Keeping Balance These 5 Female Founders Are Redefining Productivity The Balance Issue
The New "Being Productive"
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These 5 Female Founders Are Redefining Productivity

And the freedom that comes with it.

Here’s the thing with being productive: No one actually teaches you what it means. I mean, sure, if we’re talking Econ 101, it means the output per unit of input. Simple enough. The issue, at least as I see it, is that it fails to recognize one giant factor that impacts all future output: We are not machines.

The concept of getting as much work done as possible and then some coupled with not getting distracted or, even worse, being the distraction, has been drilled into the mindset of young Americans for decades. It’s the American dream, right? These varying ideas relating to productivity have been thrust upon us whether it be by our families, education—or lack thereof—pop culture, or simply society as a whole, particularly for women.

Fast-forward through “having it all” and “lean-in” rhetoric and we’re left with the girlboss, one of the most outward-facing manifestations of female hyper-productivity, coined in 2014 by Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso. Look, I get it, the game has always been rigged, as The Cut points out. Women have been accused of never being as capable as men, especially when it comes to running a business. And when they are, they’re deemed heartless, horrible bosses with a soul destined for a unique ring of hell. So no matter how charming such a fallacy can be to a male-centric society, it leaves women in business wondering where they fit (if they fit at all).

The idea of productivity, of glamourising hustle culture and what it means to be busy, lies at the root of it all. But the girlboss is dead, remember? The wealthy, overworked-yet-still-smiling, often-white archetype is slowly being replaced. “Slowly”, being the operative word. The girlboss versus “new wave” female leaders Venn diagram remains close together, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. Afterall, the two share traits such as purpose, drive, and determination. The difference, however, is that words like “unwavering” are starting to be removed from the conversation. In its spot lives a new wave of entrepreneurs leading with way more honesty than we’ve ever seen, often giving a look into the real innerworkings of starting a business. Failures as well as smaller—and typically less recognized—wins have become more accessible largely in part to social media, painting a more accurate picture of the ups and downs attached with leadership.

It’s always interesting to not only hear how people “got to where they are” but to also get an inside look at how they actually keep going and how they integrate productivity into their lives. And because one of my favorite things to do is follow trailblazing women, I asked some of the most inspiring founders I know two simple, yet deeply loaded, questions: What does productivity mean to you, and how are you implementing it into your business/daily life? Read on for their takes on the new wave of productivity.


Design by Tiana Crispino

Dana Dang

Founder + CEO of Digital Media Architects LLC

BYRDIE: What does productivity mean to you?

DD: Oof. Productivity. It has definitely evolved as I’ve grown in my life (and career). Growing up, I was always “on” and “available” to clients, friends, etc. Frankly, I was proud to be those things. However, as I’ve evolved over time, I’ve realized that this type of culture is not ideal, and that being unavailable for something doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

That said, the literal definition of productivity equates to the amount of something produced with X amount of inputs. Productivity to me is defined as a strategic way to achieve meaningful tasks in a sustainable way that respects your mind, body, and soul. Instead of productivity being stressful and draining, productivity should always feel rewarding and—well—good.

BYRDIE: How are you implementing this definition into your business, and does it differ from the way you implement it in your life?

DD: When implementing this definition of productivity into my business (and life), I’ve found that connecting my productivity to my passion and purpose in life was a major driving force for me. I wasn’t put on this earth to help grow social accounts that don’t use their platforms for the greater good of humanity. My driving force is to work (and live) in a way that is both respectful and sustainable to myself, my mental health, and those around me. That means using my time more thoughtfully, understanding that with any task comes a goal and thinking through the best way to achieve it (again, in the most long-term and sustainable way), and most importantly—it’s drawing boundaries between work and life. As I continue to remind myself of my passion, purpose, and driving force, productivity comes naturally in both work and life. If I ever feel I’m burning out or overwhelmed with a long to-do list, the first thing I do is realign with the passion and the “why” to get myself back on track.

Yasiria Ayala

Founder + CEO of Burned Studio

BYRDIE: What does productivity mean to you?

YA: Getting a task done effectively and in a timely manner—and not just doing something to do it. To me, being productive isn’t just keeping yourself busy. It’s more about prioritizing what you have to do and getting it done one by one. Tackle one task at a time to make sure you get everything accomplished. You never want to start several things at once and leave them half finished. To me, that’s not productive.

BYRDIE: How are you implementing this definition into your business, and does it differ from the way you implement it in your life?

