Balancing Ease and Productivity While Seeking Diverse Representation in Media

How do you approach a Thanksgiving spread? 

Do you load your plate up high, keep everything separate, or go back for multiple rounds? 

Balancing your life, creativity, and productivity is kind of like a Thanksgiving meal. 

While it’s tempting to try to get a piece of everything in the first round, you can always come back for more. It’s best to focus on what you have on your plate first and then go back for more when you have the space—the opportunities, projects, and creative pursuits you’re looking for will still be there.

This is an analogy that Melissa Haughton brought to us on episode 27 of the Unlocking the Club podcast. Between her work as a writer, marketer, and digital storyteller, she’s had to learn to balance her “Thanksgiving plate” of productivity and creativity. 

By finding balance, Melissa has been able to explore meaningful conversations and stories in the areas of family, culture, and community through the lens of blackness. One of her recent projects was a 6-part podcast series titled “So What Are You?”  

Melissa also advocates for increased diversity and representation in the podcasting and media industries through education, resources, and connection. 

Check out our full conversation on the podcast, or continue here for some of Melissa’s key insights on how to balance productivity and rest, ask for help, and create more space for diverse voices in the media industry. 

Balancing Productivity and Rest

A woman sitting on a couch reading a book; she's wearing a hat and surrounded by books on shelves

As black women, we often feel like we need to do it all.

Whether it’s because people are looking to us to hold everything together or there’s a sense of needing to “prove” something, we end up carrying a lot. 

And as high-achieving black women, we often channel that energy into our work. We always want to be productive and get the next thing done. 

Melissa feels the pressure for productivity, too. But she’s also exploring what productivity really means and if it’s working for her. Melissa’s personal definition of productivity is working with what you have and being able to do what suits you and the situation best.

There’s space in this type of productivity. Space for rest, for ease, for living. If you don’t allow some space for those things, you’re not going to be productive in anything you want to achieve. 

As part of her journey to find balance, Melissa remembers a few things that can encourage all of us:  

  • You’re a finite resource: You can only produce so much, be in so many places, or accomplish so many things. Remember that you have limitations and get to choose what you devote your time and energy to. 
  • Remember the future-present trade-off: Even if something benefits you in the long term doesn’t mean you should take it on at the expense of your present self. You need to evaluate what is truly worth it to add to your plate now, not just the future implications. 
  • Equity over equality: Not every project, initiative, or task is equal in time and effort. Some things require more than others, so you need to be strategic about where you are using your energy. 

Productivity is typically defined as a linear approach to completing things—checking the boxes, and getting things done. 

But Melissa reminds us that productivity has to be compatible with the life you want to lead. So, leave space for ease and you will soon find the many benefits of rest in your life. 

How to Ask for Help

A black woman sitting on a couch and talking on a video call in front of a laptop

Another necessary part of seeking balance and finding ease is learning to ask for help. 

Melissa reflected on how she always felt a need to be totally prepared for something, showing up and being able to do everything herself. And, if she didn’t, it would be seen as a weakness or prevent her from accessing resources. 

The turning point came when she realized that there are people who both can help and want to help and are happy to support you

Take the podcasting industry, for example. Melissa talks about how there are so many more roles than just a podcast host and producer. There are people involved in sound engineering, video production, script writing, and other positions—there’s a network you can tap into to support your project and vision. 

When that thought to “do it all yourself” comes up, try to dig in and ask why? 

Are you coming from a place of wanting to prove to yourself or others that you can do it? If so, how is that mindset serving you? You may be able to achieve something even greater if you bring other people in to help. 

Sometimes, though, wanting to do it all yourself comes from a desire to learn and grow. Maybe it’s a new skill set or a new role—you want to dig in and learn something new.

People are there to help, but you need to ask for it. And when you can look at why you’re resistant to that help, you are taking the first step to overcoming it. 

Diversity and Representation in Podcasting

A black man sitting in front of a computer and talking into a microphone

Melissa works as the marketing manager at editaudio, where she helps stories that need to be told get out to the public. Through podcasting, both with her own and other people’s projects, Melissa sees a huge opportunity to share important narratives and conversations. 

But not everyone has equal access to this space. 

As she’s operated in the industry, Melissa notices structural challenges that limit access to resources, funding, support, and attention. Discoverability—both for podcast creators to find their audiences and listeners to find new podcasts—is not an equal playing field.

Research shows that black audiences are interested in a breadth of content, but it’s not readily available. So, where’s the gap? Melissa sees two main reasons: 

  • Knowledge gap: A lot of creators and those interested in the industry are not aware of what resources it takes to start a podcast or what support is available. 
  • Representation gap: Though there are an increasing number of diverse podcast hosts and shows, when you move into other areas of the podcasting industry (i.e., decision-maker level), there is still a lack of representation. 

Despite these structural realities, Melissa is hopeful for increased diversity and representation in the industry. In spaces where she’s one of the only black women, she reminds herself to just approach people with curiosity and engage with them one-on-one. 

As Melissa’s experience, knowledge, and network grow, she can keep opening doors for other black creators in the podcasting space. 

And, as she balances productivity with ease, she’s able to devote her energy to telling important stories and encouraging diverse voices. 

If you want to hear more from Melissa, including the impact of her father’s grounding presence in her life, check out episode 27 of the Unlocking the Club podcast. You can also keep up with her on Twitter, LinkedIn, or her website.