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The Thrive Questionnaire with Susan Spencer

The Woman's Day Editor in Chief shares what gives her energy, a book that changed her life, and the last time she felt burned out.

Courtesy of Susan Spencer

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?

Susan Spencer: I drink a big glass of water. I learned this trick from Dr. Oz, who says it revs your metabolism. Then I do some light stretches or go for a run.

TG: What gives you energy?

SS: Being outdoors. I’ve found that even a quick walk in the woods or just sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee restores me. We have a small cabin on a lake near the Delaware Water Gap and being there on weekends is incredibly energizing.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?

SS: Every Sunday at 4, I cook. I make food for the week and prep meals so I can get a healthy homemade dinner on the table when I get home. I also make a giant batch of granola so breakfast is completely easy and automatic.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.

SS: Quiet by Susan Cain. I’m definitely an introvert, and I work in an industry full of big personalities. The book helped me see that it’s OK to take a different approach. I can be equally loud in my own way!

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

SS: Never! We have a rule in our house that phones are off during dinner and put away completely at 8 pm. The rule is mainly aimed at my 14-year-old daughter, who is always on social media, but I started doing it too. Actual real conversations ensued.

TG: How do you deal with email?

SS: I’m on it. Constantly. Obsessively. I use my inbox as a to-do list and file emails as I accomplish a task.

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

SS: I grab a book. I read a ton of fiction and attempt to keep up with The New Yorker (though I’m always three issues behind!).

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

SS: I try really hard not to get to that point. When it happens, it’s usually because the demands of work and family are crashing into each other. At that point, I take to my bed—literally. I focus on sleep. Besides exercise, sleep is the single most important thing I do for my mind and body. I’m a far more resilient person when I’m rested.

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

SS: A few weeks ago I did a presentation and really felt like I blew it. So I did what I (and so many other women) usually do—I drank wine and beat myself up about it. Then I thought about what I could do to salvage the situation and moved forward. Action helps me, as does perspective.

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

SS: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver

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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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