A Meltdown and a Retreat

 

It was my birthday yesterday (yay!) and I am now the grand old age of 35. Woolf Works is also turning the grand old age of 1 in a week or so, so it feels like a particularly poignant time. This year has really been the cliché entrepreneur’s rollercoaster – big highs of accomplishment with big lows of ‘what the hell have I gotten myself into’.

 

This last month or two particularly has been tough on me and in the interest of ‘keeping it real’ I’m going to be honest about what I have been going through – because I know behind all the happy social media photos we all go through crap times.

 

I had a bit of a burn-out last month, though probably no one else knew it. It’s amazing how conditioned we are at keeping up a façade isn’t it?

 

My burn-out was caused by a multitude of factors including:

  •  working on a bunch of different things simultaneously and without enough planning or support
  •  not packing lunches or snacks for work and so either not eating, or eating takeout
  •  no exercise
  •  not enough sleep
  • two kids who were fighting constantly
  • a husband on a on a long overseas trip
  • over-scheduling myself

It ended in a lot of tears.

But, most importantly, it also ended in a great chance to reassess how I was doing things, which was obviously unsustainable.

Once the tears had passed and I realised it was time to make some changes – some of which are short term, some are long term:

 

  •   Taking control of my work by extensive list making, project-based organization, deadlines and identifying what I can delegate, what is urgent and what is just going to have to wait. I’m also exploring automation and creating pathways and forms that require less input for me while getting the right information out.

 

  •  Seeing a nutritionalist to help with food planning, learn about healthy snacks to fuel long days at work, to learn about healthy menu choices when I am eating out, and to get some accountability and track what I am eating.

 

  •   Seeing a therapist. Yes. Here I am, saying it out loud. And you know what, it feels great to have an outlet and to learn skills to deal with unhelpful thought patterns and negativity.

 

  •    Limiting nights out to two per week and learning how to say ‘No’. There are so many great events on, so much I want to be part of and so many people I want to meet! But if I want to be healthy and effective I need to have sleep. I already have a 2 year old keeping me up – I don’t need to be out till midnight all week on top of that.

 

  •    Exercising when I can. Last year I went hardcore – personal trainer three times a week, running two or three times a week. I’m kind of all or nothing with exercise and the last three months it’s been nothing. Now I’m finding an in-between, something manageable and much less stressful. A swim one morning, a 3 km run the next evening, or a yoga class at lunch time.

 

The last, and quite possibly the best thing I’m doing: A weekend retreat.

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Singapore, tucked away from the world. I have a pile of books, some writing projects and my running shoes. I plan to sleep and read a lot and I have been looking forward to this for weeks. It was time for me to get off the frantic bullet train of life and have some time out for me.

 

I’m learning that one of the greatest gifts of getting older is getting to know myself better. Learning my triggers for over eating or not eating, learning to give myself structure to stop the overwhelm and learning that ‘good enough’ can be enough – I don’t need to be perfect.

 

Have you taken a personal retreat? How do you cope with overwhelm?

 

We have two retreats coming up with Woolf Works this year – the first is a Writers Retreat, dates to be announced – a long weekend close by to Singapore with lots of time to write, share, have a massage, write some more and make new friends over dinner and drinks in the evening. Interested? We’ll be limiting the numbers so email me at michaela@woolfworks.sg to be on the first invite list.

The second retreat is to Bhutan where we will be working on mindfulness and self leadership. It will be in either November or March. Lots more info available here and you can register your interest here.

Always great to know your thoughts and feedback. Drop me a line anytime (though forgive me if I don’t reply immediately, I’m taking that email pressure of myself too!)

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Tech Tools: Make CRM a Breeze with Streak

If you are running a small- medium-size business, chances are you have already heard about a CRM system. A CRM, or a customer relationship management system allows you to better handle the different business-related inputs that keep your company alive and operational.

streak logo

Image courtesy of ambition.com

Because there are so many aspects to consider, CRMs with varying features can be quite confusing at first. Today, we take a look at one hard-hitting CRM app, Streak, that seems to be able do it all smoothly, easily and seamlessly.

