Category Archives: Balance

Trust Your Intuition

by Gail Z. Martin excerpted from Fresh Start Success: Reimagine Your Work, Reinvent Your Life, Re-Ignite Your Passion

Do you trust your intuition, or work strictly by the numbers? Most entrepreneurs are data-driven to a point but admit to taking a cue from gut feelings when data alone is inconclusive.

Science has shown that intuition isn’t as mystical as we may have thought. Experts in micro-expressions—small facial movements—have studied the way those movements signal truthfulness, avoidance, and intentions. We’re told that the vast majority of communication happens, not through spoken language, but through our body language. Some people are naturally gifted in picking up on those nonverbal cues and seem to have an uncanny ability to “read” people accurately. To the extent that these elements factor into what we consider “intuition,” there’s a scientific validation for those on-target “hunches.”

Some of what we chalk up to intuition also comes from experience. For example, if you’ve had a bad experience with someone, the next time you encounter a similar situation, you’ll probably hear mental warning bells. That’s the benefit of graduating from the school of hard knocks. Are there other unexplained, perhaps unexplainable, aspects involved in intuition? Who knows? What matters is whether your gut feelings and hunches are right more often than they’re wrong.

As you’re creating your Fresh Start Success, trust your intuition and your due diligence. Numbers alone may steer you toward a career path that just doesn’t sit right with something inside you. Go with your gut. If you’re uneasy with a course of action, that’s a signal to step back and re-evaluate. On some level, you’ve realized there is a problem. Don’t allow people or circumstances to force your hand until you’ve figured out why you felt uneasy. Charting a new course for yourself is full of risks. Consider your intuition to be a form of internal radar to help you watch for hidden dangers and find a safe path.

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Social Media and PR

by Gail Z. Martin excerpted from 30 Days to Social Media Success

Social media has blurred the lines between public relations (PR) and online marketing. It also created a powerful tool for business owners, professionals and authors to reach global audiences and create “viral” buzz in ways that could only be dreamed about by the large advertising agencies of past decades.

While there are some ways in which PR and social media can reinforce each other, there are also distinct differences, and a wise self-promoter will respect the distinctions.

A quick PR primer

Public relations is the art of getting free publicity, usually through coverage in traditional media such as newspapers/magazines, TV and radio. With the growth of the Internet, that field of possibilities has expanded to include the online versions of newspapers and magazines, video sites like YouTube, and both podcasts and online radio shows like those offered by Blog Talk Radio.

The workhorse of traditional PR is the press release, which even in the Internet age remains much the same. The standard format looks like this:


CONTACT:             (Your name and email or phone here)

Catchy Headline With Good Keywords

City, State: Compelling first sentence with top keywords and action verbs and one or two more short sentences that cover who, what, when, where, and why we should care.

Second short paragraph (one to three sentences) that provide background and context.

Third short paragraph (one to three sentences) that includes a one-line recap of your company and what it does and for whom, plus email, web site and phone.

That’s it—nothing mysterious or esoteric about it, but that deceptively little document will showcase your skill in making editors and readers care about what you’re offering.

One of the biggest changes the Internet has made to public relations is the ability for regular folks who aren’t reporters to find their own news online without the media middlemen. Most people today will run a Google search on a topic rather than wait for tomorrow’s newspaper, next month’s magazine or the 6 o’clock evening news. Online news sites operate 24/7, creating an insatiable demand for news that relies on a steady stream of good story leads from publicists and press releases.

On one hand, that means your news has never been needed as much by news sites as it is today. On the other hand, it means there is an incredible amount of clutter your release must rise above in order to be noticed.

The many new faces of news

Pre-Internet, it was easy to find reporters because they worked for newspapers, magazines, TV or radio. Today, blogs and social media sites have created the rise of the citizen journalist, people who report or comment on topics without formal training or a job with a media outlet. Some sites are private rants, while others show good reportorial skill and a true newshound’s nose for a story. In recent years, bloggers have broken major stories ahead of big newspapers.

News reporting has begun to embrace and cultivate the citizen journalist by providing ways for people to upload their own on-the-scene videos, cell phone photos and reports (for example, CNN). The ability to text, Tweet and photograph via cell phone from a scene with breaking news means that the average person who is in the right place at the right time stands a good chance of being the lead story on the news.

