Dambisa Moyo On the Tip That Helps Her Stay Present In Her Relationships

In her Thrive Questionnaire, the best-selling author opens up about the life hack she swears by, the strategy that helps her avoid burnout, and the "no phone" policy that helps deepen her connections.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?

Dambisa Moyo: Stretch.

TG: What gives you energy?

DM: Pilates, running, and workouts on a trampoline.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?

DM: Regardless of what time zone I’m in, I try to stay on the same schedule.

TG: Name a book that changed your life. 

DM: Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?

DM: I used to rely on my phone as an alarm, but my 10-year-old labradoodle, Barnaby, has since taken over that role.

TG: How do you deal with email?

DM: I check it a few times a day, but I also don’t let it own me.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?

DM: I call my mom.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?

DM: At the beginning of the pandemic. I was worried about family, working around the clock with business leaders to ensure the safety of employees, that company financials were strong, and engaging with public policymakers on the path to navigate the health and economic crisis. 

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it? 

DM: I failed to complete my fourth marathon in less than five hours, which was my goal. To overcome it, I reminisced on the different aspects of the run: the landmarks I passed, the cheers of the enthusiastic crowds, and the amazing costumes my fellow runners were wearing. 

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.

DM: “No does not mean never, it means not now.”

TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?

DM: I make a list of everything that needs to get accomplished, then start with whatever is most pressing.

TG: What advice would you give your younger self about reducing stress?

DM: Most of the things you worry about will not come to fruition. If it will not be a big deal in five years, then it should not be a big deal right now.

TG: Do you have any role models for living a thriving life?

DM: My husband. He grew up in the area of technology and has an incredibly disciplined and deep appreciation for the concept of time. With that comes his amazing paradigm for a thriving life, which balances meditation, family, exercise, friends, work, and a growth mindset/learning in what appears seamless and stress-free. 

TG: What’s your personal warning sign that you’re depleted?

DM: When I can barely keep my eyes open!

TG: When you notice you’re getting too stressed, what do you do to course correct?

DM: I take a nap.

TG: What’s a surprising way you practice mindfulness?

DM: I walk 10,000 steps, preferably outdoors. 

TG: How do you reframe negative thinking?

DM: I look at challenges as opportunities to grow.

TG: What brings you optimism?

DM: My family and friends.

TG: Fill in the blanks: People think I’m ___an extrovert, who likes going out and socializing___, but really I’m ___an introvert, homebody___.

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 do you sustain this habit?

DM: I bought a Gravity blanket, which I love! It started working on first use; I now take it wherever I go.

TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve the way you connect with others. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how do you sustain this habit?

DM: I have a “no-phone” policy when I am enjoying a meal or time with friends and family. I remove all screens and phones from where I am eating or when in a conversation. It took me several months to sustain this habit.

TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve your focus. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how do you sustain this habit?

DM: Setting clear, transparent, and measurable agendas for any meetings I attend before the meeting, and sharing them with the attendees. I have used this approach for several years and adopted it quite quickly. 

TG: What was the biggest turning point in your life?

DM: Joining my first corporate board, and learning (from a ring-side seat) how important corporations are for innovation, job creation, and human progress.

TG: What’s your secret time-saver in the morning?

DM: I lay out my gym clothes the night before.

TG: What’s your evening routine that helps you unwind and go to sleep?

DM: Watching a documentary. I just finished Ken Burns Hemingway on PBS. Superb!

How Boards Work: And How They Can Work Better in a Chaotic World Hardcover. Basic Books (May 4, 2021)

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