Sam Davies is a Paris-based Australian journalist and copywriter, and founder of media and content company Samedi Media.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I studied journalism at RMIT in early 2000s and won a scholarship to work at the Phnom Penh Post. After that, I knew I wanted to work in English-language media based in non-Anglophone countries, preferably ones with a low risk of having a grenade tossed into the office.
The reality was a bit convoluted. First, I worked in the Media and Communications Department at Victoria Police, which was a fascinating sub-culture to experience.
Then I managed a bi-lingual newspaper for the Asian Games in Qatar, neither of which I’d ever heard of before, and a year later ended up knocking on the door of the Agence France Presse in Sweden.
That door didn’t open, but I moved to Paris, learned French and ended up in digital comms, working in agencies, as a freelancer, and eventually as global head of content for Danone.
In 2018 I studied a Master’s in innovation and entrepreneurship and have now set up my own creative content and video production company.
Journalism remains of intrinsic importance to me, so I also work for the France 24 digital video team, and occasionally do live interviews for Australian media, depending on whatever the latest disaster in Paris has been.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
France is great because the standard office hours, 10am-7pm, really suit my natural sleep rhythm. I wake up around 9, and these days do a 20-30 minute HIIT session online, whether with Joe Wicks or anyone, and a coffee and smoothie for breakfast.
I do a team meeting with France24 using Microsoft Teams – since Covid, we’ve worked remotely, which means I save one hour of commute each way.
If I have other clients’ projects, I manage my own schedule depending on the urgent tasks.
If it’s a creative/writing task, it’s a good idea to spread it across a few days, as the creative process often kicks in when you’re bored (ergo: be careful not to fill in every spare moment with stimulation such as podcasts).
During the day I cook lunch at home, usually make one or two social/family phone calls, and I used to take a siesta for 10 minutes after lunch, though since doing morning exercise I haven’t needed to.
In the evening I’ll socialise (France is a very social city), or work on personal projects, such as a video series I’m producing at moment.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
France is very hierarchical and old-fashioned, and in big companies taking initiative is not rewarded. So working for yourself, working with clients and not for clients, is a good alternative. I find it best to work on my own terms.
Remote working and flexibility is the biggest advantage of being a freelancer. Not needing to follow the typical routine office day (with prescribed lunch hours etc), not doing meetings in person, and not pretending to be enjoying eating lunch with colleagues when you’d rather be having alone time.
And the ability to have a nap if necessary: my productivity and creativity used to slump after lunch without one.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work-life balance means not feeling guilty about your natural waking cycle. Some people are productive or creative in the early hours, others late at night. Work-life balance means being able to adapt your schedule to make your day work for you.
Working remotely also means no-one needs to know if you’re not in Paris. Just keep your phone charged (and a battery pack on-hand), and within mobile reception range.
People who work full-time in France get handsome holidays and entitlements. There is no reason to feel guilty about the flexibility you have as a freelancer: it’s built into the pay structure.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Like everyone in their late 30s, I’ve cut down on drinking, and (mostly) quit beer. It tastes shitty anyway in Paris.
Thanks to Covid the fun and enjoyment of going to bars has been drastically reduced, and at the same time during confinement I discovered it’s really nice to stay home socialise online with friends.
You can drink whatever nice booze you want, and leave the gathering whenever you feel like it.
When the gym closed, I also started doing exercise every morning. Now I have energy throughout the entire day, and can’t be bothered to go back to the gym. It’s just annoying I already paid for a year upfront.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Crooked Media podcasts are great: Pod Save America, and Pod Save the World in particular, for those interested in foreign affairs, and the general shit-show that is the US right now. The hosts have a great rapport. But otherwise I find American podcasts to be overly patronising, and lacking in humour.
In Australia, The Garrett presents great conversations with Australian authors, and the Sweetest Plum is pretty off the wall in a funny way.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Unfortunately yes, my iPhone. It can do everything I need, however, you need to spend time without it each day, because otherwise you have no time alone to be bored, nor do you have time to read books.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Whoever it was, it would need to be funny and well-written. Otherwise, just send me a list of the 10 takeaway tips and spare me toiling through 190 pages of waffle.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Don’t feel guilty about working to your own natural rhythm. Know when to delegate (which is, as much as you can get away with). Take time each day without external stimulation, as this is when your mind drifts. That’s about it.
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