The rise of the citizen journalist coupled with decreasing ad revenue and declining subscriptions has led to the surviving newspapers and magazines cutting back on some sections of coverage. Book reviews are a good example of this trend, and a place where social media sites have more than filled the gap, providing more outlets for coverage than ever before.

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Protect Your Brand: Easy Hands-On Ways to Manage Your Online Reputation

by Gail Z. Martin

I’ve talked about the networking value of recommendations on LinkedIn.  Gathering online recommendations via LinkedIn is also a way to solidify your online branding and actively manage your reputation.  Don’t be shy about asking former co-workers, bosses, colleagues and clients to provide a recommendation if you had a positive working experience with them.  That’s part of the LinkedIn culture.  You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of recommendations for your current role, but you may want to also actively seek out recommendations for prior roles to bolster your credibility and show the depth of your expertise. is similar in some ways to LinkedIn (extensive profile, forums, online networking), but it goes further to help you actively manage your brand and reputation.  Naymz has what it calls a “RepScore Ecosystem” where you aren’t just asking for a recommendation from former colleagues and clients; you’re asking for them to provide anonymous feedback on your honesty and ethics.  Naymz also has its own “Reputation Monitor” to provide you with yet another stream of information regarding what’s been said about you online.  Naymz also lets you know when your profile has been visited, although it does not tell you who checked you out.

What happens when a negative comment is posted on a ratings site and you can’t get it removed or retracted, but it’s not serious enough to sue for defamation?  One tactic is to make the comment more difficult to find by increasing the searchability of other, more positive content.  The Internet favors recent and highly targeted information, rewarding it by pushing it to the top of the search results.  This pushes older content off the first pages of results, and few searchers bother to go more than one or two pages deep.

How do you do this?  One tactic is to ask your clients and professional friends to add ratings of their own (you don’t have to disclose the reason behind your timing for the request).  You can spiff up your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on your most relevant sites, like your home page and your blog, assuring that they jump to the top of the search results.  Or, you can hire a PR agency or reputation management firm to make positive posts on your behalf on a large enough number of sites that the sheer volume of new positive mentions pushes old copy off the first page of search results.

Use this last tactic (hired guns) with caution.  Mobilizing actual clients, friends and even family to post genuine testimonials or positive reviews is still authentic and organic, even if you reminded them to do so.  (Never offer rewards in exchange for positive comments.)  Hiring people to manufacture testimonials is unethical, and you’ll be found out eventually, which will send your online reputation plummeting.  If you do decide to use a publicist, a better tactic would be to post a wealth of factual, but positive, information (such as verifiable high satisfaction ratings or award announcements) or repeat testimonials or positive reviews from legitimate clients and reviewers.  Just creating a blizzard of new, positive, highly relevant and keyword-optimized informative posts can go far to push down a negative review.

Yet another reputation management tactic involves making it difficult for anyone to create a profile or Web site using your name or products by claiming them yourself.  Some people make it a practice to buy up all of the domain names available for their own name or their products, such as the .biz, .tv and other domain suffixes.  This keeps cyber-squatters from purchasing these domains and attempting to sell them back to you later at an inflated cost, or using them to create fake sites purporting to be from you.  If you consider this tactic, remember that you’ll have to pay domain registration fees annually, so buying up dozens of URLs that you never intend to use can get expensive.

If you don’t have the time to actively monitor and manage your reputation, there are companies that will do it for you.  Some of these specialize in particular industries, such as hospitality or construction, while others serve a variety of business types.  Services range from monitoring and reporting to assistance in handling complaints or dealing with malicious comments.  Fees vary according to the services provided.  If you decide to use a monitoring and response agency, do your homework before making a commitment, and check out the reputation of the company online before hiring them to work on your behalf.  Some reputation management companies have been caught using unethical strong arm techniques against people who have posted legitimate complaints that were well within their constitutional rights.  There’s a big different between hiring someone to help you keep an eye on what’s being said and employing cyber goons to intimidate or harass consumers who have merely stated their opinions.              The best way to protect your online reputation is to always deal ethically, both online and offline.  Keep your word, don’t overly hype your products, and deliver what you promise.  If something goes wrong, do everything you can to make the situation right.  You’re far better off putting effort into delighting customers and running a clean operation than to invest resources into cleaning up avoidable messes or attempting a cover-up.  Nothing stays hidden for long in today’s online society.  Honesty (and vigilance) are your best online reputation management tools.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Z. Martin


