During the latest episode of Hustle Harder, we sat down with our partner and friend Daniel Francavilla, the Founder & Creative Director of Now Creative Group. In this episode we chat about work-life balance and if we event want a life without work in it. We also compare stories of growing creative agencies and what that process is like.
Anyways, let’s get into it.
Steph: So Daniel, thank you so much for coming on. Hustle hard. I guess To start off, who are you and why are you here?
Daniel: Why am I here? Well, I'm Daniel. Obviously. I'm the founder of an agency called Now Creative Group. We do a lot in the branding space, social media content creation and design. And yeah, I'm here to talk to you guys on this awesome show that I've been listening to since it first launched.
Ali: We were trying to figure out before we start recording how we actually met and I think we found out that it was through Twitter.
We connected on Twitter and then throwing back to our magazine days, we had you come on to our old Hustle Harder podcast. And I think that was the starting of our relationship.
Daniel: It's funny that it's on the exact same show now. But yeah, totally rebranded and refocused and I'm pumped to be technically a second-time guest but also pretty much a first-time guest.
Ali: So to get into our discussion for today, what we're going to be chatting about is the concept of work-life balance. And something that I heard a while ago, I think it was probably in a TED Talk or something that I found really resonated with me was, someone said that to them, it's not as much of a work-life balance, it's more of a work-life blend. Meaning that you can't really separate the two, you have to figure out how to merge them and have them both work together in your life. And that’s exactly how I feel about my personal life and also my work life is that I can't really separate them. They're just kind of one and it's more of what I'm doing at that time is more associated with either work or my personal life, but overall, it's all just one.
Daniel: I definitely agree with that. The term always irks me a bit because, for me, I don't really see life without having work in it. Like I think my goal would not just to be living on an island chilling on the beach every day. For me, life does involve work and it's obviously hard to explain that to people who are not entrepreneurs or creatives. But I think it totally is a blend, I've actually never heard the term blend other than like, you know, a coffee shop playlist on Spotify or something.
Britt: But wouldn’t you love to be on an island just chilling once in a while.
Ali: A little while for sure, but I couldn't do it every day, all day.
Britt: You think about the people who said they want to retire really early and just go on an island and just fuck off. I'm like, you're 40 and you still have some of your life like, what are you gonna do?
Daniel: I talk to April about this all the time, like we would not want to be stuck in an office somewhere every single day with no other life goals or aspirations.
Britt: I think about going through internships and just soaking in your boredness every day. When I worked an office job, I was so fucking bored. I'm like, what am I supposed to do? All I do is write two emails a day. I'm like, okay, there’s eight hours of work, apparently.
Balancing Work and Life
Ali: So, I think for all of us, I'm going to assume that with our work-life blend, tends to be a lot of work for entrepreneurs. But how important is that personal time and taking that time to have a break and sort of reset yourself to go back into work. Because sometimes I think we get very overwhelmed or even excited about what we're doing. So all of our time is put towards that. And I think it's really needed to take that step back to refresh. So I just want to get your thoughts on that too.
Britt: I think it's like really listening to your body right now. I'm going through a cold and I'm thinking about my week. And I was like, I did a shit ton of things this week and wasn't eating right, wasn't eating three meals a day. It's just listening to your body and realizing that this is not healthy, you have to take time and just sleep.
Daniel: For me, I definitely feel a breaking point when it's too many days of late nights. And then I'll specifically look at my calendar and be like, okay, when can I actually schedule sleeping in? It seems lame, but like, how can I schedule a morning to sleep in? I think maybe that happens once every two or three weeks where I’m like, okay, I actually am not going to book anything. And it really helps because you typically come out super refreshed. And then I also like to leave time for being able to do spontaneous things. Like if every single hour is booked back to back and someone's like, hey, I'm in Toronto, and I'm, you know, someone from out of town, we're not going to be able to actually make that work. So I think for me, that's where the integration or the blend comes in because I'm able to have lunches with people.
Steph: Yeah, I think I learned the taking breaks thing the hard way. Because I find I get very invested in my work. And when I got invested in my work, I also have a fairly high sense of urgency, which adds to me being very anxious all the time about getting things done and making sure that it's done well. And then that just blows up into this whole thing. So what I found was when we first started the company back years ago, and it was the magazine, and then I was working a full-time job at the same time and then always trying to do 50 things at once, I literally didn't have a break and that led to burnout, multiple bouts of burnout and that's not healthy.
