Balancing the Grind with Adam Chicktong, General Manager APAC at Asana

Adam Chicktong is the General Manager APAC at Asana, a project management software company headquartered in San Francisco.

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

I’ve been in the tech industry for 20 years, with a pretty even split between software and cloud infrastructure. I started in sales, then moved into sales / general management roles.

I’ve spent most of my career working in Australia but I have also had stints in the UK and US. I love leading teams and building or renovating businesses, and have been lucky enough to manage some incredible people over the years. 

Today I’m Asana’s General Manager for APAC. If you don’t know Asana, you should! Asana is a work management platform that helps teams orchestrate their work, from daily tasks to strategic initiatives. It reduces work noise and “work about work” which is particularly relevant to the focus of this interview!

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

My day usually starts around 7am to align with our HQ in San Francisco before saying goodbye to the family and heading into the office in Sydney.

The first half of my day is usually spent with my US counterparts before breaking with the team for lunch, which Asana provides, ensuring it’s healthy and energizing. 

The second half of the day is then spent with our local teams in Sydney and Singapore, plus hopefully a meeting with a partner, customer or three.

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

Given that we’re a growing, globally distributed company, we’ve naturally supported hybrid team environments and flexibility while being office-centric.

We’ve always prioritised in-person connection and co-creation and that’s why Asana created an office-centric hybrid model because we believe there’s no substitute for the connection and team flow that we experience when we’re co-creating in the same place. And we’ve had flexible hours from day one, which makes it easy for me to balance work and home life. 

Despite this flexibility around remote work, I must admit that I really struggle working from home. Partly because of my terrible internet but mainly because I’m not the best at context switching between work and home life.

I find having a routine of getting on top of tasks in the morning on the bus, focusing on work during the day and then winding down on the bus trip home allows me to be “present” both physically and mentally at home, which is super important as I don’t want to be distracted when I’m with my family. 

When considering our hybrid model, we also wanted to keep investing in our purpose-built culture that focuses on collaboration, inclusion, and personal and professional growth. We’re committed to supporting employees at all stages as they develop their careers, and that level of mentorship is best suited to being primarily face-to-face. 

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

To me, it means being able to prioritise life. I think if you are mindful in your approach to the balance between work and life, and that people assume best intent, then that’s all you can ask for.

Where I struggle and what I found particularly challenging when I worked from home full time is that I’d start work as soon as I woke up and just keep working right up until I went to bed.

I’m quite structured so in order to find the balance, I literally need to block out chunks of my diary and assign time to switch off. I’m getting better at managing work-life balance but it is still definitely a work in progress!

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

It’s very easy for me to get mentally consumed with work so I have made more of a conscious effort to make sure I always have at least one personal project on the go. Personally, I need to give my mind something else to focus on, so whether it is DIY, tinkering with my car, planning a holiday, I need something else to invest mental energy into.

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

Work wise The Sales Hacker Podcast is good for some informative bite-sized chunks and personally, The Maddaddam book series is great for an escape into a dystopian world. 

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

Asana (of course) and my new Makita compound saw for all my DIY projects! In all seriousness though I find working with my hands and doing carpentry to be very cathartic, especially when your work life is spent in front of a screen.

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

LeBron James. He’s one of the greatest athletes of all time yet seems to find a good family life balance.

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

It’s not easy to find the right balance so start by not being so hard on yourself! What works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for another. I’d suggest treating “finding the balance” as a learning journey, one where you improve and iterate along the way, whilst understanding that it’s almost impossible to find the perfect balance.

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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.