7 AM to 7PM: Just How Much Author & Influencer Hitha Palepu Gets Done In A Day

Hitha Palepu and her son

Hitha Palepu

CEO of a pharmaceutical company, investor, author, founder of #5SmartReads, mom: New York City-based Hitha Palepu has a lot of monikers behind her name. But this proud multi-hyphenate doesn’t want to feel like she has to be put in a single box. “I like to occupy many boxes, or shatter them entirely,” shares the NYC-based mom of two boys, Rho (6 years old), and Rhaki (2 and a half years old).

The Pennsylvania native has always been a person with fingers in many pots. Twelve years ago, while working with her father in pharmaceuticals, she founded a travel blog as a creative outlet. The site, Hitha on the Go, gained a lot of traction thanks to her savvy travel and packing content.

“As a young executive who was traveling with all older men who could throw everything into a backpack and go, I was addressing the pain points I had experienced and overcome,” she explains. From there, her career in pharmaceuticals soared, as did her blog. 

Around 2014, though, she began to feel burnt out by pharmaceuticals, and she was expecting her first child with her husband Sri Narasimhan. She quit her job in pharmaceuticals around the same time she was approached to write a book called “How to Pack: Travel Smart for Any Trip." Never one to rest, she also started a charitable giving technology company called Bridge2Act with her best friend. 

“I don’t recommend that to anybody...writing a book, having a baby and not knowing what the heck you are doing, and building a company [in one year],” Palepu says. 

In 2017, when her first child was a toddler, she re-joined her father at another company he had founded, Rhoshan Pharmaceuticals, where she is CEO today. "Rhoshan Pharmaceuticals, Inc is a specialty biopharmaceutical company focused on bringing the first injectable aspirin to the U.S. market," she explains. And yes—her firstborn is named after the company.

Her son Rhaki followed in 2019. The past few years have been especially busy. She's invested in female-founded, mom-founded companies including HeyMama, Daily Harvest, and M.M. LaFleur, and she's a bonafide influencer of the highest order. Following Palepu is akin to following your coolest, most authentic mom friend.

Her large and engaged Instagram following love to find out how she tackles her mornings, her tips on how to make adult friends, and how she's trying to shift her mindset. It's not uncommon to find content in which she is breaking out her karaoke machine and or penning love letters to Taco Bell, among outfit posts and details on what it's like to run a pharmaceutical start-up. And of course, what she's reading. Collaborations with Delta, Blue Apron, and Spotify are sprinkled throughout. (Don't miss her "Ask Me Anything" posts!) At the end of the day, her feed is a real, unvarnished picture of what her life is like.

Palepu also launched her popular Instagram series and substack newsletter #5SmartReads, where she breaks down five things you should be reading every day, five days a week. Articles range from commentary on Chinese food to our country’s fast-fashion problem. 

I had severe postpartum depression [with Rho]...There was always this feeling of when is the real grown-up going to come because I can’t do this.

The volume of projects Palepu is involved in might seem daunting, and when you add being a mother to two kids on top of that, it veers towards the overwhelming. Adding to the chaos was the fact that Palepu’s postpartum experience was less than perfect. “I had severe postpartum depression [with Rho],” she says. “I started medications, started therapy, and I would say it took two years to get to a place where I felt—I won’t even say confident—where I felt okay being a mom. There was always this feeling of when is the real grown-up going to come because I can’t do this.” 

During her second pregnancy, she also had prenatal depression, which emerged during her second trimester. “That’s when I put in really clear boundaries such as starting therapy, prioritizing exercise and sleep, declining a lot of sponsorships, and new opportunities to focus on my health and my company. I improved how I took care of myself,” she says. With her team of therapists, they put together a postpartum plan. And then the pandemic hit. 

“The first six months during the pandemic [with both kids] it was me playing offense and defense, mostly defense," Palepu recalls. "Zoom school, being a new mom, trying to just triage work during the day, staying up for four or five hours after the kids go down.”  

