Beating Burnout

Burnout. This could be a four-letter word. While I have never spent time thinking about what this word really means, I think I have come close to burnout twice in the last 5 years. Is that good or bad? I am not sure.

What I am sure of is that for me, Dana Campbell’s (CEO of Optimize Corps) talk on burnout earlier this week at the Women in Wellness Leadership conference was the highlight of the day.

She defined the symptoms: to be burnt out, you need to have 2 of the following 3:

  • Exhaustion
  • Cynicism
  • Inefficacy

She reminded us that we contribute to our own burnout, with the following:

  • Incorrectly defining success (we should all have our own, genuine definition of what success means, beyond “keeping up with the Joneses”)
  • Celebrating busyness (I gave up the word “busy” for Lent one year, I think I should give it up altogether).
  • Striving for perfection
  • Allowing ourselves to be distracted from our goals and purpose
  • Multi-tasking

She made us rank ourselves from 1-5 (1 being great, 5 being abysmal) about how we feel on the following parameters:

  • Workload (how overworked are we really?)
  • Control (burnout feelings increase when we feel out of control)
  • Values (are our businesses’ values in line with our own?)
  • Fairness (how fair is our work or family environment)
  • Reward and recognition (are we being recognized for our efforts, at work and at home?)
  • Community (apparently the #1 thing people need at work is a best friend – how do we feel about our work community?)

(If you are all 4s or 5s, you are in or close to burnout).

So how do we beat burnout? By being resilient: by having the skill and capacity to be robust under conditions of enormous stress and change. She reminded us of a truth we probably all know – that avoiding stress or change is not a strategy. She also reminded us that resilience is like a muscle – it can be trained, it can become stronger.

How do you train for resilience?

  • You create white space. Give yourself time. Silence. Unscheduled moments. Alone time.
  • You objectively face reality. Objectively and calmly. Not with the anxiety blinders on.
  • You find meaning in suffering.
  • You fill your tanks. Whether that is through sleep, exercise, time alone.
  • You claim your truth. You identify what is most important to you, what you are great at, what you need.
  • You see possibilities where others don’t. Instead of focusing on the problem, open your mind to solutions.

Thank you, Dana, and thank you Julie Keller of American Spa for putting on this conference, and for finding such amazing speakers.


Getting stuck in an elevator…

The highlight of my 2018 Mardi Gras weekend was not the parades, not the costumes, not the beads. Rather, it was getting stuck in the elevator at Palace Café after the annual “Friday before Mardi Gras” luncheon I am fortunate enough to be invited to.

We (our host, my BFF Angie, and a dozen others) had an amazing time in the Wine Room, eating, drinking, laughing, chatting. We were only on the third floor, but somehow taking the elevator seemed to be the right way to leave. So, a number of us did just that – with our lovely waiter. (The rest of us, the smart ones, walked down the two flights of stairs). The elevator begins to descend, and then suddenly stops.

At first, we all giggle. Then we try to pry the doors open (amid much debate as to if this was a good idea or not). Then a few of us just sit down and more or less calmly drink our drinks (feeling very grateful for open container laws). Finally, about 26 minutes later (which seemed like a few hours), we are rescued by firemen who look every bit like what I always thought firemen looked like.

We collectively decide to name our group The Krewe of Otis.

In all seriousness, these 26 minutes helped me remember a few key truths.

  1. In praise of patience. I am not patient. But getting frustrated and angry about a situation completely out of my control would not have made the firemen come to the rescue any faster.
  2. Kindness always. We each took turns calming each other down, calmly and gently, when one was about to lose it (I am not the only one quite uncomfortable in small spaces apparently).
  3. Trust the process. Someone will realize the elevator is stuck. Someone will try to help. If that fails, someone will call the proper authorities. They will then come fix this. Everything will be just fine.
  4. Laughter is the best medicine. At some point after realization and worry, we just started laughing again. After all, nothing diffuses tension and stress like a good giggle.
  5. Good friends make everything better. How glad am I that I got stuck there with good friends…

Happy Ash Wednesday!

At the start of our Lunch

2018 Goals 

I am in Los Angeles today (well, technically, Manhattan Beach) for an all-day meeting that was just cancelled this past Friday morning. After initial frustration, I decided instead that sometimes, cancelled plans are a gift from the Universe. It is January 22, 2018, and I am already feeling overwhelmed and behind. Actually, if I am really honest, so far this month (this year) I have felt organized on January 3rd and 4th

Somehow the year started so intensely that I am still figuring out my 2018 goals, 2018 budget, 2018 marketing plan. So today, the Universe gave me the gift of catch up. After a run by the ocean to clear my head, a Fast Eddy juice from Sunlife Organics, I am sitting outdoors in the sun thinking about my goals.

