The “Me First” Approach
Joanna is a Life Consultant for Exhausted & Overworked for female online service provider. She helps them intentionally spend time and energy on things that matter, break out of the addiction to productivity and the constant busyness with a ME First approach.
The 8th Level Podcast is about being self-employed, entrepreneurship, and managing our online business. It’s also about connecting to our souls, having the right mindset, and self-care. My name is Lourdes, and I am the host of this show. Thank you for listening to this episode today!
My guest today is Joanna Huang, and she is a life consultant for exhausted and overworked women. She helps women intentionally spend time and energy on things that matter, break out of the addiction to productivity and the constant busyness with a “me first approach.”
Lourdes: And Joanna, thanks for joining me today! I’m so glad you’re a guest on my show! How are you?
Joanna: I’m great, thank you for asking! What about you?
Lourdes: Good, thanks. So, what exactly is a “me first” approach?
Joanna: So my “me first” approach is that, I think as women, cause we’re so used to taking care of others, so we’re so used to taking care of our kids, our parents, our partners, our friends, the list just goes on. So basically, we’re so used to taking care of other people and forget about ourselves. So I wanted to start helping women to prioritize taking care of themselves first, because I had a severe burnout or nervous breakdown back in 2018, and I was actually hospitalized for like two weeks. And then it took me 16 months to recover, and my partner and my mom had to take care of me at the time, and then that’s how I realized that I have to take care of myself first, so that it’s actually doing a better service to them. And that’s why I wanted to help women to prioritize taking care of themselves first.
Lourdes: And is that what made you start this business?
Lourdes: So, do you mind me asking what you were doing before you started this business, that caused you to burnout and caused you to be hospitalized?
Joanna: Well, it’s both work and then also family pressures. So, I was an environmental engineer, or sustainability specialist, so I basically go to the front client’s site, and then I audit and then plan and then implement their recycling programs. At that time, I was managing 150+ sites, so it was a lot! And then on top of that, I also have waste audit projects, so I’m very used to project management. And basically, I was working a lot.
Lourdes: With your experience, is there ideal client that you work with?
Joanna: I guess my ideal client, they are at the point – Cause I’m a millennial, so I’m most used to working with millennial women, and they are at the point in life that they found life overwhelming and there’s just so much going on, and then they realize that they’re working all the time. Not just on their career or business, but also their life. And they have like an endless to-do list, and then at the end of the day they would look back and then they’re like “what did I do? I feel like I got nothing done,” even though they’d done so much already. But it’s the, like I wanted to help them to be more intentional with their time and energy so that at the end of the day they would know that they got what matters done, instead of everything else, and then they will be happy with their life.
Lourdes: So, explain to me how this process is. Is it a program that they sign up with with you, is there a certain amount of time…?
Joanna: Yup! So, it’s a two-part VIP Intensive. So the entire commitment for them would be 7 hours over 10 days, and then we will start with… They will have to get clear on their core values and priorities for the season, and then their time and energy. And then, based on the time and energy result, we’ll go over the result, and then I would do a personalized customization to optimize their time and energy for them. Like a recommendation report.
And then after that, we get really clear on what their core values and priorities are for the season. Like I use this exercise that’s called 7 Why, or 7 Levels Deep. So you just basically ask yourself “Why?” Like 7 times, and basically after 4 or 5 times, you’ll get to the point that it just became really really clear to you what really mattered. And usually for people, that’s themselves and their family, and maybe like their community.
It’s actually never business or money, and that’s why I have a life-first approach. And then after that, now they’re really clear on their intentions based on their core values and priorities for the season, then we start planning out their weeks and days so they are not being reactive, and they are proactive with their days and weeks. And then I help them, I build a Life Dashboard for them in Notion so that it’s easy for them to manage their life.
So basically Notion becomes their external brain, or second brain, so that it’s easy for them basically brain-dump everything into another place so that they don’t have to have so many things in their mind. And then after that, I follow up with them for 30 days through e-mail, and I would just weekly check in to ensure that they are implementing what they have learned, and they’re using Notion.
Lourdes: When you started to answer this question, you said you have a VIP Intense day, explain to our listeners, because not everybody has heard of a VIP Intensive day, can you explain that to our listeners?
