Interviews / Marketing & Advertising

Balancing the Grind with James William Arnold, Head of Marketing at Bridgit

James William Arnold is the Head of Marketing at Bridgit, a company on a mission to revolutionise property financing and offer Australians a solution that helps them progress in life, without any of the red tape.

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

I started out at a boutique advertising agency, Disciple, where I worked on some awesome accounts including Subaru, Foxtel, Sunrice, News Ltd and the Melanoma Institute of Australia.

It was here that I started to love advertising and marketing – at a small agency you are thrown in the deep end and exposed to things you might not get at a bigger agency or at a big brand. I spent about 3 years at Disciple, and then took a gap year with my Partner Sian (best thing I ever did). We spent 3 months living in Bermuda and then travelled to all sorts of amazing places around the world.

When I returned to Australia, I landed an opportunity to work with another advertising agency, BMF, where I worked on the ALDI account as well as a few others along the way. We did some great work, won a heap of awards and our clients had a lot of success so it was an amazing time.

After just over 4 years at BMF an opportunity to move to a startup called Bridgit as Head of Marketing came about. Meeting with the founders and the core team made me confident it was the right move, and I think the combination of working at a smaller agency and a bigger one set me up well for this role.

I have been with Bridgit for 6 months, the business has grown from just 5 of us to around 20 people and we are seeing really positive growth so exciting things are happening.

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

Routine is really important for me. An ideal day for me starts with a bit of exercise in the morning, whether that be a walk or some F45 which clears the head and sets up the day. Then have a coffee at home and walk down to the ferry to go into Sydney Circular Quay. I try to avoid working on the ferry, instead I read a book or catch up on life admin while cruising through Sydney harbour (it’s a pretty nice way to start the day).

Mornings are my most productive period, I avoid locking in any meetings until after 10am when possible. First up in the office I will get through emails and any key actions, then I spend an hour for whatever is a priority for the day.

Clockwise is an awesome tool to keep the calendar looking healthy and I always prioritise at least 2 hours of ‘focus time’ a day. I find that it is way too common for people to finish a day and not achieve anything because they have been overwhelmed with meetings – without a couple of hours of focus time you can’t be productive in my point of view.

The day then rolls on with meetings and getting through priorities. One of our co-founders gave me some great advice – ‘Get one great thing done every day’.

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

We are embracing the ability to get back into the office and I think we have found a good balance so people can have the best of both worlds. Generally we do 3 days in the office, however this is flexible based on what is happening that week or if anyone in the team has things on they may prefer an extra day from home or in the office.

We have 2 glue days in the week, this encourages the team to be in the office at the same time and also allows us to structure meetings to be in person VS half online half in the office. We really don’t want people coming in and sitting on zoom all day.

Being in a startup the facetime is really healthy and productive, it allows us to make quick decisions and keep aligned as we build more processes into the business. It particularly helps from a training and team building point of view, we are still small and there is a lot of knowledge to share. Being in the office helps with that.

A structured and balanced approach is important for me.

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

I love my job so it is hard to keep it off my mind at times, but I appreciate how important it is to switch off. I think having steady hours, getting out of the office on time and enjoying the weekend is key. 

At Bridgit we work hard during the day so that we can get out of the office on time. It is particularly important for the younger members in our team, they are all very keen and motivated, but I experienced burn out early in my career because I wasn’t switching off so I don’t want that for anyone in our team.

Routine has helped me with this, but also the very simple thing of removing phone notifications for email and slack has been huge. Not only does it allow you to disconnect when you’re out of office hours, but it also helps you focus during the day as you don’t get distracted with messages constantly flying through. 

Such a big part of our life is taken up with work, so we need to really balance that with time for family and friends.

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

Coming out of the lockdowns, my main focus was on trying to build some more routine into my weeks. Very simple things like consistent days in the office and working from home, getting up at the same time and exercising in the mornings. 

The only issue is that when I break that routine I feel a bit out of sorts, so I recommend building a bit of flexibility.

Exercising in the morning is a big one, it gives me more energy throughout the day so I’m more productive, and sleep better that night. It also frees up your evening so you have time to spend with your partner, family or friends.

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

A few months ago I read Red Notice by Bill Browder, it is an amazing story so I definitely recommend it. Since then I have been reading some books by Ben Macintyre like The Spy and The Traitor and Agent Sonya. A bit of a Russian theme here.

I’m not a huge podcast fan, but I will listen to ‘The Daily’ by the New York Times every once in a while. Really enjoy how they go deeper into relevant news topics and bring on some great guests to tell their point of view or story.

Specifically on balance, a long time ago I read The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. I don’t think I will ever get to the 4 hour work week, however he is an interesting guy and shares some helpful tactics to help you become more efficient.

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

My favourite gadget has to be my Apple Watch, it feels strange when i don’t have it on. Love the exercise tracking, the sleep app and golfing apps (I have recently gotten into golf, but I am not very good).

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

It would be interesting to hear about how some of the world’s best sports people manage it. I assume we could learn a lot from them considering they have crazy schedules and are constantly travelling. I’m a big Lebron James fan, so let’s go with him.

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

I think the right balance is different for everyone so it is all about testing different things and figuring out what works for you. Change up your routine and see if something clicks, test out different ways to manage your time at work and build some structure around what works. 

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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.