Mastering The Art Of Balance

Struggling with managing your time between work and family? These go-getters share how they juggle their demanding careers with their personal life.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

PATSY ONG-HAHL 52, Co-founder and CEO, A DrBrand 

Passionate, fun, sporty and hardworking – Patsy Ong-Hahl loves a good laugh as much as the other person, but is dead serious when it comes to work. She has a global beauty and wellness company to show for it. The keynote to her success has been her ability to remain positive even when faced with failure. “There are good days and bad days. To me, good days give happiness, but bad days give experience,” she says.


Patsy looks for balance in everything – even within work. “I am passionate to a fault (some might say). It is a good balance that I am also very analytical – I am very numbers and data driven,” she explains. “I love to work but love to spend time with my family as well.” And dinner with family tops that list. “Home with my husband, son and the dog is very important” – where she slips into “family” mode. “Very often, people get home and bring their work and problems home. They forget to really enjoy the simple pleasures of just doing nothing, but being home with loved ones.” This means, from dinner dates every Friday with husband, to family hikes to Singapore Botanic Gardens every Saturday with their dog in tow and every other time in between, she is mentally and physically present. 

To me, good days give happiness, but bad days give experience.


Being in business means being on the pulse of things all the time: Patsy’s workday resumes after dinner when she also keeps up with industry news. And to wind down: “I have my ‘ME’ time usually from midnight till about 2 am or 3 am. That’s where I get to our dedicated gym room where I will run for 45 minutes, do my Pilates before the run and stretch out and finish on the spine corrector. Usually this is about one and a half hours.” Why such weird hours? Patsy claims this peaceful time alone is when she is at her most creative to engage in critical thinking and strategise. A soak with Epsom salt and essential oil afterwards gives her just the calm she needs to retire for the day. “I love to exercise, especially running. It gives me the energy and stamina to work very hard, and not be tired,” says Patsy. Always a beauty guru, she never misses her daily skin regime, of course. 


“It begins with a conscious decision to shape a healthy lifestyle, and that can happen at any age or stage in life,” she says. “Looking and feeling your personal best is when your true inner beauty shines through and becomes outer beauty you can see.” And as they say, the universe will pitch in. With a future chock-a-block with plans, she has to take her own advice to heart. Patsy sees herself being busy travelling and expanding her business even five years hence; while finding time to paint, read and cook – “It is really very therapeutic to cook” – and play golf with her husband. As for exercise: It’s a given. Another thing “that will never stop – it’s the sharing of beauty wellness”. 

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VERA BREUER 40s, Global President, Kipling 

Germany-born Vera Breuer’s climb up the corporate ladder is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Her new role at the helm of the ’90s accessories brand comes in the trail of 18 years in the beauty world in Asia. Vera attributes this 360 degree switch to her open and curious mind, and tenaciousness. She lives by the motto “Who does not try, cannot win”. 

Only if you are balanced, can you lead or be an inspiration to your team.


“The beauty of my job is that there is no typical day. I am travelling 40 per cent of my time, visiting the various markets Kipling is in,” says Vera. This means she needs to have a lot of discipline and prioritise wisely. While staying on top of things is Important, Vera believes in scheduling relaxation as and when she can. “I believe that despite the heavy travelling schedule for work, it is very important to still set aside time during my travels for some time to relax and do the things that I enjoy.” My perfect time to relax would be to go for an early morning run or an evening massage.”


“Only if you are balanced, can you lead or be an inspiration to your team,” says Vera, who ensures that she does not reach a tipping point by listening to her body. “Running has always been my favourite ‘Me’ time. It gives me time to myself to relax my mind, and at the same time to exercise and stay fit. It is for me a perfect time to think, make decisions and gives me a great opportunity to balance out stress” says Vera. A nature-lover, Vera loves spending time in the mountains and takes her time off to be among them whenever she gets a chance. “I love spending time outside in the mountains as it energises me. I am a mountain runner and this is also a good way to stay focused and never give up,” says Vera.


When not being one with nature, Vera spends her free time with her children. “I have two fantastic teenagers [a daughter and son] and spending quality time with them feels more fulfilling than ‘Me’ time,” she says, adding that they help her in setting real priorities in life. “I am quite a curious person and I love to learn new things. When you are curious in life, you start to look at things from various perspectives, and question the way things work.” Topmost on her list is understanding how millennials think, and in that sense her children being the “customer of tomorrow” are a source of inspiration. So, quality time, chatting and showing interest in what’s important to them also keeps her in tune with the trends and the younger generation’s needs. 

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ANGELA LOH 51, Founder and CEO, JeweLuxe International 

“I am a dreamer. I keep my dreams alive by staying purposeful at all times” – Angela Loh’s description of herself summarises her in a nutshell. The creator of Singapore’s prominent luxury jewellery exhibition for 14 years now and counting is all about precision and strategy. She loves her job and that she gets to meet people from all walks of life, but knows when to cut back and steal precious moments for herself to regroup.


“My life is hectic and can be tiring but it keeps me motivated and fulfilled,” says Angela, whose regular day involves meetings and internal discussions one after another. So, starting the day right is imperative – a good session at the cross trainer, which helps her relax her tense muscles and gather her thoughts for the day. “I am very conscious of my physical and mental well-being. ‘Me’ time allows me the breathing space to balance myself and refocus. That’s why I have my daily workout and two-hour exercise binge over the weekends.” Her weekend time off also factors in sleepovers with her mum, watching movies and shopping online.


“My strategy for work-life balance is to make what I love my work. But to unwind, I focus on the moments. When at work, my attention is completely on work, but otherwise, I zone out and focus on doing nothing,” says Angela. That “nothing” to Angela is doing something that does not translate to any outcome – “simply doing what you want to do with no rhyme or reason,” she explains. This could be anything from having her dogs chase her around the house; daydreaming on her couch; or listening to music. “When I act on these, I feel I’m in control of my life, and not life being in control of me,” says Angela. This gives me a sense of my being and centers me. It is important to keep this balance and not let situations and other people get to me; else I become reactive.”

‘Me’ time allows me the breathing space to regroup and refocus.


JeweLuxe is the culmination of an entire career’s learnings in brand marketing and communications for Angela, but she is careful to not let her enthusiasm compromise her downtime. This includes finding “breaks and little moments amidst crazy busy work”. Like she did on a trip to the Big Apple last November: I got to meet the designers. I decided to plan my meetings such that I walked from one meeting to the next and experience the city like a New Yorker. All these add to my life adventures and I feel refreshed and happy.”