Julie Zeff is a mom, life coach, and yoga instructor who helps clients live balanced lives they love. Julie provides coaching to clients around the world via the phone. She also works from home and has firsthand experience striking a life-work balance. Visit Julie Zeff.com
May 2, 2011
Let’s talk for a minute about the “s” word – sleep? I remember a time when I’d just gotten back from a fabulous vacation with my husband. We spent three glorious days in New York City. It was some much needed time away from our kids. We lived life to its fullest while on vacation. And, unfortunately I didn’t come home feeling well rested at all.
The minute our plane landed I hit the ground running to prepare for a work interview, a new coaching group that I was starting up, editing my upcoming book, and organizing a birthday bash in my backyard for my daughters – complete with 85 guests, a jumpy house and Dorothy and Toto direct from Oz.
I was actually just as excited about all the things I had going on in my work life as I was about my New York trip, which was great. The bad part was that I stayed up way too late night after night working when I could have been sleeping.
Here’s what I started to notice in my life and body after a few days of staying up way too late. It got harder and harder to wake up in the morning. The sound of the girls fighting over who got to sit on the tall stool sounded like nails on a chalk board. I wanted to eat a chocolate brownie for breakfast (and lunch and dinner) for the sugar rush. The world around me seemed foggy. My body craved a nap from the moment I got up in the morning.
When I do get enough sleep I wake up excited for the day and feel really alive. I am strong and clear headed. I don’t crave sugar or junk food. I am more focused when I work. I smile and laugh a lot and I enjoy time with my kids and my husband. I’m energetic and just more fun to around.
Needless to say, I let my sleep patterns get way out of hand. I quickly realized I had to make some changes. I didn’t want to keep living a half-awake life. I committed to some solid, sleep-care even with a to-do list a mile long. And, you know what. I actually got it all done, had more focus and enjoyed my life more.
So, join me, this month, in exploring how your sleep choices and habits affect your life.
April 12, 2011
I work from home, so I love “going into the office.” I grab my water bottle, computer and phone and make my way out to my usually sunny and warm backyard (as I live in L.A.). I get comfy and then I’m ready to take calls from my life coaching clients. I love the work I do and could coach clients for hours on end (all over the phone).
What I absolutely dread, however, is invoicing my clients. It takes so much time and effort for me. And, I have to think about numbers. This is definitely not my strong suit.
We all have parts of our business and work/life that we dread. What do you dread in your work/life? What would be possible for you in your work/life if you could shift the dread to joy? The four relatively easy steps below will help you do just that – turn your work/life dread into work/life joy.
1. List all the things in your work/life that you dread on a daily weekly or monthly basis on one side of a sheet of paper.
2. On the other side shift your perspective and find an aspect of that task that brings you some joy or lights up your heart – even just a tiny bit. Here’s an example:
Dread: I have to send out invoices to clients.
Joy: I get to remind people of the amazing value that I offer them. I get to collect money for work I am passionate about. I’ll receive money to help me better live my life.
3. When you engage in that task repeat the “Joy Perspective” to yourself over and over even if it doesn’t quite feel totally true for you yet. Over time it will feel more and more natural.
4. Post up sticky notes with your “Joy Perspectives” on them everywhere. Post them in your fridge, in your glove compartment, on your computer screen, on your bedpost – any place that you will see them. Remind yourself often of the joy that is yours to have!
Have a great month. I’m off to joyfully (and thankfully) go invoice my clients.
llustrations by Jordan Awan
March 22, 2011
I bet you’re busy. Do you own your own business or work from home? Maybe you have a family or volunteer in your community. How’s that work-life balance coming along?
If you are like most of the people I know then you’d probably like to have more time for yourself in your busy life. I call this “Me Time” – you know, that time that replenishes you – that time that you carve out just for yourself to slow down or do something exciting and fun.
How much time do you spend on yourself each day? Where do you fall on your to-do list – at the top, in the middle or dead-last? Most people put themselves last and think that they can’t afford to make time for themselves. They think their work or family will suffer if they take time out of their busy schedules for themselves.
Actually it is just the opposite. The more rejuvenating time you carve out for yourself the more energy you’ll have to give to your work, family and anything else you choose. When you fill yourself up first you have exponentially more to give. Here are some Me Time tips to slip into your work-day.
1. Date. Make a date with yourself at least once a day. Go for a walk around the block, go for tea/coffee, sit on your front or back stoop for 5 minutes and watch the world go by. Get creative.
