There’s no denying Lisa Leong is an extremely busy woman. Since she caught the ‘radio bug’ and left her career as a lawyer in 2003, she’s been full steam ahead.
Lisa was living in London when she decided to start volunteering on hospital radio whilst still working as a lawyer. ‘The hospitals are so big that they have full blown radio stations,’ Lisa says.
‘I volunteered there and got my own interview show: Thursday Night Therapy with Lisa Leong. I loved it, so I spent all the spare time I had learning the ropes, understanding the tech, and volunteering on every radio show I could. I put my demo tape together, cold-called my way onto London radio – and then from there I got into the Australian Film TV and Radio school. Then was on my radio journey from age 32!’
On reflection, she says it was this ‘series of small steps’ that underpinned her career change.
‘When I started interviewing people, it felt sooo right. I knew in that moment that I was going to leave the law and try radio presenting. It was definitely that feeling of “flow state”,’ she adds.
Lisa says she has a ‘portfolio career’ — which is a term she’s picked up from one of her interviewees, American author Dorie Clark. ‘This is when you have different strings to your bow, and it all adds up to be your work life! Kind of like you would have a diversified portfolio in investment terms.’
Her recent book, ‘This Working Life: How To Navigate Your Career in Uncertain Times’ is the latest accolade in Lisa’s diverse portfolio. It’s a product of the ABC national radio show of the same name, which asks questions like: ‘Why do we work the way we work? How might we work differently?’. The book began with a LinkedIn message from a Hardie Grant editor. And before long, Lisa and her ABC colleague Monique Ross were co-authoring the book, taking turns writing in a shared Google Doc, picking up where the other left off, while living in separate states!
Below, Lisa tells us how she gets it done – all the while making time for outside-of-work passions, like tennis, and being a mum!
I wake up at 5am in summer and 6am in winter (it’s Melbourne – brrr!). The first thing I do every morning is following BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits ‘start the day’ experiment (see his fab TED talk on this)… I put my feet on the floor and I say ‘today’s going to be a great day!’ even though sometimes I don’t feel it! If I *really* don’t feel it, I repeat BJ Fogg’s alternative which is ‘today is going to be a great day… somehow!’
I am a super lark, so I LOVE the mornings! It is definitely my favourite part of the day. I think it might have also happened because my main radio gigs were breakfast shows where I would generally get up at 4am, so I think my body has been conditioned for that. 5am is a sleep-in!
I tend to start work around 7am. If I am working from home, I just walk into my study. But if it is an ABC day (Thursday, Friday, Sunday), then I hop on my electric bike at 6am, have a beautiful ride along the Yarra River and get to work at around 6.45am. I am ready to go around 7am.
I ‘timebox’ my day, so I will have reflected on the big things I’d like to achieve (my ‘big rocks’, like, answering these questions!), then I will have allocated time in my calendar to do it. I focus on these things first and try to do a few hours of deep work in the mornings. My big rocks often extend beyond work. In my calendar I also have blocked out my health related activities, family time, transit times, time for breaks, etc. My calendar looks scary at first sight, but I have colour coded it, so even though it looks like things are back to back, all the spaces are marked blue so I know that there are breaks in there!
I tend to play around with my morning routines and rituals depending on how I am feeling and what has taken my fancy! Here is what I am doing at the moment…
– Tongue scraping and oil pulling
– Stretching and foam rolling routine given to me by my personal trainer Wiki
– Bulletproof Coffee: mine consists of coffee, a teaspoon of ghee, MCT oil, a bit of prebiotic powder and a bit of collagen powder.
– Alexander Technique 5 minute standing practice.
– Journalling if I feel the need and have the time!
During COVID, I was working in the first half of the day and then clocking off at 2pm. Due to the release of our book in the first half of 2022, my new Sunday show on ABC Radio Melbourne, and some extra fill-in presenting, I have been working all hours. Consequently, I realised in May that I was really run down. I read about Brené Brown taking a ‘summer sabbatical’ so I am doing a ‘winter sabbatical’ where I am paring back my obligations.
I will try and clock off late afternoon – I think those who know me would say that this is prudent for everyone as I am pretty nonsensical in the afternoon because of my early schedule!
I try to shut down everything and finish work by 7pm. No devices. This changed a little over the last 6 months so my intention is to bring it back for the second half of 2022!
When it comes to dinner, my husband is the cook of the family! We eat pretty simply, maybe a roast chook and veggies, or tacos, or sometimes Darcy will cook his amazing pork soup.
To unwind, I have a hot bath with epsom salts pretty much every night. I might watch one episode of a TV series with Darcy; at the moment we are watching ‘Hacks’. I can’t do violence, so we are usually watching something funny or sweet. (Like the little Japanese kids – they are two or three years old – doing errands by themselves in the TV show ‘Old Enough’).
I try not to ‘float’ into my study — sometimes I unconsciously wander in there and spontaneously start working!!!! Maybe I should buy a lock and lock myself out! It is helpful to have a ‘hard stop’ in your day. I find my nice warm bath with Epsom salts does the trick on most days. That’s my contextual marker that tells my brain that the work day is done. And my laptop isn’t waterproof so I definitely can’t do work in there!
I usually get in bed at 8.30pm for 9pm lights out and … zzzzzz. I aim for around 7 hours of sleep. I wear a sleep ring so I tend to check each morning how I have fared!
Right now I’m listening to, watching, and reading…
Listening: I’m listening to the ‘Top Gun’soundtrack. I saw Top Gun: Maverick in the cinema and it was so much fun! I was obsessed in the 80s, and I am obsessed again now!
I get my best work done when…I am collaborating and creating with others. This is the thread that links all of my peak experiences through my career.
My productivity tool/tip is… ‘Timeboxing’ (see the very helpful book‘Indistractible’ by Nir Eyal) has been so helpful for me, especially as I balance all the different strings in my bow. I have found a sense of conscious, purposeful design really helps me make traction during my work day. Timeboxing is the practice of setting a fixed amount of time for every activity in your day, down to the minute, and integrating the resulting time blocks into your schedule.
Instead of working on a task until it’s done, you proactively decide how much time you’ll spend on it and when. Even though it may feel like the enemy of spontaneity, timeboxing can be life-changing in terms of productivity. But it doesn’t begin and end with work: you also plan time with your friends or family, time for yourself, for exercise or hobbies, whatever it might be. It’s all on your calendar.
A philosophy I live and work by is… Lead with love.
You can follow Lisa Leong on Instagram here, and buy her new book ‘This Working Life: How To Navigate Your Career In Uncertain Times’ here!