Interviews / Marketing & Advertising

Balancing the Grind With Simon Owens, Content & Social Media Marketing Consultant

Simon Owens is a content and social media marketing consultant, and also the podcast host of The Business of Content, which examines how publishers create, distribute, and monetise digital content.

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

My career has been a little circuitous. I started as a newspaper journalist while running a blog of my own on the side. As I built up my journalism skills, I began to leverage them with my blog, which expanded my audience greatly.

That blog got me my first job at a digital marketing agency, and from then forward I basically have gone back and forth between the marketing and journalism world.

On the marketing side I’ve done work for Fortune 500 companies, associations, and mid-sized businesses. On the journalism side I’ve written and edited for tons of national outlets including US News & World Report, The Atlantic, New York, and Scientific American.

Today, I’m self-employed; I do content marketing consulting for corporate and media clients. When I’m not consulting, I’m devoting all my remaining time to my newsletter and podcast.

About a month ago I launched a paid subscription option for my newsletter, and my hope is to gradually grow a subscription base until I can quit all my consulting and work on the newsletter/podcast full time.

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

I’m in my office chair at about 8:30 a.m. As long as I’m not facing any tough deadlines, my morning is devoted to three things: answering emails, getting on scheduled phone calls, and reading/curating media industry news.

At noon I’ll eat lunch and usually go on a walk outside. The afternoon is devoted to work that takes the most concentration. This includes conducting research, writing articles, and editing my podcast.

At some point I’ll also usually go on a run. I take an hour break at 7 to eat dinner. At 8 I’m back in the chair and continuing with whatever I was working on. I stop at 10 p.m. and usually watch about an hour of TV before bed.

I usually put two or three hours of work in on Sunday afternoons. That consists of catching up on email and making my weekly to-do list.

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

Yes. I’ve been working from home since 2014. It had its ups and downs at first, but now I find it hard to imagine a life where I go into the office each day. I love being able to go on walks or exercise whenever I want.

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

One thing about working from home is that you have a hard time defining what “work” is. When you go into an office, then the entire time spent at the office is considered “work” even if you spend half your time scrolling through Facebook or Reddit.

Working from home, I probably don’t waste any more or less time on the internet than your average person, but I have a harder time, psychologically, categorizing that time as “work.”

So anyway, I work til 10 p.m. every week night and will usually put in a few hours of work on Sunday, which sounds like a lot, but I also will do things like go on a run at 2 p.m., so it somewhat balances out.

Plus I actually really enjoy working on my podcast and own writing, so in some ways my “work” is also bleeding into my “hobbies,” so it’s all a bit nebulous. Sometimes my wife complains that I’m too work obsessed, but we don’t have kids and for the most part it all works out.

5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

Hmm, one habit I have that I really like is I answer most of my emails once a day, in the morning. If you send me an email after I’ve finished answering emails and the email isn’t urgent (most aren’t), then you’ll get a response from me the next morning.

I like this habit because it keeps me from getting distracted by constantly answering emails all the time. I had a client last year who expected me to be on Slack all day and super responsive at all times, and I HATED it.

I’m super into to-do lists. Every Sunday night I make my to-do list for that week and then every morning I use the Gmail task list to compile my to-do list for that day. It feels good to knock out each item and I feel less frazzled because I know what I should be doing at any given time.

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

I have a New Yorker subscription and I try to read every issue cover to cover, so I don’t have much time for book reading. I only read like three books a year, and they’re usually biography/history focused.

I like reading biographies of media moguls, and I’m sure those learnings have been absorbed into my work in some form or fashion.

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

I suck at getting the most out of my day and am really harsh on myself when I have an unproductive day. And this coronavirus is making things much worse because I’ll be trying to work on an article but then I compulsively check Twitter constantly. It’s easily cut my productivity in half.

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

I like reading day-in-the-life diaries from important media people: editors, podcasters, famous YouTubers, journalists. The New Yorker‘s David Remnick would be one, because I have no idea how he puts out a magazine every week, writes long feature articles, and hosts a podcast.

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

Not having kids definitely cuts down on the guilt of not having much work life balance. Sometimes I read about important people who try to make it home by 6 p.m. every day and I realize I could never do that.


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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.