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Online Customer Reviews: Harness the Power of Yelp and Amazon to Grow Your Business

While directories like Yelp permit customers to add comments, there are also plenty of other sites that specialize in reviews.  These include dedicated review sites like, which covers a wide array of consumer products, and more specialized sites reviewing movies, books, camera equipment and other niche interests.  As newspapers and magazines have cut “soft” news, such as reviews, online sites have sprung up to fill the gap.  Some of these sites, such as, are from a well-known expert (in this case, Chicago Sun Times long-time movie reviewer Roger Ebert), but many are written by citizen-journalists out of a passion for the subject.

Love reading?  You can start with reviews posted by readers on, and even read best-of lists compiled by other Amazon users.  But if you want to go deeper, you’ll find dozens—perhaps hundreds—of blogs and review sites in your favorite genre or non-fiction topic dedicated to book reviews.  In many cases, the reviews are the opinion of the site owner and will be colored by their personal likes and dislikes (which is part of the charm for readers).  In other cases, the review site will recruit reviewers who agree to submit reviews according to the site’s guidelines.

You’ll find review sites for cameras, camping equipment, board games, computer peripherals, video games, luggage, sound equipment—just about every hobby under the sun.  Some sites have only a few hundred readers, but more established sites can get millions of hits from a legion of dedicated readers who turn there first for information.  So, how do you get included?

Begin by reading the site carefully.  Many sites explain how they acquire the items they review.  In some cases, reviewers speak solely from their own experience with items they buy and use themselves (you’ll find this true for many book review sites, for example).  Other sites have a policy for receiving free samples from companies, and will disclose that the items were sent free of charge instead of purchased.  Big review sites (such as have a budget to purchase items for review, to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.

Next, read the reviews to determine the personality of the reviewer.  Some reviewers try hard to be impartial, citing both the positives and negatives.  Others enjoy trashing everything, or take a very snarky tone.  That’s part of their personality and it draws their loyal readers, but it may not be a good fit for your product.  Know what you’re getting into before you try to place your product with a reviewer.

Follow the site’s guidelines for requesting a product review.  They may want you to query first before sending the actual item.  Some sites will review certain types of products only on a seasonal basis, or may have designated months for different categories of items.  If so, their guidelines will tell you how far in advance to submit your request and/or items to be considered for a review.

Should you only shoot for reviews from large sites?  Not necessarily.  Smaller sites, blogs and social media review pages may not have millions of readers, but they probably do have a loyal core of followers who could be valuable early adopters and spark buzz.  These sites are usually more approachable than some of the very large review pages, and may provide quicker turnaround.  Treat every reviewer with respect regardless of the site of his or her following, and be sure to follow their guidelines to the letter.

Realize that when you submit your product for review, you agree to accept whatever they post.  Reviewers are not required to like your product just because you sent it to them for free.  Even a positive review may include some criticism just to be balanced.  It’s also possible that a reviewer may write a negative review, especially when the review is highly subjective, such as reviews on books, restaurants, food items, and other products dependent on the user’s tastes.  You can’t demand that a negative review be withdrawn unless it is truly vulgar and profane or meets the legal definition of slander, which can be difficult to apply given the protection afforded to journalists, even for unpopular comments.  Where user comments on a directory might be removed by the site administrators, when you’re dealing with a review site, you’re usually dealing with the owner whose “product” opinion.  That’s why it’s so important to assess the personality of a reviewer before submitting items for review.

Getting a great review online can provide tremendous visibility to consumers who might not otherwise have become aware of your product or service.  Excerpts from great reviews can also be quoted in praise of your product, and links to positive reviews can be posted on your site.  (Never copy the entire review without the writer’s permission, since reviews have copyright protection.)  While there is some time and effort involved in compiling a list of relevant reviewers and sending off items for review, you can receive tremendous promotional value for a relatively small investment in time and shipping costs—a truly productive way to market your company!