 My Alchimie Forever goals are focused on revenue growth, a new product launch (fabulous retinol serum in the making), and continued profitability. Also, I commit to redoing all of our Youtube videos which really need a lot of improvement (don’t watch them!). I will work to delegate more, which should be made easier by the arrival of our newest team member Emma, Sales & Marketing Project Manager.

 My personal goals involve both recurring resolutions and new commitments:

  • Drink more water (I think this has been on my list most years…).
  • Continue my one-day juice cleanser per month (and actually, today is January’s day… when in SoCal…).
  • Carry less paper around with me – if you know me, you know my Céline tote that goes anywhere I go, which weighs an average of about 22-25lbs. Apparently my back pain may be related to this…
  • Exercise three days per week – consistently. This week will be the first 2018 week where this actually happens.
  • Read more. Specifically, finish reading the stack of books on my bedroom floor that remain “pending” since I “Marie Kondoed” my book shelves over a year ago.
  • Clean out my closet. Apparently, the average woman wears only about 30% of her closet. This is probably my case, so I need to do something with at least 50% of the remaining 70%.
  • Be kinder. In particular to the TSA employees at the airport who sometimes get on my nerve. And maybe also to myself (reminding myself for example that finalizing 2018 goals on Jan 22 is not the worst possible thing in the world).

I like to have a word that defines each year for me – like a leitmotiv. I don’t have my word yet for 2018… I am hoping I will by the end of this day during which I will be catching up, but also letting my brain roam around freely in the California sunshine.

Happy 2018!

The perfect gift for everyone on your list

Finding the perfect gift for that person on your list is one of the most satisfying accomplishments. However, with just ten days left until Christmas Eve, it is very possible that some of us are desperately brainstorming last minute gift ideas for loved ones. If you need inspiration, here are some ideas.

To sleep better: Stevie Howell pajamas. (My favorite pair is inspired by Hearst Castle).

To declutter: New Minimalism book. (I have already bought 5 as gifts, which might go against the minimalistic philosophy of the author…)

To chill out: Vertly LipBalm with Cannabis sativa seed oil. (Yep, I just went there).

Or, Calm bath salts from Herbivore.

To write more handwritten notes: Bespoke stationary from Rachel Rogers Design.

For the kids in your life: Oso and Me clothes, made better and to last longer.

To wear great jewelry every day and remember that you are loved. (Yes, this is a single and not a pair… very risqué!)

To drink more water. (Or more wine).

December goals

December is well under way. As the 12/31 deadline looms closer every morning, I am working on my priorities between now and 1/1/ 2018. Here is my list – may it help you make yours.

  • Accomplish one thing that has been on my to-do list for the last few months. It is probably not urgent, but very important.  
  • Abandon one thing that has been on my to-do list for the last few months. If it has not yet gotten done, perhaps it is neither urgent nor important and I don’t want to carry it into the New year.
  • Sleep 7 hours every single night between now and January 1 (not counting the two red-eye flights I have between now and then).  
  • Plan for 2018. I have scheduled three 4-hour chunks of time to think and plan. 2018 goals. 2018 budget. 2018 marketing and branding strategy.
  • Hang that one piece of art that has been siting on my living room floor for more than two months.
  • Finalize the Alchimie Forever retinol serum formula to stay on schedule for a pre-summer launch.
  • Get a pedicure. I want to start 2018 with perfect toes. (Something I can actually control).
  • Send gratitude notes to the Alchimie Forever partners who helped my team and me make 2017 such a great year.
  • Be present and focused during all of the family togetherness that comes with this time of year.

May the rest of your December be healthy, productive, happy, and the perfect stepping stone to 2018.

What are your productivity tips? Here are mine.

There is nothing I love more than staying in touch with my Alchimie Forever interns long after they have graduated and / or moved in to full time jobs.

Recently, my lovely former intern Ting, whom you might recognize as she is the face of our Asian-facing marketing (not only is she the face, she also translated our merchandising materials in Mandarin!), reached out to me to share that she had received a promotion at her job, and wanted some advice about the work / life balance. I began composing a long email to her and then thought that perhaps others would benefit from some of my tips.