Joanna: So basically, it just means that you’re getting everything done in 1 day. So I have a 2-part VIP Intensive, so like the first day would be we booked off 3 hours, and then I do your weekly and daily planning with you, and then the second part would be 3 hours – Sorry, it’s 3 hours broken down into two calls, so 90 minutes each. So at the beginning of the day, we meet, and then I would give you the Notion Life Dashboard that I already designed, like a skeleton version, and then you tell me what you wanna optimize or refine, and then I work on that for 3 hours, and then we meet again for another 90 minutes to ensure that the Notion design is up to your preference.
Lourdes: And so what happens if they need more help? Cause you said you do a 30 day follow-up?
Joanna: I do a 30 day follow-up, so that would be through e-mail. So they just need to e-mail me with their questions, and then I will respond via Zoom videos, if it’s like a quick fix, and then if that doesn’t fix it, they will hop on a quick call for 15 to 30 minutes to go over what is the block. And then I also send them weekly reminder or check-in e-mails just to ensure that they are on track.
Lourdes: Perfect. And how do clients find you?
Joanna: Right now, honestly, it’s all through networking events, cause I really like going to conferences and summits. And then I really like learning, so I participate in a lot of coaching programs, and that’s basically how I met people. So through coaching programs and summits, and then we build the one-on-one connection, and then that’s how they become my client.
Lourdes: Okay. And so, when you meet them, are they virtual conferences that you’re talking about, or are you talking about physical conferences?
Joanna: Well during Covid, it’s all virtual conferences. But before, it would be in-person. Actually, before I was working for a company so all the clients were already assigned to me. And then right now during Covid, everything is online. But, it’s actually a good thing that I get to meet more people from different places, so it really broadens my horizon.
Lourdes: Yeah, beyond the local community right?
Joanna: Exactly. I get lots of people from all over the world right now. I actually work with clients in the UK, [laughing] and actually the time difference was something that I did not consider before, but after that experience I’m only working with people in North America!
Lourdes: Yeah, they’re 6 hours and I think Australia is like a day and a half ahead of us, it’s kinda crazy.
Joanna: I had a coach that was in Australia, so yeah that was difficult.
Lourdes: So, when you meet them, how do you establish trust so that they do sign up with you?
Joanna: Usually it’s through one-on-one connection calls, so we usually just talk. It’s not because I intentionally wanna sign them up, it’s just that I’m really interested in them, and then they’re really interested in me, and then we just kinda connect to see what we are about. And then, if they’re interested in working with me, then I will ask them to sign up a clarity call just to see if my service is actually a good fit for them or not, and then we’ll go from there.
Lourdes: Okay, and you also mentioned intentional living. What is that?
Joanna: So, my favorite book is called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. And then basically, it’s about getting really clear on your core values and priorities for the season so that you know what is essential for you in life, and then you just eliminate the rest.
Lourdes: Can you repeat the name of the book and the author again?
Joanna: Let me grab the book. So, it’s called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, and it’s by Greg McKeown. I’m not sure that I’m pronouncing his last name correctly. But yeah, it’s called Essentialism, I recommend it to everybody. It’s a fantastic book, it’s very thought provoking and life-changing for me.
Lourdes: Wow, so you must highly recommend it. I’ll have to put that in the show notes.
Joanna: I literally recommend it to everybody now.
Lourdes: Do you have another favorite book?
Joanna: Well, the second-favorite book is called Deep Work. So it’s by Cal Newport, and it’s about how you don’t multitask and just focus on one task for a set period of time. So usually my sprint would be like 35-65 minutes, and then I take a 5-15 minutes break, and then I get back to it. But at that time, I will turn off all the distractions, so making sure that I’m only focused on one thing.
Lourdes: Yeah, I totally agree with focusing on one task. I used to multitask all the time, and yeah it’s just too much, and you feel overwhelmed. And you don’t feel like you really accomplish much, because you’re doing little bits here and there.
Joanna: And your brain hurts a lot after.
Lourdes: Yeah, yeah! So, I also noticed that on your website, you call yourself a ‘life consultant,’ what is that?
Joanna: So basically, it’s just the whole process that I was talking about earlier. So we start with, like I’m so used to calling myself a consultant for the longest time, so that’s why I call myself a life consultant now. Because I take my clients through the whole process, that’s the audit, and then we plan, and then we implement.
Lourdes: I see. And when did you start your business?
Joanna: So, this life consultant business is a new business idea that I just came up with in February. But, I was a money coach for like 2 years, and then this was actually part of my coaching program, and then I just distilled to focus on this right now since a month ago.