YA: I implement productivity into my business by having a to-do list every day, ranking everything from the highest priority to the least, and scratching things off as they get done. I like to be involved and oversee all aspects of my business to make sure things are getting done in an efficient and timely manner. I have a calendar that covers all areas of my life, from business to personal. I separate everything by color, which helps keep me organized and on top of things since it’s all in one place.

Trinity Mouzon Wofford

Co-Founder + CEO of Golde

BYRDIE: What does productivity mean to you?

TMW: For me, productivity is about understanding my priorities. Of course, some of those priorities are going to be work-related items on a to-do list, but things like spending time with loved ones or making time for myself are just as important. I try to remember that productivity is about more than just the work output that you create.

BYRDIE: How are you implementing this definition into your business, and does it differ from the way you implement it in your life?

TMW: My life and business are incredibly intertwined, so there's not too much of a difference. But protecting my productivity means protecting my boundaries. I try to be thoughtful about how I spend my time and carve out meaningful breaks. For example, that means not being on email at 10 p.m., because that’s not when I'm going to be a productive worker, and it’s an important time for me to rest. I also block off an hour for lunch every day. Sometimes a meeting runs over and I don’t always have the full hour, but having that window booked means I always have a bit of time that’s set aside for a peaceful reset during the day.

entrepreneurs on byrdie

Design by Tiana Crispino

Remi Brixton

CEO + Founder of Freck Beauty

BYRDIE: What does productivity mean to you?

R: Productivity = focus, prioritization, and minimizing distractions. Turning off notifications and focusing on one thing at a time: certain calendar blocks for emails, meetings, creative time, etc. I really pride myself on staying present. It allows me to be respectful of everyone’s time on the team and as productive as possible.

BYRDIE: How are you implementing this definition into your business, and does it differ from the way you implement it in your life?

R: You can’t be everywhere at once, but being in the most important place as much as possible is key. Miranda July talks about using the “carpooling” technique for getting tasks done as quickly as possible, and I implement that every day at work. I try to film on mornings that I already need to get done up for important meetings so I’m not doing my makeup twice. I group IRL meetings together to avoid losing travel time.

I also think about prioritization as “buckets” of return on investment. Engaging with the Freck Fam community has an extremely high ROI because it keeps them engaged with the brand, but it also has a high ROI for me personally, as it keeps me motivated about Freck’s mission to define beauty as self-expression. Some tasks have a low ROI and can be delegated.

For my personal life, it’s a completely different story. I try to play it by ear as much as possible to offset the rigidness of my work calendar.

Gabriela Fernández

Founder of KOSHU

BYRDIE: What does productivity mean to you?

GF: Making steps forward in a healthy way—paso por paso, I say. Getting things done properly, but make it graceful, meaning not carrying any guilt from the previous day into the next one just because I didn’t accomplish the same amount. I am a hyperactive person, in general, living between Napa, New York, LA, and Europe, so balancing time zones is my specialty. I don't stay in one city for more than a few weeks or a month, so I have no choice but to truly plan and tackle tasks. One day can be measured by hours at my laptop or on set, the number of meetings I have, or it can be as simple as doing a quick workout or sleeping in on a Saturday—to me, that's productive. However, someway, somehow, I always get shit done.

BYRDIE: How are you implementing this definition into your business, and does it differ from the way you implement it in your life?

GF: I’m actively changing the current landscape of toxic agency culture by instilling the foundational ethos that work is a part of your life—not your entire life. Working around the clock can be done, but is it truly effective if your team is burnt out and unhappy? We can all agree the answer is a big “hell no”. It’s true we’re at the hands of our clients at times, but “boundaries” is the trendiest yet best word of all time—besides the F word; I love that word. I learned quickly that each person who works for my agency learns and project manages so differently. It takes patience and strategic training to grow that confidence in each of them to speak with any client big or small. I then, over time, just really leaned in and encouraged everyone's true personalities to shine through. We are all humans at the end of each email exchange (for the most part), so remembering to connect is one of the daily values I always encourage to keep top of mind.

When it comes to productivity, the major difference from running a business to running my life is not always taking my own advice. We’ve seen it time and again with entrepreneurs—if you truly love your work, it’s your life. Contradictory, I know, but KOSHU is my baby, and they are growing so strong and healthy. Not a day goes by that I don't absolutely love what I do—24/7, 365 baby. Does that make me a machine like my CFO, Sandra, calls me? Maybe so, but I do think there’s always something that can be done or worked on. Gracefully, of course.

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