By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

“How I Work” is one of my favorite recurring features in Inc Magazine as well as via Lifehacker’s This Is How I Work Series.

Every week on Thursday we feature a new B2B sales, marketing or business leader here answering what have become OUR standard “How I Work” questions.  You can catch up on everyone we’ve featured thus far in the “How I Work” series here.

This week I’m excited to Stacy Hower, Marketing Vice President at Dun & Bradstreet.  A fellow Journalism major, Stacy spent a combined more than 11 years in a variety of leadership roles at Dell before joining D&B two years ago.  Here, in her own words, is how she works.

Location: Austin, TX

Number of unread emails right now? 123

First app checked in the morning? Fitbit – How many hours of sleep did I get. 7 hours of restful sleep per night is my goal – which means I need to allow for 8 hours because there is almost always an hour of restlessness or awake time during the night (without fail).

First thing you do when you come into work? Get coffee – say hi to the team

What is your email management strategy? More like email survival skills

  • Sort and respond to urgent emails first – my team, leader, their leader, current projects, meeting invites
  • Delete all spam – There is a lot of satisfaction in deleting spam because it makes me feel like I am making some real progress with my inbox 😊
  • Sort by subject line – delete long threads.
  • When someone sends a big thorny subject, copies too many people and asks too many questions, I reply and ask for a call…or will offer to schedule it myself
  • Minimize responses – responses beget responses. The more you respond, the more email you will get!! Email is the enemy of productivity!!
  • I rarely “do email” at night or on the weekends. I have a separate work phone I leave behind on the weekends and vacation.
  • Turn off email notifications
  • Move to a folder – If I haven’t gotten to it & it hasn’t flared up, I’ll file it away
  • Disclosure – These strategies are not always enough – my inbox is currently a disaster
  • Another disclosure – I have tried – and failed – to not look at email first thing in the morning or work in long, intentional breaks from email. I do make a point to stay out of it if I have a project or presentation and really need to focus.

Most essential app when traveling? Airline, hotel & uber/lyft

How do you keep yourself calm and/or focused? Taking care of myself sets me up for success in this area – eating right, exercise, sleep, personal connections with friends/family & spirituality. Empathy and seeking to understand is my other go-to tactic. Where is this person coming from? What are they up against? Also deep breaths and trying to keep my voice calm. I’ve tried – and failed – at incorporating meditation.

What’s your perspective or approach to work/life balance? It’s a misnomer and a myth. It’s an unachievable ideal like a PhotoShopped model in a magazine. Why? Balance is a scale where each side is perfectly even at all times – it’s perfection. And we will make ourselves miserable chasing after something that can’t be achieved. I think of it as a work-life pendulum – sometimes work is getting a lot more of my time than my personal life. The key to getting the pendulum to swing back is to recognize when work does not NEED your extra time and you take it for yourself. This requires knowing your values and what’s important to you so you can prioritize what to fill those previous non-work hours with. And instead of mentally tracking a score sheet to ensure balance – determine if you are able to harmonize those personalize priorities and values with career success.

Are there any work rituals critical to your success? Scheduling work time into my calendar is critical. I feel frantic and unproductive if I allow others to control my calendar by making every hour available. I have recurring blocks of time over lunch & the first & last 30 minutes of the day. And usually, I will eat lunch at my desk; but this lets me decide when someone can book a lunch meeting. I also try to respect others’ lunch hours as much as possible and apologize when I have to schedule the time. On Fridays, I block out the last several hours of the day; because I am not at my best Friday afternoon after using my energy all week. This is time to try to get through email and get work done to keep it from carrying over into the weekend. That’s also when I look at the following week and block out any time between meetings that haven’t been booked and reschedule meetings if there are too many back-to-back meetings with no breaks. This is my practice – and like the pendulum mentioned in the last question – there are periods of time where this works. And there are periods of time where I have to be flexible. The key to being flexible are those periods of time when I can control the meeting madness!

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Nothing sexy about this answer  Microsoft Office (Skype, Teams, Outlook, Powerpoint, Excel, etc). And the travel apps mentioned above. And while I am in social media a lot – I can live without it 😊

Personal side of life and used daily:

  • Life360 – tracking teens!
  • Spotify
  • Audible
  • Bible
  • Waze/Google maps
  • Fitbit
  • My Fitness Pal

What’s your workspace like? Slightly on the messy side – charging cords, papers, water, coffee, misc stuff…

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or lifehack? Is there one? Please tell me!

What are you currently reading? Non-fiction – Just finished Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee. She was a keynote at the Gartner Marketing Symposium last March. I’m currently looking for a great content marketing book if you have any suggestions. I may pick up another Brene Brown read next. There are so many great books – it’s hard to decide! I am also reading My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton  by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoi and Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It’s my goal to read 1-2 fiction books and listen to 1 non-fiction per month.

Last thing you do before leaving work? Right now it’s email. Though I have a goal to use the last 30 minutes of my day planning for the next day. I have blocked the time on my calendar; but have not yet mastered this rhythm. I am also usually running out the door to pick up my son from football practice, making it a bit harder to be intentional about those last 30 minutes.

Who are some mentors or influencers you wish to thank or acknowledge? Carvel Mansour & Bobbi Dangerfield – encountered at opposite ends of my career but have had the most significant impact on me and how I approach career and life.

Carvel was my leader at my first job outside of college at McCann Erickson Media in Houston. She believed in me and took me under her wing. I was just out of college and her assistant. I had no idea that I needed to have an idea about how to navigate a career or have ambition. She saw something in me and kept giving me more responsibility. She invited me to meetings, took me to business lunches and “showed me the ropes”. One of my more satisfying events is when I was able to help her daughter get an internship at Dell and helped her son get an sales role right out of college – and mentored them while there. It meant so much that I could help her kids the way she helped me.

Bobbi – She taught me the importance of having values and prioritizing them. She was the SVP of global business & sales operations at Dell and I was her chief of staff. And because of her example, I realized that if this successful, SVP could take vacation with her family and leave work behind, then I definitely could do the same. It’s when I started prioritizing and living by the things I mentioned in questions 7 & 8. And she also taught me what executive presence really meant. She made me uncomfortable and I grew the most in those spaces.

Name some supportive people who help make it possible to do what you do best? Todd Hower (my husband), Co-workers/peers/friends – Lucy Moran, Josh Mueller, and a gaggle of best girlfriends who keep me sane through this working mom/life gig

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? I’ve received so much amazing advice over the years. The most transformative advice for me has been from Tony Schwartz  – the needs that energize performance – physical, emotional, mental & spiritual. If we don’t meet these needs, our performance will be limited. Right now, I am leaning into “failure is feedback”. I’ve spent too many years wanting to have all the answers and to be fully prepared before making a decision and moving forward. I am working on getting comfortable with “failing fast” to get insights and learnings. I’m not there yet…

Name a guilty pleasure TV show The Great British Baking Show

Fill in the Blank: I’d love to see BLANK answer these questions. Not sure! Someone outside the corporate world who has a completely different approach to work and life

Nominate someone here