Lourdes: Oh, you just started this part of your business a month ago?
Joanna: Yeah. But this whole process, I’ve been doing it for like 2 years now.
Lourdes: Okay, so you were a money coach. So then, do you not money coach anymore?
Joanna: Yeah, cause I found that… Like I said, I had a severe breakdown, so I had to really focus on taking care of my money, cause we went from a two income family to a single income, so I was really focused on learning everything about money. And then afterwards, we got to a point that I feel like time is more precious than money, and then now I’m at the point that I feel that energy is way more precious than time and money, so that’s why I focus on energy now. And then by energy, I mean like your attention, your focus. Cause, just imagine your internet at home, it has a limited bandwidth right? And then that’s exactly how your energy attention and focus works.
Lourdes: So you pivoted your business to the life consultant about a month ago.
Lourdes: Okay. And what do you think was the difficult part of doing that? Was there any?
Joanna: The difficult part about being a life consultant?
Lourdes: Pivoting. About starting this part of your business, cause you pivoted from a money coach. Was there any difficulties doing that for you or challenges?
Joanna: It is funny, but this has been the easiest. Like, basically all I did was that I got really clear on what I wanted to do, or I got really… I guess, I got really cleared on like… I’m just gonna be super woowoo for now.
Lourdes: I love it, go for it!
Joanna: So basically I feel like my soul is like speaking to me, so it’s like “This is what lights you up, so just focus on this. And then basically all I did was just, I wrote a Facebook post, and then I post it on the DID, Done in A Day conference, and then I posted on my Facebook personal page and my business page, and then I just completely filled up. Like, I have like 30 hosts set up for the next 6 weeks. And then I have like, you interviewing me, which I really appreciate, and then I have another… I’m gonna be a panelist for another summit, it’s called FemPreneur Connection.
Lourdes: So you got all woowoo, what was the woowoo about? I was cutting you off talking at the same time.
Joanna: Oh, sorry. Yeah so, I just mean that you really need to listen to your soul, or your inner self, but in order to do that, you need to give yourself time and space to let your soul speak to you.
Lourdes: How long did that take for you? For your soul to speak to you and got really clear on what it is you are meant to do or your purpose right now.
Joanna: I think it’s an ongoing process, and every single time is different, but that’s why I feel that it’s really important to have like, basically schedule a do nothing time in your day or in your week just to sit there and reflect.
Lourdes: And speaking of reflecting, do you journal?
Joanna: Yes, I usually journal at night.
Lourdes: And how long have you been journaling?
Joanna: I think at least 4 years too? Cause I have like five or six or seven finished notebook.
Lourdes: Holy shamolies, no! Wow!
Joanna: Yeah, so I do journal a lot. And then I never have the habit to read my journaling before, and then I just start reading it. And then that’s how I can see my own growth, and I found that really healing.
Lourdes: That’s great. I’ve never, ever read my journal back to me!
Joanna: I know! I just got into it like literally just this year!
Lourdes: Wow, and obviously it helped you and gave you more clarity! That’s kinda cool. So, is there somebody that influenced you to do your business, or give you courage or support?
Joanna: Oh yeah. So, my favorite coach, the first one is Megan Jo Wilson, and then I did her program called Rockstar Rising. And, she opened my eye to feminism and patriarchy, like how our society is not working for women. And the second one is called Pasha Marlowe, and I did her program called ROAR with Laughter. And it’s actually about how to process our grief through the lands of comedy and stand-up comedy. And then the third one is Dani Schnokenberg and it’s about like, I learned about how to simplify my business and set professional boundaries, not just for my client but also for myself. And then also have like a three level self-care rituals everyday. So it’s like for a bad day, a normal day, and an awesome day.
Lourdes: Oh, I like that approach.
Joanna: Yeah, it’s amazing! I really found it works for me.
Lourdes: Cause it’s almost a system for your own life it seems.
Joanna: Yeah, cause like system works so well for my brain. So basically I just kinda systemize my life, and that’s exactly what I wanna help people to do. Cause I found that if you systemize it, then you reduce your chance of getting like 18:16 fatigue.
Lourdes: I agree! So with setting boundaries, how are you doing that? Are you setting boundaries with clients, what are you doing with your boundaries?
