Joshua Gross is the Managing Partner at Planetary, a digital product agency based in New York, helping brands with websites, products, and mobile apps.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
Heya Balance The Grind, thanks for having me!
I’m currently the Managing Partner at Planetary, a digital product agency and have been running the company since 2013. Prior to that, I was a freelancer doing web design and development for a variety of clients.
Planetary was actually born out of the freelance work I was doing at the time. I had built out a decent portfolio of work and wanted to expand the scale of the work I was able to do; bringing on a team and becoming a studio/agency seemed like the right path forward. It also provided me the resources to begin experimenting with internally-initiated ventures.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Typically, I wake up between 7 and 7:45 am to get my day started, and spend the time in the morning with a coffee while catching up with news.
I typically won’t touch anything work-related until 8:30 or so, when I check and follow up on any emails that have come in since the previous day.
After this, I’ll usually do a run-through of what I need to accomplish for the day to make sure I have a reasonably clear plan for the day (that often gets derailed, being the head of the agency, but it’s better than nothing!).
Around 9am, I’ll begin digging into the other work of the day, which includes everything from new business follow-ups, proposal writing, and client meetings to check-ins, one-on-ones with the team.
Being a small team, I also will often be contributing in a more hands-on way (e.g., coding) to one of our projects, either client-facing or an internal venture (like Pizzatime).
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Our team has been remote since we were founded in 2013, so working remotely is part of Planetary’s DNA. The rest of our team is distributed all over the world and hours are flexible.
While I typically work a “normal” workday here in Brooklyn, the rest of our team has varying work hours and will occasionally take time during the day to run errands or do things at home (like, in the case of one of our teammates, check on her horses).
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I’ve always seen remote work and work-life balance as a complementary pair. “Work-life balance” doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to draw a fine line between work and life.
Instead, it should mean that you integrate work into your life in such a way that it’s just one aspect of a multi-faceted life, not the thing that you spend most of your life doing.
What I mean by this is that we’re here to get our work done, do an awesome job for clients, and build great things—but also, have other hobbies, projects, and interests in our life such that our only focus isn’t work.
By being remote, you’re not stuck in an office 8+ hours a day, which means if you have an hour to go take a break and do something non-work-related, you can and it doesn’t impact anything. If anything, you’ll come back to your desk refreshed and ready to tackle the next thing.
It also means that when you close your laptop on Friday afternoon, you can leave it closed (metaphorically—my work and personal computer are one and the same) until Monday morning.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdowns, one thing that I’ve changed is that I no longer go straight from finishing my coffee to taking a shower.
I’ve actually found that having my coffee, getting a little work done, then taking a shower mid-morning has actually been a really nice way to break up my morning routine and lets me feel like
I’ve accomplished something before “getting the day started.” It also gives me an opportunity to work through any tough problems away from the screen for a few minutes.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Honestly, most of the podcasts I listen to are for entertainment; typically I’ll listen to the latest episode of Crime Junkie on Mondays while working, and Reply-All during the week whenever there is a new episode.
As far as books go, I read a mix of fiction and travel or historical non-fiction. One of my favorites is Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival, which retells the story of a group of shipwrecked men who ended up being dragged through the Sahara desert in the 1800s.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
The mug warmer on my desk! This is such a minor convenience but I like to keep a warm drink on my desk during the cold months and being able to sip it throughout the day without it getting cold is just so nice.
Other than that, Notion has been such a valuable product for our team. We keep everything in there, from our team handbook, to meeting notes, to anything project management-related. It’s a great all-rounder tool.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Probably someone like Anthony Bourdain (RIP), who was constantly on the move and had an outwardly exciting life. I should probably read one of his books.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Enjoy work as much as you can, but don’t make it everything even if you love what you do.
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