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Z. Martin

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Online Review Sites: The Power of Word Of Mouth with Yelp and Citysearch

Productivity is all about getting more results from the time or money invested.  Promotion is one of the areas where businesses look to increase their productivity; in other words, to get more bang for their buck.  Online reviews and directories are yet another tool businesses can use to get their name out in front of more potential consumers and reach them during their decision process, when prospects are actively planning a purchase.

Many people remember when there was only one directory: the phone book.  As a growing number of consumers migrate to cell phones instead of land lines, phone books have become less valuable, both to businesses looking to be found in their pages, and to telemarketers using them as a way to cold call.  But with the rise of the Internet, a new breed of directory has taken hold, a hybrid of the old phone book category listing crossed with a dynamic, interactive social media tool where consumers can provide feedback to merchants and communicate among themselves.

Yelp, Yahoo! Local, and Citysearch are three of the most popular online directories.  They include a wide variety of business types, ranging from products to services to hospitality/entertainment, combining basic information such as company name, address and phone number with the option for customers to add comments.  The company information may have been added by a consumer, or by the company itself.  Categories are rarely an exhaustive listing of every business in that service type (but then again, the old phone directories only included companies willing to pay for an ad).

Most directory sites create their basic content in two ways: collecting publicly available information from other published sources, and allowing users to add sites live online.  This means that your business may already be out there, so it’s a good reason to Google your company on a regular basis to see where you’re showing up and to make sure that your basic information (address, contact information, category) is correct.  You may have also been added by a recent customer, or by a helpful bystander who knew about your firm and wanted to make the listing more complete.  You can also add your own company, and there are some strong reasons why you should consider doing so, if you’re not already out there.

The first reason for making sure you’re represented in online directories has to do with consumers’ preferences.  Today’s consumers turn to online sources for information gathering far more often than they pick up a printed directory of any kind.  Online information is believed to be more accurate because it can be frequently updated than a printed document.  Obviously, this isn’t always the case (incorrect information can be posted just as easily as accurate information, and sites don’t always get updated as frequently as they should be).  In general, though, consumers have had good luck finding the information they’re looking for online, so they come back again when they need to search for something else. Most directories for the general public (i.e. not a membership directory for an organization) list companies for free, because they want users to add content.  If your company isn’t in the directory, consumers in a hurry may not bother to look further, and you lose out.

The second reason for being in online directories is word of mouth.  Consumers have always trusted what other “real” people say about a business more than they trust paid advertising.  Before the Internet, those conversations took place over the back yard fence, in the line at the grocery store, or at social events.  Now, consumers like to read reviews posted by other customers before making a choice to buy.  They’re not only interested in the quality of the product; they also want to know about the quality of the customer service provided by the merchant.

The third reason for being in online directories is search-ability.  Every time your company appears online, it helps to boost your search engine results.  The more people are talking about your company and the more places it appears online, the higher the search engines place it in their results pages.  Being present online pays off, not just in being visible on an individual directory site, but also through the secondary boost every online mention gives to your Google results.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Z. Martin


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Lucille Ball, Ann Romano and Sheryl Sandberg: What I Learned from my TV Moms and Facebook’s CEO

By Gail Z. Martin

Thanks to Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, the headlines have revisited one of my least favorite memories of the 1990s—the “mommy wars.”

Back in the 1990s, when Nirvana was climbing the charts and Wolf Blitzer was the “scud stud” of the first Iraq war, pundits prattled on about the so-called “mommy wars” between working moms and stay-at-home moms.  It was a take-no-prisoners battle that left everyone with battle wounds.  After twenty some years, I thought we might have reached a truce.

Then comes Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead”, and it reminded me that we’ve still got some battles to fight.  And as I thought about it, I realized how my views on being a working mom were formed long before I was an adult—sitting in front of my living room TV.

