A Top Executive Shares Her Daily Habits For Success
A Top Executive Shares Her Daily Habits For Success

A Top Executive Shares Her Daily Habits For Success

Naomi Walkland is a vice president at dating app Bumble, where she heads up a team of 30 spread across 19 global markets. She’s also the mother of a 10-month-old son, so it’s no surprise she’s developed a set of daily habits to set herself up for success. To find out what they are, we asked her to run us through a typical working day.

I typically wake up between 5:30am and 6am. It’s really important that I have a bit of time for myself in the morning before my son wakes up. I always want to feel organised, so I start by doing a five-minute review of emails or my Slack, just to check I haven’t missed anything urgent. I oversee markets in Europe and Asia, so it’s a lot of time zones to get my head around. After that I feed the dog and do either a PT session or a Pilates workout to clear my mind. Right now, I’m loving Pilates by Bryony, as the workouts are only 20 minutes and feel really manageable. Once I’m showered and ready (hopefully by 7am) I wake my son and get him ready for dropping off at nursery.

Right now, we going into the office once a week to touch base. We’re all pretty remote, but I enjoy spending Wednesdays in London to really meet with everyone and get some face-to-face contact time. My husband and I moved out of the capital about two years ago, so on the journey into town I tend to listen to either a podcast or audiobook. Currently I’m listening to The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama. My favourite podcast is probably How To Fail – the episodes are so inspiring. Of course, I’ve also got one eye on emails and my Slack to make sure I don’t miss anything important on the commute. 

When I arrive at the office, I say hello to the team. We’re in a great location in Soho and although I manage about 30 people, roughly 15 are based in London. Our team are so hardworking and honestly, I’m so proud of them. We work for a company that’s all about gender equality – Bumble’s mission is to make women feel comfortable making the first move – and I feel like those values really define our office culture. Like many people on the team, I met my partner on Bumble – so it feels like a shared mission. 

On the days I’m in London, I really try to maximise my time there. That means filling my diary with quite a few meetings – not just internally with the team but also with external partners. I also love being in the office because we get a couple of good perks – lunch three times a week and unlimited snacks are just two examples!

Being a WORKING MOTHER is still a work in progress – lots of people have told me not to aim for PERFECTION or even perfect BALANCE, it really is a blend.

For me, mornings are about getting through my to-do list. To help me prioritise what I need to get done, I use the Eisenhower matrix that breaks down tasks into four categories depending on whether they’re urgent, important, could be delegated or could be deleted. I find it helpful to put my various tasks into the boxes to work out what I should do first. When you head up a team, it’s brilliant to be able to reset and focus on what I need to do versus what could be delegated to someone in the team. I also check all the dashboards across the 19 markets I’m responsible for to see how much progress we’re making in each of them. I also try to carve out some time with my direct reports. Mornings are when I thrive, so it’s about getting as much ‘deep work’ done as possible. 

Meetings have to be productive. It’s so easy to sit in meetings all day and not actually make any progress so my team know I’m a stickler for an agenda and any pre-reads the night before, followed by a set of action notes once the meeting is over. There’s nothing worse going into a meeting not knowing what it’s about or leaving meetings not knowing what’s expected of you, so I find this routine eliminates a lot of that confusion. 

It’s so important to take a proper lunch break. Recently it’s something I’ve been prioritising, deliberately blocking out 30-45 minutes to get away from my screen and to have something nourishing to eat (usually leftovers from the night before or something from the Bumble office menu, which rotates every week). I admit I’m quite a big snacker – the Deliciously Ella bars are my favourite.  

Afternoons are always back-to-back. So many of our team and stakeholders are based in the US and tend to wake up after lunch here in London, so the day does take on a new kind of energy. That said, I tend to work to a 5:30pm deadline, as that’s when I have to pick my son up from nursery. People who work with me know that between 5pm-7pm I’m not really online – that’s sacred time for me and my family. Then, between 7pm-8pm, I’ll jump back on to catch up on anything I missed towards the end of the day and make sure I’m feeling organised for the morning. 

Being a working mother is still a work in progress. Lots of people have told me not to aim for perfection or even perfect balance – there’s always a day when you’re looking at your phone during bath time. For me, it’s more important to try and carve out time in my diary every day when I can focus either on my son or my work. Over time, balance –  or ‘The Blend’ as Tobi Asare calls it – does emerge. It’s idealistic to think you can do it 50:50 every day.

I used to be an inbox zero kind of person, but not anymore. Now that I’m managing so many people and markets, that’s a virtually impossible goal day to day. That said, I’ve adjusted to make it my goal to be inbox zero by the end of the week. That feels more achievable to me and still gives me the feeling that I’m top of things by the time a new week starts. One of the best tips is to view anything left in your inbox as a to-do list. 

Other tech-based tools I rely on include Asana. It’s a project management tool, but I also use Slack a lot and surprisingly Google Calendar, too. Not many people realise it has a world clock function, which I find helpful to keep an eye on – particularly for tracking the teams in Australia, Singapore and India. Zoom is also our main video conferencing tool here at Bumble, and I use Evernote a lot to write my to-do lists.

If I could tell my YOUNGER SELF anything, it would be to aim high – we're all CAPABLE of doing MORE than we think.

The best piece of career advice I’ve been given is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s really stuck with me – even though uncertainty doesn’t feel great in the moment, I’ve learnt that it’s when you’re growing as a person. You’ll make the biggest gains when you’re not entirely comfortable. Also my old boss recommended to me years ago to find my own champions – to almost build a personal board that I could go to whenever I needed advice or a sounding board. It’s a fantastic notion and comforting to know you have these personal advocates in the background who can challenge you and advocate you in equal measure. 

If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be to aim high. When I was at university, I was part of a Women in Business group that was looking for new management and I told my mum I wanted to apply for vice president. She asked me why I wasn’t applying for president, and encouraged me to apply and be brave, so I did. I ended up getting that role so it was proof that it’s not always possible to see what you’re capable of. I now mentor a lot of young women and it’s something I tell them all the time. I also encourage them to choose their own definition of success – decide what your values are and don’t get distracted by other people’s expectations. 

After 8pm, I close my laptop. That’s when my husband and I have dinner – it’s a rule. We catch up on the day and give each other time to digest how it all went. People ask how my husband and I make it work – he works hard too – and I have to say it wasn’t perfect at the beginning. It isn’t fair to expect it to be perfect from the outset but we’ve found a good rhythm now to determine who needs more support and more time at work when. We plan a month ahead and work out who’s doing pick-ups and drop-offs for our son, which helps us spot the gaps where we might need additional help. It’s also helpful to discuss priorities with your partner, as these change at different times. Right now, coming back from maternity leave, it’s important for me to lean in a little bit more and feel really present at work. He understands that – and there might be a time in the future when those roles reverse a little. That’s fine, as long as you keep the lines of communication open. 

Winding down at the end of the night is key – because I know I have to be up early. I like to read before bed to calm my brain and we’re generally asleep by 10am. My morning routine is a real priority, so I have to be asleep by a certain time to ensure that can all happen. 

Finally, I do set professional and personal goals annually. That said, I’ve become much more flexible about goals. I used to be very hard on myself if I didn’t achieve something by a certain date, but I’m now able to looks at something and work out how to reset it to make it more realistic. I’m into moodboards, too – visualisation really works for me. Also, one thing being a working mother has taught me is that it’s okay to ask for help. I’ve found that easier to do at work than in my personal life, but if you’re not delegating and getting assistance where you need it, it’s so much harder to move forward in any aspect of your life. 

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