Secrets of Productivity: Cherin Tan, Creative Director, LAANK and Co-Founder, The Botanist and Her Thieves

by Anton D. Javier
Photo courtesy of LAANK
12 May 2022

We’re all given the same 24 hours in a day and how we use it is up to us. These individuals are no strangers to the hustle, juggling multiple businesses and passion projects, all while navigating ever-changing work norms, family life, and other challenges. In this feature, they let us in on how they spend their time so that they can work and play hard.

Creative Director, LAANK and Co-Founder, The Botanist and Her Thieves

Tell us more about yourself – your role, the work that it entails, and what keeps you busy at the moment.  
I have been in the design industry for the past 20 years. Having started LAANK, an interior design firm, nine years ago, I’ve been keeping busy with my role as a “Fire Fighter”. One reason I particularly enjoy this business, and the challenges that go along with it, is the opportunity to solve with design solutions.

I also indulge my passions in life with smaller side businesses like The Botanist and Her Thieves, which was started by me and three girlfriends from the creative industry who bonded over plants and sharing plant cuttings. With our common love for putting thoughtfully designed products and plants into spaces, our mission is to collaborate across industries to curate and create affordable, inspiring houseplant accessories for people’s growing plant collection.

Lastly there’s LAAT, which was started by me and multidisciplinary artist Alvin Tan, co-founder of art and design collective PHUNK. LAAT’s purpose is to repurpose. We produce furniture collections crafted from unsold items and material waste, breathing new life into **** stocks and turning them into bespoke items that straddle between design and art.

Describe your morning routine. What do you do to help set the tone for a productive day?
Most mornings, I wake up around 6:45am and slightly little earlier on the weekends.

I roll in bed with my three cats, say good morning to my husband, Jason, and then check in on my messages to see if there are any “life and death situations” that need my urgent attention. I also tend to do a “mind dump” in the morning where I list down the things in my head. It’s my own way of organizing my thoughts and concerns; updating my to-do list so that I can start the day feeling prepared without the “voices of concern” lingering around. After that, I freshen up and feed the cats, have a light breakfast, and start my day.

I view the first few hours of the day as “free,” unclaimed time. If I don’t use it deliberately, I’ll squander it on Instagram, on news platforms, or some other mindless timesuck that doesn’t make me feel good. I’ve also learned that my focus is better in the morning than it is later in the day. I want to make good use of that time to start my day with a meaningful chunk of work and early when it’s quiet. Most people feel its unhealthy to start the day with work, but I’m a believer in “swallowing the biggest toad in the morning”. Once you overcome the things that weigh the heaviest on you, the rest if the day will feel like a breeze.

Walk us through a typical workday.
There’s always a lot of “firefighting” when it comes to running businesses. And since I’m the creative director, I spend most of my time at work with my team in internal meetings, reviewing design development, shuffling between job sites, and overseeing project progress. There’s also client servicing, which my team is also involved in, but I make it a point that the client sees me often as well.

By mid-day, I would have settled the things I need to do for my two side businesses, leaving me with the rest of the day to focus on LAANK. 

Tell us what juggling several passions is like. With such a full schedule, what are your secrets to productivity to ensure success and the enjoyment of both endeavors?
I function efficiently when I have a clear head, so being organized is top priority for me. I also work with Asana, a project management platform that helps me track every project across companies – from progress to tasks and outstanding items, from plants to interior design. It’s much easier when you can see everything together and this platform helps me see how it all comes together as well.

I also find that being realistic with myself helps me juggle time better. Knowing and understanding that time in a day is finite allows you to strategize how you want to use your time. I’m a believer in working smart and keeping things simple and efficient. 

How do you rest and recharge?
I’m usually in bed by 11pm. I commit to eight hours of sleep and a few hours of downtime prior to that, either by watching Netflix, reading, playing with my cats, catching up with family and friends, or just doing nothing. I do my best to practice work-life balance, so feeling rested is important to me.

If there were 25 hours in a day, how would you use the extra hour?
I would use it to daydream. I find that it feeds my soul and inspires me to do the things I dream of.