It was chaotic, but good things were also happening in 2020. In November of 2020, She was approached by her publisher to write another book, this time about Vice President Kamala Harris. Said book is dubbed, “We’re Speaking: The Life Lessons of Kamala Harris: How to Use Your Voice, Be Assertive and Own Your Story,” and it was released in October 2021. In it, she weaves together Vice President Harris’ rise to influence, Harris' life lessons on reframing situations, and her moral compass. Palepu interjects her own advice and observations as well, on topics such as starting difficult tasks and creating presentations.

I’m still figuring out my parenting style, to be honest. I’ve learned to surrender a bit when it comes to parenting.

Palepu is in a unique position to guide the reader through Vice President Harris' career. "Vice President Kamala Harris has been a longtime hero and mentor-from-afar of mine," Palepu explains. "I had already been following her career and applying what I examined of her work ethic to my life for nearly 10 years."

While she wasn't allowed to interview Vice President Harris directly because of the current administration's strict ethics rules, Palepu has met her. "I was so very nervous," she remembers. "Who wouldn't be before meeting their hero? But she put me at ease immediately and was so kind."

“It’s been the craziest 11 months of my life, between negotiating and closing a deal [at Roshan Pharmaceuticals], [as well as] writing and publishing a book,” she says. She plans on shifting focus to family life in 2022.

Palepu jokes that she doesn’t love how her oldest calls her “cranky mommy.” She says, “I haven’t been good about managing my stress, and I’m still figuring out my parenting style, to be honest. I’ve learned to surrender a bit when it comes to parenting. I want to be ‘fun mommy,’ not ‘cranky mommy.’”

At the end of the day, though, it’s all worth it to Palepu, and she knows she is setting a good example for her two kids. “I hope they know there’s no such thing as a woman’s job or a man’s job," she says. "It’s very normalized that everyone contributes in the household, that we treat each other with respect, but that we also understand things can get stressful and we need to communicate effectively.”

Discover her productivity hacks, how she prepares mommy tasks in advance, and the boundaries she creates with social media on the weekends.

Hitha Palepu meditating with her son

Hitha Palepu

Thursday

6 a.m. My alarm goes off. I keep my phone on the other side of the room so I have to physically get up to turn it off, but most days I just hit snooze, and bring the phone into bed with me. By 6:30 a.m., I’m done hitting snooze, and I attempt to get up. I try to start every day with a meditation, some journaling, and a yoga flow.

Today was not that day. I scrolled until my older son came into my room, ready for breakfast. I did take my vitamins and drink some warm lemon water, which I prepped the night before in a Yeti tumbler and kept on my nightstand.

7 a.m. Both kids are up and dressed. We’re in a mad dash to get the backpacks packed, get them fed, and drop them off. Breakfast is simple—either idly [a type of savory rice cake] that my father has made and makes in giant batches, a mini bagel with cream cheese, or a waffle and banana. 

My breakfast is whatever they leave behind. I try to prep everything the night before. I pack snacks and fill up water bottles, set the table, note what breakfast is. Last night was not that night, so this morning is a little bit chaotic. Where did I leave my coffee? Did I even make coffee? I need coffee. 

8:30 a.m. Both kids are in school (a quick walk from our home, which is a gift!), and I can get to work. We have a board meeting for our company later today, so I prepared the resolution, the meeting minutes outline, and practiced my presentation. I know I’m ready, but I run through my presentation one last time. 

I try to prep everything the night before. I pack snacks and fill up water bottles, set the table, note what breakfast is. Last night was not that night, so this morning is a little bit chaotic. Where did I leave my coffee? Did I even make coffee? I need coffee. 

9:30 a.m.  I read through the articles I saved during this morning’s phone scroll in bed, and prepare the following day’s #5SmartReads. I have an amazing team of curators and share their selections one-to-two days a week, but I like to publish them as much as I can.

I skim at least six newsletters every morning—Axios, The 19th, The Dispatch, Vox, The Broadsheet, and STAT are my must-reads—and bookmark 10-15 articles to read. Limiting it to five is tricky. I’m mindful of which publications have paywalls and try to find a balance between inspiring profiles and people and underreported news. 

Sutton Foster’s excellent interview with The New York Times didn’t make the cut today, but an explanation of [yoga pose] viparita karani (legs on wall) and the book shortage did. Along with a shameless reminder to please pre-order my book.