I also think that a telltale sign for me anyways is if you're taking work home with you, I mean, obviously, you're always going to be taking work home with you. But what I mean by that is when you're going to bed at night, and if you're laying in your bed, and you can't stop thinking about work and you can't sleep, then you probably need to do some kind of disconnection. And so what I found is taking a walk, even if it's like 10:30 at night and you can't sleep, just go for a walk and try and chill and clear your mind or meditation really helps me and yoga.
Daniel: Yeah, exactly. And one of the things about taking a walk, like obviously, it seems super simple, but that might be the only time of your day where you're not glued to either your phone or your computer. So that makes a big, big difference for a second because your brain can start to refresh. But I also found we don't really realize when we do pause, our brain keeps going. Our physiological state, like if we're stressed or tense that's going to stay with us. We don't just instantly relax, right?
Daniel: Someone like you if you're doing meditation, or if you're doing yoga, your body's trained on how to actually relax and how to do that. Whereas a lot of people that are just, you know... I'm sure even here at the DMZ, it's open 24 hours, people don't even remember to take a break sometimes.
And it's a big process. You can't just be like, okay, brain turn off. So I think that's something that's difficult with entrepreneurs because we're constantly thinking about what can we do next? Or how can we make something better? It's a cycle because you see something, you take a break, you go on social media, you see something someone else is doing, and you're like, oh, yeah, I should be doing this or I have to get back to this person. You just jump right back in.
Britt: Disconnecting means like, I'm doing an activity that if I were to have my phone with me, I will break it. If you're running, you wouldn't run and check emails at the same time? Like I think yoga works for you Steph but high-intensity activities work for me just because it's like there is no time to look at your phone and you can't think about your work because you’re thinking about am I hydrated, am I even breathing right now? Cardio activity just takes her body and mind to a different place where I can't think about it anymore.
Ali: Yeah, I agree with that. I feel like I'm very similar. And that's something that I I think I struggled with for a while because I felt like not at all just from you, but I feel like the norm of this is how you relax and disconnect, people always say meditation. So I was like… I need to learn meditation. And I try to sit down and after five minutes I'm going insane. And then I kind of accepted that maybe my time to relax is actually when I'm using a lot of my energy. So I'm going on runs and going to the gym. I'm going to kickboxing where I cannot think about anything else other than what I'm doing so I don't injure myself, I know if I'm breathing correctly, and I'm focusing on usually the pain that I’m feeling in other parts of my body because I'm fully transported out of what my normal day to day is.
Daniel: Yeah, it seems like in that case, you're saying you have to distract yourself. Because otherwise, your mind is gonna wander. Someone posted a meme the other day about thinking in the shower, and all these comments about how you know the typical thing and people get their best ideas in the shower. But the reason for that is you literally have nothing else to do and you're forced to think, right? And if you imagine how many days you have in the shower, how else can we make that happen throughout our day, right? Like, yeah, I'm never in a moment where these ideas just pop into my head. Sometimes it helps when you're walking down the street. But then guess what, you're going to probably be listening to a podcast or on the phone. So you're not actually allowing your mind to wander and that's where those amazing ideas come from, or even just a solution to a random problem that you might have had.
Steph: I'm curious to hear what you guys get inspiration from because for me anyway, what I find when those ideas come, it's usually, like, when I'm listening to a podcast, for example, because we're a podcast company. If I'm listening to different types, I'll be like, oh, this element in this particular podcast is interesting. And like, we could put it here, or I think it's really cool how the host interacts here, that kind of stuff. So for you, obviously, you're more on the design, branding and social side. So I'm curious, where do you get those ideas? Is it when you're on social media? Or do you have to be fully disconnected?
Daniel: No, for sure. It's when I'm on social media. What I love doing is because I'm kind of in a few different worlds and industries, I love seeing what individuals are doing for their own personal brand, or what nonprofits are doing and the type of content they're creating. And the stories they’re telling, because I can see how that can cross over into other spaces, right. And usually, I always know that I have a certain strategy session booked with a client or something's coming so, because it's in the back of my mind, if I see something that could be a good fit or good solution, I'll definitely make a note of that. And I think that's where the best innovations come from, right? It's where you're bridging the gap between two different industries or two different worlds.
Britt: I think that's very similar to me. I never have like inspirational shower thoughts. I just think about how clean I'm gonna get. But it's similar to you where I get my inspiration and creativity from talking to other people, but also outwardly looking at ads and looking at videos.
