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Balancing the Grind With Jimmy Woodriff, Creative Director at The Ponderance Collective

Jimmy Woodriff is a Founding Partner and Creative Director at Ponderance Collective, a creative studio for purpose-driven organisations.

He has worked as a freelance Creative, Writer and Strategist in Australia, Iceland, Canada, Europe and East Africa and has been involved in global research on the future of work and co-working for Western Sydney University.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

My career background began with me hustling my way into internships at top-tier agencies while serving the Creative Directors and CEOs at a small wine bar I managed in Sydney’s CBD.

I found it hard to get a grad role and got quite angry about the lack of response received for my painstaking applications so I decided to headhunt a standout uni colleague and set up my own micro agency to, quite aggressively, steal clients from the agencies that didn’t give me a shot working for them.

Within 2 years, from nothing, we did just that and built a thriving little studio in a coworking space.

I’ve been freelancing since mutually closing the doors on that studio with my co-founding uni friend in 2015. Since then I started a blog about conscious living, thinking and consuming which gained a solid following and has turned into Ponderance Collective.

My wife and I now run the day-to-day and work with a regular roster of skilled freelancers and agencies who we adapt to each job. That’s where the ‘collective’ bit comes from and ‘Ponderance’ is the name of the blog that seeded the creative studio in 2016.

My current role is best described, in corporate language, as Creative Director/Managing Director/Client Services Manager/Business Development Specialist.

2) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Add accounts team, office manager and legal team to the ‘current role’ I just described and you have basically covered the many touch points in a ’typical day’.

Generally speaking my day orbits around a healthy balance of professional, physical and mental effort that I have found a personal balance for over the years as a freelancer and business owner (something you can’t really manage if you’re being managed).

I wake up at 6 and try not to writhe around in bed for longer than 30 minutes. I brush my teeth as soon as I get up, wash my face and then water my vegetable and herb garden (conservatively) while I drink a coffee.

Following that I run, workout or do yoga and meditate for around an hour then make some breakfast, check my morning emails, social media and read the news. I get dressed and do any home-errands and head to the office around 9:15 to avoid the commuter crowds.

The work day always begins with a bit of chat with other co-working space tenants. I allocate time for this and ensure meaningful conversation is had with at least one person each day.

This quenches a thirst for procrastination chit chat later in the day. I then sit at my desk and check emails again, check my calendar and I also use an app called To-Doist which tells me what is due that day and what I need to work on.

I get my re-usable coffee cup and go for a coffee at one of the local cafes and write the date and 3 or 4 priority tasks in my notebook. I try to avoid looking at my phone or laptop during this time so I can create a tactile connection with the thoughts and ideas in my head regarding my work. I keep my personal journal on stand-by should anything else pop up in my mind. Write and forget.

I allow for a lot of flexibility in my work day and block out chunks of my day to ‘mono-task’ the priority tasks I set out while I have my coffee. This allows for calls, conversations, regular breaks from sitting at my desk and other minor distractions to creep in and out of the somewhat-generously allotted time blocks.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

That’s all it is really. I work when and where I like but that usually means Monday to Friday during pretty normal hours from my Sydney studio because, that makes sense.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

I’m going to coin it now: The three M’s of the modern businessperson – Mono-tasking, meditation and micro-dosing.

I suppose I can’t say much more about the last one but I know that global business and productivity experts, such as Tim Ferriss and Michael Pollan, can teach you more on this. Amazing ancient science that is game-changing.

5) What does work life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

As a reformed office-drone and materialist I can certainly vouch for the addictive and inviting urge to keep up with the Jones’. The very same Jones’ who tell you that you need stuff and status of an ever-upgrading variety to signal a balance between professional effort and pleasure or material reward.

Simply put, you can’t achieve work/life balance unless you yourself are balanced. I’m still wobbly but I think I’m getting closer.

6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

Refer to my ’The three M’s of the modern businessperson’ above.

7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

Anything by Tim Winton to help re-open your imagination, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and the Birth of Agriculture.

8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Exercise.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

The single most important thing you can do to in life is understand what life itself is like with as little in it as possible. Run. Make time to run away from everything with next to nothing then come back with gratitude, presence and generosity.

If you’re not the type of person to go backpacking try a vipassana retreat. If that’s too much for you a ‘Re-Wilding weekend’ or if that too much still, at the very least, sit with nothing but yourself and meditate.

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About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.