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!)

Jumpstart Magazine: Coworking for Women in Singapore

This article was written by Woolf Works founder, Michaela Anchan and was originally published in Jumpstart Magazine.

 

Like Hong Kong, Singapore is a major hub for expat workers and the city consequentially finds itself a hub for their accompanying spouses. Often these spouses have left high powered jobs and rewarding careers themselves, to allow their partner to take up a dream international posting.

The role of the depressingly named, ‘trailing spouse’, can be a blessing and a curse. For many, it’s a chance for reinvention: to study, start a family, take up freelance work or volunteer in the region. For others it’s a catapult into a world of lost identity, homesickness and complete isolation. For a third group it’s a time stretch some entrepreneurial wings and to take advantage of Singapore’s relatively transparent business laws, steady economy and high disposable income levels.

Women-led start-ups are thriving across the world as the growth of digital technology fuels new business models and flexible work environments. Mothers can especially benefit from being able to reenter the business world on their own terms, outside the box of 9-5 corporate life.

Coworking spaces are booming across Asia and the world, as this new work era demands flexible workplaces and fluid community interactions. In Singapore we have workspaces for social entrepreneurs, high powered small business teams, artists, designers and tech start-ups. Woolf Works is a coworking space for women.

The coworking model is ideal for women who are often struggling with the balance between raising a family and growing a business. The idea of home businesses run by ‘mum-preneurs’ is inherently fraught – the home is a minefield of distractions and it can be impossible to be mentally engaged completely in the business. Working from a coworking space allows a real mental switch off between work and home, resulting in more productive work hours. It also helps against the dreadful isolation and ‘sameness’ of working alone at the kitchen table every day.

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Woolf Works aims to help women put themselves and their business first. We found that women, and especially mothers of small children, habitually put themselves and the needs of their business way behind the needs of other family members. Working from home really adds to this and Woolf Works aim is to provide a space where women can focus one hundred percent on their business. To achieve this we focus on three essentials for our members:

– A calm, quiet office in which to work productively
– A community of supportive, professional women
– Business opportunities within our network

Our members are a mix of freelance editors and writers, remote corporate workers, and small business owners. We have a range of women from a diverse number of industries. A few examples of the interesting businesses who use our space include:

Woomentum is a global crowdsourcing platform for women entrepreneurs to access business advice, mentorship and funding. Woomentum aims to be the most community-focused knowledge and experience-sharing platform for women in Asia and globally; as well as being the largest reward based crowdfunding platform in Asia, providing women with access to critical capital, particularly at the early stage of their businesses.

Attaby is a three year old fashion design label. Attaby clothing is feminine, easy to wear and designed with the Singapore climate in mind. Attaby clothing is sold globally through their e-commerce platform.

Tekkie Help is a family run business which focuses on getting people’s technology working how they want it to, both at home and at work. They have a growing team of tech specialists and are exploring moving into other markets in the region.

We also have a growing group of writers in our midst, both doing journalistic writing and fiction writing. One of our members, Shasta Grant, recently won a US Short Story competition, which was judged by acclaimed author Ann Patchett.

The role of ‘trailing spouse’ can be lonely and unfulfilling. Coworking spaces for women can provide community and support to expatriate women as well as networks and business opportunities. Woolf Works’ bigger vision is to provide space and community for all women who want to prioritize themselves and their business outside of their role as a parent and a partner.

 

 

Herstory: Mary Ellen Mark – Through the Lens of a Talented Photographer

American photographer Mary Ellen Mark’s successful career in the world of advertising photography, portraiture and photojournalism was one to be admired and emulated. She has exhibited in both museums and galleries around the world, was the recipient of numerous awards and fellows, and is proof that photography knows no gender.

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Image courtesy of imgkid.com

Born in Philadelphia on March 20, 1940, Mary Ellen Mark ventured into photography using a Box Brownie camera at nine years old. Mary Ellen obtained her BFA degree in art history and painting in 1962 from the University of Pennsylvania. Two years later, she would receive her Master’s Degree in photojournalism in the same university under the Annenberg School for Communication. A year later, she began her travels to Turkey, Germany, Greece, England, Spain and Italy to photograph, thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship.

Capturing Poignant Images of the 60s and 70s

Mary Ellen Mark was also well known for her moving pictures of countless socio-political issues and demonstrations in the late sixties and early seventies. A move to New York (which would also serve as her home until the time of her death) in 1967 saw her documenting images of demonstrations in relation to the women’s liberation movement, the Vietnam War opposition, transvestite culture and more. She gravitated towards the raw and troubled side of photojournalism – far from mainstream society and well into significant social issues.

