Boss It Like

How To Boss It Like… Zoe Cunningham, managing director of Softwire

By Alex Wood 16 June 2016

These leaders are changing the world for the better. We find out how they get the job done.

There are a handful of business leaders and industry figures in Britain who are changing the world. Ian Fordham, Lindsay Pattison and George Burgess seem to get an incredible amount done, in an impossibly short space of time.

With a mindset to always support diversity in business, and to build new employee skills from within the company, Zoe Cunningham is leading the way at Softwire – one of the UK’s leading software development companies.

The Managing Director not only keeps business running smoothly, but oversees outreach schemes that support kids coding schools in local communities.

Its no wonder has been listed in the Sunday Times top 25 ‘Best Small Companies’ for six years running.

A busy woman, with big ideas, The Memo asked Zoe Cunningham how she gets it all done…

What time do you get up, and what part of your morning routine sets you up for the day?

I get up at 7:30 am. I do ‘morning pages’ – three written pages of journaling (a concept from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron). Then ten minutes of meditation and a half-hour walk into the office.

I’m too busy to check email or social media before work, which is great as I find that checking for updates does not set me up well for the day at all.

For a few weeks I managed to get into a routine where I got up an hour earlier at 6:30am and went to the gym for a run and a swim. That was great as it made me feel like I was on holiday. It’s hard to keep up if you have evening engagements though.

What apps do you use to be more productive?

I discovered Todoist through a ‘lunch and learn’ we did at Softwire where people explained their methods of tracking tasks. It’s a fabulous app because it just works. Prior to that I used a custom note format in Evernote, but the syncing was not reliable enough.

My favourite productivity app is Habitica. This is an app where you can list not just tasks to do but also positive habits and things that you ‘should’ do daily. On successful completion of tasks you get gold coins and eggs that hatch into pets. If you don’t complete your dailies you lose health and can die. This is the most motivating app I have ever come across!

My smartphone also supports all my other activities. I use a variety of mediation apps (especially Headspace, Calm and Buddhify) and I’ve just started using Rocketbook to sync and store my written morning pages online.

What smartphone do you have?

I have a small gold iPhone 6 64GB on Three (I can’t cope without all-you-can-eat data and Feel at Home means I can use 3G abroad too). It’s covered in Hello Kitty stickers.

How many people, outside of family, do you meet in a day? And broadly speaking, who are these people?

How many people I meet varies quite a bit. I’ll meet at least 20 or so in the office, and I usually go for coffee with a few people from outside Softwire (partners, clients etc.). If I speak at a conference or go to an event then I meet a lot more.

When do you work until? Are you still sending emails in the night? Or do you have a wind down routine?

As well as managing Softwire, I have a fledgling career as an actor and trying to fit both in means I work pretty much all the time, including evenings and weekends. I try not to send emails into the night (I don’t always succeed) as it’s easy for electronic communication to become an addiction.

I don’t have a wind down routine, but I did purchase a Lumie alarm clock a couple of years ago. As someone who’s always struggled to get up in the morning I was totally amazed by how light in the morning makes me unbelievably less grumpy and also how gradually fading light puts me to sleep.

Come back next Thursday for our next #BossItLike interview, and get in touch if you know a business leader who’s also a productivity guru for us to talk to.