2. Connect. Call one friend/family member that you like to talk to during your drive home from work each day (or during your lunch break if you work from home – have a lunch date over the phone). This can be a great, structured way to stay connected. Or, email a friend/family member just for fun each day.
March 15, 2011
There is so much to celebrate. Spring is in the air. The snow is melting (if you live in one of those winter wonderlands). Buds are popping through the earth and the sun is shining more and more. I’ve been doing lots of celebrating myself lately! A few weeks ago I proudly put a copy of my completed book manuscript in an envelope to send to my editor to review. I’ve been working on it for nearly two years – since my youngest son was three months old. I wanted to share the coaching tools I use with my clients, with everyone.
It would have been so easy for me to put the manuscript in the envelope to my editor and to sit right back down at my computer to get crackin’ doing all the other work that is involved in the next steps of self-publishing the book. And, believe me, I had that impulse.
We are all conditioned to keep checking things off of our list, to keep plowing through – searching for that unattainable high we dream of when our list will be completely checked off, when we will be, finally, “done”. We rarely stop to celebrate what’s in the “now”.
February 18, 2011
If you are like people I know, then you have a to-do list a mile long. And, everything on that list feels like it’s of the utmost importance.
It is an unfortunate truth: your to-do list will actually never end. Even though you may never have a truly completed to-do list neatly crossed off you can have a list that feels doable and a lot less stressful.
Recently I was preparing to go on a much-needed vacation with my husband. Instead of becoming giddy and excited about the idea of a sweet romantic getaway for two, I was irritable, exhausted, and, quite honestly, resentful of my pre-vacation to-do list. This list was full of work to-dos, family to-dos, and vacation prep to-dos. I felt absolutely overwhelmed.
I realized that in order to gain clarity, and a better attitude, I had to re-invent my to-do list. I had to transform it into a helpful tool. I took charge of my to-do list in three easy steps.
1. Make a New List - Get cozy and quiet in a place that is different from where you usually make your lists or plan your days. Make this time and space different somehow. Take some deep breaths and let yourself slow down. Now, write a list of all of your responsibilities for the day or week. (Don’t forget to keep breathing while you write!)
2. Divide - Divide a separate piece of paper into two columns and label them: Must Do’s and Would Like to Do’s. Put the items from your list above into the appropriate column. Challenge yourself to place at least half (maybe even most) of the items from your initial list in the Would-Like-to-Do column. Closely examine what beliefs, patterns and resistance emerge. You may feel like everything belongs on the Must-Do side, but does it really? For example: If you believe that you must return every phone call or email on the same day you receive it, then challenge yourself. What would happen if one day most or even all of your emails or calls went unanswered? The world as you know it probably wouldn’t end. Get creative and let yourself think outside the box.
3. Conquer - Next, fold the paper in half and hide your Would-Like-to-Do items. Number the Must-Do items in order of importance. Then, go forth, and do the things on this shorter, more focused list. Don’t forget to celebrate what you achieve.
When I followed these steps myself, I realized that almost everything on my pre-vacation to-do list was really a Would-Like-to-Do item. There was very little that I actually had to complete before I went away. I had to make sure my most important work responsibilities were handled and that my kids were safe. Beyond that, I realized that even packing was optional! By focusing the list on only those things I absolutely had to achieve, I created for myself a new, more refreshing perspective and let go of my do-or-die to-do list. I took charge of my to-do list. Using the three simple steps above, you can too.
Illustrations by Jordan Awan.
February 8, 2011
Happy February! This is the month of love (thanks to Valentine’s Day)! Everywhere you’ll find hearts, cupids and other symbols of love. When I see hearts this time of year, I use them to remind me to take a deep breath and to feel my own heart. It is a sweet time – with reminders to feel love and gratitude everywhere.
And, although this is a month of love, there may still be times when disagreements pop with your partner. For Lifework readers think of those business relationships in your life. A boss. A co-worker.
You know those irksome topics in those relationships that just keep popping up over and over (and over) again? Those topics that you just can’t seem to resolve or see eye-to-eye on? These topics are like the moles in that Whack-a-Mole arcade game. You know that game where the moles keep popping up and no matter how hard you try – even if you think you’ve knocked ‘em down for good – they just pop right back up.
When tricky moles rear their head in your work life it can feel impossible to get rid of them. They may very well bring with them arguments and tension. There will always be things that you disagree with people on. The good news is that you can move from conflict to calm in those relationships by putting the 4 steps below to work.
