When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.
Nell Diamond is the founder and CEO of Hill House Home, a New York based direct-to-consumer bedding and home business, which has been featured in The New York Times, VOGUE, Architectural Digest, and more. Diamond first developed the concept for Hill House Home as part of Yale’s Start-Up Founder Practicum, an incubator for companies conceived by students of the School of Management. She was featured in the Forbes “30 Under 30” list for Retail & e-Commerce a year after its founding.
In her Thrive Questionnaire, she talks about her genius prioritizing trick, the advice she’d give her younger self, and how she knows when she’s veering too close to burnout.
TG: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
ND: Listen to my son, Henry, tell me about all the toys he wants to play with.
TG: What gives you energy?
ND: My team at Hill House Home. We get so excited about what we’re working on, it is truly the best.
TG: What daily habit or practice helps you thrive?
ND: My commute to the office through Washington Square Park. I love to walk in New York, it puts everything in perspective.
TG: Name a book that changed your life.
ND: A different book changes my life every month. Reading fiction keeps me sane. The first books I remember feeling this way about were the Adrian Mole books by Sue Townsend, and anything by Agatha Christie. I used to bring these books to the dinner table, much to the annoyance of my brothers.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
ND: It sleeps in a drawer in my bedside table.
TG: How do you deal with email?
ND: I live for Gmail’s snooze feature.
TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?
ND: I write everything I have to do down in one list, broken into smaller tasks. Then I try to just check one task off and see how I feel.
TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
ND: FaceTime my mom.
TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
ND: My Mom’s been recovering from a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, and whenever she’s in the hospital I stay the night with her. About a month ago, I went directly from the hospital to a meeting at my office, then to my son’s preschool for a parent-teacher conference. When I got home and realized I didn’t even have any groceries for my son’s dinner, I felt like walking four blocks to the store was actually too much for me to handle, and just sat down and cried. That’s a pretty good leading indicator to me that burnout is coming, so I reprioritize my schedule any time I feel that way.
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
ND: Last Wednesday, in a workout class, miserably trying to move my limbs in directions they are not used to moving. The instructor just kept saying to me, “No, not like that.”. This type of failure used to really affect me, but now I try to remember that everyone is more interested in themselves than my awkward limbs.
TG: What advice would you give your younger self?
ND: This too shall pass. Be easy on yourself.
TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
ND: “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.'” —Kurt Vonnegut
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