A CRM for Today and Tomorrow

While technically not a full-blown app in itself, Streak is more of a plugin that you integrate with your Google email account, for Safari and Chrome users. Setting it up is quite easy, as all you need to do is go to its website (link: http://www.streak.com) and install the plugin in from there. Opening your Gmail account soon after installation has finished, you will find your email dashboard with additional bells and whistles all ready for you to use.

streak1

Image courtesy of techcrunch.com

The beauty about Streak is its desire to keep things customized to what you really want to see and work on. At the onset, it asks you which elements you would like to be tracked in your Gmail account. These include the usual CRM stuff like story leads, deals, mail support, and more. There are a number of business processes to choose from, and it will be up to you to select the ones that you want to prioritize and show up in your email.

streak snooze

Image courtesy of blog.streak.com

In operation, Streak pops its head up in and around your usual Gmail routine. These take the form of email feature enhancements, like an option to snooze an email while you are reading it (moves it from the inbox and pulls it back in when you want to). On your part, you just need to remember to reply to it soon after. When writing emails, there is a scheduler that allows you to set when you want the email to be sent – perfect for preparing an entire campaign and letting the plugin launch it at the right time.

Other features include Snippets, which can speed up the process of sending lots of emails that require custom templates and Email tracking, which notifies you when your emails are read and seen as well as the number of times it was opened.

For the Organizational Folks

Fans of organized inboxes will appreciate being able sort mail into pre-determined or labeled boxes. You just need to designate your labels, and then the software will automatically sort any and all emails that pertain to those labels. Through Pipeline, you can also view the relevant conversations and tasks related to specific emails, for better tracking and monitoring. Both boxes and pipelines can also be shared with the members of your team, which takes the task of having to meet them for updating on business matters off your hands. In addition, the sharing function also enables your team to collaborate or follow-up on contacts.

streak pipeline

Image courtesy of technologyadvice.com

Pricing

Fortunately, Streak ‘s basic features are offered for free – and this already allows a maximum of five team members to collaborate with. However, to fully experience the full power and range of functions the CRM has to offer you need to invest in the paid plans (ranging from $19 to $119). The paid plans allow users must—have extras such as actionable boxes, email tracking, and scheduled email sending.

Final Word

If you really rely on Gmail to conduct your business, it makes perfect sense to invest in this CRM to optimize your operations. It is very simple to use, to the point of being intuitive from the get-go. It makes email more flexible, and its Gmail integration is so smooth, you will not feel like you are looking at a totally different interface. This CRM is worth it if you are looking for a way to make your business operations smoother, simpler and more coordinated.

 

Tech Tools: Trello – A List Lover’s App Dream Come True

Most multi-taskers will tell you that if there were an easier way to manage everything in their personal and professional lives, they would be first in line for it. After all, who wouldn’t want to have something that can streamline every project or activity and make it easier to manage? For this and so much more, there is an amazing app that is quite possibly your dreams come true: Trello.

trello-logo

What is Trello?

Simply put, Trello is an organizational app available to both iOS and Android users. Yes, there are many of those out there. You probably already have two or three right on your tablet and smartphone. But this one blows all the others out of the water. It is a completely flexible and visual way of organizing your projects, routines, teams and what-have-yous in a way that many other apps like it cannot. It allows you to involve other people in your tasks, so it is also an essential app for group projects.

Everything at a Glance

The strength of Trello lies in its ability to show you everything you need to see in a single glance, while still maintaining a clean and orderly aesthetic. While other apps will have you clicking tabs to see what’s inside, Trello has your pertinent information right in front of you. This gives its users the power to look at the bigger picture while still being able to focus on aspects that need a closer look.

trello to dos

Image courtesy of http://www.cloudswave.com/

Well Thought-Of Design

The makers of Trello clearly thought to include features and layouts that will give one the best user experience. Here are some of the great things about its aesthetic, design and feel:

