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Balancing the Grind with Rob Morrison, Freelance Writer & Creative Director

Rob Morrison is a freelance writer and creative director, who has worked on major events such as the Sydney Olympics, Rugby World Cup, NRL, and more.

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

I’ve been a Creative Director for 23 years. Yikes, that’s a long time.

If CVs are still important then mine includes long stretches at amazing agencies like Ogilvy, GPY&R and The Campaign Palace. Similarly, if job titles are still important, my last big agency job was an Executive Creative Director.

I’ve been creative lead on IBM, Optus, NAB and Foxtel. And worked on events like the Sydney Olympics, Rugby World Cup, NRL and Supercars. I’ve worked and travelled – in Vancouver, London, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. I’ve entered lots of awards, won my share and judged the Cannes Direct Lion advertising awards twice – the only Australian to do so.

My current gig sees me return to running my own creative consultancy – morrison.creative. We’ve just celebrated 12 years of helping clients solve communication problems. It could be as simple as a few Facebook posts and emails or as complex as a television campaign.

The approach is always the same – who’s the audience, what do they need, how do we tell the story in as sexy a way as possible?

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

My youngest daughter is in her HSC year, so we’re avoiding public transport. She usually wakes me when she’s ready for a lift to school.

I get home in time for a cup of tea with my wife where we swap notes on the day ahead. I’ll have breakfast and look at the overnight news – paying particular attention to events in LA and Singapore where I have clients.

My workday starts just after 9:00. I’ll check my to-do list for what needs doing first. The day itself is a mix of writing headlines, copy and scripts.

I’m often interrupted by calls – video, phone, WhatsApp and Google Chat. I’m also keeping an eye on LinkedIn and Facebook Messenger and any SMS.

By the time my daughter needs picking up I’ve hopefully broken the back of my daily workload. I’ll do any finetuning after she’s home and occasionally take late overseas calls or overflow work from the day. I’ll cover off invoicing, admin and planning for the following day and try to finish by 7:00.

Sometimes works. Sometimes doesn’t.

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

In 2019 I had a lovely mix of 50% in-house, 50% at-home. I might be at a small financial service company on a Monday and Wednesday, a global management consultancy on Friday and then at home in between. It meant I had enough face-to-face contact but was also really productive.

Clearly that couldn’t continue.

COVID means remote working is all I do now. I’m briefed, write and present electronically. I’m working for clients who I’ve never actually met face-to-face. I find myself putting a music video channel on the TV as a vague source of inspiration. And as company.

Of course, it has up sides.

My dogs have never had more company. If I’ve had a late night, I can sleep late. My commute time is zero. And I’m far more involved in family life.

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

Work-life balance is far harder to achieve when the geography is blurred. When life and work happen in the same place, how do you tell the difference? Work creeps in at nights and weekends. Life forms distractions during working hours.

Honestly, I’ve just embraced it.

Truth is, in this business, you work when there’s work. For example, we had a record month in June. A lot of clients had to rush to spend budgets before 30 June.

Plus, we were invited to three new business pitches. It was manic. We worked three weekends in a row. Late nights, long days and still found the energy to go again.

But July has been quiet. So now I can restore the balance.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

If you work in a creative business then the mantra is “Never fall in love with routine”. It’s a lesson I learnt a long time ago. Truth is, even before COVID, no two days were the same.

True, you try to minimise the disruption so you can maximise your productivity. But you still need to be nimble. And, to be fair, most creative people have a low boredom threshold – so variety is a good thing.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Not really. I keep up with the trade press eNewsletters – mainly to see where the next potential gig might come from. My YouTube subscriptions are my ‘go to’ for information and inspiration – great work, production techniques and what’s going on in the world.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

I’m very low maintenance when it comes to tech. As long as my phone and laptop are charged and online then I’m good to go.

I did splurge on noise cancelling headphones but they’ve been abandoned for simple earbuds. I’m a firm believer, as long as you bring your brain, then gadgets and apps are far less important.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

If I had to choose someone who has their work-life balance spot on then it would be Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool Football Club. He’s passionate about everything football. And he’s one of the best in the world.

He also has the self-awareness to know his limits. He was recently asked to contribute his opinion to the massive public discourse on COVID. His reply was “It’s not important what famous people say. People with knowledge need to talk about it. My opinion on coronavirus is not important.”

Brilliant.

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

I’d give your readers the same advice I give people who are nervous about their first Creative Director job:

  • Think about people you know who have the balance right – who are winning at life.
  • Think about people you think have it badly wrong – we all know workaholics.
  • Try to be more like the former and less like the later. The rest of the time, just make it up as you go along.

It’s what the rest of us are doing.

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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.