In this interview, we meet Carina Lawson, Founder of Ponderlily. We’ve watched her behind the scenes launch her planner and paper business and we are so inspired by her determination and courage. We asked her all of the questions we’ve been dying to know like how she manages her planner business and her two adorable twins and what advice she wish she could go back and give her 20-year old self. She inspires us to have more meaning in our lives and to create a “to-be” list instead of a to-do list. Hope you enjoy this interview!
Founder & Managing Director at Ponderlily Paper & Planners
Website URL: www.ponderlily.com
Social media URL:
Masters in Business Administration (University of Liverpool, UK)
Bachelor of Science in Management & Business Administration (Indiana State University, USA)
Diploma in Sports Management (University of Liverpool & Georgetown University)
Post-Graduate Certificate in Higher Education Management (Georgetown University, USA)
Year you started Ponderlily: 2017
Take us through a day in the life of Carina Lawson. What does your typical workday look like?
6:00 am – Wake up, have breakfast (I usually prep this the night before), and get ready. I’ve learned to get ready very quickly since having twins!
6:20 am – Wake up the twins and get them ready for school with my husband
7:00 am – Now it’s time to load the car and get the twins to school. We’re very lucky that we live only 3mins away from the twins’ primary school. We usually get there early so we can enjoy the walk to their classes and I get to chat with the other parents.
7:20 am – Nina and Mila are dropped off in their respective classes.
7:40 am – I arrive at work, I still work a 9-5 job so since I’m super early to start work, I get the majority of my Ponderlily work done at the library or a coffee shop nearby the office. I’m more productive in the mornings so I take advantage of the fact that I’m naturally laser-focused during this time. I want to spend evenings with my family or doing something just for me so there are no distractions during my Ponderlily power-hours! I have a very structured plan for what I do with this time and I batch my work throughout the week, CCG style! This is also when I delegate work to my assistant, who’s amazing at keeping me organized, too.
9:00 am – Work begins
12:30 pm – I have a light working lunch with a colleague or I meditate at my desk before I have to pick up the girls.
1:20 pm – This is my official lunch break so I pick up the children from school. Even though it’s a short drive, I make quick Ponderlily calls (if I have any) on the way to their school or listen to a podcast. I arrive at their school early so just before I pick them up I meditate in the car.
1:45 pm – Pick up the girls from school and make the necessary stops at their favorite water fountain or chat with their teachers for a bit.
2:00 pm – Drop off the girls at our house with their nanny until my husband gets home from work at 4pm.
2:15-5:00 pm – Back to work. My husband gets home at 4pm.
5:10 pm – I get back home and cook a quick dinner. Our meals are nutritious but very low maintenance. I usually meal prep on weekends so making dinner doesn’t take very long on weekdays. I live in the same town as my parents and my in-laws, which really helps. On weekends that are full of fun activities (e.g.: birthday parties, fairs, visits with friends), I (shamelessly) ask my mom or my mother in law to do a double batch of what they cook so I’ll freeze it for the week or I plan for us to eat out. The girls and my husband set the table while I finish dinner.
5:30 pm – We have dinner and go for either a short walk or a bike ride with the girls around our neighborhood or just hang out at the house.
7:00 pm – Bath, book and bed for the twins. They’re usually pretty tired and fall asleep quickly around this time. My husband and I alternate putting the kids to sleep. To be fair, he does it most nights. On the days that it’s his turn to put the girls to bed, I go for a walk around our neighborhood or I work out. Being outside gives me a huge inspiration boost so I try to do it as much as possible!
8:00 pm – Twice a week I reserve this time for business calls. Given my time difference, this works out well. The rest of the evening is spent hanging out with my husband.
Thursday nights is when I get the majority of the Ponderlily stuff done. I run the business with my husband and my father in law so we usually catch-up on a call and talk about what’s coming up during the month, etc.
I usually work well into the evening on Fridays, too. It’s the weekend, I know I’ll have an extra lie-in the following day and possibly nap with the kids!
I guard my weekends – I visit my parents and my in-laws with the kids for lunch or we go out to eat. Sometimes I leave the girls my parents or their aunt’s house so my husband and can run errands or I can see friends or go get my hair done.
What is the best moment of your career so far?
Walking to the post office on a snowy evening in Newcastle to fulfill our very first order! I was so excited that I couldn’t walk fast enough to the post office and I had biggest smile on my face when I got there. Emails with customer feedback letting us know we made a product that’s meaningful to them and that it helps them in some way warms my heart every time and I’m so grateful. Also, with less than a year in business, Ponderlily was featured in the Spring edition of Psychologies Magazine UK, which made me cry with joy, it’s one of my favorite publications. Lastly, seeing a planner I designed in my in-between moments (e.g.: lunch breaks at work, after my kids went to sleep) being sold in stores is still surreal to me.