Before I go to sleep, I always watch a couple of videos to get inspiration from or just seeing what's new and what's out there. Because I think where you get the most inspiration from is when you pick little details from various videos that you've watched.
Daniel: Totally. I'll bring up Gary Vee because of course, he always has to come up in every entrepreneurship discussion for me. Obviously he doesn't have time to consume media himself. He's not a consumer. He has all of his social media team, he's engaging directly with people and he can't even respond to the number of people he has messaging him. So he's not scrolling. He's not consuming. But what's interesting is his inspiration is from the conversations he has. And it's more of like a curated perspective, right? So he doesn't just go out there and explore because every minute is scheduled. And all his conversations are happening live, but he gets these perspectives communicated to him directly from a huge range of people.
Steph: So we talked a lot about working and how we get our inspiration and how we manage our work and have somewhat of a life on the side. So what about guilt? I know that we all talk about how we feel guilty sometimes taking time off and I feel like as entrepreneurs, it's really hard to justify those disconnection moments because you feel like your time is always supposed to be for someone else. So how do you guys deal with that? Do you feel guilt? And if not, I'm very curious because I would like to learn how.
Ali: So I really struggle with this. And I think what I struggle with the most is if I was to say, take an evening to just be by myself and be in my own thoughts and have that, that's when I feel the most guilt. But if I say leave work to go hang out with a friend, I'm not working, but I don't feel guilty because I feel like I'm doing something. And I feel like my time is put towards actually... I don't know like performing a task I guess.
Steph: You’re accountable.
Ali: Yeah, yeah. And I just feel more productive. Whereas if I was to just say I need a night of watching Netflix, that's when I feel the most guilty because I'm like I could be spending this night working.
Britt: Yeah, I agree. Every time I'm on Netflix. I'm like I could be doing so much more.
Daniel: From a time perspective, it's not so much how much time I'm spending watching something. For me, it's is this cutting into my sleep? That's usually the biggest issue I have. It's like crap... because my wake up time is not moving, I have to do these things in the morning. I think that I know I'm going to hate this later and then also the second part for me with guilt would be having to say no to invitations. It’s the things that I know I should be going to from a relationship standpoint, from friends, from family, like that's the thing I feel slightly guilty about.
Britt: I don't feel guilty sleeping. Actually, if I go to bed early, I would just wake up early. I'm a little bit different where I'm a morning person versus a night person. If I take the time to actually sleep a little bit early, in order to wake up a little bit early, I feel more refreshed that way. People always have the mentality like oh, I have to stay up really late to finish it. But for me, I feel like my work extremely declines if I stay up because you miss a lot of things and you're just like, I could fix it. And you're like, fuck, I gotta finish it.
Daniel: I'm definitely with you on that. I've noticed over the last year or two, I've been taking that route of like, okay, I'm not going to just push myself to finish this because, yeah, there's a lot of benefits of starting fresh in the morning. Obviously, sometimes there are those deadlines, but I haven't had to have an all-nighter in a while now. I think for example when I was in OCAD, and design school, everyone's doing that. Like it happens multiple times a week. Or if you're on a roll because you're inspired, like sometimes you should give yourself that permission as a creative to do that.
I think one of the challenges though is how does the rest of your week or the rest of your day accommodate if you're actually making the next three projects worse, because of that one overnight inspiration. Then you got to kind of weigh the benefits of that.
Ali: I'm much more of a morning person. If I needed to decide to stay up for three extra hours in the night or wake up three hours early, I would much rather wake up three hours early because I feel like I'm just more productive through that entire day then whereas at night, I usually hit a point in the night and I mean, if we got to get something done, we have to get it done. But I'll hit a point where I'm just like, fuck this, and I do not want to do it. Whereas in the morning, I'm much more okay with working through all that stuff and going about my day.
Steph: I don't know, I've always found this question interesting for me because I can go both ways. Like I love the mornings as much as I stay up late. And so although I generally have issues getting up in the morning, I actually love being up early because I can see the rest of the day ahead of me. And I find that's really motivating to me.
Daniel: I will add, though, when it comes to working with teams, partners or collaborators, a lot of times it's very difficult to align everyone's schedules too. And over I guess six and a half years of having this agency, I've dealt with people that are extreme night owls or people that are major morning people and it really impacts your ability to collaborate with others too.
