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Balancing the Grind with Todd Lynton, VP SE Asia Pacific at Upright Technologies

Todd Lynton is the VP SE Asia Pacific at Upright Technologies, the creator of ‘your personal posture trainer’, the UPRIGHT GO, designed to help people stay mindful of poor posture.

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

I began my career working in senior marketing roles for Panasonic and Polaroid. I then spent most of my working life in leadership roles with an array of large corporates, namely Samsung and Cisco, before joining the team at Fitbit, which led me to my current role with Upright Technologies.

In my current role as VP Asia Pacific for Upright Technologies, I’m incredibly proud to lead the start-up in APAC, known for the Upright GO and Upright GO 2 – ‘your personal posture trainer’ – a small, discreet device that you place at the top of your back.

In a nutshell, it trains you to stop slouching and within 14 days, achieve better posture and improved back health. In a world where all of us spend countless hours in front of a screen, and particularly now with so many Australians working from home, it certainly is an essential device to everyone wanting to improve their overall wellbeing.

Throughout my career, one of the most interesting and rewarding roles I held was the Managing Director at Olympus Imaging, where I started up the Australian business as the first employee.

In that role, I built an awesome team of people which took Olympus to #1 in the camera industry at the time. The exciting thing about this role was that it had both the culture of a start-up, coupled with the strategic industry brand influence of a major player.

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

As I work in a start-up, I am the only member of Upright Technologies based in Australia and work in my home office every day. This has become a little more complex recently with my wife working from home due to the pandemic, along with my young children home-schooling as well!

Nonetheless, a typical day in the life of me is:

Exercise: 30-minute jog or mini circuit at home

Breakfast: Green smoothie and a coffee

Emails: A check through overnight communications from our HQ in Israel or team in the US, accompanied by a catch up on Slack, WhatsApp, and email messaging, all before 8:30 a.m.

Zoom: Check-in with our US team about market similarities and differences, coupled with Upright’s results and forecasted plans for the coming 6-12 months. This is followed by a call with the Israel team later in the evening.

Remote learning check-in: After the call, I spend time helping one of the kids with a science or math class – most recently I helped my daughter build a sundial.

Work, work, work: The bulk of the middle of the day is spent planning, executing, and reporting.

For example, planning our brand and product launch in China, executing a marketing communications plan in Australia, working on a monthly report for the founders, or following up with key retail customers like Bing Lee, Harvey Norman and Officeworks.

Take a break or two: Throughout the day, I tend to take a few 15-minute breaks. In the current work from home situation, accompanied by my children, these breaks see me alternate between eating, playing a couple of games of table-tennis with my son, and checking in on the latest news announcements from the Government regarding COVID-19.

Downtime: The day ends with a bit of TV as a family – this certainly helps me to switch off and allows us to enjoy something together (most recently we’ve been watching The Flash).

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

Definitely. As the only Upright member in Australia and need to interface with both the US and Israel, I am always working remotely and need to be flexible with time zones. I’ve been with Upright Technologies for nearly 3 years now, so remote working is my norm.

I manage my life and routine around the things I need to do. Sometimes, this may mean moving dinner forward or back 1 hour as I have a conference call late in the evening, which doesn’t always fit in with the rest of the family.

At the same time, I’m fortunate enough to take time in the middle of the day to spend time with my children, run a personal errand or take a dip in the pool on a hot day!

4. Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

I like to manage tasks almost immediately as I’m given them, so there are not several urgent items outstanding at any given time. I manage this with a simple to-do list which features all the quick items that need to be done (less than 15-mins each) and a separate list with more significant (project-based) tasks.

Each day, I try to complete all the “quick tasks” if possible and do one of the project tasks. This makes me more relaxed as I don’t have to see a long to-do list in front of me all the time with very few things being crossed off. It is all about the execution!

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

For a good work-life balance, I need to achieve 3 things.

Passion: I must enjoy my work. If you dislike what you are doing, it is impossible to achieve a good balance.

Flexibility: If I need or want to go and do a personal task for an hour or so in the middle of the day, could I? This could be a doctor appointment, lunch catch up with an old friend, etc. If the answer is “no problem”, then I know I’m in the right place.

Kids perception: I find my children are a really good barometer of my work-life balance. If I get “Dad, you are working too much, can you do something with me”, then I know I need a little more life balance.

On the other hand, if there is no kid frustration and my to-do list is getting longer, I know I need to power through a few more tasks.

6. What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

Handle things once, where possible. Don’t open an email, read it, think about it, then file it somewhere to action later. If you’ve opened it and read it, where possible, finish it!

Quick decision making. Often – particularly in start-ups – a wrong decision can be better than no decision; particularly, as we typically learn something that points us in the direction of a better outcome. Quick decision making also stops us thinking and stewing on decisions. My tip: unless more pertinent information is about to come to light, then why delay a decision?

Take bold risks. Doing things the way others do it or the way the “textbook” suggests works a lot of the time, no doubt. However, you will tend to get the same predictable, “textbook” results. Instead, observe insights, develop a hypothesis, and do something new that is surprising.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – but it’s worth the learnings every time.
Take a break. If you feel like a work-break, take one. No exceptions – make time for it.

7. Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

Steve Jobs by Water Isaacson: This book was very inspirational. The book inspired me to think outside the box, follow ideas and dreams, and begin to understand what “being a visionary” really means.

Beyond that, there were other key takeaways about personal style and people management which helped me understand how people operate with different management styles, and the importance of building, maintaining, motivating and inspiring my own teams.

Men are from Mars; Women are From Venus by John Gray: This book I read in my late 20s, I know, it’s a strange one. This book really helped me work better with teams early in my career and see the significant advantages in building more diversified teams.

Over time, I have grown respect and understanding of the different approaches to strategy that both men and women can take towards a challenge or opportunity. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that harnessing several different viewpoints is what can lead to the best and most successful outcomes.

To put this into practice, almost all of the teams I have led in management roles throughout my career have been an equal split between men and women.

8. What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Planning! I write a quick list of the things I must get done that day and always target to complete them by 3:00 p.m. to allow myself a buffer in case any unexpected tasks pop up.

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

The current stay-at-home restrictions represent a truly unique opportunity for improved productivity and less overall working hours. Just think about the amount of time you’re saving by avoiding your commute or those questions, distractions, ‘taps on the shoulder’, interrupted train of thought or that “meeting or informal chat that really could’ve been an email”.

I truly believe this lift in productivity may be permanent if we can all take key learnings back to our workplaces when the isolation laws lift.

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About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.