INTERVIEW WITH  BRANKA INJAC MISIC – CMO, ARLO & CO, MELBOURNE

Branka, you’re someone who I admire a lot! You’re raising two small humans, kickin’ big career goals, and you even run your own business. How on earth do you do it all?

First and foremost, the feeling is mutual – I absolutely adore you and am truly humbled you’ve chosen to chat to me about all things balancing work with raising a family.

The most simple answer to your question is: I don’t ‘do it all’.  Sure, I run my own business and my household, while working for Arlo & Co, plus consulting on the side…buuut the flip side of that is that I don’t have a social life, I’m 7 years overdue for a good sleep, and the only holiday I’ve had in years was 8 days in Fiji this past July.

When my kids were tiny, the juggle was a lot easier because they didn’t require so much of my mental energy, but as they get older, the balancing act of work vs present parenting becomes harder. So I’ve really had to sharpen my prioritisation skills. When I’m at work, or working on a project, I’m fully in the zone. I’ve learnt to tune out distractions and get the work done. I have to be mega efficient or I know my family time suffers.

Then, when I’m with my kids, I mostly ignore my phone. My time spent on social media is 99% work-related. This means I don’t spend time scrolling or posting about my personal stuff when I’m with the kids because all my attention is on them.

In fact, I’ve adopted James Clear’s philosophy of continuous 1% improvement. Basically, it’s all about optimising everything in life (professional and personal) by 1% on a daily basis. On their own, these 1% improvements seem small and insignificant, but the accumulated interest of those improvements over time generates big results.

Now, I know that sounds like I have it all together. But I don’t. 🙈I’m definitely constantly ironing things out.

After you came back to work after having your first born, how did your career change? Did you find that you were more or less ambitious?

Funnily enough, I went to work much sooner than I thought I would after my first born. About 3 months into my maternity leave I got head hunted by a FinTech company on the Gold Coast. So I uprooted my family and we moved to sunny Queensland.

By the time my son was 6 months old I was already back at work. At the time, my husband took some time off to be a stay-at-home dad. He struggled at first, but after a few months he absolutely loved it and often talks about how amazing it was to spend that quality time with our son.

To answer your question more directly though, I don’t think my career ambition changed at all. I’ve always been ambitious and I’ve always enjoyed work.

I did a Gallup Strengths test recently which revealed to me, amongst other things, that one of my core strengths is that I’m an “Achiever”. I’m fuelled by getting shit done…over and over and over again. And while that’s good in some ways – like actually making things happen rather than just planning them or sitting around consumed by theory – it’s also a double edged sword in that I can never sit still. Even in my personal life.

For instance, if a weekend goes by where I have not ‘achieved’ at least one thing (be it taking the kids to somewhere fun, or cleaning the house, or putting away all the laundry) I feel totally dissatisfied. And like I’ve failed. I know that’s really difficult to understand for people who simply aren’t this personality type, but for those of us that are…I know you feel me. 👊

When you’re a working mama, mornings are nothing short of chaotic, so I’d love to hear how you start your working day?

Haha! The timing of this question is *perfect*. If you had asked me this 3 months ago, I would have said that I feel rushed, under pressure, always running late, and completely chaotic. Buuuut, going back to the 1% improvements that I talked about earlier, I’ve actually been working on a ‘better’ morning routine over the last couple of months.

I start by setting my alarm at quarter to 5 in the morning. I enjoy dozing in and out of sleep, so this gives me about 15min to come to and get up at 5am.  

Then I feed the cat, make my coffee, and sit down to do some gratitude journaling. This didn’t come naturally to me in the beginning, so I started with 3 things that I’m grateful for. Then I moved onto 5. And now I do between one page and two pages every morning.

After that, I do vision mapping – which involves thinking about where I want to be in 5-10 years time both personally and professionally and writing that down.

Once the writing stuff is done, I move onto meditating. This has, by far, been the biggest challenge for me. Sitting still and not being consumed by thoughts is such a difficult concept for someone like me – a total overthinker.

In the beginning I really struggled and could only do about 3 min every morning. But like with anything in life, the more you practice the better you get at it. I’m not trying to rush it. I’m learning. I’m up to 10 min each morning and managing my thoughts with more ease. I have noticed how focusing on the breath has also allowed me to slow down and chillax in other areas of life, not just when I’m meditating.

Then, I usually get to squeeze in about an hour of work. This is usually dedicated to projects I’m working on with clients I’m consulting with, or between those projects, I work on my own business. Because I come into this work straight from meditation, I find it doesn’t take me a long time to get into it and, therefore, I get a significant amount done.