Do you remember Lucille Ball?  Whether you saw the re-runs of “I Love Lucy” or “Here’s Lucy” or “The Lucy Show”, she was a fixture on TV throughout the 1960s and 1970s.  And while some of the early episodes now appear quaint in their fixed gender roles, (“Lucy, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do!), I remember how in her later shows, she played Lucy Charmichael (and later, Lucy Carter), a single working mom facing all kinds of workplace dilemmas.  I laughed at her problems with Mr. Mooney, her demanding boss, but oddly enough, more than a decade later, Mr. Mooney could have sat down for a cocktail with Dabney Coleman’s despicable boss character in the movie “9 to 5” and they would have been soul mates.  Things hadn’t changed all that much.

Lucy’s characters overcame workplace discrimination, overly demanding bosses, and people who underestimated her abilities, all while juggling the demands of motherhood.  And what did I, as an impressionable youngster, take away from that?  I learned that the workplace wasn’t a friendly place for women (especially mothers), but that humor, persistence and a good network of friends could get you through anything.

Fast forward to the 1980s, when actress Bonnie Franklin played Ann Romano, taking it “One Day at a Time.”  The workplace hadn’t gotten any friendlier for women, or mothers, but now women at least had a broader variety of jobs in which they could deal with the vicissitudes of life.  Where Lucy was a secretary and then worked in an employment agency run by a family member, Ann was an account executive at an ad agency—a step up toward management.

Ann Romano tackled much more serious issues than Lucy Charmicael, including divorce, suicide and harassment.  Where Lucy had coquettish humor and an old-school tendency to be sneaky, Ann had attitude and a willingness to take things head-on, but she still fell back on the loyal support of family and friends.  I learned that it still wasn’t smooth going for women (or mothers), and that there were times when humor wasn’t enough and you had to take a stand.

Which is why I find the reactions to the new “Lean In” book by Sheryl Sandberg so interesting.  The book appears to mean something different to everyone who reads it, depending on where the reader is in her career and what cultural baggage each reader is dragging along with her.  Sadly, some of the workplace situations (non family-friendly company policies) are ones that Lucy and Ann might have recognized, while others (too few women on corporate boards of directors) are what Twitter would deem “first world problems”—in other words, problems that you have once you’ve reached a fairly high level of advancement.  Interestingly, Sandberg’s prescription is for women to “lean in” and invest themselves in creating change rather than fleeing the corporate world.

Funny, but I think Lucy and Ann—and those of us who had mothers in the post-War period who worked outside the home—already knew a lot about “leaning.”  Here’s what Lucille Ball said: Luck? I don’t know anything about luck. I’ve never banked on it and I’m afraid of people who do. Luck to me is something else: Hard work – and realizing what is opportunity and what isn’t.”
What does this have to do with marketing?  I believe that today’s under-40 workers, having grown up with moms like Ann Romano, and having seen their struggle, want more from their work life.  That’s especially true for workers in their 20s and 30s, who are among the most entrepreneurial young workers we’ve seen a long time.  To keep them, you’ve got to create a workplace where “leaning in” is expected and rewarded, and where trust, appreciation and flexibility combine to create a balance that is both productive and human-friendly.  Workplace culture still has a long way to go on that point, but for the companies that do a good job, such a culture becomes a potent marketing factor.

And in the meantime, we’ll keep trying to find the balance and get it right—one day at a time.

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Meditation: A Tool For Happiness or An Exercise in Frustration?

By Valerie Sheppard

3 Great Tips to Turn Your Meditation into a Rewarding Experience!

When I first started meditating several years ago, it was anything but fulfilling!  I would make time in my calendar, sit down and “try” to meditate.  I would get uncomfortable trying to hold the same still position, my mind would be full of thoughts and chatter, and I would feel frustrated and unfulfilled when it was over.  Can you relate to that?   Meditation certainly didn’t live up to its reputation of a centering, peaceful, rejuvenating experience.  I was ready to throw in the towel!

Fortunately, I didn’t!  I kept exploring meditation and my relationship with it through workshops, and even multiple-day silent retreats.  Over time, my investment paid off.  I found various tools that have worked for me, and my experience  of meditation has been richly rewarding ever since.  In fact, meditation has become my favorite means of staying centered and feeling that I am in the flow.  It has become the foundation of my daily spiritual practice and something that greatly feeds my soul and state of happiness.  Hallelujah!

