We had the good fortune of connecting with Anna Lee Ackermann and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Anna Lee, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
My work life balance has changed significantly over these past few years, much to do with the pandemic. While I just graduated college in December of 2020, I worked myself to the bone while in school: having a mix of being a full-time student, multiple on-campus jobs, internships, and freelance clients. While I loved what I did and it was all going to aid me in finding a job post-graduation and make a nice resume, I was tired. As a result, I found it hard to give 100% to my school, work, and personal life. But it was all part of the grind culture, right? Everyone else was doing it around me so it was normal. When catching dinner with an old friend, they told me that scheduling this time with me was like scheduling a dentist appointment. Ouch!
Fast forward come pandemic and I was doing school from my bedroom I grew up in and a sudden shift to slow-motion on all my work as we all readjusted. To go from working from dawn to dusk to not was a total shock to my system.
After the rough adjustment period, I found myself really valuing my personal downtime. Not just a random 15 minutes between meetings where I’d scroll on my phone, but intentional downtime and intentional rest. While I still remain type-A and want to schedule when I catch a friend for dinner so I hold that time in my calendar, I don’t want to be the friend who was so busy they felt like they were scheduling a dentist appointment.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love the work that I do and love tackling new projects. But I’ve become more comfortable saying “no” or “I don’t have the capacity to be part of this project at this time.” I’ve learned more of what my limits are and valuing who I am outside of when I’m working. As a result, I’m able to give more of my effort and be more present to the projects I am saying “yes” to. There will always be a new project on the horizon, but the personal relationships I cultivate now are the ones that make life outside of my work worth living.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
What I love most about my work is that it is multi-faceted. I consider myself a jack of all trades type of creator. I dabble with photography shooting senior portraits and the occasional wedding, edit a podcast, make videos for non-profits and small businesses and often serving in all the creative roles (director, producer, videographer, sound, editor), and manage social media channels for organizations. There’s never a dull moment and with the array of clients, it keeps the work fresh and I’m never doing the same things over and over again.
I owe this ability to my high school film program and my interdisciplinary degree I got in college. Because I gained a solid foundation of filmmaking in high school, it set me ahead in college to be able to take lead on projects and challenge myself. My degree is Interdisciplinary Documentary so I had a dual focus in both film and journalism. I also had to take classes in photography, radio, and creative writing.
I credit my wide skillset to being able to take on a variety of project and it all makes me a more well-rounded individual.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m Chicago-based so here are some of my favorite Chicago things:
– if you’ve never been, be a tourist! Take the architectural boat tour. It’s so fun and very worth it. I took it after many years in Chicago and wish I took it sooner! Great Chicago views you can’t get on land. Go visit the Bean, take a ferris wheel ride at Navy Pier, and get Garrett’s Popcorn (Garrett Mix).
– go see a show! We have a thriving theatre scene with great shows, comedy clubs, and concerts all around.
– get out of the Loop/Mag Mile! There’s so many amazing neighborhoods. Explore Chinatown or Pilsen (Mexican neighborhood) which both have great food.
– some favorite food spots: Paron’s Chicken and Fish, Lao Sze Chuan, 5 Rabanitos, Corey’s NYC Bagels, Do-Rite Donut, and Iron Age Korean Steakhouse.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My teachers from BEACON (high school program) and my kind documentary and journalism teachers at Columbia College Chicago. To my steadfast friends who keep me grounded and my parents and sister for being supportive!