We would book photoshoots or video shoots and a lot of times the client wants to book it first thing in the morning and for us, there are two issues with that - sometimes the team members aren't in the same city, right? So there's coordination which takes hours to commute and get together, to the studio, and get the gear and meet. I'm sure you guys can relate. And the second aspect is, that person doesn't necessarily perform best in the morning, right? Like as a creative, maybe they are a night owl or maybe they do spend all their late nights editing their photos and videos, and they purposely book shoots in the afternoon or at night instead.
Steph: I feel like anytime you have to coordinate a shoot it's a challenge, or it can be a challenge, especially because clients’ schedules are also really crazy. I think the easiest and first example that came to my head when you were talking about that was actually coordinating The Tech Haus. Because I know it's not creatives, but it's coordinating the Fortune 500 executives, which obviously have an insane schedule and then coordinating Swish, who also has an insane schedule. And then the startup founders or CEOs are usually who we have on and they're crazy busy. So it's coordinating three different parties.
Daniel: Plus you guys. Three conflicting worlds for sure.
Steph: It's just wild. And I find we've also had a lot of people on that show where we're like, okay, well, the easy option is we do a Saturday. And there's a lot of people who are like, no, I don't work Saturdays, I won't do anything career-related on Saturdays. Which I fully respect. And I'm trying to practice that myself. But sometimes it's the only day that you have. So it's really hard to be like, okay, well, then do we all get up at 6am and get to the studio and do it because everyone has a packed day.
Daniel: Let's say that is the solution, right? Especially when you're dealing with people that are on a strict timeline, or they're travelling or they're only in the city that day, right? Then you also have to look at, okay, out of these five or six people, which one of them is going to be performing their best if you actually look at it and realize, yes, we're willing to suck it up. We're willing to do it. But like, if three or four out of the six people are going to be performing at 50%, is it actually worth doing it? So that's something I don't think that we really consider. But I think April and I are working very closely together, we find sometimes our schedules are misaligned in the moments that we're willing to be creative and the moments that we're willing to be business-focused. And so we'll take turns on stuff, April is someone who events drain energy from her, whereas for me, especially if I'm speaking or on a panel or something, I get energy from that. So after an event, we're going to be at complete opposite levels. So if I purposely plan a meeting right after that event, I'm going to be great and April would be hating it, right? And so we learn to work around that and decide when's the best time to actually get stuff done.
Steph: And I think that's the most interesting thing about working with business partners or co-founders or people that you work with every single day is just understanding that they have their antics and the things that make them either work really hard or maybe make them really tired.
Ali: And I think it's a whole other thing to realize. In yourself what it is that actually gives you energy and drains energy, because sometimes that's hard to acknowledge. For example, for April at events, a lot of people say, like events should hype you up, you should be so excited. So then when you're feeling overly tired from them, you're like, am I just bad? Like, is this wrong? Should I be feeling excited? But then to accept, hey, no, they actually take energy from me. And I get energy from these other tasks. That's a hard thing to do and a hard thing to even tell people.
Britt: And it's like some entrepreneurs aren’t extroverts, you know. And I think that's the thing we have to change in people's mind. To be an entrepreneur, you don't need to be like this hype person who has energy bouncing off the walls left to right.
Steph: And on that How do you make sure that people actually communicate with you when they’re not super energetic in the morning? Because I find that that's like I was saying the hardest thing for people to talk about is like, hey, I'm not okay at these times of day because especially as entrepreneurs, you always have that thick skin where you want to be like, I am superwoman and I can do everything. You don't want to show weaknesses, especially when it comes to clients, partners, or whoever.
Daniel: I would say with clients, it is still something that is difficult for me, although like the first four years of business, for sure, if a client said they need to meet at 8am downtown, and I know that I'm gonna have to wake up at 5:30 for that to happen, I would do it. I have to and the other day someone offered to book a meeting and I said, okay, on this day, I'm pretty much open the whole day. We're in the same city, I'm willing to come to you. And of course, they chose the earliest possible time, right? So for me, I'm not going to put that limitation on someone that I really want to meet with or someone I know is super busy. But on that note April and I will give restrictions with people when we're meeting and we'll also look at what we have back to back. So having those boundaries if you're clear on them yourself, you can be clear with the with another person.
A huge thank you to Daniel for coming on this episode of Hustle Harder! If you want to listen to the full episode (we know reading it is a lot) - check it out on Apple, Spotify or wherever you normally listen!
You can connect with Daniel on Twitter or Instagram at @danielfrancavilla. Also connect with him on LinkedIn at Daniel Francavilla (he shares some great content around the entrepreneurial journey). And lastly, check out Now Creative Group at @nowcreates on Instagram and Twitter!