To stay focused, I use the Forest app on my phone. If you close out of the app before the timer is done, you “kill” a tree. It’s the only app that helps me stay off my phone when I’m supposed to be working.

11:30 a.m. I had a few important calls that came in while I was working on #5SmartReads, and it took a little bit longer than I expected. I didn’t manage to do my morning routine when I woke up, so I’m sneaking it in now. I make my bed and do a meditation/yoga flow that my friend Neeti filmed for me, and drink a glass of water. I take the quickest shower and mini-glam session before an afternoon filled with calls and appointments.

12 p.m. We have a standing PR/marketing call with my publisher and PR team every Thursday at noon. I have a lot of action items, and the plan is to tackle them after lunch, which is a Daily Harvest flatbread I baked in the toaster oven, and our Rhoshan Pharmaceuticals board meeting.

These meetings can be a bit stressful, so I pop a House of Wise stress gummy about 20 minutes before the meeting, and I lay on the ground with my legs against the wall to get centered. Breathe in…breathe out.

3 p.m. With my calls over, I rush to the pharmacy to get my flu shot and then pick up Rho from school. I brought him home for a snack and to finish his homework and ran him to karate.

The 30 minutes he’s in class are some of the most productive minutes of my day. I tackle all my action items from our PR call, answered some emails, and block out the next day. I need to get back to certain practices to stay focused, and calendar blocking is one of those practices.

Calendar blocking is exactly how it sounds. I block off time in my calendar for specific tasks. I try to block my strategic projects on Mondays, admin tasks on Fridays, and try to keep my calls to Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Fingers crossed.

Calendar blocking is exactly how it sounds. I block off time in my calendar for specific tasks. I try to block my strategic projects on Mondays, admin tasks on Fridays, and try to keep my calls to Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

5:15 p.m. Dinner! The kids are getting Little Spoon Plates (a lifesaver), and we’re going out to dinner with another couple. We put our phones into the “phone bowl” Rho painted us a few years back, and give the boys our undivided attention for a bit. 

Each of us grabs a book and reads to one of the kids, though we ultimately break out the iPad and “Cocomelon” to get Rhaki to finish his dinner. Our nanny handles bath time, which is a lifesaver. We say goodbye and good night to the boys before we head out. They’ll be asleep by the time we get home.

6 p.m. I love an early dinner, a quick commute, and catching up with old friends. We meet at Buceo 95, one of our favorite spots on the Upper West Side. The food and wine are delicious, the conversation flows, and too many embarrassing college stories are told. 

8:30 p.m. I also love coming home early. I load and run the dishwasher, set the table for breakfast, pack snacks and fill up water bottles, and prepare my lemon water for tomorrow morning. I also write a sticky note that says “bagels” and stick it on the fridge. 

I head to our room for my nighttime routine - doing my evening journaling, lying on the ground in viparita karani on my infrared sauna mat, and listening to a sleep meditation by Aditi on the Peloton app. I take a hot shower, spraying a eucalyptus mist to help me unwind a bit more. 

I spend a fair amount of time on my evening skincare routine, taking a second to assess how my skin is feeling and assembling the right products. My skin is feeling a bit dry, so I stick with Tatcha’s cleansing oil, followed by Ranavat’s jasmine hydrating mist, saffron serum, and bakuchi cream. 

I dab Alchimie Forever’s eye gel under my eyes and top it all with State Of’s face oil. I brush out my hair and braid it, take my Equilibria CBD daily drops, and climb into bed. I began reading It’s Not Never by Louise Gregory and NGK, but drift off after a couple of chapters. Lights out, eye mask on, time to sleep.

Hitha Palepu working mom

Hitha Pale

Friday

5:30 a.m. Success! I wake up with the alarm, ready to take on the day (a feeling that is all too rare, so I’m relishing it). After turning off my alarm, I get back in bed and ask Alexa to play the day’s Headspace meditation. I sip my lemon water and take my vitamins while I do a little stream-of-consciousness journaling, then hop out of bed. 

I make my bed, brush my teeth, apply some skincare (Saie Beauty’s Sunvisor is the perfect all-in-one product, but I will apply Ranavat’s serum first if my skin is feeling dry). I return to my room and do the 15-minute yoga flow that my friend Neeti created. 

