Balancing the Grind with James Burge, Managing Director of Dynata APAC

James Burge is the Managing Director of Dynata APAC, one of the world’s leading single providers of first-party data based on opted-in consumers and professionals.

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

I am leading Dynata’s Asia Pacific business in the Managing Director role. My background is in market research, initially as a consultant at places as varied as Nielsen and a startup; later as founder of my own agency.

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

It varies but follows something of a rhythm and covers our regional and global clients and teams; from early or late calls, to team meetings and client calls. I report to a member of our Executive Team based in Paris, while much of my team is spread from Japan to India.

Start of the day is the US and ANZ; middle and later I can catch Asia and EMEA start of the day. There’s always a daily dose of email of course and all this is balanced with family commitments helping look after our two young boys at home.

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

It does and that’s stepped up considerably this year as for many people. Our team at Dynata across the region has done an amazing job of making the switch to WFH.

For me it’s meant a little less commuting to fit in an extra call or two and more time with the kids and to help out at home. The flipside of WFH more is that work can even more easily bleed into personal time.

Some of that goes with senior roles in a growing global business like Dynata; but there’s a healthy line to be drawn each week or month; such that you can work hard and get things done but not at expense of your family or health.

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

For me it means working hard when there’s work to be done and opportunities on the table but being able to switch off completely when the situation allows. I try not to look at my phone too often when it’s down time and feel I am OK at this.

Like many businesses we have some seasonality so I expect to do longer hours at some stages of the year to drive results and outcomes; but to offset that some when it’s quieter.

I don’t know that anyone can keep the ‘pedal to the metal’ over years and years without paying a price and some of the most effective executives I’ve seen keep family, leisure and health in perspective while being incredibly productive.

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

I’ve surfed regularly for 30+ years so get exercise each week but am what’s politely termed a ‘weekend warrior’!

In 2020 I’ve combined WFH with a commitment to more daily exercise on weekdays, even if walking, after spending too many days spent sitting in meetings, calls or on planes and basically immobile! It doesn’t take long and my quality of life has improved. Some ‘walking meetings’ may be the next step.

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

I read Financial Review, The Economist, McKinsey and other newsletters daily but nothing productivity related aside from my phone’s step counter.

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

My surfboard! It’s the one product that ensures I get exercise, personal time and relaxation. Unless the conditions or my performance are shockingly bad; I come out refreshed and motivated 95% of the time.

In the office, I have found Dynata’s move to MS Teams a refreshing move away from email towards more use of chat. I think many businesses could live better without email or with a lot less of it.

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

President Obama’s days and techniques when in office. Not because of his politics per se but because he seemed a more analytical leader who had to balance that with what must be an incredibly high workload and challenging political environment.

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

Let’s not let agendas or tech rule our lives! Quality relationships and work take time and consideration. I see a lot of leaders and managers navigating this well despite the pressures and challenges of their roles but I know for many too it’s a battle and one that requires constant focus. Spending time on what matters always pays dividends.

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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.