The daily life of comedian and mid century design aficionado Tim Ross resembles modular furniture. Striving for full flexibility in his work and routine, Tim has built a career consisting of one ‘mad-cap’ project after the next, and his days adapt accordingly.
‘I’m a really scatty creative, depending on my mood, the weather, if I have meetings or whether I have a tiny hangover, that sets the theme for the day.’
What could be a recipe for chaos is in fact surprisingly organised and thoughtful. ‘When I was younger it might have looked like I was just pissing around, but every day I would think of a way to get to where I wanted to go’ Tim says. ‘Some of the things worked and some didn’t, but that work ethic has stayed with me. Every day I wake up and look at what the next step is for me, and keep things propelled.’
Over the years Tim has transitioned from radio funnyman to becoming a spokesperson on all things design, but his consistent focus is storytelling. ‘The core of what I do is talk, and that is very different to a normal job’ he says. ‘I deal with stories – hearing them and making them up – it’s essentially mind painting.’
In recent years, Tim has been kept busy with Man About The House, a live performance project fusing story telling, stand-up comedy and music, set in architecturally designed buildings in Australia and beyond. He’s also spent a good chunk of time writing and shooting his new TV series, Streets of Your Town, which will premiere in November on the ABC.
Tim is humble when talking about his career, admitting he mostly replies to emails for a living. He even embraces the idea of not being very good. ‘You can always find solace in seeing people who aren’t very good at what they do succeed’ he says. ‘There are lots of people who are pretty mediocre making a go of it, and that is mostly through hard work and a little bit of networking and just wanting it.’
The key, says Tim, is to be a little less lazy than those around you.
‘From the outset I realised how lazy everybody is, so if you’re not as lazy, you’re always ahead.’ – Tim Ross
TIM’s Extraordinary Routine
I did breakfast radio for eleven years, so I basically refuse to get up with an alarm unless I have to catch a plane or I’m really required to be somewhere early.
Mornings are essentially driven by our children. If my oldest son, Bugsy, has kindie, I’ll make him breakie and lunch and take him down. For my own breakfast I’ve got what I call the ‘Sarah Wilson’ bowl in the fridge, this is where I put the kids’ leftover apple cores and old bits of kale and whip it up with a banana to make a smoothie.
There is always a bit of Instagram time while the kids are eating toast, and I’ll invariably look at some emails and see what everyone is up to on the socials.
I’m quite an involved parent – I work from home, and so does my wife Michelle. We tag-team the kids, and I might take half a day off and take the boys somewhere interesting, or just watch the telly, kick the footy around or go to the library.
I have some regular things like training with my mate Gordo, which I do twice a week. We go for a run or we do some circuit training in his gym. I used to run all the time as a stress release but I’m less stressed these days. Gordo and I talk as much as we train and it’s a very good for our mental health.
I’m constantly thinking about some harebrained scheme or material or stories for my live show. Essentially as a comedian you are constantly thinking of these things, so I don’t really turn off, but by the same token I don’t really have any deadlines because I create my own.
I might have a week where I am on tour or away doing some shows for Man About the House or filming, but I try not to be away from the family for more than two or three days at a time.
I have some ongoing projects that are flexible in terms of timing, but I suppose the most routine thing is writing. I’ve got a column in Real Living magazine, so I’ll try to find time to sit down and do that. But writing is as much about walking around and thinking about it as it is tapping away on your computer.
The good thing is you can pretty much run your business from your phone these days. There’s a beauty in that, but there are dangers as well. I’m addicted to new information and getting the ball rolling. I’ll often leave my phone behind when we go on holiday or somewhere with the kids.
After years of working in offices I’m not big on that kind of structure. I quite like pure flexibility, and my goal is to facilitate opportunities for us to travel as a family, and to work on projects that I really like.
I’m still really driven, and I rarely sit around watching telly all day, but I like the fact I could go to the movies during the day if I wanted to. Of course that flexibility comes with the anxiety of the unknown, too.
Maintaining a fluid lifestyle is about having a variety of projects going on at once, and working ahead to keep things going. I’m working one to two years ahead on some things at the moment.
I’ve found that people only fail when they either give up, don’t work hard enough, or don’t really want it. If you want to be a painter, or a writer, or whatever and still have a day job, and you want to succeed, something has to give. You have to sacrifice something to make it happen.
Most of it’s in your head. People worry about what other people are doing. You can’t do everything, so you work it out. To maintain the balance of career and family, something has to give, and my social life is probably that thing. My work is very social, but I don’t go really go and hang out with my mates these days.
We might go out to the pub once a week for dinner, but most of the time we’ll just have something at home. I go to the fish market each week, so I might make a fish curry or put some fish on the BBQ. I love cooking and pretty much do all the cooking at home. We are pretty health conscious so it’s all about making spelt pizzas around here.
I can’t work at night apart from the odd email, because it reminds me of doing homework when I was at school. At the moment I’m doing more work in London though, so I do the odd phone call at night.
When the kids go to bed it’s time for glass of wine and bit of Netflix. If I’ve had a show at night I’ll be wired, so I might come home and listen to music or be on the socials.
Like all parents, it’s the war of getting the kids into bed so you can relax that dominates your early evening, so we try and make the most of the time when it is just us.
‘You can’t find the solutions to success in a book, a quote or by looking at someone else for the answers. Everyone is looking for the key to show them how to make things work. But nobody can give you the key, because it’s in your pocket, you just have to find it.’
This story is part of our monthly collaboration with Madeleine Dore of Extraordinary Routines.