I have written about rituals and productivity tips in the past, but this subject is never old, and forever changing. In this post, I will focus on three aspects of productivity – goals, calendaring / scheduling, and lists.

Balance versus Harmony

Let me begin by admitting that I do not believe in balance. To me, the work/life balance goal sets me up for failure. It’s like asking a see-saw to stay in balance – it is almost impossible, requires so much effort, and in the end goes against the reason for being of the see-saw. I think instead of harmony. At some moments, I will have to give my all to work – as long as those actions are in harmony with my goals, then I am ok. Likewise, sometimes I am 100% focused on a personal goal or project, and works goes by the wayside. And that is fine too.   

Moving on…


If you don’t know where you want to go, you won’t get there, no matter how “productive” you are. For me, productivity starts with goals. I set goals for the calendar year, for the quarter, for the month, for the week – both personal and professional. I write them all down, and then look at my goals weekly, it helps me to see them to remember them. The most useful tool I have found for goal-setting are 9-grids

Calendaring & scheduling

I calendar and schedule everything. If you look at my Google Calendar, you see my life. Of course, I schedule meetings, calls, trips, all things related to work. But I I also schedule SoulCycle. I schedule my runs, I schedule time with friends. I schedule book club. I am as strict about my “personal” meetings (including those with myself) as I am about my work meetings.

In Google Calendar, I color code my meetings. This was one of my favorite things about a paper calendar, to be able to use pens of different colors, highlighters, etc. Google Calendar is not quite as versatile, but almost. I always have it on Weekly View – so that I look at my weeks, not my individual days.

I share my Google Calendar with my team members, and with my husband. Given the amount of travel that I do, this helps with co-scheduling things and visibility into my availability.

Usually around the start of the 4th Quarter, my husband and I will do a very high-level “next year calendaring.” We decide (tentatively of course) which conferences and tradeshows we will attend. We black out dates we know we have commitments for (Mardi Gras, for example!). We share important family events we would like each other to attend (for example my sister Roxane’s medical school graduation in February next year). We share, we discuss, we compromise. This helps guide calendaring every month moving forward.

One of most useful Harvard Business Review’s Management Tip of the Day I read is to schedule a meeting-free day every week. I can’t do it every week, but I do it every month, and it is incredibly productive as it allows me to catch up on various projects in the office. I highly recommend this strategy in particular if your typical day is filled with meetings.

Finally, when I feel truly overwhelmed and like I am about to lose my mind, I cancel two meetings / calls for that week. They can be personal or professional – it doesn’t matter. Just the act of cancelling makes my blood pressure go down. (And sometimes, I don’t even reschedule, realizing that that was an un-necessary meeting).


I have lists for everything. I live by lists. The most important list I have is my Weekly Gameplan. This lives in Evernote (you must get Evernote), and I look at it many times per day. I have an Evernote Notebook called Gameplans, and a Note for every week. At the very top, in bold, I put three priorities – these are my three main goals for that week. Then I break my week down into the five weekdays, plus “weekend”. And I list everything I will do every day. I use the check boxes, so that I can check things off as I do them.

Here is an example of the list from Tuesday this week:

Email update

New business calls

SF calls existing clients

SF calls potential clients

Call RAH Stephanie

Call RAH Kristin 

Call Rhea 

NF: call EHP; text Caitlyn; call Tiffany  

Jrink delivery – juicing 

LB: followup signage store 356

LB: all recaps 

LB: November schedule 

LB: followup on pick up of signage for 14123

LB: contract update 

LB: followup basket building strategies

QB update

Pay bills 


Pay CC perso 

Call Megan re: her dad’s doctor’s appointment 

Tayller: (list of all Tayller’s tasks)  

Emily: (list of all of Emily’s tasks)  

Relook at beauty boxes

Review customer sales YTD 

Review budget / actual YTD 

As you can see, I list calls, work responsibilities, personal reminders, as well as an item for each of my team members I will connect with that day.

Many days, some items get moved to the following day, sometimes to the following week.

I also have a “Parking lot” Note for the things I know I need to do, but I have not yet scheduled or found time to do. An example would be working on next year’s budget. It helps me empty my brain to write everything down, so that I know it is somewhere and I won’t be worried about forgetting it.

I hope these tips help you (Ting especially you!) be and feel productive. I have many more, involving email strategies, self care strategies (it is impossible to be productive if you don’t take care of yourself), and tracking strategies (I track everything from what I eat and drink to how I spend my time.). We can continue this conversation in a future post.

Thank you Ting for inspiring this post!