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Erika's story: time for a change

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Erika's Story – Live Great – Great Eastern Life

Erika Tapalla was a broadcast TV journalist for a cable TV network in Manila, Philippines. She talks to Great Eastern about the stresses and pressures of this high-profile career, and how she manages time and balances her life.

How did you manage your time in such a high-pressure career?
As a TV journalist I travelled all over the world covering major international events. I loved my job, but I had no control over my time at all. There was no certainty and I would come home at odd hours. I was living a doctor’s life but not saving people.

My mum was always annoyed when I wasn’t home for dinner and I often missed important family parties. I’d try and attend occasional drinks parties but I couldn’t enjoy them as I was always on call. I had a Sunday programme at 5am, which meant that I also had to be in bed early on a Saturday.

How did the job affect your health?
I didn’t really eat properly. Almost everyone in the industry was a smoker and I smoked a lot, I was always travelling so I existed on fast food and I was too tired to exercise.

With a job like that you’re always in work mode, waiting for that call. It’s not living a life. You’re stressed in case the office calls and if they don’t call, you worry that you’ve missed a big assignment – you get addicted to the adrenalin rush.

What made you give up such a high profile career?
I entered news reporting in order to expose untruths and be a catalyst for change. But I began to get jaded with the industry. I began to think that this was not the right job for me when I was told I couldn’t come back from an assignment in Los Angeles when my uncle died. And a relationship broke down because I loved my job and ultimately chose my career over everything else.

It got to the point where I just wanted my life back.

I decided to come out of TV and get a job with office hours and somewhere I could leave work at the workplace. I work in project management now and leave on time at work except for when I’m on a deadline. When I know I’m going to be working late I step out to the gym for an hour at lunch.

How has your career change enabled you to better manage your time?
I have control of my life. I used to want to do something that would make a significant difference, where I would make a mark on the world but I realise now that balance is important. My father was a workaholic and ended up having a stroke. That made me re-examine my life, as I didn’t want a repeat of that. I’m young now but I want to get to a point where I have my own family. If I’d continued with my old job I would have ended up losing friends and family.

It’s not about what you do, but how you are remembered. When I die I want people to say, “She was a good daughter, and a good friend – she was there for us.”

Now I feel that I define myself rather than my job defines me, which it did when I worked in television. My life is more balanced now. When I worked in broadcast media I would permanently be on call – and all for S$500 a month!

Going from such a full-on job to being unemployed was a particularly tough transition. I had decided to leave but could not work for another station due to an anti-competitor clause in my contract. But I picked myself up by reconnecting with old friends that I barely ever saw – even if they lived next door.

What would your advice be to other people who feel trapped in a job that’s taking over their life?
Put things into perspective and be introspective. Take time to think about what you want to get out of it and set time limits. Have definite deadlines and milestones and work towards them – and remember that money isn’t everything.

Feel like your life is controlling you rather than you taking control of life? Here are some handy tips to help you better manage your time.

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