At Thrive Global, in honor of International Women’s Day, we’re inviting women business leaders to share how they Thrive.
Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Monique Dorsainvil: I get out of bed, turn off my alarm, set a new alarm, get 15-30 minutes of extra sleep and then shoot out of bed to start the day. I feel best on days where I am able to sleep early and rise early. My most grounding morning rituals include a hot shower and cup of green tea.
TG: What gives you energy?
MD: My family, friends and people in my life who stand for something.
TG: What’s your secret life hack?
MD: My secret life hack is embracing different parts of my identity. The points of intersection where my queerness meets my blackness, where my blackness meets my gender identity and expression. While some may read these identities as contradictions, on the contrary— they inform how I think, who I am, and what I set out in the world to do.
TG: Name a book that changed your life.
MD: I could spend a lot of time on this question. Books that have stuck with me over time are: Sister Outsider, by Audre Lorde; On Beauty, by Zadie Smith; Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought, by Beverly Guy-Sheftall; The Kitchen God’s Wife, by Amy Tan; Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden; Bastard Out of Carolina, by Dorothy Allison; My Ántonia, Willa Cather; Fledeling, by Octavia Butler.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
MD: Working in the tech sector with a multitude of communication methods (email, instant messaging, WhatsApp, video conferencing) I’m on my phone (or computer) for the majority of the day. In the evening, my fiancée and I have a strict no phone rule when we sleep. Our phones have their own space where they recharge at night in our living room.
TG: How do you deal with email?
MD: As it comes. When I can’t respond immediately, I flag emails and enter the task into my to do list on the spot. Once I’ve responded to an email, I delete it, archive it or file it in a folder depending on whether or not I will need to reference it later down the line. I am incredibly nerdy about this stuff, constantly researching and trying out new organizational management hacks and trends.
TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
MD: Respond to email. Read an article. Call a friend or family member. Monitor news/social media trends.
TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
MD: Early in my career, I felt burned out often because I was still learning how to create boundaries. As I gained confidence in myself and my work over the years, I became very intentional about protecting my energy and time. While my job is incredibly demanding, I do a better job now at taking time off when I need it and calibrating my day to day schedule so that I am doing what I need to stay healthy, happy and focused, enabling me to thrive.
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
MD: The last time I felt I failed was when I prioritized work at all cost — over my friends, family and loved ones. I overcame it by putting what was important in my life into perspective. It wasn’t easy but when this clicked for me I shifted how I directed my energy and focus and I was actually better at my job, a better partner, a better sibling and a better friend.
TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
MD: I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect.
TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?
MD: I create a prioritized list and become laser focused on one task at a time, completing as much as I can in the time frame that I have. I work in an open office plan. When I need to focus and have an overwhelming amount to do, I find a quiet corner in my office where I can get in the zone and proactively tackle my goals without distraction.
TG: What advice would you give your younger self about reducing stress?
MD: Start creating healthy habits around mitigating stress early. Find small things that make you happy that you can incorporate into your day. Make an intentional effort to balance packed days and stressful moments with people and things that ground you and bring you joy.
TG: Do you have any role models for living a thriving life?
MD: Marie Claude Dorsainvil (my mom); Stacey Abrams; Valerie Jarrett; Michelle Obama; Mia Mottley.
TG: What’s your personal warning sign that you’re depleted?
MD: Poor sleep and eating habits. Inability to relax.
TG: When you notice you’re getting too stressed, what do you do to course correct?
MD: Create a plan to tackle my work. Then I make time to completely disengage from the set of things that are causing me stress. I do this by spending time with my fiancée, watching good television/ films, photography, sleep, experimenting with new food, being active (walking, biking, scootering, rock climbing), calling my friends and family.
TG: What’s a surprising way you practice mindfulness?
MD: I drink hot green tea. Multiple cups throughout the day.
TG: How do you reframe negative thinking?
MD: I take a deep breath and remind myself of what I know to be true and what is in my control. Music is also a great tool. Reading is also something that has been helpful in resetting and reframing.
TG: What brings you optimism?
MD: Badass women leaders around the world including Yara Shahidi, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Marley Davis, Emma Gonzalez, Malala Yousafzai, Vanesa Nakate, and Greta Thunberg.
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?
MD: I started limiting screen time and wine in the evenings in the hour before sleeping. I also started reading before bed. Adapting these practices took me a couple of months and I would say that both of these things drastically helped improve my sleep.
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 you sustain this habit?
MD: Over the past few years, I’ve focused a lot on not being afraid to speak up and share my views, perspectives and opinions with others. I’ve also been more focused on living for myself and fulfilling my own expectations versions the expectations of others. These two changes in tandem have had a tremendous impact on my life and my ability to show up authentically.
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 you sustain this habit?
MD: I used to pride myself on being a great multitasker. While I have the capacity to multitask well, I find that I am most effective when I monotask. Learning this about myself greatly improved my attention and focus and allowed me to make deep progress on the most important objectives I needed to fulfill versus lots of progress on less consequential items.
TG: What was the biggest turning point in your life?
MD: Coming out at 16 was a big turning point in my life. There was a lot to process and a lot of growth and healing that I underwent in the years that followed.
TG: What’s your secret time-saver in the morning?
MD: I eat the same things for breakfast every day and wear a variation of the same outfit most days — limiting variety and choice and saving a great deal of time. I picked this up from President Obama while working in his Administration at the White House.
TG: What’s your evening routine that helps you unwind and go to sleep?
MD: The two things that help me unwind in the evening are reading a great book and my daily skincare routine.