Surendhar Reddy

Not now

The Strategic Side Gig

Kara Medoff Barnett is the executive director of the American Ballet Theatre and the mother of three girls, ages 10, eight, and four. But she’s also involved in the American Theater Wing, which keeps her connected to a different kind of performance art, and she just completed a five-year stint as a term member on the Council on Foreign Relations, which helps her better understand the issues facing her organization’s dancers, who come from some 15 countries.

“I put a lot of thought into what I can and can’t handle outside my full-time day job and active family life,” she explains. That includes saying not just “no” but also “not now” to many groups and being very deliberate about her schedule by, for example, always reserving Friday nights for time with her husband and kids.

“The key is being present in the room you are in,”. she says. “When you’re in work mode, be all-in. When you’re home with your kids, put your phone away so that you can read bedtime stories without checking email. And as for the other activities, participate in the ones that spark your intellectual curiosity. Meet people you wouldn’t encounter in your current industry or workplace. Open your aperture.”