I’d like to help you create a similar relationship with and fulfilling practice of meditation.

Tip #1

Let go of pre-conceived notions of what meditation is and isn’t.  If, like me, you have these ideas about how you “do” meditation and what is “supposed” to happen when you meditate, you may be holding yourself back.  Yes, there are “techniques” and some of them have specific postures and durations associated with them.  But it’s not necessary to start with those forms of meditation.  You can simply start by taking a break in a busy day, closing your eyes, and following your breath.  For me, that was a great start.  I let go of the things-to-do list, and for a few lovely moments, was quietly with me.  In “True Meditation,” Zen Master Adyashanti advises that our attitude is key to our meditation experience.  “We need to come to meditation in a way that is fresh and innocent.”  In other words, let go of the list of ideas and expectations you have and start with a totally clean slate.

Tip #2

Give up “trying to meditate.”  If you are trying to do anything while you’re meditating, you’re defeating the purpose of meditating.  The point here is to let go of doing-ness altogether.  The act of meditating is the only act.  You’re not trying to control the body or stop thought.  When you’re doing this manipulating and controlling in meditation, you’re actually resisting what is, and when you’re in resistance, you cannot feel peaceful and you cannot quiet the mind or body.  It’s in allowing that you are able to do that.  You simply sit and allow everything that happens to happen.  Eventually, the body rests and the mind quiet.  The more often you meditate, the more the body and mind get into a rhythm of releasing and quieting.

Tip #3

Commit to creating a practice.  The experience of meditation and the benefits derived from meditating deepen and expand over time.  David Fontana, author of “Learn to Meditate:  A Practical Guide to Self-Discovery and Fulfillment” says “meditation is a path without end.” We engage in the practice without expectation and keep engaging with open heart and mind.  If every day feels daunting to you at first, choose a different frequency.  If 20 or 30 minutes feels out of the question, sit for 10 or 15 minutes instead.  You can also do briefer and longer sits if you feel called to do so.  I meditate for 30-60 minutes daily and also integrate 2-5 minute mini sits whenever I feel the need to decompress.

The key is to get started and keep going!  Once you integrate these 3 tips, any meditation technique you work with will become easier for you.  In fact, I’ll bet that over time, despite current appearances to the contrary, you will soon discover the Master Meditator that is already within you!

If you are interested in pursuing this more deeply, come check out my next Be Still and Mindful Meditation Tele-workshop at   I promise it will be fun, easy and rewarding!

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The No Excuses Vacation

By Gail Z. Martin

Every year, when warm weather rolls around, you’ll hear them. They’re the ones bragging about how long it’s been since they went on a vacation, as if being a workaholic is a badge of honor.  If you’re terribly unlucky, you’ll be in a room with two or more of these folks, and they’ll start to compete for the dubious honor of who doesn’t have a life.

To that, I say…”Piffle.”

Non-stop work is a recipe for burnout, inefficiency, sluggish thinking, and illness.  Often, it results from a fear that if you can leave the office for a week or more, you become indispensable, and it’s often coupled with an inability to delegate.  More often than not, in my experience, workaholics and non-vacationers are using their overwhelm to keep from thinking about another, deeper problem—a family issue, financial disarray, or relationship problems.

What if you’re short on cash and you’re a one-person shop?  You still owe it to yourself to plan some downtime into your year.  A vacation needs to be a mental and physical rest, but nothing says it has to be long or pricey.

Designate a specific weekend as a no-work zone.  If you’re a gadget junkie, unplug yourself, leave your electronics on the kitchen counter, and spend a day out and about.  Do something you enjoy.  Maybe that’s a walk in the woods, a long drive with the radio blaring, a quiet afternoon spent in a comfortable chair at a coffeehouse with a good book.  Wander through a museum, get some fresh air at a nearby state or national park, or go sit on a dock and watch boats go by.

The point is, disengage from your normal routine, your usual worries, and your day-to-day mental rut.  Don’t stress out about trying not to think about work.  When you find that you’re thinking about work, observe what is happening, and let it go, as if your thoughts are clouds moving past ib the sky.

Whenever I do this, I find that by the end of my no-work zone, my mind is suddenly full of creative solutions to all the things I worried about beforehand.  I’m able to go back to the office with exciting ideas, and I’m mentally and physically refreshed.

