Balancing the Grind with Sam Buchanan, General Manager at IMAA

Sam Buchanan is the General Manager at the Independent Media Agencies of Australia (IMAA), a not-for-profit industry association developed and run by independent media agency leaders.

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

I started my media career working as an intern in radio and realised two things shortly after starting. 1) I was a terrible DJ, and 2) I had some talent and a lot of interest in the running of advertising/media businesses.

Over my career, I have held several senior executive roles in large publishers before moving to the client side commercialising data insights and identifying media assets and new revenue streams.

With a second child on the way, I wanted to be based in Sydney after several years of traveling around APAC. This is when I returned to big media again towards the digital media evolution, before moving to the media agency side.

During my time in agencies, I was one of the founders of the IMAA (Independent Media Agencies Australia ) and when the opportunity came up to lead it I was fortunate enough to become the inaugural General Manager.

Since launching in early 2020 we have grown membership by 189%, delivered invaluable support for independents, and provided a collective voice for the sector.

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

I like to start the day with a run or walk along Cronulla esplanade, where we have recently moved, before returning home to the happy madness of two small children.

After breakfast, I say goodbye to the family and retreat to the home office. I’m trying to make a clear distinction between work and home. Lunch consists of a debrief of the morning activities with a somewhat engaged 2.5-year-old before returning back to work.

I always plan to have one or two days out of the office spending time with members and partners of the IMAA. Working from home has many positives, no traffic, highly productive, and the family is all under one roof (for better or worse).

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

My role does allow for all of the flexibility I want, however, a legacy of spending most of my formative years in corporate media has provided me a lot of discipline and I try to keep my day as structured as possible.

For me, the biggest challenge is defining the end of the workday as I can always find a reason to do just one more email or task.

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

The WFH era has definitely improved my work-life balance for me and taught me how to take pleasure in the simple joys in life.

The fact that travel time is removed allows me to be far more productive. If anything it has taught me how to treat time and it gives me the opportunity to get the balance right at home.

Being a people person and thriving on office culture, I never thought I would enjoy WFH as much as I have.

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

Like many others, over the past 12 months, many of my habits have been tweaked but not so much changed. I’ve replaced the gym with morning beach runs. I’ve replaced an after-work beer with a gin and tonic with my wife.

I’ve also realised how important exercise is in my daily routine, and how it improves my energy levels and productivity for the day.

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

The books I have enjoyed this year are:

  • Ciara Lancaster’s Reimagine Change
  • Carlos Gil’s The End of Marketing: Humanizing Your Brand in the Age of Social Media and AI


  • As Told By Nomads – Tayo Rockson
  • The Joe Rogan Experience

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

I love tech and am a sucker for anything with an Apple on it. My most recent guilty pleasure is the new iPhone. I use fitness apps to manage or push my training.

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

David Goggins. A very interesting, driven human. He’s an ex-ultramarathon runner and ex-Navy SEAL.

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

In life, there are certain catalysts or circuit breakers that forge huge changes in behaviour and mindset. These occur once or twice in a lifetime. For me, one was becoming a father. This taught me many lessons about my purpose and the treatment of others.

I believe the COVID era has caused another circuit breaker that has changed the appreciation of the simple things in life. Businesses have been forced to adapt and evolve quickly, learning to trust employees working remotely and thus changing the way we do business.

Whilst I’m not sure all the positives that come from COVID will stick around, I hope some do.

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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.