6 a.m. I head to the kitchen for a quiet cup of coffee and to get the kids’ breakfasts ready. It’s mini bagels, with cream cheese for Rho and plain for Rhaki, with sliced banana on the side. I mix Rho a glass of chocolate milk (this mix has protein, probiotics, and spinach but tastes like regular chocolate milk—score!), scarf down a bowl of Raisin Bran, and head to the kids’ rooms to get them up and dressed.

7 a.m. Some days, breakfast is a battlefield. This was not one of those days. We all laugh and talk and enjoy the morning together as I sipped my second cup of coffee. The kids put on their masks, shoes, and jackets and we get them off to school on time (a 7:45 a.m. drop off for Rho, 8:10 a.m. for Rhaki). I returned home and hopped in the shower and got dressed for the day. 

9 a.m. The workday begins. I have a few calls with my Rhoshan Pharma team members, tackle that inbox, and reach out to some team members for updates. We have a standing Monday call to update one another, but things are especially busy and I want to make sure each of my team members has everything they need. 

11 a.m. I shift gears to my other jobs, as a content creator and author in the midst of finalizing her book tour! I sign a few contracts and send them to my manager, finish writing and formatting the weekly #5SmartReads newsletter, post a sponsorship to Instagram, and loop in my team to some generous offers of Instagram Lives and podcast interviews to help promote “WE’RE SPEAKING.” I try to clear out my inboxes as much as I possibly can on Fridays, but am almost always unsuccessful. 

1 p.m. I’ve ignored my growling stomach for too long, and head to the kitchen to make lunch. I heat up the leftover pad Thai I ordered on Wednesday, and eat it while catching up on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills."

"Housewives" is a pleasure I do not feel at all guilty about enjoying, and the first part of the reunion did. Not. Disappoint. After lunch and my TV break, I head back to my desk to answer as many emails as I possibly can in the next hour and a half.

3:30 p.m. I’m out the door to go pick up Rho from school. We have a playdate scheduled with one of his friends, so we head to the playground and let the kids play while we sit and chat. After spending a morning on the phone and at the computer, it’s really nice to feel the sun on my face and to get away from screens. We let the kids play for about an hour and a half, just before the hanger sets in.

After spending a morning on the phone and at the computer, it’s really nice to feel the sun on my face and to get away from screens. We let the kids play for about an hour and a half, just before the hanger sets in.

5:30 p.m. We’re back home. Most Friday nights, I whip up burgers and fries, but this week was a doozy. My husband orders us all Shake Shack, which arrives at the same time we did. The boys tuck into their grilled cheese sandwiches and we eat our veggie burgers. [My husband] Sri even had a glass of wine waiting for me, which was a lovely way to kick off the weekend. 

6:45 p.m. Our nanny is traveling for a wedding today, so we get the kids into our tub and give them a bubble bath. After lotion, teeth brushing, and pajamas, Sri takes Rho and I take Rhaki. We read “Bravo, Anjali!” no less than four times, and then I snuggle him as he finishes his milk. I get him in the crib and zip up the canopy so he can’t escape, and head back to the kitchen to tidy up and pour myself a second glass of wine.

7:30 p.m.  Sri and I settle in on the couch and catch up on our shows. Tonight, we have the energy for a single episode of “Star Trek: Lower Decks” and an old episode of “Star Trek: Discovery.” When things are really chaotic and negative in the world, I always go back to “Star Trek”. It reminds me of what we are capable of and appeals to our better angels, and shows the universe I want to live in. Today definitely warranted two episodes. 

9 p.m. After the shows, we both get ready for bed. It’s lights out for him, but I stay up a little bit later to read. “It’s Not Neveris excellent. I love a space novel, and this may be added to my list of favorites! 

11 p.m. I doze off to sleep. 

Saturday

8 a.m. My husband handles the kids every weekend morning, which is such a gift. He also brings me coffee in bed every weekend morning, because he is a gem and because it will get me out of bed before 9 a.m. 

After sipping the still-hot coffee and posting a few Instagram Stories about the weekly newsletter, I delete all my social media apps from my phone for the rest of the weekend, leave my phone on the charger, throw on one of my favorite caftans, and head to the kitchen.

