Facts were Allison Pataki’s livelihood. As a news writer and producer for huge outlets like The New York Times, ABC News and USA Today — telling stories comes easy to her, but while reporting was her career, her passion is telling stories about leading ladies lost in history. Her debut novel, The Traitor’s Wife, came out in 2014 which quickly rose to be a New York Times bestseller.
Her books live on bestseller lists, have been translated into over a dozen languages, and are popular in over 20 countries. She just launched her fifth historical novel, The Queens Fortune, and her second children’s book, Poppy Takes Paris releases May of 2020.
Being able to juggle multiple projects is a skill of Pataki’s, but it takes work to prioritize and stay organized. She talks to Thrive about what’s most important in her life, unexpected ways she practices mindfulness, and how putting her phone down impacts workflow.
Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Allison Pataki: Kiss my daughters. Since they are 4 and 1, it’s usually their summons that means the day is starting.
TG: What was the biggest turning point in your life?
AP: Becoming a parent. My center of gravity shifted when I became responsible for these two young lives that I had created. I’d never before known love or joy — or fatigue — on that level. And, interestingly enough, it has made me so much more productive to suddenly have so much less time for myself. Now I feel this drive to optimize every moment that I have to myself so that I can then fully enjoy my time with my children.
TG: Do you have a time-saving trick for the morning?
AP: I have a calendar that ticks off each day; I move ahead to the next day before I go to bed the night before.
TG: What gives you energy?
AP: Fresh air, sunshine, and coffee.
TG: What’s your secret life hack?
AP: I always keep a pen and small notepad close by. I’ll write down a sudden idea, a date I need to remember, or anything else that I need to do. It helps me feel so much less scattered and forgetful.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
AP: No! My phone spends the night on the opposite side of the room, screen down and noises off. I need nighttime to be a time when I am away from my phone. The daytime, that’s another story. During the day it’s basically in my pocket or attached as an appendage.
TG: How do you deal with email?
AP: I find that for me it is less stressful if I can stay on top of email and so I try to respond as promptly as possible, rather than letting them accumulate in my inbox and then tackling a back-log.
TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
AP: Probably this past holiday/New Year season. I took too much on and I lost sight of the many gifts I should have been celebrating at the end of a full and happy year.
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
AP: This is a pretty daily feeling as a parent to tiny children. I often feel like I could have been more present, or more patient, or could have modeled my reaction in a situation differently. But I am very willing to apologize to my children and ask for forgiveness — and always try to do better next time.
TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
AP: “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?
AP: Usually I tackle things in the order in which they are due or in keeping with the urgency required. I’m big on making my list and then tackling things one by one. You just get through it. And you ask for help if and when that’s appropriate.
TG: What advice would you give your younger self about reducing stress?
AP: Practice yoga! Don’t wait until your 20’s! Start at age 4!
TG: Do you have any role models for living a thriving life?
AP: Lee Woodruff and Jenna Bush Hager
TG: What’s your personal warning sign that you’re depleted?
AP: I get really tired, to the point where it’s not only physical, but it feels mental as well.
TG: With so many distractions and interruptions coming at us throughout the day. What are your tips to stay focused?
AP: Put the phone on silent when you really need to get in and get focused. Give yourself small mental breaks when needed, preferably outside if at all possible. And drink enough water (or herbal tea).
TG: When you notice you’re getting too stressed, what do you do to course correct?
AP: I get outside. Usually for a walk in the woods. Or I unroll the yoga mat and do some stretches and breath-work.
TG: What’s a surprising way you practice mindfulness?
AP: Fresh plants in my home make such a difference to me, and they help me to practice mindfulness and gratitude as I appreciate them throughout the day or take a break to water them.
TG: How do you reframe negative thinking?
AP: I remind myself that the chatter upstairs does not need to hijack my focus or my purpose. I have the power to change the narrative.
TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve your sleep. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how you sustain this habit?
AP: I end every day in the same way. I put my phone away, I get into bed with a daily devotional reading and then I read a book for pleasure. This helps to quiet my mind and relax my body ahead of sleep.
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