Why not try a no-excuses vacation for yourself this season and see what a change of pace can do for you?

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Beating Stress, Fatigue & Overwhelm, Now and Into the New Year

By Jana Beeman, CHHP, CHT, AADP

While many office workers get a bit of a break over the holidays (not all, of course, as there is year-end to take care of), those of us with businesses of our own are very busy, juggling the holiday festivities and obligations with closing our year end, evaluating our year, and preparing for the next year. Being in business for yourself has lots of benefits but it also can mean a lot of additional stresses.

So how do we keep our cool over the holidays, while giving our families and our businesses the attention they deserve?

First, take a DEEP BREATH. Center for a moment. Make a list of what you have to get done, when it needs to be done by, and what things can be delegated or wait until January. Remember most of our stress is self-imposed, and we do have the ability to put some things off a week or so. Think about if hiring a virtual assistant for a couple of weeks would help you get everything done with less stress if you’re a solopreneur.

Learn to use the power of the word NO. Ya, I know – we all like to be able to do everything, but really take a step back, think about what you have on your plate, and make a realistic outline of what you can and cannot commit to. If you tell people you simply don’t have the capacity to add another event, obligation, etc. to your schedule until after the first week of January, most will understand. If it’s a personal request, try sending a gift or adding value to what you CAN do later, just to make sure there are no hurt feelings.

Plan your holidays INCLUDING time to relax and do spontaneous things – you NEED that, and taking that time will make the rest of your time much more productive.

Focus on your business and personal goals. Anything that doesn’t lead toward those goals is something to either consider for your scheduled free time or might be worth passing on.

Each morning, take 10 minutes to draft out a to-do list, and put them in order of importance. Look at the bottom 1/3 of the list and see if there is anything there which can either be eliminated or delegated. We all think we have to do things that don’t do anything for our business.

Focus on what you need to work on, giving it 100% of your attention until it’s done. No checking email, answering phones, or anything else until that first item is checked off the list. Multitasking is not productive. Limit checking email to twice a day.

Take frequent breaks to breathe, refocus, and see if you need to shift direction at all. Breathing deeply into the body relaxes both body and mind, allowing us to focus better with less stress.

Lay off the caffeine and sugar. They create a ‘fight or flight’ response in the body, triggering the release of adrenaline and cortisone, creating physical stress in the body. By limiting the caffeine and sugar, you’ll feel better, be more grounded and have much better concentration, so you can get more done with your day.

Improve your quality of sleep to feel more rested and relaxed, again, improving productivity. Don’t eat or drink anything but a little water after 6pm, sleep in a completely dark room or wear an eye cover, don’t work where you sleep, keep the room cool enough so you can snuggle into your blankets. A little melatonin at night can really help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep better. Melatonin is something your body naturally produces that aids with sleep, but many of us don’t produce enough, so taking a good quality supplement of between 2 – 5 mg 30 minutes before bed can be really helpful.

When situations stress you out:

  • Breathe…. It’s not the end of the world, no matter what is going on
  • Focus on what you CAN control – you can always control yourself. You can control your feelings and reactions, and getting upset doesn’t help anyone
  • Look forward to the desired outcome and know the current irritant will pass
  • Walk in the other guy’s shoes. I know – we’ve all heard this, but how many of us stop to think that the woman who just stole the great bargain we were about to snag right out from under our nose might have only been able to afford to give that one thing at THAT price? Or maybe it’s for her mother in the hospital? Or maybe she’s got a serious medical condition? Maybe that idiot driver who cut you off just found out his family is in town for a surprise visit, or he just got laid off at work, or maybe he’s just not having a great day. Be compassionate, and on those days when you find yourself swooping that sale item or driving like a doofus, when you realize you weren’t your best self, maybe others will forgive you too. Life is too short to be pissy, if you’ll pardon my French.

I’d also recommend that when you have one of those days when you can’t get your mind off the holidays, all the things you have to do, shopping you need to get done… just make a list, and if you can do some of the shopping or contacting online, take an hour, and get it off your mind. Then schedule time to handle the rest.

