Behind the desks of successful women: Justine Cullen

Behind the desks of successful women: Justine Cullen

Take a peek into the work lives of the influential women speaking at 9 to Thrive this year

BY Business Chicks, 10 min READ

In the lead up to our biggest event of the year, we’re taking a peek behind the desks of the influential women speaking at 9 to Thrive (Brisbane we’re coming for you! Have you got your ticket yet?). We’ll ask them everything from how much coffee they drink to their best productivity hacks to how many tabs they have open on their computers right now.

We kicked off the series with Eleanor Pendleton and Sally Obermeder & Maha Koraiem, deep dived into the beautiful world of fashion illustrator, Megan Hess, and caught up with Bumble’s Country Lead, Michelle Battersby. Read on to find out how ELLE’s editor-in-chief Justine Cullen does her best work.

What does your workspace look like?

A bit like the inside of my brain – not exactly chaos, but definitely not organised either. It’s a physical manifestation of multi-tasking.

Can you describe it in 3 words?

Needs a tidy.

What’s one thing that’s always on your desk/in your office?

A cup of fennel tea. I’m trying to wean off green.

What time of day do you do your best work?

Around 5am from my bed. My brain fires best first thing.

What’s the first thing you do when you sit at your desk in the morning?

Try to remember my network password. The problem is I made it my middle child’s birthday, which – as every mother and middle child knows – is way too easily forgotten.

How do you structure your day?

I have no structure at all. I could be working from anywhere in the world, on a shoot, at an event. If I’m in the office I try to get into the office as early as I can, eat at my desk and leave to be home in time for dinner with my kids.

How many tabs do you have open on your computer?

Oh god, so many. It’s the same with Safari tabs on my phone – at the end of the day I sometimes entertain my partner by listing all the open tabs. It’s an inexplicable and sometimes terrifying insight into how my brain works.

What’s the weirdest thing on your desk right now?

A vintage Spanish edition of Justine by the Marquis de Sade that my features editor Elle brought me back as a gift from her recent European holiday. Ultimate NSFW.

How do you ensure you drink enough water throughout the day?

I have a jug on my desk and it is always being refilled. My problem is the weekend when I don’t have a glass within arm’s reach which means I forget to drink all day and find myself racing parched to the kitchen to drink directly from the tap.

How many cups of coffee are you averaging?

None. I’ve never tasted coffee and it may be my life’s most significant achievement.

What apps and tech can’t you live without?

I am not ashamed to say that I think the iPhone is the best thing since sliced bread. To have all those functions in one tiny box is really quite miraculous. I can’t live without Waze and the Podcast app for the commute, Feedly for news updates from my echo chamber, Notes as an extension of my brain, I’ve only recently discovered how good Pages is for creating all kinds of documents, Skyscanner because I’m always planning a holiday or finding a more efficient way to get in and out of a work trip, Natural Cycles to know exactly what’s going on with my body and when, Apphi for letting me schedule Instagram posts for times other than when I think to (which is usually 5am), OurPact for keeping my kids screen time under control (it has been a game changer for our family – and, yes, I realise how hypocritical that sounds coming at the end of this list!). Plus, I love my Apple Homepod for music at home and Google Home for everything else. And I have an Upright Go to work on my posture –it’s a WIP.

For lunch I usually have…

I go through stages and eat the same thing for weeks at a time. It’s currently a pea and kale soup from David Jones. It’s better than it sounds…

Where’s the weirdest place your work has taken you?

I don’t go to too many weird places – I’m lucky that they’re usually pretty incredible. The problem is that because of having kids at home I never stay very long – this year I’ve had trips to Tokyo, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles and Marrakech, amongst others, all for just 24 hours each.

How do you keep your day on track? Make notes, set alarms …

My day just sort of happens, but I live and die by the shared calendar function in the iPhone. My work schedule and family schedule appear separately but together, and when it comes to the family calendar everyone gets all the updates so we all know where any one of us has to be at any time. It helped take all the pressure off just me to remember everything.

What’s your best time saving shortcut or life hack you know?

Outsourcing dinner. I like Dinner Ladies for home cooked, nutritious meals that just need to be reheated and put on a plate so I don’t waste the precious time I get with my family over a hot stove burning their food. And then having to clean up!

How much time do you spend on social media every week?

I’d prefer to not think about it. But I just checked on my phone battery (did you know you can do that?) and it says 7.8 hours this week on Instagram. That’s a whole day! And now I feel sick.

What do you do to forget about work? Recharge?

I research holidays. Travelling with the people I love is my favourite thing to do in the world, but I get almost as much joy from the anticipation, so the earlier I plan and the more research I can do, the better. Sometimes when I’ve had a busy, stressful day, all I want to do is sink down on the sofa with my laptop and dream of days when work and the school run won’t exist. Also, my partner and I play relentless amounts of card games and board games with the kids (currently obsessed with Ticket to Ride). We’re a *little* bit competitive.

Do you have a Sunday night routine to make sure the week runs smoothly? Tell us about it.

I love my job but I get the Sunday Night Blues HARD. I usually drag the day out as long as possible and then have to force myself into all the jobs for the week – ordering groceries and meals, making lunches in advance, booking after school care, sorting out their uniforms etc – in one manic hour right before bed. If anyone would like to come over and get us in some kind of order, you are welcome!


Justine will be speaking at 9 to Thrive in Brisbane. Grab your tickets here! 

Image: supplied 


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