by Rona Berg, 15 Sep 2014
The Emmy Award-winning co-host of Entertainment Tonight is one of the most balanced, upbeat, energetic people you would ever want to meet. So how does she do it?
She has three young children, a husband, a home and a job that may find her sitting in the hair and makeup chair at the studio at 1:30 am getting ready to cover a breaking story, and back again, in that same chair, at 6:30 pm. She runs a nonprofit, which she founded after her mother succumbed to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). She works out almost every day, is the best-selling author of three books and creator of a successful series of children’s apps.
The first question I had to ask Nancy O’Dell was obvious:
Seriously, how do you do it?
I think it is possible to do it all, but doing it all does not mean that you have to be perfect in everything you do.
That’s the biggest thing I had to realize in the effort to juggle everything. Every now and then, you’ve got to give yourself a break and allow yourself to drop the ball. Most importantly, forgive yourself when you do. Also, you have to prioritize things.
Family always comes first for me. I realized a long time ago that if I didn’t put things in the proper order, I wouldn’t accomplish anything. Feeling content that I have had quality time with my family makes me able to do a better job at work, do a better job at my nonprofit work, and a better job on outside projects as well.
What gives you balance?
My family. They keep me grounded. If I have a busy work week and I haven’t gotten to spend as much time as usual with the family, then I absolutely feel off-kilter. And what gets me right back on is spending time with them. When I walk in the door from work and my daughter runs up to give me a big hug, it is like medicine. It makes anything stressful that happened during the day go right away.
Fortunately, I have an employer who realizes that. I am so lucky that all of my bosses are family-oriented and they realize that you are actually a better employee if you are a happy, balanced employee!
What are some top tips for relieving stress?
1. A massage—need I say more?!
2. Make lists and put everything in priority. Start with the most important and start crossing off. Then you take the load of remembering off your mind and you get the most important things done first. That’s a great stress reliever and you also get a great sense of accomplishment!
3. Forgive yourself if you don’t get everything done. Recognize what things are really important and let go of the others! In order to relieve your stress, ask yourself whether it will really affect anything if you don’t get to something.
4. Play games with your family. My kids and I love to play tag. I get in a lot of exercise, but more importantly, I get in a lot of laughs. A fun board game with the family is a great stress reliever!
You are a big believer in giving back. What causes are you committed to?
I am very committed to the fight against ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), the horrific disease that took the life of my mother. We were so very close and she was one of the kindest, most beautiful people who ever walked this Earth.
I have been beyond thrilled watching the whole ALS Ice Bucket Challenge sweep the nation. It is bringing about awareness for ALS and donations for much-needed research. As Pete Frates, the man who inspired the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge said, “The story right now goes: You’ve got ALS, have it for a little while, a long while, but either way, the end is always the same. ALS always wins. So in order to rewrite the end of it, we need to raise awareness, money.”
Wanting in some way to help end ALS, I started a foundation in honor of my mother called Betty’s Battle, bettysbattle.org, which benefits Muscular Dystrophy Association’s (MDA) ALS Division. I also work with Augie Nieto, who is a person living with ALS. He started Augie’s Quest, augiesquest.org. He is an amazing person, who is tireless in his fight against the disease. In fact, he’s the strongest individual I know despite his illness.
And I love working with Best Buddies, as my Aunt Ellen had Down Syndrome. Best Buddies, founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver, is dedicated to creating opportunities for friendships and employment for people with intellectual disabilities. I have seen firsthand how much good Best Buddies does!
What is your go-to workout?
I get up really early in the morning to work out—sometimes, as early as 4:30 am to get on the treadmill. That way I get my workout done before I even go to work and I’m not doing it when I come home, during my daughter’s awake hours, when I can spend time with her.
I actually love going to bed early and getting up early. I started doing that as I wanted to be on my kids’ schedules. Reading with my daughter at night or watching a movie together before she goes to bed is always such special time.
My recommendation is to make working out entertaining. You have to or otherwise you dread it. I catch up on all the TV shows and movies I want to watch or need to watch for work. I watched all the seasons of Homeland and Scandal while on the treadmill. The time goes by so quickly and I actually look forward to that time in the morning!
Or create games with your family to get in exercise. My boys and I race each other swimming. We also play family dodgeball and basketball. My daughter and I play tag with our little Yorkie dog, Buttercup. And believe it or not, Buttercup knows that when we chase her, she is to run, and when we run from her, that she is to chase us. And she’s fast, so I get in a ton of exercise!
What are you working on next?
I am excited about a new show I am producing for the Reelz Channel. I love producing shows, as I love storytelling, and you can get into it even deeper by producing. I also produced a show for HGTV, as I am obsessed with home design!
My husband laughs at me as I can spend forever in a furniture store. I love looking at couches and chairs more than dresses and shoes!
We are also working on expanding the Little Ashby: Star Reporter App series. I am so in love with that character. The reason I created Little Ashby: Star Reporter is because I love my job. And my job as a journalist/reporter is constantly changing. Therefore, I am constantly learning via the various places and people I have to cover.
I want kids to have the same opportunity to travel the world, while learning so much in the process, as I have. Obviously, because they are kids, they can’t literally travel all over, but they can virtually, via a very curious little animated cub reporter character.
I saw how much my daughter was learning via educational apps, so that is how Little Ashby first came alive, via an app that teaches kids facts about the world as well as morals. And Little Ashby is actually named in honor of my daughter. I asked my daughter what I should name the title character and she said, “Ashby, of course!”