9 a.m. Every Saturday, we get H&H bagels delivered. My go-to is an everything bagel (lightly toasted, scooped out) with scallion cream cheese. Between bites, the kids are running around and singing and being kids. Sri and I surrender to the madness and eat our bagels as quickly as we can, and drink another cup of coffee each. We need it. 

After sipping the still-hot coffee and posting a few Instagram Stories about the weekly newsletter, I delete all my social media apps from my phone for the rest of the weekend.

10:30 a.m. Once we clean up and get our shoes and masks on, we get the kids out the door and to one of the many playgrounds in our neighborhood. Rho beelines for the swings, with Rhaki following him. We let the kids run out some of their never-ending energy, helping push them on the tire swing and lifting Rhaki up to the monkey bars.

I’ve been really conscious to leave my phone at home on the weekends. I would spend these moments sitting on a bench and scrolling Instagram instead of being present. I really savor these playful moments and try to soak it all in.

 12 p.m. We have a few favorite restaurants in our neighborhood. The Viand (for literally anything you could want for brunch), Motorino (our favorite pizza in the neighborhood), and Rancho Tequileria (excellent Mexican, and the best service). Rho wants cheese quesadillas, so Mexican it is. The kids enjoy chips and their quesadillas, while I attempt to be somewhat healthy and get a salad and a side of rice and beans. I do enjoy my high-maintenance margarita (Casamigos Blanco on the rocks with muddled jalapeño, fresh lime juice, and a tiny squeeze of orange with a tajin rim). 

1 p.m. We stroll home, and I get some milk for Rhaki and take him to his room for a nap. With both our kids, we got in the habit of letting them nap on us on the weekends, and I have zero regrets about it (though my back is starting to). I grab my Kindle on the way to his room, so I continue reading my book and even close my eyes for a bit while he sleeps. I know these naps will end soon, and I savor every second of them.

3:30 p.m. Rhaki is up, and both kids are full of energy. We are so lucky to have outdoor space in our home, and we bring their sensory bins to the backyard to play with while I get dinner started. We have a few Blue Apron meals in the fridge (I’m lucky to have partnered with them this year), and I whip up their creamy roasted red pepper pasta and roast a tray of vegetables for all of us. I quickly make the kids a box of Annie’s mac and cheese, adding some blended butternut squash and yellow bell pepper to the cheese sauce. 

5 p.m. Sri sets the table as I finish dinner, and we bring the kids in to wash up before we sit at the table. Despite my best intentions, both kids would rather watch “Luca” while eating instead of talking to us—but whatever gets them to eat! My husband and I chat and enjoy the rest of yesterday’s wine while we eat dinner. It’s kind of like a date—but not quite.

My husband and I chat and enjoy the rest of yesterday’s wine while we eat dinner. It’s kind of like a date—but not quite.

6:30 p.m. I get the boys in the bath while Sri cleans up the kitchen. Bubbles make everything better, so I pour an extra-large squirt and watch them play, even though I’m tempted to grab my phone and scroll Instagram, which I don’t give into. 

While I took Rhaki for his nap, Sri got their clean pajamas, underwear, and diapers ready in our bathroom, which is a huge timesaver. By the time he comes back up, Rhaki is dressed and ready for bed. He takes him up with some milk, and I finish up with Rho. 

7:15 p.m. Rho is very into comic books right now, and “Dogman” in particular. He picks out “Grime and Punishment” and we read it together with silly voices and facial expressions. After reading a few chapters, it’s lights out and talking time, where I let him lead and happily listen to his thoughts and story ideas and what he wants to do tomorrow, and who he’s missing right now. 

Sometimes I can’t believe that these kids are mine, and I soak in a moment of gratitude between telling Rho to lower his singing voice. The “Jurassic Park” theme is constantly played or sung by Rho in our home these days.

8 p.m. The boys are asleep, the kitchen is clean, and Sri and I are back on the couch. We do the scrolling of all the streaming services before settling on “Free Guy” to watch. It is even better than we expected, and a total mood booster. 

10:30 p.m. both of us are ready to crash. I attempted to read a chapter…but fall asleep after a page. 

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