Terri Trespicio is a writer, editor, host, broadcaster, healthy living expert, and former senior editor at Martha Stewart’s Whole Living magazine. She also hosted the live, daily call-in show “Whole Living” on Martha Stewart Living Radio on Sirius XM 110. Terri has appeared on the Today show, Dr. Oz, The Early Show, and The Martha Stewart Show. She’s also the creator of Best Decision All Day.
We chatted with Terri about the connections of health and wellness to productivity, the power of owning your time, and the navigation of career paths, as she steps out into a new chapter of self-employment.
Photo: Chad Griffith Photography, 2011
You’ve been a great supporter of iDoneThis. How did you start using it?
This app is something I actually use is because I really do tie my sense of wellness and calm to feeling productive. Nobody wants to feel like they’re spinning their wheels, not sure from one day to the next what they’re doing. Now that I’m not answering to a team so much and working on my own from home, I like to be able to keep track of what I’ve done. it’s just a cool way to feel good about not just what tasks you’re getting done but things that are building you toward what you want to achieve.
I like how you tie wellness and worth to what you’ve done and what you said about being mindful about the building process. Maybe to-do lists don’t get to that as much.
Of course I have a to-do list. Everyone has one, and I continually scratch things off it. It’s fun. But when you cross things off, in a weird way, you’re sort of negating it. And I do think people let their lists get out of control.
There’s literally too much to do, so I feel like it’s sort of a yin yang thing. The yang is I’m going to go out and do this and that — it’s very aggressive. Your to-do list is aggressive, how you’re going to attack the day, but the yin side of that, you need to receive what you’ve done and be able to look at it. iDoneThis is the sort of yin to my to-do yang.
You’ve been seguing into freelancing and working for yourself. Could you talk about that process?
I had outgrown my role at the magazine, quite frankly. I had wrung out every opportunity and while I loved my time there, it was time to go. This is probably the most exciting time of my life because how often do you get a clean slate to re-jigger and re-decide what your life looks like? I was thrilled because then I got full permission to move ahead with my next phase, being a creative consultant which is really a lot of fun.
There’s tremendous power in owning your time and being able to do with it what you want. It makes you more productive. [With] presenteeism, you have to be at the office so you might as well piss away some of the time. But I know that if I get stuff done, I actually can go out and not feel bad.
Do you have any advice for people who are thinking of making the jump to self-employment or just starting out?
I think that being on your own little planet is going to be one of the biggest moments of self-discovery you have, because you’ll really see what you’re made of, what you’re interested in, what you’re afraid of. You’re not obligated in the ways you are normally, and it can be incredibly freeing and a little scary too.
I would say, don’t keep your life in park and sit there and think that you’re going to be good. Always be driving around looking for another spot. I’m always, always thinking, what am I really good at that other people are wowed by, that they’re not as good at, or that they want you to do for them. I’ve found that.
Seek out contacts, be networking all the time, and not in a cheesy way. There’s not a week that I don’t have lunches or coffee or something planned. If you are going to endeavor to work for yourself, really strongly consider getting a gym membership if you can afford it because you need a place to get up and move. My friend who’s a mother said, take a page from the mom playbook: up and out and to the gym in the morning, shower, put on real clothes, and sit down to do work.
Also make sure that you’re always reaching out and giving back to connections, not just asking for help. I think the key is to be always exchanging ideas with colleagues. Make an effort to stay socially connected, stay physically active, and keep healthy food in the house — set up your conditions for being as clear-minded and stable and calm as you can, so you can actually man your own ship.
That idea of setting up conditions is really neat, placing thinking about productivity outside of work but in terms of health.
Oh yeah, health! I never used to be one of these go to the gym in the morning people ever, ever. When I was working full-time, no way you’re going to get me out of bed early to go, and now … I don’t know what it is! This is proof that people’s habits can change.
I make sure I have food on hand, and that I can really follow my gut. If I feel sleepy, I need to lay down and take a nap. I need to eat? Eat something and take a break. Take breaks — people don’t do that enough either.
I think to be really productive, you have to feed the nonproductive side. I’ll eat and watch The Daily Show, or I’ll take a nap, or I’ll do some errands. You’re not supposed to be a working machine, whether you’re full-time employed or self-employed. It’s really important to put conditions in place to be the healthiest you can be and the most rested, so that you actually can get stuff done.
For those of us who feel like we don’t have a strong sense of self-discipline, how do we manage that dangerous line of too much non-productivity?
If you’re struggling with self-discipline, it tells me that you must not like what you’re doing, trying to force yourself to do something you really don’t want to do. So I would say, take a really good look at what it is you’re doing and why the heck you’re doing it. You might say, oh I’m just doing this job, it’s just for money now. Okay, then maybe you’ll limit the amount of hours you do something that you hate, that you must do for now, and then build in, if you can, some time to do something that you really love. Then your reward for doing what you don’t like as much is doing what you love and that you’re good at.
You mentioned that a growing sense of boredom is a good guide to moving on. How do you take that next step?
Life is too long and too short to be bored. My advice there is always be growing and always go for the next thing. Don’t apply for the job you already have. I was a senior editor at Whole Living. I could have jumped and applied for any number of other editor jobs, and I think it would be the same damn thing.
A lot of people go out thinking, when they’re young, in their twenties, “I’m going to do this one thing.” They have to pick it and they’re supposed to go find it. You want to be guided by what you want to do, but I really strongly think that you are created by the choices that you make. You’re not supposed to go “oh, what if I make the wrong choice?” There are no wrong choices. You make a choice, you don’t like it, you’ll leave. It’s not a big Easter egg hunt where people go, “did I find the right path?” It’s not a game.
I turned down – which I still think is dumb – an invitation to apply for and probably get an editorial assistant job at Inc. magazine years ago. I wish I could go back in time, but you know what? I was too scared. I always wonder what might’ve happened. I might have had many more years of publishing, maybe I would’ve been onto something else by now. But fear kept me back.
I thought, there’s no way I could do that, I don’t know anything about business. I didn’t know anything about anything! I was 22 years old. So I think waiting until you have this perfect knowledge to go do this perfect thing is not the reality. The reality is put yourself in the path of people who like and trust you and believe in you and allow them to open some doors for you, and don’t run away screaming like I did. Eventually I wasn’t running away screaming, I’m not running away screaming now!