4 Steps to Move from Conflict to Calm
Time Out: When that mole pops up instead of holding on tightly to your position and talking it to death, take some space to be silent and reflect. Take 30 minutes or even a day to not talk about the issue while getting clear on your perspective, as well as the other person’s.
Trust Yourself & Your Partner: Instead of assuming that one of you is wrong trust in the goodness each of you brings to the table. Try to see their point of view as just that – a point of view. Trust that each of you is wise in your own way and has a valid and important view to share.
Be Clear and Open: Create a space for the two of you to come back together (don’t forget to breathe). Share point of view clearly and openly. It is okay for you to both to have different points of view. Share your understanding of the other person’s position, too. Be open to change, compromise or even agreeing to disagree.
Design What’s Next Together: Literally say, “Now we must figure out how we are going to come together on this issue even though we disagree.” From there, talk about what each of you wants and what the common, middle ground would look like and feel like. Get creative here and find a solution that you both can live with, for now. Try it out and then redesign down the road if your first design didn’t work.
So rather than playing a game of “Whack-a-Mole” when the tough topics pop up, use these 4 steps to help you move from repeat conversations into a calm and collaborative space together.
January 25, 2011
Have you ever stopped to think about all of the things you rely on every day that you plug in – your computer, cell phone, printer, lights, TV, etc.? If they aren’t plugged in or recharged, then they just don’t have the energy to work.
Now think about all of the things that you are metaphorically plugged into in your work-life. Think of all the mental energy you devote to your work. Think of the various physical activities you engage in during the day. Step back even further, and think about your beliefs about yourself, the world, and the people in your life.
Are you plugged into the activities and thoughts that get you what you want, or are you wasting energy on things that lead to frustration and exhaustion? We all have a finite amount of plugs and energy.
Here are three ways to help you stop wasting your energy this month.
1. Unplug. Literally unplug your computer, cell phone, TV, lights and anything else electric that you use for 12-24 hours. Unplug metaphorically as much as you can from all the other things that get your energy and attention. Live simply. Use this time to explore what is most important to you. See what you miss. Create some quiet, introspective down time for yourself. Don’t forget to take some deep delicious breaths. If 12-24 hours seems too long then try it for just an hour or two.
2. Plug Back In. You are probably not going to choose to stay unplugged forever. So, when it’s time to plug back in, do it consciously. Think about what you want to plug back into or what you really missed. Use a rating scale if that helps you to think about each item, activity, thought or belief in your work-life. How important/helpful is it to you to plug back into ________? 0= least important, 10= most important. Plug back in to only the most important and energizing things first – the things you rated with a 9 or 10 and then see how many plugs and how much energy is left over/. Experiment and let some plugs hang loose.
3. Choose. Even when things seem daunting and impossible, remember that you have a choice. In any and every moment you can choose where you are going to put your attention and focus. Are you going to put it on thoughts or activities that deplete you or are you going to put it into the places that energize and enliven you? At any time you can unplug cords that are frayed or no longer serve you and you can plug in new ones or untangle old ones.
Here is an example from one of my clients:
For months Jeffrey was plagued by his messy home office. At times he felt like a failure for not making the time to clean it up. This month, he unplugged for a day and realized that he had a choice to plug into:
1. Beating himself up about his messy office.
2. Whole-heartedly choosing to keep his office messy, for now.
He decided to plug in to the mess – letting it be messy, instead of plugging into beating himself up about it the mess. What a refreshing shift! This freed up energy so he could focus on other tasks that were much more important to him.
What are you going to consciously unplug from and plug into this month? When you use your energy to plug into what is most important to you, you’ll stop wasting energy and may even have some extra left over to plug into you.
Illustrations by Jordan Awan
January 7, 2011
Every January 1st brings us a new year – a new beginning. The start of a new year is a time when many people set intentions for the year to come – intentions for work and intentions for life. Most of us are great at setting them but aren’t so great at seeing them through.
If after a couple of days, weeks, or months, you forget about your new year’s intentions and fall back into old patterns, then know that you are not alone. Follow-through is definitely the hard part for most of us.
Here are 5 tips that will help you create intentions that stick for your work-life.
Set Real-Time Intentions. Create intentions using language as if you are already living into your intention in this very moment. I am… instead of I will…
Set Specific Intentions. What exactly are you creating and intending for yourself? Get as specific as you can. Details are good and important.