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Mary Ellen Mark, 1975 – Image courtesy of flickriver.com

Through her photography, she shone the spotlight on issues such as prostitution, homelessness, drug addiction, mental illness and loneliness, among others. Her aim in focusing on such subjects was to show their way of living to those who were in the best position to reach out or at the very least acknowledge that they exist.

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This prostitute is a transvestite; Falkland Road, Bombay, India – 1978 – Image courtesy of http://www.maryellenmark.com/

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Ward 81, Oregon State Hospital, Salem, Oregon, 1976 – Image courtesy of http://www.maryellenmark.com/

From Photos to Film

Some of her work was also translated into film; her “Street Kids” project eventually turned into the movie Streetwise. In the seventies and onwards, she dabbled into unit photography. She was involved in more than a hundred known films such as Alice’s Restaurant (1969), Catch-22 (1970), Carnal Knowledge (1971), Apocalypse Now (1979), to name a few. In the early nineties, Mary Ellen Mark also became an associate producer, still photographer and a writer for the film American Heart, which starred Edward Furlong and Jeff Bridges and was directed by Martin Bell, her husband.

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In a settlement camp near New Delhi, one of the daughters of Waris (monkey trainers) plays with the animals that provide the family’s living and exist almost as members of the family. (1981) – Image courtesy of http://www.maryellenmark.com/

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“Rat” and Mike with a gun, Seattle, Washington, 1983 – Image courtesy of http://www.theguardian.com/

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The Damm (homeless) family in their car, Los Angeles, California, 1987 – Image courtesy of http://www.theguardian.com/

Mary Ellen Mark also went on to publish a total of 17 photography books, contribute to popular publications such as Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Life and The New Yorker, and even became a guest juror for entries submitted to The Center for Fine Art Photography.

It was a very busy and full life filled with active involvement in the world of photography, film and the media for someone like Mary Ellen Mark. Her powerful and moving photographs serve as an example of brilliant photography that not only captures beautiful subjects but also brings to the forefront issues that continue to plague our society today. On May 25, 2015, she passed away due to myelodysplastic syndrome at the age of 75 in her hometown of Manhattan.

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Image courtesy of imgbuddy.com

For more of her renowned works, please visit https://www.pinterest.com/source/maryellenmark.com/

 

What is co-working, anyway?

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What is co-working? Co-working spaces are shared offices.

Many co-working spaces are focused on collaboration, community, and innovation. Some are run more like traditional co-ops than businesses, with members playing a large part in day-to-day operations, while others are run purely as real estate and are usually called serviced offices.

The term ‘co-working’ was first used in 1999 by a man called Brian DeKoven to describe as ‘a method that would facilitate collaborative work and business meetings, coordinated by computers.’ The first few spaces opened in the US and Europe around 2004-2005 and the movement began to pick up steam around 2008. In Asia, it was only around 2011 that spaces started to open. Today in Singapore, there are a lot to choose from, catering to a variety of niches.

Woolf Works JooChiat was opened in mid 2014. We provide a relaxed work space for women who are currently underachieving in their home office and need a new space and a community to help drive productive work and new business opportunities.

We follow the five co-working values that were put together by the international co-working community a few years back:

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Collaboration

The co-working community works best in an environment of trust and openness. We collaborate and support each other where we can, with a basis of trust and respect.

Openness

We believe in transparency and the freedom of ideas, both within the space and with the space itself – open-plan working and the freedom to play around with things as you like.

Community

Us. The people of the space. Learning together, supporting each other, playing, and celebrating together.

Accessibility

We are accessible to all women, all strata of business, and all stages of life.

Sustainability

Our space is environmentally conscious and responsible. Our community is respectful and authentic with each other.

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One of the biggest struggles women (especially mothers) who work from home face is the balance between work and life. Mums working from home often find themselves only giving 50% to both the business and the kids, as they can’t focus on either. By setting clear work hours and leaving the house to work in a co-working space, boundaries are established; this allow women to be 100% business owners and then go home and be 100% mothers.

Working from home can also be lonely and pretty uninspiring. Working from Woolf Works means being surrounded by like-minded women to chat with over coffee, to collaborate with and to refer business to. Our member lunches and social evenings give members the chance to bond and discover deeper ways to connect.

At Woolf Works, we want women to value themselves and their work. We found too many women putting their needs and aspirations behind the rest of the family’s needs. We see co-working as a tool to push women into making themselves top priority and aim to be a hub for women who are passionate about reaching their goals.

This digital age is creating a seismic shift in the way we work. The 9-5 PM corporate job in the CBD is being replaced by flexi-workers who are defining their own times and working on their own terms. Entrepreneurship is booming and the connectivity and flexibility that technology provides us means co-working has a clear place in the future of work spaces.

 

This article was written by Michaela Anchan, the founder of Woolf Works and was featured in  Executive Lifestyle.