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5 CMOs on finding your mojo: 'Schedule runs as if they are mandatory meetings'

With the great summer exodus upon us, Rebecca Coleman asks a group of busy senior marketers for their advice on fighting work weariness and taking a moment to cultivate inner creativity.

5 CMOs on finding your mojo: 'Schedule runs as if they are mandatory meetings'

This is the time of year when offices, business districts and even entire cities seem to be transformed into an assimilation of a post-apocalyptic film set. This desolation is all well and good if you’re one of the lucky crowd that has escaped to warmer climes; not only are you feeling the sand between your toes, but you are also free from any fear of missing out. A holiday is, of course, an ideal way to recharge your professional batteries, but stress, digital overload and occupational fatigue can strike at any time. So, what can you do to ensure you stay energised whether you have one minute, one day or one week?

The marketers below know how important it is to keep creativity ignited by taking a step back from the daily deluge of to-dos every once in a while. Here, each shares three tips for finding some much-needed headspace.

Catherine Salway, founder and CEO, Redemption:


Katherine Whitton, CMO, Barclaycard:


Pete Markey, CMO, Post Office:


Jennelle Tilling, global CMO, Yum! Brands:


Jeremy Ellis, marketing and digital director, TUI UK and Ireland:


Catherine Salway, founder and CEO, Redemption

Make a list, check it twice

Before the day or the week starts, I think carefully and then write down the most important things to achieve before getting sucked into everything. We are in the throes of launching our flagship Redemption bar and restaurant in Notting Hill and the pressure is on, so at the moment I’m checking my priority list twice a day.

If I’m really stressed, I’ll write down the things I’m fretting about. Then I approach it like a brainstorm: what can be done to alleviate this? Often you have all the answers yourself, but fear can cloud your thought process, so deconstructing it on paper helps.

Release the anxiety

I always have close-to-hand mantras like "this doesn’t matter at all" or "this too will pass" or "let it be". We humans are scampering around trying to create wealth, but, ultimately, a lot of it is pointless and sometimes damaging.

Even when doing something seemingly noble like launching a socially conscious business, I’ve learned it will backfire if I get stressed or take it too seriously. As if by magic, when you relinquish your anxious grip on something, it more naturally falls into place.

Look after yourself

I gave up my corporate job, got into yoga and raw food, and, in Redemption, I created a business that puts healthy living on a pedestal.

I’m not perfect (I still get stressed and I still like wine), but if you look at photos of me from my Virgin days, I look 10 years older than I do now. You don’t need to ‘ctrl-alt-delete’ as extremely as I did, but I’m living proof that there is value in every single, little healthier decision you take.

Katherine Whitton, CMO, Barclaycard


Assess your progress

When times are manic, it's easy to become too focused on execution, so part of rebooting is allowing yourself to take a step back and refocus on the bigger picture. To do this, it is important to move from an inward focus to an outward one. You need to shift your perspective from the ‘here and now’ and be critical about what has been achieved and what still needs to be done.

Focus on what’s really important

To be successful, finding a work/life balance that is right for you is key. At Barclaycard we support all colleagues through our Dynamic Working policy, where team members have the freedom to define how they work their professional life alongside their personal life. Also in our marketing department, we've introduced 'Downtime Friday', which means strictly no meetings in the diary after 3pm, so the team can clear their desks as well as their heads before the weekend. As CMO, it’s critical I make sure my team is finding the time to refresh. I become concerned when staff ask to carry holiday over to the following year as this usually means they haven't spent enough time on themselves during the previous year.

Take time to be inspired

Regardless of your profession, it’s important to re-engage with the world around you. For marketers to keep on top of their game, it’s important to take time to be inquisitive, hunt out new experiences and become inspired by culture. Seeking inspiration can be the most powerful way to re-energise and come back to the day job with new vigour and enthusiasm.

Pete Markey, CMO, Post Office

Do something that scares you

I suffer from vertigo, so I’m constantly looking to take on challenges involving heights – in recent years, I’ve walked on the glass floor of the CN Tower in Toronto and completed ‘Up at the O2’.

Go on an adventure

Go somewhere and do something new and challenging. You can’t beat surrounding yourself with a new environment, new people and new experiences to help unwind and recharge.

Recharge your mind

Find a great book or great content that gets you to test and challenge your thinking. I recently read Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, a great book that challenged my thinking in relation to how consumers think and react to marketing.

Jennelle Tilling, global CMO, Yum! Brands

Do something you love

At a time when we are surrounded by the wonders and trappings of technology, it is especially critical that we allow for a literal and figurative ‘reboot’. This is essential for a career in marketing – where fresh and innovative ideas are at the heart of everything we do. And while we no longer have the luxury of summer- long vacations, there are things we can do, both big and small, to recharge. Find something you’re passionate about, and do it. The key is to put it on your calendar. I schedule my runs as if they are a mandatory meeting.

Switch off

If you travel, do not work on the plane. Read a book, watch a movie – do something fun. Take advantage of being unreachable. Do something outside your daily routine. I attended South by Southwest last year and chose to listen to the least-obvious speakers just to provide that spark to get the creative juices flowing. TED talks are also a great source of creative inspiration.

Find some balance

Take advantage of your company’s programmes. At Yum!, we have an amazing ‘wellness’ programme that offers everything from nutritional counselling and massages to group exercise classes and personal training. Don’t overlook all that your company offers. Last but not least – it is essential to maintain a balanced attitude at work, even under the most stressful circumstances. Take the work seriously, but not yourself.

Jeremy Ellis, marketing and digital director, TUI UK and Ireland

Go back to the shop floor

To me there’s no better way to reboot your creativity and energy levels than going back to the shop floor and meeting customers. It’s by far the best way to come up with new and innovative ideas because you see your customers in action, interacting with your products, services and staff.

A change is as good as a rest

Of course, I would say this working for a holiday company, but I’m not talking just about testing out holidays, I also get a huge amount from visiting our retail stores, call centres, and UK airports. Even just getting out of the office for a day, can make a huge difference and get you feeling full of energy on return.

Leave your desk behind

And there's no better time like the present. We are all far too wrapped up in our day-to-day; umbilically attached to our mobiles, tablets and laptops. While the weather is warm, seize the moment to venture outside and take a big, creative slice of the real world.