Set Intention Reminders. Keep your intentions visible and top of mind. Stick them up on Post-It notes, or tape them over your desk. Move them around when you no longer notice them. Play music, read poems, find or create art, wear jewelry or use your calendar regularly to help remind yourself of them and to keep them alive.
Share Your Intentions. Share your intentions with others. Put your intentions out there into the world. Don’t just keep them to yourself. Share them with your partner and 3-5 friends or family members. You can even set up daily, weekly or monthly check-ins with them for more accountability. And, invite others to join you in the process of creating intentions that stick. Then, you can support each other.
Reach big! Don’t settle or sell yourself short. Really go for it. Go to that edge where you start to feel that nervous/excited feeling. (Butterflies often signal that you are at your edge). Stretch and challenge yourself and you will fly. If you can dream it, you can do it.
Setting intentions for your work-life that stick might be new for you or may even feel challenging at first. Give it a try! A year you love living is waiting for you. Don’t let those intentions get away. This year set work-life intentions that stick.
Illustration by Jordan Awan
December 24, 2010
The holidays can be a wonderful time to slow down at work, spend time with friends and family and to drink in all the joy and festivities of the season. It is also the perfect time to do a year-end ritual. As December turns into January something special–almost magical–happens. It’s as if a door to the old closes and new doors and opportunities invite us in. It is a time of hope, possibility, and fresh starts.
Even though it may seem challenging or even impossible to set aside an extra minute, this is exactly the right time to slow down, take deep breaths, reflect, dream and create. Below is a five-step ritual that will help you to say, “Goodbye!” to 2010 and say, “Hello!” to 2011 in a powerfully conscious way.
The year-end ritual below allows you to reflect on the past year and drink in the glorious memories and learnings from your professional and personal life. In a mere 15 minutes, this ritual gives you the precious gift of intentionally setting the stage for the year to come. It can be done alone, with your partner, with colleagues, or even with friends or family. It can also be a wonderful New Year’s Eve party activity. Or, carve out some deliciously sacred time and space for yourself, alone, to review the questions below.
Keep a copy of what you write down this year so that as 2011 unfolds you can reference your goals. And next December, take a look back; see how far you’ve come. Repeat this powerful and sacred ritual from year to year.
Everything and anything is possible for you. Let go of any self-limiting thoughts, beliefs, and old patterns and envision and create a 2011 that you absolutely love! The ritual below is just the beginning.
Year-End Review & Ritual
List your top 10 events/memories/moments from 2010.
What did you like least or what was the most challenging about 2010?
What have you learned in 2010 that you want to remember in 2011 and beyond?
Imagine it is December 2011. Write a list of at least three breakthroughs, wins and/or accomplishments as if they have already happened or occur regularly. Get as specific as you can.
Give 2011 a two or three word name that reflects a theme, what you anticipate, or plan to create in the upcoming year.
Illustrations by Jordan Awan
December 14, 2010
Jealousy. We all experience it. That wish for someone else’s work-life. Instead of spending time and energy coveting someone else’s job and all the trappings that come with it, let’s focus on reaching for the things that enliven you. This is the season for shopping so put your career on your holiday shopping list. Here’s a way to shop for a work-life you’ll love.
Name it Window shop all you want – give yourself full permission – you probably do it anyway. You might as well enjoy it or use it to help you get what you want in your life. Get curious about others who have something in their lives that you want more of. Name it! Get specific. What do you want more of in your work-life?
Work Truth When you think about what you are coveting in someone else’s work-life see what excites you and enlivens you. Now, take the attention off the other person and bring it back to you. Is this something that you’d really like to have in your life? Does it bring you joy, excitement or peace when you imagine having it yourself? If so, great. Then head to the next step. Don’t just stop here.
Choose It, Create It, Visualize It You too can have what you thought looked fabulous in the window. What can you do today, next week and next month to choose and create an energy, environment or situation for yourself that will help you get what you desire? What are you willing to change and do differently to get what you want? If you really want it, you absolutely can choose it and then create it. Visualize yourself having, doing, and being it!
Fears Aside Keep moving your fears, doubts or negative self-talk aside. They are just there to keep you feeling miserable, jealous, like a failure or ineffectual. Their job is to keep you away from living a life you love. Send them to the moon, put them in a box, bury them or just ignore them and keep enjoying that window shopping.