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!)


TED Talk Inspiration: Nigel Marsh

Work-life balance is always a struggle for almost everyone. Nigel Marsh gives us the reality of working your way towards a well-balanced family, work and personal life.

“Now my point is the small things matter. Being more balanced doesn’t mean dramatic upheaval in your life. With the smallest investment in the right places, you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life.“

HuffPost: Holiday Tips From 12 Women in Tech and Female Entrepreneurs From Silicon Valley

Great article from Caitlin Robertson at HuffPost on work-life balance, with great perspectives from different female entrepreneurs.

Especially liked this quote attributed to Joel Peterson of jetBlue:

“…life is not about daily balance, but episodic balance. The key is not expecting to have a perfectly balanced day, seven days a week — but to recognize that for some periods you will necessarily over-index on work, some on family, some on other responsibilities in your life that you choose, and perhaps some on others that you don’t. I interpreted these words of wisdom to mean that the goal is to achieve balance over the long-haul, recognizing when it’s time to shift in order to not lose the possibility for balance altogether.”

Read the article here.

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Switch off this Holiday Season

The holiday season is the perfect excuse to press the pause button on work and make time for the people who matter and for personal pursuits. It’s time to refocus, reflect and make resolutions to make work and life better next year.

Plus, switching off is good for your health! Taking a break from your laptop, forgetting about your inbox and concentrating on the people and things around you that matter the most is good for your brain (you’ll sleep better) and great for your relationships.

There are a few things you can do to help you switch off this holiday season:


Just because you’re on holiday doesn’t mean you let work pile up or gather dust. You can set things on the right schedule to carry on just as if you were there:

  • Schedule blog posts: Automate your blog articles and posts for social media.
  • Fix up your auto responders: Compose your automatic email replies so people who try to get in touch with you through email will know why you aren’t answering back. You can also direct them to links that they need or where they can find the information they want.
  • Activate your online payment channels: Paying for your bills? There’s no need to line up in person at the bank if you activate your online payment portals to settle credit cards, life insurance payments, etc.

Catch Up on Old and New Hobbies

The gift of time is what the holidays bring, and this is the perfect opportunity for some catching up on simple pursuits:

  • Read (and finish) a book: Last month The Guardian released their awesome annual list of author-recommended reads for the year. Some great finds and offbeat recommendations here.
  • Listen to a Podcast: Podcasts are like a return to the days of radio shows. Great for road trips or long plane or train rides, it’s like having a bedtime story read to you! This American Life  is a fantastic podcast series that blends storytelling and documentary. Their new spin-off called Serial was recently released to rave reviews – it’s a true life crime series and is very addictive.

Build Good Habits for the New Year

There’s time to laze around but there’s also time to (slowly) make good and lasting habits that will allow you to face the New Year with more energy and alertness. And that is a great gift you can give yourself.

  • Hit the gym or go for a run: Don’t wait until after the New Year to make your noble attempts at fitness. If you start now, you’ll simply be continuing a new habit when the New Year rolls in.
  • Focus on nutrition: A couple of days of too much wine and food is normal (expected even!) but a couple of weeks of it and the New Year begins slower and heavier. Kickstart the year with a diet of whole foods, good fats and lots of protein.

Taking a break from daily routines and from the stress of your inbox these holidays will definitely help you to focus on what is important – your mental, physical, emotional and social well being and your relationships with your loved ones. By the time the year comes to a close, you’ll be recharged and re-energized to welcome a productive year ahead!

5 Great Reasons to Consider Coworking

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Working from home is convenient for some, but it can also be isolating and unproductive. Working from that new coffee shop down the road from your house may be tempting, but cafes can be just as distracting, bad for the waistline and expensive!

So what’s the best option for getting rid of that feeling of isolation but still maintaining the passion and focus in your work? Try coworking!


The piped-in music of your local coffee shop may be too loud, or worse, they could be playing Lady Gaga’s songs when you need something a little more gentle. Coffee shops can be distracting depending on the number of customers during the day. And just an FYI, many coworking spaces offer unlimited awesome coffee. You can have that caffeine fix for free!


You can gain an instant support network. Coworking spaces are the perfect place to find talented people with the same passion as you. You can catch a great advice or a creative solution from someone while you are pouring yourself a coffee in the kitchen. Also, working beside passionate, like-minded and hardworking people will push you to work harder.


Coworking spaces are fertile grounds for new and better opportunities. There is a raw potential for teamwork, you can get significant referrals or find ways to collaborate with members in the same field. You may even find your next business investor or potential client seated right beside you.


Most coworking spaces have a relaxed, open office style. Everything you need to be productive is all under one roof. They have facilities like meeting areas, kitchen, business tools as well as lockers. Professional meeting areas can create a good impression on your current or potential clients.

Expand your Horizons

The people in your coworking office may have encountered the same challenges as you. You can learn new techniques or solutions, while also passing on knowledge yourself. This give and take of information can be immensely helpful, especially in the start-up world, and it sure beats sitting at home alone trying to google solutions! Coworking spaces also host seminars or workshops that are beneficial to the members. Attend these events and discover unlimited professional development opportunities.

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There are times that you really want to work solo. Of course, you can always work on your own – headphones are a coworkers best friend in that situation. Using a coworking space allows you to separate your work from your home life and gives you a place to be productive as well as be driven by camaraderie. The dynamic community in a coworking space can support and inspire you to excel more in your business.

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Of course we think our coworking space, Woolf Works, is the best! We are a women-only space located in an old shophouse on Joo Chiat Rd. Our community includes writers, entrepreneurs, photographers and consultants. Come for a visit and see for yourself! Check out the website and get in touch at info@woolfworks.sg