  • Horizontal card layout. For any project, subsections are organized into cards that are lined up from left to right. Like windowpanes, you can see at a glance the tasks and actions that are currently happening in each subsection. The orientation is just right to take a look at the latest activities, as opposed to scrolling down or opening tabs to check for updates.
  • Movable cards. Each card in front of you can be moved around to suit your preferences. For instance, you can sort them from left to right based on project completion. As the cards are not fixed, you have the flexibility to adjust how you see your information based on your needs.
  • Real-time updates. What will really tickle a multitasker’s fancy is the fact that Trello updates progress and new inputs in real time, provided you are connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi or mobile data. This is great if your entire team is on board Trello for a project or several projects. One glance at your board will inform you right away of what each person is doing to achieve the intended goal or result based on their actions and inputs.
Trello-Welcome-board

Image courtesy of http://tidbits.com/

Other Features To Fawn Over

Trello also has amazing efficiency-oriented features that every user will enjoy and find essential:

  1. Upload and sync options. You can upload files straight from the cloud or your computer to the cards, and everyone gets it right away. Your other devices where Trello operates also get updated as well.
  2. Checklists and due dates. These allow you to see and monitor the completion of important tasks and be aware of dates and deadlines.
  3. Search, label and filter options. The information you need is yours in a second with these options for categorizing, sorting, and looking for information. This is very handy when you need to pull up something in a jiffy.
  4. Optional features. As Trello only presents your essential information on the screen, other features you may find handy at a later time are present once you turn them on. Called Power-Ups, these extras allow you to vote, add a calendar, and more.
trello check list

Image courtesy of http://blog.hubstaff.com/

Liking what you’ve read so far? You will probably love how Trello is free and allows you to make as many lists as you need, start on all the projects you want and add as many people as necessary. Clearly, Trello is a powerful tool that will give everyone – from multi-tasking moms to busy bee freelancers – the ability to be more in control, more informed and more goal-oriented than ever.

 

Power-Packed Breakfasts to POWER through your working day

Guest Post by Karen Aroney (ANutr, ASN)

Karen is holding a talk on Motherhood and Nutrition at Woolf Works on the 11th March at 10am. More info and tickets details available here.

 

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Even if you are not a breakfast eater, ensuring you have even a small, balanced meal in your stomach before you head out for work is beneficial for the following reasons:

Brain Power

The brain requires between 100–150 g of glucose (blood sugar) daily. Once we wake up from our sleep are cells are in ‘fasting’ mode, waiting for the next hit of glucose (known as carbohydrate). If we don’t fuel ourselves with a nutritious breakfast of protein and carbohydrate, then what how do we expect to perform in that meeting? that presentation? Fuel for your brain is essential for high performance.

Weight Control

Lower rates of obesity have been found for people who ate breakfast regularly, versus those that skipped breakfast, partly due to breakfast eaters not over-consuming high energy snacks or meals at the later part of the day (where you are less likely to expend most of your energy)(1). Moreover, people who skipped breakfast also have a higher affinity for high-calorie foods and again over-eating with these foods, than people who eat a regular breakfast(2). Worth considering next time you reach for the ‘hidden chocolate’ in the desk draw or find yourself in front of the vending machine!

Increased Energy and Better Quality of Life

Research indicates that there is a direct effect of morning eating patterns on physical activity levels throughout the day, with people who ate breakfast displaying higher energy and overall physical activity levels(3). Further studies have found that breakfast eaters (versus those that skipped breakfast), had a more positive score for overall quality of life, vitality, social functioning , and emotional and mental health(1).

The easiest and tastiest way to enjoy a stress-free POWER-PACKED nutritious breakfast is to literally jar it! Here are 2 recipes to get you started:

Blueberry Coconut Overnight Oats

Pour 1/2 cup rolled oats, 2 tablespoons hemp seeds, 1 tablespoon flaxseed, and 1 cup of coconut milk into a mason jar and stir to combine. Add 1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries and mash them in the pudding for a thicker consistency or you may leave the blueberries whole for a topping. Add honey to sweeten. Store in fridge overnight. Then before serving, top with shredded coconut, almonds and pumpkin seeds!

