Creative Directors / Directors / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Galvin Davis, Director & Creative Director of Protein

Galvin Davis is the Director & Creative Director of brand and digital agency, Protein, and also the co-founder of Here, a Sydney-based creative co-working space.

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

I worked in the UK (born and bred) originally in Lithographics, Advertising and Film. Worked my way through different creative roles until I reached Sydney.

I was then placed in an agency to produce everything from brand, through print, code, animation and film. Along the way I realised that digital would eventually converge all disciplines which gave me the impetus to start Protein.

The agency has been going strong for 17 years and we’ve used that ‘omni-agency’ approach to good effect. As Creative Director at the agency I get to play with everything from copywriting, brand to campaign, directing and digital innovation.

We essentially solve business issues with creative solutions. A smaller part of my time is taken up as Co-Founder of Here Coworking (a space designed and curated for creatives to work together). Additionally I use my spare time as a writer and director for literary works and film.

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

I like to get up around 5am before the sun comes up. I have the house to myself at that point for some ’thinking’ about the day. I’ll do some light exercise outside to watch the sun rise and then I notate and plan my day in a notebook.

I have a very specific system I designed which holds me accountable for ‘getting shit done’. Every day is pre-planned within an inch of its life. Around that time the kids are up and I’ll help them get ready for school before getting to work and doing a short production meeting with the team.

We are fortunate to work in a waterfront studio with lots of nice people so the work day is a split between admin (get it done early!), creative (find some alone time, preferably by the water) and new ideas (a blank pad, noise cancelling headphones and some Thom Yorke).

I try find time to meet with interesting people most days of the week. It could be other members at Here, my coworkers, clients or business partners. I then try to get home before 5pm to hangout with my family.

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

Completely. It’s something you have to work toward over time until you find the groove for you. As soon as I disciplined myself to get up at 5am and start working by 5:30am it opened up a much more flexible mid-day.

Our agency has a policy of working between 9am and 6pm only (for the production crew) so we have longevity with employees. Burning people out is a disease in this industry. You do your best work when you are relaxed so why create anxiety for the people that are the foundations of the company? Being flexible does not mean working differently every day, routine is good.

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

Buy a moleskin book, purchase a good pen and start structuring your day in writing. Remove digital to-do lists from your life.

I also think exercise is a huge part of managing workload. It gets your brain firing and you’ll be much more efficient. It helps you sleep better too and sleep is integral to keeping up with your schedule.

Split your day between three things (every day). Your home or social life, your work life and your passion. This balance keeps you on your toes and gives you a sense of constant satisfaction. I also try to find the time to get away by myself for at least a week at a time to find some inspiration creatively.

This year I discovered Gwinganna Resort in Queensland which was an eye-opener. My personal favourite is the Petit Ermitage in Los Angeles which is a place to disappear into and embrace your creative side. Find a couple of places that become your muses.

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

I commit to achieving an awful lot in one day, I hate waste, especially time. Time is our most valuable commodity. If I can work smartly it frees me up to do the things I love and spend time with the people I love.

Another component that has become a large part of my life is martial arts. I’d recommend it to anyone who runs their own business. I’ve studied for more than ten years in multiple disciplines and I look forward to it every week.

Martial arts for me was the only activity that forced me to clear my mind of the stress of running multiple businesses. You can’t focus on anything other than your training partners, otherwise you end up on the wrong end of a round-house.

Jiu Jitsu in particular helps me balance everything in my life. It’s a game of human chess with dire physical consequences, you have to constantly learn and improve in order to stay safe. It’s addictive.

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?

Listen to your instincts. If something or someone seems too good to be true, walk away. Early on in my business I took everyone and every opportunity at face value and we got burned. Business is a tricky activity.

Navigating the pitfalls requires a confidence in yourself, your team and your company that allows you to pick and choose who you work with. It’s something we had to learn the hard way but if you commit to being selective with who you work with, you will attract the right people.

In terms of success, I judge our success by whether we are still relevant and still happy. We pivot a lot in terms of the creative work we do. It’s imperative that we keep up with technology and strive to design original work at every turn.

Importantly we realised a few years ago that our environment was integral to being successful. This is why we designed a coworking space unlike any other – a space designed for people to be able to create without distraction.

Here Coworking curates the community by interviewing the applicants and ensuring that their values are those of the whole community. It’s a very special place and has completely changed the way we work and the success of our businesses.

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

The book that I revisit most (I’ve probably read it five times) is The Way of the Fight by Georges St Pierre. It’s an autobiographical piece that mixes in philosophy and a clever structure to understand the roles of Mentors, Mavens and Masters. There are some wonderful anecdotes in there that I can relate back to survival, business and a better mental being.

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

Get up early and plan the day in detail. My life changed completely after I spent nine months developing a system that worked for me.

In that time I’ve sold a business, started another, written and published a book, worked with an Oscar-winning actress, traveled the world and met some of my childhood heroes. All by designing a plan for my time.

By getting rid of digital to-do lists that grew every day, and creating a hand-written system that holds me accountable I have achieved more in those years than at any other time. Set your alarm early. Get up before the rest of the house. Plan your day, week, month, year, life.

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

Balance is everything. Control your balance. Embrace the grind. Get shit done.

If you’d like to have a conversation with us about how you balance the grind, get in touch with us!

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.