What does career fulfillment mean to you?
It means making a contribution to the world with work that excites me, supports others, and allows me to be present for my family. A career gives me the freedom to design my days around my family and my passions.
At what point did you realize you wanted to create a planner business? How did you take your dream and turn it into a real product!
I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember and I’ve always had a passion for stationery – my parents, husband, and friends can attest to this! Growing up I’d watch my mom write down recipes and important notes in her planner and I loved helping her set up her planner every year!
After college, I found myself in a never-ending cycle of being busy, successful, and exhausted. As I tried to get in sync with what was important in my day, prompts in my planners added to that tension with a focus on doing more. In my research on employee wellness for my Masters, I found that this is the case for many people.
I founded Ponderlily to create purposeful planners for the minds who are tired of how they are always made to feel: like they have never finished. I went into entrepreneurship because I know mindfulness is often overlooked in the productivity industry or the abundance of prompts make mindfulness seem like it’s overwhelming, too. I knew I could create a product that was both ethically made and which helped people create a life through sustainable lifestyles so they can feel strong, fulfilled and restored to create positive change in the world.
I designed the planner during my lunch break and after my kids went to sleep, I would give it out to friends and family to test it, get feedback and re-design again. I started making calls to local manufacturers to make a prototype and once I had it in my hands, the rest is history!
How did you get the courage to launch Ponderlily? What fears and challenges did you overcome?
I’ve been very lucky that both my family and friends have been so encouraging. When I realized that I could do right by people who felt as overwhelmed as I did, that I could design something that could help them to feel confident, empowered and most importantly, let them know that It’s okay to take time to recharge…I had no other choice but to go for it.
I had three specific fears: working outside my area of expertise, working across 3 timezones when I’m already working full-time, and working outside my comfort zone – with technology!
That’s where my husband with his unwavering support, CCG with all its resources and amazing community, and a good friend who told me to stop giving her prototypes and make the real planner already then joined forces to help propel Ponderlily to open its virtual doors!
Tell us about your beautiful twins! How has your planning style changed since becoming a mom?
OMG Nina and Mila are the light in my life! They’re identical in appearance but so incredibly unique in their own way. Nina loves ballet and Mila could spend all day singing. They just turned 4 and this is such a fun phase!
I used to be very rigid in my planning style; I needed x amount of hours for this or that or the other. While my days still have a lot of structure, given the twins’ school timings etc since becoming a mom, I’ve adjusted my planning style to allow for more flexibility, self-care, gratitude, and sniffles when they happen!
I trust myself a lot more to have the emotional agility to move things around to accommodate competing priorities if needed and I can communicate my values very clearly to make space for what means the most to me. I ask for help when I need it, ‘no’ is now part of my vocabulary and I’m not afraid to use it, and I put myself on my agenda daily.
Why is creating a TO-BE list more important than creating a to-do list?
A ‘to-be’ list, in my opinion, allows you to lead a full life rather than a busy one. It allows for self-care without it being something to be ticked off a list. For example, one of my goals is to be healthy so I align my choices, big and small, to that goal, instead of letting become chores. In the past, listing that I needed to workout 3x a week wasn’t a positive way to track my ultimate goal because I was treating it as a chore and any time I didn’t go to the gym, I felt like I had failed. Working from a ‘to-be’ perspective, allows you to engage in behaviors aligned directly related to the heart, the why of the matter; it allows for presence over productivity. Also, the ‘to-be’ list allows me to let my mind wander in search of positive possibilities to be healthier. I may not go to the gym 3x a week but I keep my body and mind healthy by going for walks every evening, by catching an exercise class with a friend, or by making better choices when I prepare my meals.
How can we create more room for meaning in our busy days?
Look up, literally! I’m very intentional about paying attention to my surroundings so after I drop off the kids at School I’ll look up at the sky and really take in the day. I’ll notice the clouds, the trees, the sounds around me and it’s amazing how just a few seconds of paying attention to your surroundings can get you out of your head.
Call a friend or family – phone calls, voice notes, and Skype work…no texting involved here, real connections please! Even when I’m having a super busy day at work, I always make sure to stop by my work BFF’s office to say hello or I send my cousin voice notes about fun things that made me think of her throughout the day. It’s great!
Practice gratitude – by writing down what made you smile today or better yet, say thank you like you mean it. Your mood genuinely changes and you never know what those words might mean to someone.
What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
Practice setting boundaries right now. It’s okay to say ‘no’.
Slow down. Mom and dad know you appreciate them. You don’t need 4 jobs to prove this.
Please go out with your friends. LifeTime movies can wait. Go outside and have more fun!
Your heart will mend, don’t you worry.
Look after your health – pay attention to what you’re eating; popcorn isn’t breakfast.
You know this enthusiasm you have all the time? It’s contagious and people need it. Look after yourself first so you can best serve others.
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