The Thrive Questionnaire with Doniel Sutton

SVP of PayPal Doniel Sutton reveals how she stays energized and finds her balance with technology.

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?
Doniel Sutton: Stretch and express gratitude for having another day to live.

TG: What gives you energy?
DS: I find energy to be contagious, so I draw mine from being around others. I try to surround myself with people who don’t take things too seriously and have a positive outlook on life.

TG: What daily habit or practice helps you thrive?
DS: I love my lists! Whether at home or work, I regularly make lists to help me stay organized and focused on what needs to get done in any particular day.

I also engage in mental exercises daily and have been doing so for many years. Lumosity is a wonderful resource to help people train their brains and improve focus. I spend 15 minutes each day on the site and it has really helped improve my ability to effectively manage various tasks simultaneously.

More recently I have realized the importance of vitamins and nutrients. In focusing on wellness and nutrition, I hope to keep my immune system at its peak which is especially important given my travel schedule.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
DS: I’m especially drawn to books that help me become a better person, both personally and professionally. One of my recent reads was 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do which provides tips such as the importance of embracing change, risk-taking and learning from past mistakes.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
DS: Like many of my colleagues, I am always accessible, and we operate in a heavy texting culture so I had to figure out a way to bring some balance to my life. In an attempt to create some degree of separation in an environment where everything is integrated, I have two phones – one for work and the other for personal use. While both devices don’t literally sleep with me, they are usually within arm’s reach. That said, I always turn off any notifications before bed. Of course, on the weekends, I spend more time with my personal phone but when Sunday night rolls around, I have to make an exception as I prepare for the week ahead and start making my lists.

TG: How do you deal with email?
DS: I have become very equipped at creating effective Outlook rules, the most important of which is sending emails to a specific inbox that are directed to me (versus emails on which I am copied). Those sent directly to me require my attention and response, so it helps to reroute everything else. I picked up this tip in a class a few years ago and it has resulted in half the number of emails in my inbox. This is especially important because I respond to every email addressed to me, whether it’s an employee, someone in my broader professional network or our CEO. I believe people deserve the respect of a response.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
DS: I rarely have this luxury but when I do, my time is spent thinking. My days are so packed with meetings and travel that I have to park a number of things in my mind. When I have the mental capacity to bring those to the forefront, I take full advantage.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
DS: Recently, just before I took my sabbatical (a wonderful benefit offered to all PayPal employees, by the way!). At that point, there was an overwhelming degree of work that was culminating and that was all-consuming. It took precedence over everything else.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
DS: Not too long ago, I made a bad hiring decision. I didn’t trust my instincts and it quickly become obvious that this person wasn’t a good fit. It was a tough lesson learned but it serves as a reminder that I need to always ensure my gut is in alignment with my decisions.

TG: What advice would you give your younger self?
DS: Be bolder on advocating for the things you want. Seek out new opportunities and be proactive about taking (informed) risks.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
DS: Learn from yesterday, live for today and hope for tomorrow.

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