With the likes of InStyle, Elle USA and Chanel on her CV, it could be said that editorial and digital consultant Ruthie Friedlander knows a thing or two about brand building. Add to that her co-founding of eating disorder non-profit The Chain, complete with a fundraising jewellery line, it may seem like there’s not enough hours in the day for Ruthie to manage her schedule and support those in her community. From an inherited love of organisation to meticulous and varied notes and the joy completing a task brings, this is her to do list. Over to you, Ruthie.
"I switch between handwritten and digital to-do lists. The notes app on my phone and desktop are linked to one another; I keep them organised by client or project and erase each task as I complete them. My favourite thing about to-do lists is crossing things off them. I actually remember my younger self writing to-do lists and putting things on them that I had already done just to get the satisfaction of crossing it off. I love crossing things off to do lists! I don’t like to use my phone or computer in bed if I can help it, so I also keep a small notebook on my bedside table in case I think of something in the middle of the night or right before I go to sleep, but typically I end up transferring those notes onto my phone/computer afterwards.
My father has always been an organisation king. Growing up, the scissors were always returned to the same drawer, the fridge was always organised by the beverage type - labels facing forward - so organisation has always come really naturally to me. My brain thinks of things in groups, and then organises each of those groups - some are slightly more organised than others, of course. This also means that when it comes to organising visual things such as closets, lists, files on my computer and so on, I’m really organised.
A few months ago I sent my mother a text telling her that I constantly feel either way too stressed or way too bored. It’s a feeling that I think most business owners or freelancers feel; either there’s too much to do, or there isn’t enough business. I manage to find some sort of semblance of balance by making sure I have time to focus on something that’s totally unrelated to my work - it could be spending an hour with my niece or watching a bad reality show on TV. It’s always changing - I’m constantly trying to figure out how to find that balance.
As a freelancer, there are so many different ways to evaluate whether or not to take on a project. I have to consider if it’s something that I’d be able to bring value to and enjoy working on, but I also need to think about whether the project will enhance my business. With the latter, sometimes the enhancement is financially driven, and other times it’s about what I could learn or who I may meet from working with the client. I take it case by case, but both sides are equally as important as each other; I would have missed out on some amazing opportunities if I had simply made the decision based on how much money I was going to earn, but I do also need to be working on enough projects to earn an income. I might own my own company, but I don’t really think of myself as my own boss - I almost consider my clients to be my bosses. What truly motivates me is doing well for them, in seeing their business succeed, grow and change. Their success is how I measure my own.
In terms of my style of working, my life in the past two or so years is unrecognisable from when I was working in traditional fashion media - not better or worse, just different. Prior to being a consultant, my entire day would be spent in an office, surrounded by people, working as part of a team and being part of one big thing. When I got laid off and started consulting, I had to redefine what ‘work’ looked like for myself. I questioned whether I was working as hard as those in an office if I wore sweatpants and didn’t leave my apartment all day? It took me a while to build and feel like I had a schedule that made me feel fulfilled, but today my style of work is completely determined by how I - and I alone - can accomplish the task at hand best and most efficiently.
When it comes to personal passion projects, I have to be very passionate about working on them. The Chain, the non-profit I run with my co-founder Christina Grasso, is definitely a passion project that I spend a significant amount of time on, and every second I spend on it is time I’ve chosen not to spend either on a project for a paying client or on taking a break for myself. Saying that, because I believe in it so much, spending time on it is always such an easy decision to make and it means we are able to drive it forward - for example we just launched a jewellery collection with Pietra to raise money for the organisation which you can shop here.