Robin White On Creating Space Between Work Time and Sleep Time

The Vice President of Human Resources at Kimberly-Clark Professional shares his email strategy and his approach to failure.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Robin White: Stretch and light exercise–at least 6 days each week! Typically, I only do a few minutes’ exercise each morning to get the body engine revved up. My main workouts are after work.

TG: What gives you energy?
RW: Perhaps paradoxically, exercise and relaxation (particularly micro-sleeps). And, I hate to say, coffee…..

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
RW: Take an hour each Friday afternoon to review the week that’s been, then look ahead over the next 1–2 weeks and change meetings to match the real priorities–but do so with an apology, and only where you know it wouldn’t damage a relationship.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
RW: “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?RW: No! Golden rule–the phone stays downstairs when I go up to bed. As I have a global job, I do tend to check emails early morning and last thing before I go up to bed, but I then create distance between work and sleep by reading–usually fiction–even if only a few pages.

TG: How do you deal with email?
RW: Try and touch it only once; answer quick stuff quickly; let people know I’ve received their note even if I won’t be able to respond for days (or even weeks).

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?RW: I try to catch up on those things that have perhaps slipped. Sometimes, I’ll recognize the luxury of ‘spare minutes’ and just think.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
RW: Probably six years ago when I was traveling too much and also feeling somewhat taken for granted.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
RW: These types of thoughts do plague me from time-to-time–usually only an inner voice rather than an empirical truth or a shared perception from others. I overcome these thoughts by processing them, trying not to obsess over them, and then giving myself permission to be human…

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
RW: A Confucius quote has always inspired me as it contains the Yin and Yang of the human condition: “There is much to do; we must go slowly!”


Robin White is the Vice President Human Resources, supporting Kimberly-Clark Professional (Kimberly-Clark’s global B2B business) and leading HR Strategy & Operations for Kimberly-Clark. He leads the provision of HR consulting, products and services to KCP, partnering with the Global President, KCP, Kim Underhill, while driving how HR services are delivered across the enterprise.

Robin joined Kimberly-Clark as HR Director for Australia and New Zealand, supporting the consumer business locally together with the regional Healthcare and Professional (B2B) businesses across Asia Pacific. Prior to Kimberly-Clark, Robin held regional and global roles at Merck and Co., Inc., based in New Zealand, the U.S., and Australia.

Robin has worked in HR roles in the public/state-sector, not-for-profit and commercial sectors and also held general manager roles in the New Zealand public health sector, managing community health services and surgical services for major hospital providers in Auckland.

Robin holds a Masters of Arts in Geography from the University of Oxford, and Master of Science in Information Studies from Sheffield University in the U.K. British born, Robin also holds New Zealand citizenship. He is based in Atlanta, GA, USA.