Elena Connolly is the founder at 23 Wise Words, where she workshops with businesses to define their brand positioning and write brand messaging.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I started my career in PR, back when publications were all still in print! Then I moved into corporate events and after that ‘suit’ side in a creative agency, before starting my copywriting business, 23 Wise Words around 5 years ago.
My role now mainly involves a lot of strategy work for clients, to help them develop memorable brand messaging and of course, writing. My focus is very heavily on the psychology behind brand and effective copywriting that drives more sales, so I incorporate a lot of behavioural psychology techniques into my work.
I should mention my degree is in Public Relations and Psychology, so although I didn’t know I would end up running a copywriting business, I’ve always had a deep interest in human behaviour and what drives people to take action (or not!).
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I’m definitely a morning person so I get a lot done pre-7:30am. I usually get up around 5:30am and spend an hour on my ‘Miracle Morning’ (based on the book by Hal Elrod). It’s a morning routine involving mediation and journing amongst other things. This helps me reset and focus for the day. I then try to squeeze in a run and get ready before the kids get up and it’s all hands on deck to get out of the door for about 8am.
I work from a lovely little co-working space in Surry Hills, Sydney and a typical day will usually involve a strategy call with a client, briefing in some copy work to one of my team, or quite often writing myself. I still love to write, so am fairly hands-on when it comes to executing client work.
I always try to carve out time in my day to work on my business. I am a course junkie. I usually have 2 or 3 on the go, either to upskill myself for work, or for personal development. That all usually happens in the evenings once the kids are in bed.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
It’s an age-old story, but I started my business while on maternity leave with my first child in order to have more flexible working once he was born. I love that I can pick and choose my days and hours, although there is the flip-side because it’s so hard to switch off when it’s your own business that you’re so passionate about it.
There’s the mum-guilt and also the business-guilt when you’re focusing on one and not the other but overall I feel very grateful to have a balanced work/life, I take at least one week-day off to be with my kids.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
When I was working in various agencies I knew that eventually I wanted to be in charge of my own work/life balance. The notion of the Monday-Friday 9-5 with no flexibility always seemed so archaic. But like most small business owners, I have spent the first few years trying to grow and work hard to build my experience and the business.
This is the year for me to step back and do things differently. I have various plans in the pipeline to diversify my income streams, so I’m able to work even less and earn more.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I started practicing mediation just over a year ago, that has definitely been a transformative experience and I see the positive effects from that in every aspect of my life.
I set a goal to read 10 pages of a book every day for the whole of last year and ended up reading 15 books in total. The knowledge gained from that alone (much of which is about forming and maintaining habits, actually!) has changed my life.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I’d put Tim Ferriss in every category, his newsletter, podcast and books are all so insightful.
I love James Clear’s emails, he wrote a book called Atomic Habits, which is also worth a read.
I’d recommend the Building a Story Brand podcast and book for anyone in the marketing industry and the book Contagious by Jonah Berger is also great for marketers. The Call to Action podcast gives a different take on branding and marketing.
For personal development Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning book, which I mentioned earlier and his podcast is great too and Under the Skin by Russell Brand is always interesting. I also listen to The Clare Wood podcast, which is good for female entrepreneurs who want to focus on mindset around money and work/life balance.
The Copyblogger Podcast, or Hot Copy if you want to learn more about copywriting.
I read the same book every January, which is The Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen. It’s so motivating for anyone who wants to make a change in their life and build the habits to keep moving upwards.
I have so many recommendations, I could go on for hours on this subject!
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Evernote is a big one for me, for the moments of copy inspiration while on the move. I love my Hydroflask, it’s a permanent extension of my hand and I couldn’t live without my diary. I switch between two thatI like, this year I’m back on the Saint Belford ‘Curation’ planner.
I’m ridiculously organised and I love my planner because I love lists – I have a number of different lists on the go, from daily habits to weekly and quarterly goals, to work priorities. My planner is where everything is written down, I’ve been keeping a diary for well over 10 years now, I’m sure one day when I write my memoirs they’ll come in handy.
I think writing, whether in a planner or journal, is such a powerful tool to keep focused and not let all the negative thoughts, limiting beliefs and anxieties we all have from time to time catch up with you.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I recently watched the Michelle Obama documentary on Netflix and was impressed by her resolve to keep her kids ‘normal’ while they were living in the White House.
Michelle wouldn’t let the housekeepers make the kids beds because she didn’t want them to believe that was normal. I think she’d have an interesting story around trying to live a ‘normal’ home life, while her and her husband’s work life was anything but.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I remember reading an article a long time that really stuck with me about the huge separation between ‘work’ and ‘home’ that’s socially normal.
Quite often work is demonised, although I know not everyone can love what they do right now, but I believe if you want to change something enough, you can (read The Slight Edge!).
I am careful with the language I use around my kids about work. I try not to say ‘I have to go to work’ but instead ‘I’m going to work’, I don’t want them to think work is bad.
So my final thoughts on work-life balance are, let’s not think of the two as entirely separate entities; the good and bad part of life. Instead I think a balanced life means gaining fulfilment and joy from both.
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