Secrets of SA’s most productive people: Deseré Orrill Co-founder, CMO, Ole! Media Group

It takes a special kind of dedication and productivity to run six companies, work with your husband and still finad time to be a wife, mother to three entrepreneurial-minded teenagers, and a friend, plus squeeze in time to just be—but that’s exactly what Deseré Orrill does on a daily basis. The “Queen Bee” of the Ole! Media Group is also the MD of its strategy arm, HoneyKome, and its mobile development division, MobiMedia, not to mention her involvement in the group’s other companies: AddSuite, VideoSwarm, TEAMtalk media and Delv.media. 

The meaning of productivity 
“It sounds simple, but so much harder to effect in practice, but I believe the value I create should be more than the effort it took to create.” 

Sleep schedule
“I usually wake around 3 a.m.—that’s the first time. I get up to check on my youngest daughter’s insulin levels (she has type 1 diabetes), and then I’ll sometimes check my mails until I get sleepy again. The second time I wake is usually around 7 a.m. Bedtime is between 11 p.m. and midnight, after I’ve played Solitaire on my phone.”

Morning routine
“I drink the coffee my husband has made and then shower before sitting with my daughter before she heads off to school. I’ll usually do some work at home (answering urgent emails) before getting to the office around 09h30, which means I’ve avoided the traffic and maximised on my time.”  

Most productive space 
“Probably my home office—it’s undisturbed and quiet.” 

Email pet peeve 
“Emails have become background commentary today. The expectation in the modern world is that emails need to be answered immediately which, in my opinion, has rendered them less than useful. I’m a firm believer in verbal and face-to-face communication, but because we’re very much in an email world, I scan and delete the obvious spam first and then deal with the most pressing mails—usually those in the top half of my computer screen.” 

Tidy desk, tidy mind?
“Generally speaking, yes. But tidiness is not necessarily an indicator of success. Look at a subtropical jungle: It seems chaotic, but it’s ordered in its own natural way—a fertile ground for growth.” 

Daily breaks
“I don’t have a lot of screen time, so I don’t find myself needing to get up every hour or so to stretch my legs and mind. My day involves a lot of meetings, which I try to make short and to the point; following an agenda helps a lot in this regard. However, the reality is that I deal with different personalities, and sometimes these meetings can be more of a meander than a march. This can also be productive, because they [the staff] have been heard—and nine times out of 10, issues have been resolved and solutions are reached.”  

Table talk
“Communication, essential; indigestion, optional! I prefer light meals during the day, so I have fruit in the morning and at lunchtime. But one thing I’m insistent on is a nourishing cooked meal for supper, and that we all eat around the table as a family every evening. All our family disagreements take place together in full view of each other; open communication is key. The table is a place where we can air our views openly without recrimination, but sometimes it leads to healthy debate. If necessary, we agree to disagree. I try to incorporate this approach into my work life too, fostering what I hope is an open communication policy with everyone in the office and our clients as well.”

Favourite app
“Without a doubt, it’s my digital calendar. I’d be lost without it, as it syncs with all my devices (and my family, where appropriate), and we all know which page I’m on.”

Key approach to maximising productivity
“I can probably sum this up as: Think. Test. Do. Refine. While the majority of my time would be taken up with the thinking and planning process of the task at hand, I’m a firm believer in sharing my opinions and filtering the ideas. Distilling often leads to crystallisation of the idea, which can then be tested and refined if required.”

Go-to motivator 
“Probably my heels! (laughs) I own only two pairs of flats—trainers and slippers. There’s nothing like a pair of killer heels to keep me tall and walking forward.” 

Area for improvement
“I’ll sometimes spend too much time on a detail that isn’t really essential; if I’m writing some copy, for example, I’ll research one small fact because I’m interested in it, because it satisfies my own desire for knowledge—but it may deflect the speed that’s needed to complete the task. However, that can also be very productive, as the detour often results in the end destination being worth the journey.” 

Decompression method
“I take time to slow things down. I’m currently doing a mindfulness course, so I fit in some of the exercises in the quiet moments. In fact, as I get into the process, I’m finding I’m now consciously active in making the time to free my mind, to fully concentrate on a specific element: whether eating my fruit or drinking my coffee, appreciating each and every molecule for what it is—or even just looking out of the office window and savouring just one fine detail of the view.” 

Me time 
“Organising my cupboards. I genuinely find this relaxing, and productive. I often uncover clothing I haven’t worn—which, in itself, is a surprise—and instead of putting them back and forgetting about them, I arrange ensembles so it’s easier to select. I love the results and the satisfaction it gives me. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoy my weekly Zumba class, followed by a sauna or long, slow walks in nature.” 

Great advice 
“Before I get out of bed every morning, I check my calendar and plan the week ahead—no more than that. Then I see what the day holds for me and organise accordingly. Bite-size chunks are best: having the big picture in mind but remembering and doing the day-to-day.” 

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