The Former Editor-in-Chief of Self Magazine Shares Her Secret Life Hack

And why she believes in a "gentle wake up."

Courtesy of Monica Schipper / Getty Contributor

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.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Joyce Chang: I believe in a gentle wake up. I don’t use an alarm clock. I’ve learned to set my own internal alarm and it pretty much works. I like a good smelling beauty routine. Face wash, shampoo, shower gel, all of it. It sets me up for my day in such a pleasant way. Scent has such an influence on mood.

TG: What gives you energy?
JC: I’ve gotten good at listening to my body. Sometimes I need rest. Sometimes I need to move. Sometimes I need to eat—I forget all the time! Sometimes I need to talk and connect with someone to break out of a rut.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
JC: I’m quick with early diagnosis. If I have a flicker of a feeling that something is off—I nip things in the bud before they escalate or become more problematic. I think that applies to physical health, mental well being, relationships, work, all of it. I don’t like to wait until things become problems.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
JC: The Joy Luck Club. I read it in middle school and it made me want to be a writer. It made me feel like someone who looked like me, had grown up like me as an Asian American, could do something impactful that wasn’t being a doctor or a scientist!

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
JC: It sits on my nightstand but out of reach. I don’t look at it until morning. I leave it in my bag or facedown when I’m interacting with people. I’m on it a lot but not obsessed. I can take or leave it. Though I forget it at home more times than I would like! And then I just have to be calm and comfortable without it! You can find me staring off into space—which people don’t do anymore—I’m thinking about something. Our phones give us more to react to—rather than thinking about something of our own. I think we should all take more time to be conscious of our thoughts.

TG: How do you deal with email?
JC: I’m not obsessed with it. I have no goals of zeroing down my inbox. I answer whatever is urgent or I can do in the moment. I flag what’s important or needs more thought for later. I don’t rush myself.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
JC: My work is my own passion project, so I’d probably take those 15 minutes to finish something I’ve left. I don’t try to escape from my work because it brings me joy. Like answering a questionnaire—it’s fun!

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
JC: When I left my EIC job, I was burned out. It was a situation when I did everything right as far as I could see and to the best of my ability—but the market was such that we were never going to win the race. That was a really hard work condition and realization.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
JC: Now that I’m starting up, I fail at something daily! I live in a constant state of learning. I ask for a lot of help and I’ve become more patient with myself.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
JC: “Does this bring me joy?” It’s from Marie Kondo’s book of organization. It’s so basic but such an essential question. It applies to everything and once you have your answer, whatever decision is easily made. 

Joyce Chang is the founder of From the Get Go, a consultancy for visionary businesses and leaders to develop innovation strategies in the wellness and lifestyle space. She is the former editor-in-chief of SELF Magazine, an award-winning Conde Nast brand. 

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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