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Balancing the Grind with Thomas Gourgand, Freelance Designer at Tomow

Thomas Gourgand is a design consultant & freelance designer at Tomow, where he works with agencies, startups and corporates on digital products.

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

Five years ago, I moved to Australia. After working in various jobs, all at varying hours, I soon realised that I wanted a lifestyle where I could have more freedom and creative choice.

My curiosity into business began after I started a company called Spacee (now known as WayHome). Which to my surprise, turned out to be one of the most life-changing experiences I have been through.

The idea of Spacee stemmed from a problem with accessible housing in Australia. We built the product and got accepted into an accelerator called Remarkable. Thanks to Remarkable, I learned the ins and out of product design, development and management from amazing mentors such as Ben Reid.

Fortunately, I quickly got the hang of product design and it was not long after I began helping startups with design.

On top of creating a few startups, I also helped a few agencies such as Raw.Studio and Digitas (Publicis Group) with product design projects. This experience helped me build confidence to offer freelance services full-time and begin a new phase in my career that I never thought I could accomplish so quickly.

I now work under my own brand, Tomow. I consult with startups and assist them with design. Most of the companies I work with are usually in their growth phase.

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

With freelancing, the days are never quite the same. I usually try to keep a routine, but it can be challenging with so many moving parts.

A typical day would look like this:

  • I wake up around 7 am, go for a run or workout.
  • I’ll then grab a coffee outside with my brother to chat and catch up on each other’s lives.
  • From there, I’ll go to Fishburners and send some updates to clients through video (Loom.com) or Slack.
  • Once every update is completed, I’ll set up some time to focus on deep design work.
  • In the evening, I’ll do some admin work or meetings with US clients.
  • Try to go to bed at 11 pm, but I usually fall asleep at midnight/1 am. It’s Netflix’s fault.

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

Currently, I work from home when I need to focus on complex design or strategy, but I’ll also balance it with some time at the office when I have to meet clients face to face or work with other people.

I’ve always had the pleasure of being remote due to my freelance and startup work.

Remote work helps break down the day into several working hours instead of an all in one (8hr a day). This structure allows me to take breaks and focus on other daily tasks or people.

 Remote is also perfect for accommodating overseas clients.

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

When I first came to Australia, my first thoughts were to overwork to rationalise that I left my family and friends behind.

I used to spend all day working on my startup and all night working in a supermarket, unloading trucks, and shredding waste. My work-life balance was non-existent, and I ended up in the hospital due to heavy stress and fatigue.

This experience opened my eyes to what I wanted from life, and finding work/life balance became essential. I decided to leave my startup and focus on what I liked the most about it, product design.

I also decided to focus more on relationships and experiences, which have helped a lot.

One of the best ways I found to achieve a work-life balance is to talk to people. One of the people that impacted me the most with work-life balance is Sean Hall, who helped other startup founders and me cope with the pressure during the Remarkable Accelerator.

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

Yes, I found that walking outside after completing an important task is great to unwind. I’ve also stopped working after 10 pm unless I have a meeting with an overseas client (Usually US-based).

In general, taking some time off is the best way to stay productive long term.

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

Generally, books that explain our past and history are great ways to put things into perspective. Sapiens would be one of them. It explains pretty well the story of our world and how similar civilizations can be.

This book is excellent as it just puts in perspective how life moves on no matter what happens. It helps me realise that there is more to life than the small stresses in life.

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

If I had to recommend any app, it would be Blinklist. It’s a great way to listen to books without having to spend hours on them. It’s an excellent replacement for podcasts as well.

The main product I would recommend is a good chair. I didn’t realise how much a good chair could make a difference in my productivity.

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

Richard Branson. I seriously don’t know how he can pull all of this off while kiteboarding and living on an island.

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

I think in the end, focusing on the present is more helpful than focusing on the future. Take your time and make sure to rest before anything else.

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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.