Leela Cosgrove, CEO and Founder of Strategic Anarchy, a sales and marketing company that turns over $2 million annually, tells me she isn’t a disciplined person.
Such a claim is hard to fathom from the 38 year old, who has been described as a “dynamo of productivity”. With just a small team of five, Cosgrove and her company produce more than ten events and a minimum of three to five new products a year, while simultaneously managing a B2B news site, branded content agency, and a publishing house which recently released an “entrepreneurial punk rock” album, two accompanying music videos, and their first fiction novel.
That’s not all. This year, Cosgrove is launching a for-profit social enterprise; an employment company for women escaping situations of domestic violence and abuse.
And yet, for all of this, Cosgrove feels she has a lot more work to do.
She calls it the “curse of the high achiever”: the feeling that what you’re doing is never enough.
So how does a seven figure entrepreneur keep focused, productive, and continue growing their business without burning out?
To find the answer, we looked at how regular week unfolds for Cosgrove and Strategic Anarchy.
Contrary to the popular myth that all successful entrepreneurs sleep four hours a night and wake at 5am, Cosgrove states that she’s not an early riser. Waking at 7am, she eschews email and social media for books. Over the next two and a half hours, she’ll read and create content; activities she says provide high value for her business. Using this strategy, she writes around 1000 words a day, while reading about 60 books a year.
Cosgrove and her partner Gulliver Giles – the company’s Sales Director – leave their home in Melbourne’s west at 9.30am for the 30 minute trip to their office, located in the hip inner-city suburb of South Yarra. They keep “executive hours” – 10am until 7pm – to avoid traffic and congestion, and make the most out of their days. They’ll use this 30 minute trip to either take client calls or listen to audio books.
Arriving at the office, everything that Cosgrove needs to cover that day is laid out in her bullet journal, with each day having a specific focus. Monday is staff day, with Cosgrove spending most of her time with the team. Tuesday is marketing day. Wednesday allows her a chance to catch up on the business’ many ongoing projects. Thursday is specifically for clients. Finally, Friday is all about admin and miscellaneous tasks. Cosgrove admits that sometimes things need to be swapped around, but overall, focusing and journaling each day gives structure to her work, ensuring she covers all the elements of her business.
Cosgrove says one of the best moves she’s ever made to boost her productivity was deleting the Facebook app from her phone.
“I asked myself: when did I become so addicted to Facebook? Because I’ve been on there since like 2007/2008, and I used to only check it a couple of times a week. When did that turn to scrolling for hours? And I realised, it happened when the app made it’s way into my life. It made Facebook addictive because I could use it to fill idle moments.”
Arriving home around 7:30pm, Cosgrove and her partner have dinner and wind down. They turn off their phones, and focus on each other.
“It’s important that Gulliver and I get that time together, otherwise we spend all day in the same building, working, but never actually having a conversation or seeing each other.”
As the night winds up, they watch content on Netflix or iTunes. Cosgrove says this is another thing that tends to surprise people, who expect entrepreneurs to be involved in their own work 24/7, “but I think that if you want to be a great content creator, then you need to be a great content consumer – and there’s some really amazing storytelling happening via TV right now”.
At 10pm they go to bed, and read “exclusively fiction”.
Another key secret to Cosgrove’s success is what she calls “Deep Work Weeks”, where she schedules entire weeks away from the office.
“We’ve got a little hobby farm down the coast that we can escape to. There is internet there, but it’s pretty sporadic,” she explains.
“I use these weeks for the kind of work I find it difficult to get done when I’m at home and a million things are competing for my attention.”
She says these Deep Work Weeks are crucial to her ability to achieve a longer term strategic goal, but also to recharge and ensure she doesn’t collapse from the blistering pace she keeps up on a weekly basis.
“I’m not a particularly disciplined person,” Cosgrove concludes. “So I figured out I have to remove temptations as much as is humanly possible. That way, I don’t need discipline – I just have to follow the routine I’ve developed over 12 years in this business.”
“That’s really important when you’ve got a lot of high-level decision making to do on a daily basis. You don’t want to be wasting your will-power battery on whether you should check your email or Facebook – just make sure those things aren’t options.”
TL;DR – Seven Productivity Secrets of a Seven Figure CEO:
- Start your day not by checking social media, e-mails etc. but by reading and creating your own content.
- Structure your day for minimum interruption. For instance, if leaving home for the office at 8:00am means the trip will take an hour, but leaving at 9:30am means it takes half an hour, restructure your office hours in a way that makes sense, and utilise those other hours for uninterrupted work.
- Schedule client calls for commute time – alternatively, use this time to listen to audio books.
- Learn how to bullet journal – http://bulletjournal.com/get-started/
- Take control of your downtime. Delete social media apps from your phone, and access these sites only via desktop.
- Implement Deep Work Weeks. Shedule extended chunks of time to work on long-term strategies and projects.
- It’s okay to watch TV! Great content creators are great content consumers.