful to know to always keep an open mind about all opportunities. If you have your eye on just one end prize (or that big job that is years away), you might miss some incredible opportunities along the way!

What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Cooking! I love to cook (I’m still learning…), but I have trouble making time for it. I try to make cooking easier by preparing the week’s meals on Sunday or using Blue Apron. I also just heard about this personal chef startup called Kitchen Surfing. It’s $25 per person to have a personal chef come to your house! I think I might need to start using that as a special treat!

Whose job do you wish you had?
The person whose career I most admire is Jean Chatzky. She’s living my dream! I really respect the way she has developed her personal brand. I love how her business lets her write, do speaking engagements, and go on TV—all while helping people! I hope someday I can share my career advice in the fabulous way she shares financial advice. Her career inspires me!

What are you reading right now?
I’m currently reading How to Be a Grown-Up by my friends Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, which is just so well written and hilarious! And I can’t wait to read Mindy Kaling’s new book Why Not Me?.

Biggest food vices?
I don’t have one specific food vice, but I am a huge foodie! I love trying new foods and eating at as many restaurants as possible here in NYC. I tweet about my foodie adventures at the hashtag #FoodieinNYC.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
I try to get about 7 hours of sleep per night, but a lot of the time it is more like 6. I’m a night owl, so it’s hard for me to get to bed early no matter how early I need to wake up!

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: am very lucky. (And I try to never forget it!)
I wish I: had more hours in the day!


JHI-Arise360About Julie:
Julie Hochheiser Ilkovich is a career expert—as well as a digital content, marketing, and social media specialist. Julie’s career advice can be heard regularly on SiriusXM’s Wake Up! with Taylor and has been featured in many media outlets, including USA Today, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, HuffPost Live, Crain’s New York, TheStreet.com, and Good Day New York. Julie is the co-founder, managing partner, and president of editorial operations at Masthead Media Company. She is also the vice president of young professional programming for New York Women in Communications. Julie was previously the editorial director of digital at Alloy Entertainment/Warner Bros. (creators of Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries), site director for the Hearst Teen Network (which includes Seventeen.com), and an editor and on-air personality at AOL RED, AOL’s teen channel. She is a graduate of the Boston University College of Communication.

Find out more about Julie:
Twitter: @julieinnyc (daily career advice)
Instagram: julieinnyc



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