How I Get It Done: MAKERS Founder Dyllan McGee

Illustration: Lauren Tamaki

Dyllan McGee is on a mission. An Emmy and DuPont award-winning journalist and filmmaker, McGee is the founder and executive producer of MAKERS, a platform that aims to build the largest collection of women’s stories ever assembled. In the six years since McGee started it, MAKERS has collected and produced over 4,500 videos, and interviewed over 400 MAKERS who have helped propel women forward, including Oprah Winfrey, Shonda Rhimes, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She also helps put together the annual MAKERS Conference, which takes place February 6-8 this year, and includes speakers like Gloria Steinem, Tarana Burke, and Jameela Jamil. She and her husband live in Katonah, New York, and have two teenage sons. This is how she gets it done.

On her morning routine:
I wake up at 6:45. Sadly, for me, my entire morning revolves around my hair, and if you met me and saw me, you’d be like, “Really?” Because it doesn’t look that impressive. But it really does. I wake up … First of all, someone told me, don’t look at your phone first, so I make sure I lean over and give my husband a kiss, and THEN I look at my phone. But I do look at my phone very early on, just to see what’s going on. Then I get up and I go to the mirror, and I look at my hair. And I decide, oh my gosh, is this a day where I’m going to have to get in the shower and deal with this mess, or can I pull it back and get away with it? So that’s probably one of the biggest decisions of my day.

On getting enough sleep:
So many people don’t know this, and this is actually the best little tip — there is a function on your iPhone that’s called BedTime, and I set mine Monday through Friday at 6:45 a.m. I’m obsessed with getting eight hours of sleep every night. It’s my mode of self-care, that’s what I spend a lot of time focusing on. So, this little bedtime app, at 10:45 the night before it does a little ring, a little lullaby. I’m always bummed out if I hear my little lullaby and I’m not going to sleep.

On how she spends her commute:
I take a train into the city. I’m a Metro North girl. And I drive to the station, and then I’ve got over an hour commute on the train. From the Katonah train station to Grand Central. And everyone says, oh, that’s so great, you get on the train and you can probably spend time meditating, you can spend time reading up on the news. And I — creature of habit — I tether my computer to my phone, and I start emailing. And I email from the moment the train leaves, to the moment I get into Grand Central.

Her healthiest habit:
I get to the train station, and I go to Juice Press, which is in Grand Central, and they have these little things called Rehab Shots. It’s the strongest ginger shot you could ever have. It’s got ginger and cayenne pepper in it. They know me at Juice Press. I walk in, I do my shot in the store. I have tears, they hand me napkins because you cry, I mean like, bawling tears, but then it’s kind of like, okay, I’m ready to conquer the world. And I’ve gone through that torture, I’m never going to get sick again in my life.

On co-parenting:
We are such a 50-50 household, it’s almost scientific. When my kids were babies, Mark and I would alternate nights. So we would each get a morning where we got to sleep in and not have to deal. And my husband is the CFO of my documentary company, so we work together. But it’s also a company that we both run, so that does give us flexibility. He is the ultimate MAKERS Man. We share all parenting. He does more of the cooking. If anything, if I’m really being honest, it’s not 50-50, I’ll give Mark 60-40 in his favor.

On saying no to things:
My husband is Mr. Community Man, and I used to be the ultimate Yes Girl. I would say yes to everything — you should sign me up, I’ll volunteer, I’m in, I’ll run this, I’ll do that, whether it’s in work or out. I had kids, and I learned early on to say no to everything. I’m not involved in the kids’ school. It’s just something I decided. If I’m gonna have time to focus on my kids, I can’t have that time to focus on other things. I’m not involved in the community. We’re barely social anymore. Like, all of my energy goes into my kids.

On raising feminist sons:
My favorite story is that I have a son who is an actor, and he was in the play Hello, Dolly! And there’s a song that’s like, “A woman’s place is in the kitchen.” And my younger son who was in the audience with me turns to me and he said, “Mom, Gloria Steinem would NOT like this musical.”

What makes a MAKER:
At one point we reached out to all of our MAKERS and we put together a list of either-or questions: Are you an early bird or a night owl? Are you domestically skilled or domestically challenged? And we wanted to see if there was a formula for what it means to be a Maker — is there one thing that all these women have in common? It was almost a science experiment. And the results came back, and basically every category was 50-50. And I was distraught. It turns out there is no DNA of what it takes to be a MAKER. MAKERS come in all shapes and sizes. So one of the things that I’ve learned is that there’s no one style of leadership, and that you can be the first female referee in the NBA, or you can be Oprah Winfrey, and it’s different styles of leadership that have gotten you there.

But I will say, almost all of our MAKERS, there are some common threads. Failure is a huge common thread. And this ability to be resilient, and take failure and learn from those mistakes.

On traveling for work:
As I said, I’m an eight hour a night sleep lover. So when I travel, jet lag hits me like a ton of bricks. I always try to make my trips as short as I possibly can, and I try to stay on the East Coast time zone. So, if I’m on the West Coast, we’re having early, early drinks or an early dinner, so Dyllan McGee can be in bed by 8 or 9 p.m. I read this article about how you’re not supposed to eat on a plane because it helps you with jet lag. So I eat always before a flight, and I drink a lot of water on the flight itself, and then wherever I get, I jump into that timezone.

I mostly pack all black. So when you see me traveling, you’re mostly going to see Dyllan McGee in a black outfit, because it makes my packing decisions a lot easier.

On not having a hobby:
I always say that opposites attract when you marry. And I married a hobby addict. He is a musician, he is a farmer, he’s a finance guy, he can play any sport, he can play any instrument. And then I’m like, and then there’s Dyllan McGee, and she likes to sleep eight hours a day, and she likes to make films. One thing that’s always been consistent in my life is that I’ve always loved my job. And I love it like a hobby.

People say, “Do you knit? Do you exercise?” and I realized that I’m doing my hobby. And when I’m not doing my hobby, my favorite thing is being with my kids. Or at least, because now they’re teenagers and they don’t wanna hang out with me, I text them A LOT. They get selfies of me and are like, “Mooom, you’re so not cool.” So texting my kids is actually one of the things that brings me the most joy. Making them laugh is fun.

On bad habits she’s trying to break:
There’s a lot of bad habits around food, and wine, and cheese. I love tequila. I’m an Instagram junkie. Although my New Years resolution was, I am not going to look at Instagram as much. And that lasted 24 hours. Trump news — trying to break that habit. I think that’s it.

On organizing her inbox:
I’m a slave to my inbox, and I have it organized by “Today,” “Yesterday,” and “This Week.” I try to go to bed every night with “Today” completely empty. Or if there are one or two things in there, they go into “Yesterday,” and they go to the top of my to-do list.

On her nighttime beauty routine:
I am very proud of my new habit which, it is not too late in your 40s to start flossing! I’m a big evening flosser. And I am a big wash your face. I’m a product lover, so it’s not like there’s one product I love, it’s like the product du jour. Right now, there is this new stuff called Prune Oil, which is a pre-moisturizer product, and it’s made of all pure prunes, from California, made by women. So it’s an added bonus when my products match my MAKERS world. And I put it on, and it smells great. I’m very close to 50, so my skin products newly have these words called “anti-aging” in them, which is not something I was thinking about a while ago. But in order to be on that MAKERS Conference stage, I gotta have good hair and glowing skin.

This post has been updated to reflect the dates of the 2019 MAKERS conference (February 6-8).

How I Get It Done: MAKERS Founder Dyllan McGee