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Balancing the Grind with Andy Thiss, Area Vice President at Anaplan

Andy Thiss is the Area Vice President, ANZ at Anaplan, a planning software company headquartered in San Francisco, California.

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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 current role as Area Vice President of Anaplan for Australia and New Zealand in February last year.

I have always had a passion for working with fast-paced brands and was previously Regional Vice President of Asia Pacific at DocuSign leading sales and customer success teams. I’ve also held a few senior leadership roles at Fraedom and American Express. 

For some context, Anaplan is a software platform that transforms how organisations see, plan and run their businesses.

We help them navigate some of the toughest challenges using connected planning, which enables businesses to collaborate across all aspects of the business. This helps organisations solve major issues such as the global talent shortage and supply-chain disruption. 

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

On a typical day, I like to get up early – usually at 5:30 am – to get in a bit of ‘me time’ before my kids wake up. I love spending the first few hours of the day meditating and exercising before spending some quality time with my kids and helping them get ready for school.

I love this time of the day because I can clear my mind and also enjoy some family time, which is really important to me. I am also a big believer that exercise, meditation, and practicing gratitude are crucial in ensuring a successful workday. I find myself much calmer on days where I stick to my morning routine.

My workdays are often pretty chaotic and there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done, so I try to limit myself and focus on just three core priorities at a time.

I’ve taken this concept from my mentor Hamish McKenzie, an accomplished author of the book Pitch: What you’re not doing makes all the difference. I’ve started to practise ‘the power of three’ to ensure I am not stretched too thin, stay focussed and keep my team on track as well.

I organise my schedule as best I can but, as I am sure most people are experiencing lately, my days are often spent in a series of back-to-back calls and meetings. Meeting fatigue is extremely real, and it’s important to make time to give your brain a break to recharge.

Earlier in the year, I could see that there were too many internal meetings and not enough time spent with our customers solving real business problems. I set up ‘Customer First Wednesdays’ with a rule of no internal meetings on this day. The team loves this initiative and so do I as it allows us to focus on customer needs.

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

Yes, Anaplan certainly supports a flexible work policy. It’s funny because I actually joined Anaplan in February 2020 as the pandemic kicked off and took on this new role primarily remotely.

In this time, I learned a lot about managing remote teams and the importance of supporting employees during a very challenging time. A big part of this means encouraging employees to practice work-life balance and giving them the freedom to have control over the way they work. 

Under the current circumstances with lockdown restrictions still in place in Sydney, I’m unfortunately unable to take advantage of facetime with my peers. With restrictions starting to lift again, I think it’s important to continue with a hybrid approach to work, giving yourself enough time at home with family, but also the time in the office for collaboration. 

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

I like to think of it as work-life integration. Especially as we are all working from home at the moment, it’s more important than ever to prioritise things like your family and friends as well as maintaining your mental and physical health.

Finding this balance is important to me as a leader, so I turn up every day feeling revitalised and lead with a positive mindset. This is important for me to be the best leader possible for my teammates and the overall business. 

Without an afternoon commute, it is so easy to let work seep into your downtime. I’m learning to practice discipline and log off to create boundaries. It is also easy to feel like you are constantly connected to work without much else going on.

This is why I harp on about meditation and exercise in the mornings – it gives you that separation. At the same time, I’m very grateful for the world we live in today where we have the freedom and flexibility to have control over where, when and how we choose to work.

I also think it’s important to make time for the things you love. I love to surf, play guitar and cook, these things allow me to be fully in the present moment away from distractions and give myself a much needed mental break. Figure out something you love and make sure you find time for it! 

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

I am always trying new healthy habits to help improve the quality of my life. I have recently started to focus on what I put into my body and am now eating a plant-based diet for three days of the week.

I do this to make sure I am fuelling my body with the best nutrients possible to stay physically healthy and mentally alert. I have enjoyed the experience as eating less meat has made more room in my diet for a variety of healthy vegetables and I’ve noticed an improvement in my energy levels.

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

I am a big believer in mental health and I am fascinated by the brain, how it works, the functions and neuroscience behind it.

For anyone interested in workplace psychology or wanting to understand the brain, I strongly encourage you to read Your Brain at Work by Dr. David Rock. It is an absolute must-read. The book explains how the brain functions at work and offers some amazing hacks to help with focus as well as tips to reduce stress and fatigue. 

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

Personally, I could live without all the distractions but I had to pick my favorite, it would be my Garmin watch. It helps me stay motivated and healthy because I track everything from my sleep, heart rate, steps and so on.

I find tracking my fitness helps me stay active as it can be easy to become overloaded with work and forget to move, but this gadget helps keep me on track. 

To stay mentally healthy, I use the Smiling Mind meditation app. It is a Melbourne based not-for-profit and has amazing mediation sessions that help keep my mind sharp and focused throughout the day. 

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

I would love to read about Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as I hear he has a really interesting morning routine. My morning routine is important to me too, so I’d love to see if any of his tips and tricks would be beneficial. He is also well-known for being hugely passionate about self-development and structures his days around that, so I am keen to learn more.  

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

Although it can feel impossible at times, balance is always achievable if you’re willing to prioritise it and put in the work. There is always time for important things like family, friends, mental health and physical fitness.

Putting in the work to be successful at your job does not always mean working the longest hours. It means being on top of your own mental and physical health so you perform at your best. Personally, my biggest trick for achieving a work-life balance is waking up early.

Getting up at 5:30 every morning gives me a few hours as well as spending some quality time with my family before work kicks in. It may take some tweaking, but once you land on a routine that supports both your personal and professional needs, success will follow. Whatever works for you, find the time to do it. 

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.