This is all before 7am.

It’s all a lot more calm now. And fun. And I really enjoy this time with them. Plus, we’re not running late anymore and that is such a relief. (Except for Tuesday mornings when I also take the neighbour’s kid to school with us and it throws out my entire routine. 🙈)

Every mama always craves a bit of me time. What do you do to energise and recharge when you get a moment to yourself?

I listen to podcasts (most often work-related ones) and read (most often work-related books).

Before I had kids I used to turn to my guitar to chill out. I’d play old songs, write new ones, and get lost in the music. I’m slowly getting back into it – just waiting for the calluses to build back up so the steel strings aren’t killing me.

The juggle is real. How do you handle tough days in the office, and similarly, how do you handle work when life at home is crazy?

The juggle sure is real!  And the worst is when you’ve got a double whammy – tough day in the office, followed by tired, cranky children at home. I used to really struggle with this, but since starting meditation I find I’m handling things better. Don’t get me wrong, I lose my shit just as much as the next person when things pile up over time. But I definitely find this is happening less and less as I learn to breathe through things to find calm before I react (*insert weird hippy music here*).

Seriously though, I’m super into psychology and how the mind works. This started off as a work-related obsession, but I have since moved into trying to understand childhood development and how I, as a parent, can best assist my kids to grow into strong, resilient, confident adults.

I’ve changed lots of my communication with them – prioritising a growth mindset philosophy. I’m also learning to apply their individual love languages better and to understand when their love tanks are running on low. These sorts of things have noticeably helped reduce friction, tension, and tantrums in our house. They still happen – of course! – we’re human and it’s totally natural that we all have our ups and downs. But understanding the kids better helps me manage crazy home life better.

As for tough days in the office, I’m slowly learning to leave those where they belong. It doesn’t work all the time, but often having a break from the situation – even if it’s just for a few hours – and revisiting the issue helps clear things up. And when it doesn’t, sleeping something off tends to work a treat for me.

What’s the best career advice you’ve been given by another mother?

“Trust that you know what’s best for you and your family.” That sounds so simple and so corny. I know. But I have really struggled with ‘working mum guilt’ in the past.

Then I realised that *not working* would be detrimental to my emotional state. And not working would be lying about who I am – and what sort of lesson is that to teach my kids? How can I say to them “Be proud of who you are and never change for anyone” if I am not modelling that behaviour?

So, instead, I have reframed my own thinking and reorganised my life to fit in both work and parenting. As I said before, weekends have become sacred family time and I only work 4 days, so that I can spend some quality time with my daughter on Fridays before she starts school in a year.

I also look for flexible employers and clients who know and appreciate the value of working parents, and I try to show my kids that good work ethic is an important part of life.

I take the kids into work on school holidays (and I’ve taken them to meetings before, too), explaining to them why mummy is working and that things don’t just come to you for free.

I consider this a super important part of their upbringing, especially as society moves into an ‘instant gratification expectation mindset’ and *cash* as we know it slowly disappears.

I want my kids to understand that behind that simple tap of a card onto a machine at the shops is *work*, not magic.

Having them witness me in a work environment really helps me solidify this explanation for them, rather than simply talking about work – this abstract place they only hear about, but never see.

Do you have any hot #motherhustler tips that you’d like to share?

The one that immediately comes to mind is: If you’re thinking about starting a side hustle/business, do it while you’re pregnant or when your children are really young.

At first that sounds super counterintuitive, especially for anyone who has been through that newborn haze. But I have noticed a trend, especially in the last 3-4 years, where starting a businesses during that time works well for new mothers or mothers with newborns. It almost becomes a mental escape from the often mind-numbing routine of feed–change–lull to sleep–repeat.

Today, there are also tons of resources to get something up and running within a day or two, and to test if your idea is viable with very minimal investment.

If you’ve ever wanted to try something out, even as an opportunity to earn an extra buck while you’re on mat leave, now’s the time!

Ok, so now the most important questions – pick one!

Heels or flats?

FLATS. Converse All Stars to be exact. Always and forever.

Champagne or cocktails

Can I choose coffee instead?

Morning or night?

I’m getting better at mornings, but my heart belongs to the night.

ERON CASTRO

Who Am I? I’m a proud Digital Recruiter at ‘affix’ in Brisbane and I’ve been hanging out in the Marketing & Recruitment space since around 2010. Aside from that, I’m a wife, a Mumma, and an aficionado of Latte Ristretto’s and 90’s Hip Hop.

Say hi here.