Creative Directors, Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Simon Hipgrave, Creative Director at Hungry Workshop

September 19, 2019

Simon Hipgrave is the Creative Director at letterpress and design studio Hungry Workshop, and also the Partner at web development company Bone.Digital.

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

I am currently Creative Director of Letterpress and Design studio Hungry Workshop which I founded with my wife in 2010 and also Partner at Bone.Digital, which is around 3 years old, but existed in a different format long before.

Before these ventures I worked as an Art Director in the advertising industry, right before it went very digital (Saying that makes me feel quite a bit old!)

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

My typical workday is really focused on making sure our projects are delivered with care and attention to detail.

We work with a lot of other creative agencies, studios and freelancers to help them realise projects as well as brand managers, marketers and small business owners – while each kind of client is after something different, it’s all underpinned by quality and craft. The same thinking applies across both digital and print businesses.

I spend a lot of my day in Slack checking in on the teams, providing guidance, direction and support. Otherwise it’s email, responding to new enquiries and helping get projects across the line. And when I am not doing either of those, it’s meetings: presenting to new clients, meeting with existing partners or suppliers, or talking through systems with staff.

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

I am very well set up now to work remotely, which is very helpful for my work life balance. Flexibility was a big reason for us to go into business for ourselves.

We wanted to create a flexible working environment for ourselves and our teams to be able to spend time with their families and not be tied to their desks.

I am able to work longer hours, remotely, and at home and take extra time off to spend with my two young boys, when needed.

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

My number one tip for managing schedule and workload is to definitely write it down. I’m a big believer in list-making, and have very recently transitioned from daily pen and paper list to making digital list, using the app Things.

I find that when I am feeling overwhelmed the best way to undo that tension is to write it all down, make a list, and schedule it in to the calendar. Once that is done it all feels much more manageable. It also helps having great partners and capable team to rely on to get what is needed done.

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

Work life balance can definitely be interpreted differently at different stages of peoples lives. For me right now, it is balancing the demands of business with being present for my kids.

That means mornings, early evenings and weekends clear of distractions so we can spend time together.

It also means staying focussed during business hours and finding extra time in the late evenings to tidy up loose ends and prepare for the coming days. Maybe even make a start on tomorrows list!

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?

Agency life prepared me for long hours and late nights. We worked very hard in that business and this gave me a good work ethic, and healthy habits around organisation. Almost anything else seems like a walk in the park, by comparison!

I was also thrown in the deep end there with some tricky meetings and client situations, so it prepared me to navigate difficult situations. I think being exposure to adversity is the number one way to learn. You need to front up to difficult situations as much as possible.

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

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden was very helpful in my formative years. Anything and everything by Seth Godin. I just finished his book, This is Marketing which is very helpful.

A book that I haven’t read, that you probably don’t need to either, is Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy. It’s a very simple theory, especially if you’re already a list maker: after you write your list in the morning, highlight the slipperiest, ugliest, grossest task there.

If you don’t have a highlighter, draw a circle around it, underline it, put some asterisks around it, or all of the above. Then do that task, first. Once you have the ugliest task of the day done, the rest is easy.

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

Make a list, eat the frog.

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

It’s important to know what that means for you – it can be very important to find balance on a micro level. If it means making sure you get fresh air on your lunch break then go for it.

If it means powering through it so your evenings are free, then power through it. It could also be balance on a macro level. Working extra hard for 9 months so you can take 3 months off every year.

Decide for yourself what the balance is, and aim for that!

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