Almond Butter Chocolate Overnight Oats pure2

Pour 1/2 cup gluten free steel cut oats (use rolled oats for a smoother oatmeal), 1 tsp chia seeds, 1 tsp flaxseed, 2 tsp cacao powder , 1 tbsp almond butter, 1 chopped medjool date or 2 tsp maple syrup, 1/2 cup almond milk. Throw everything in a mason jar, mix well and store in the fridge overnight to eat. If you like yours thinner, just add a bit more milk.

(Recipe credit: www.nutritionstripped.com, www.mywholefoodlife.com)

All these factors combined make you more POWERFUL and PRODUCTIVE, so start the day on the right track and make it happen!

References:

  1. Huang CJ, Hu HT, Fan YC, Liao YM, Tsai PS. Associations of breakfast skipping with obesity and health-related quality of life: evidence from a national survey in Taiwan. Int J Obes (Lond). 2010 Apr;34(4):720-5. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2009.285. Epub 2010 Jan 12.
  2. Farshchi HR, Taylor MA, Macdonald IA. Deleterious effects of omitting breakfast on insulin sensitivity and fasting lipid profiles in healthy lean women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Feb;81(2):388-96.
  3. Betts JA1, Richardson JD1, Chowdhury EA1, Holman GD1, Tsintzas K1, Thompson D1. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Aug;100(2):539-47. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.083402. Epub 2014 Jun 4. The causal role of breakfast in energy balance and health: a randomized controlled trial in lean adults.

pure3PureVitality Nutrition Concepts Pte Ltd is run by Karen, an accredited Nutritionist (ANutr, ASN) and Wellness Coach. She is also mum of twins, passionate about travel, sport, family health, and food!

PureVitality Nutrition Services provide nutritional advice and awareness through individual, child, family, and corporate coaching programs, and health talks to maximize health and well being. The key is to effectively empower individuals to develop healthy eating habits that support their goals in all areas of health, family planning and fitness for life. We help individuals and families create a healthy balance between food and life. Our mantra – “Welcome to Today. Another day, Another chance. Feel free to CHANGE!”

 

 

How to Inject More Excitement Into Your Business!

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(image via www.womenunlimitedworldwide.com)

We all want our businesses to be thought of as exciting, fresh and appealing. Unfortunately for small businesses, especially those with just one main person working behind the scenes, public image can become boring with repetitive marketing campaigns that lack sparkle and innovation.

Here’s a few ways to bring something new to your business:

 

1. Try different media

Video is the new black. If you haven’t started thinking about video content for your blog or social media, get thinking now!

Here’s a great article from The Guardian about video content for small business.

Check out the Will it Blend videos’s from Blendtec – a blender company created a viral marketing campaign starting in 2006, of very low production-cost videos in which they blend household objects. Cheap, creative and out of the box and this video has 11 million views!

 

2. Connect with communities out of your usual comfort zone

Ditch the networking evenings and join a dragon-boating group, an art class or a heritage walk. Connecting to new communities can not only help you reach new customers it also opens your mind to new opportunities, partnerships and ideas.

 

3.  Find people that excite and interest you

Mentors, influencers, inspirations: follow their blog, read their books, watch their speeches. Surrounding yourself with positivity and success stories keeps your mind open and engaged on your own journey. We need role models at all ages – this article from Psychology Today talks about the influence of role models on creating ethical leaders.

 

4. Go back to your WHY

Why did you start this business? Why do you love it? What’s your story?

Storytelling is a big buzz word these days, for good reason. People connect to stories and authenticity, they want to engage, hear more. They want to support someone they feel close to, especially over a cold, persona-less company.

 

5. Push your limits

Do something different, try new things, meet new people!. Switch up your schedule, work somewhere new, take a day off to go walking and thinking. Take a meditation class, have a massage, cook a new recipe. Invite someone you admire out for a coffee, swim in the ocean at 6am.

Check out this great article on Lifehacker about breaking out of your comfort zone:

“The point of stepping out of your comfort zone is to embrace new experiences and to get to that state of optimal anxiety in a controlled, managed way, not to stress yourself out. Take time to reflect on your experiences so you can reap the benefits and apply them to your day to day activities.”

 

 

It just takes a little bit of mixing things up, trying something new, to start changing thought patterns.

Schedule it into your week if you have to – just do it!