At the end of each day, clean your mental slate, knowing you’ve done your best, and tomorrow is another day. Remember we are all human, and we’ll always want to do more than we realistically can, so be gentle with yourself and people you work with, as well as your family.

No matter what your religious beliefs or personal philosophy, be respectful of what others believe, and give yourself permission to treat this time of year as a time to live in grace and compassion. That opens the door for all kinds of cool things to happen J

If you could use some support, visit and sign up for my free special report on 10 Tips to Feel Incredible Now, or, for those of you who suffer from migraines, go to my migraine page at and download a whole big kit of goodies to help you get through the holidays with less pain, as my gift to you.

Jana Beeman is a Board Certified Health, Nutrition and Fitness Counselor, certified in Hypnosis, Yoga and Modified Yoga, meditation, EFT and stress relief trainer and a specialist in chronic migraine, food allergies and inflammation, and beating stress and fatigue. AADP Certified. She is a national speaker and telesummits host and is regularly featured on radio programs such as Spirit Radio, Women’s Radio and SQR-fm as well as her own podcasts, newsletters and blog.

Free 30-minute “Find Your Vibrant Life” consults are available on a limited basis. Call (360) 263-5800 or email

Facebook: Balanced Life Today Twitter: BalancedLifeTdy LinkedIn: Jana Beeman Read more of her articles her experts page on at Permission is granted to reprint this article in its entirety including all contact information. All rights reserved. November 2011.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to replace a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Health care decisions should be made in partnership with a qualified health care professional. The contents of this article are based upon the opinions of Jana Beeman unless otherwise noted. The information provided is for entertainment purposes only and Jana Beeman will not diagnose, treat or cure in any manner whatsoever any disease, condition or other physical or mental ailment of the human body.

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Filed under Balance, Guest Blogger

Avoiding Burn-Out

Sheryl Eldene, MA, MBA

We’ve all all had those days when there’s a small voice in the back of our heads that says, “Here’s a quarter, please go call someone who cares.” At that moment you get it that unconditional positive regard doesn’t live in your chair anymore. Here’s some tips to help recover your energy, your love of your work, and your own unconditional positive regard – for yourself.

Tip #1: Give your attention to your own physical well-being. Stretch between clients, jog in place. Try the Cat Response. You know, when the cat gets up from her chair where she’s been for a while, the first thing she does is yawn, stretch, not in any particular way, although there is a yoga stretch is called cat stretch and downward dog. You sit still for 6-8 hours a day, discover ways to move that just feels good.

Tip #2: Give your attention to your own emotional well-being. You’ve spent your day listening. A few minutes at the end of your day to practice mindfulness can be very powerful. Breathing to quiet your mind and your internal emotional cocktail. Take the names of each person you saw today, or any other person that comes to mind. In your imagination, see yourself standing near a brook. Write the name of that person on a leaf, if you have a prayer practice, invite the Divine to bless that particular person/problem, and with that blessing, release the leaf onto the water, and watch it float downstream. Continue with each person until all that concerns you has been released, just for now.

Tip #3: Give your attention to your own mental well-being. Many of us have a job that engages our mental acuity constantly. The tip here is to find things that suit you that either quiet that mental chatter, like a mindfullness, or puts it into a hypnotic state, like TV, computer games. Some folks also find release in hobby type experiences that bring them into flow, that state where time stops and the moment consumes your attention. I’ve inserted a 15-20 minutes island in my day when I first get home, before preparing my dinner when I just sit with a glass of  wonderful cup of tea and watch the clouds go by – my own puppy-on-the-couch moment when I intentionally accomplish nothing, think about nothing, solve nothing.

Tip #4: Give your attention to your own spiritual well-being.  If you have a religious or spiritual practice, make sure that daily (2-5 minutes, even as you fall asleep) you turn your attention toward that focus.  If you don’t have any particular practice, use a few minutes at the beginning or end of your day to do something that brings your focus outside of your inner world – enjoy a moment in nature, connect with a pet, close your eyes and list the parts of your day you are particularly grateful for, enjoy music.  Even just focusing on your breath can quiet the monkey mind and give you some peace.

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Filed under Balance, Inner Coach, Sheryl Eldene, Strategy