Joanna: So, for clients I have super clear instructions. So basically, schedule a call, and then please cancel or reschedule within 24 hours, like give me at least 24 hours of notice, and if you don’t do that, then I’ll cancel your call. And then also, if I wait for more than 10 minutes, then your call will also be canceled. And that’s my boundary for a client. And then for myself, [laughing] so my partner put parental control on my work laptop so I only have internet access from 8AM to 6:30PM.
Lourdes: [Laughter] I love it!
Joanna: Cause I am a recovering workaholic, like I come from a workaholic family. So if I don’t set that boundary, I would just keep working.
Lourdes: I’m sorry, I had to get away from the microphone, I’m cracking up! Oh my God!
Joanna: [Laughing] Everybody was laughing at that when I told them about about!
Lourdes: I love it, I love it! Yeah because, you know as business owners, we are passionate people, we can work, it just lights me up when I’m working. I love it, I can work on this like 24/7 it seems. I only need 2 or 3 hours of sleep. But then your family and your partner and your loved ones suffer around you, so it’s like okay, I have to set boundaries cause I have to spend time with family first, right. Your loved ones first. I learned that lesson a while back.
Joanna: You first, and then your family.
Lourdes: There you go! Me first. Just like they tell us when you’re in an airplane, I’m sure you’ve heard of it.
Joanna: Yes, the oxygen mask.
Lourdes: Yeah, you put it on first, and then your kids and husband or whoever. Makes good sense. So, when you’re not working, and you’re off that, y’know, your partner put you on parental control, what do you do for relaxation when you’re not working with clients or in your business?
Joanna: So I do have a second job as the CFO for the Human Walking Company. So, basically I get walked by my CEO, which is my dog, like 3-4 times a day, and then we usually go to a park. And, that’s a joke, that’s a joke!
Lourdes: [Laughter] I was looking at the camera thinking “oh what is she talking about, I’m not sure…”
Joanna: I get walked by my dog like 3-4 times a day in the park, basically, that’s what I’m trying to say. Sorry, it’s a lame joke. And, I love reading and listening to podcasts.
Lourdes: So, what are you reading right now?
Joanna: I’m actually reading this book called Burnt Out, and it’s about the secret to unlock the stress cycle, it’s just how our body responds to stress, and how to be intentional with your stress level and how to manage your stress level.
Lourdes: So how does a woman recognize when she’s getting to that point? Like, she needs to just stop because she’s getting to be too stressed.
Joanna: So I have a self-care guideline, it’s called NESTSS, which I learned from my counselor. N stands for Nutrition, so it’s just watch how your diet has been. E stands for Exercise, so it’s just like, if you do a daily walk like me, and also I do like spinning and yoga too. And then Sleep. I would say sleep is the most important sign to watch out for. So you have to check how are your sleep quality, and what’s the duration of the sleep. I believe that you need to get at least 7 hours of sleep. And then the fourth one is Time, so it’s time for self. So you have to be aware of what activities are charging you up, and what activities are draining your energy. And then the fifth one is Support System, and it’s basically your friends and your family and if you need to see a counselor or a coach or business besties or your besties. So NESTS.
Lourdes: Do you have that somewhere on your website? Is it a blog, is it free information that whoever’s listening to this and can relate to the stressed out part of their lives right now that they can–
Joanna: I have a blog post about 5 tips to take care of your mental health today, and that’s exactly what NESTSS is about. So you can read at my blog.
Lourdes: Okay, and I’ll post that on the show notes too to lead to that blog too.
Joanna: I will send you that link later.
Lourdes: And so, you mentioned you were gonna be on a FemPreneur on a summit as a panelist, what else have you been up to?
Joanna: So, I am actually working with two ladies to better my customer experience journey, cause I wanna make sure that I’m providing my clients the best experience working with me.
Lourdes: So are you testing? Are you on the testing, or what’re you doing?
Joanna: Oh, so it’s just refining my onboarding process, and then also refining my workflow. So that they have better customer experience, or I have more touchpoints with them, and more support. Cause I can only work with like two clients a month. Cause I do track my time and energy, so I know that at most I can only do like 25 productivity hours a week, so that’s why I can only take in like 2 clients a month. So I wanna ensure that during their wait time they still have the best experience working with me. Right now I’m booked all the way until like August or September.
Lourdes: That’s nice. And then you’re not stressed out, and I’m thinking that you’re enjoying it. And so, you mentioned you did yoga, and I think you mentioned meditation, did you not?
Joanna: Yup! I love meditation! So I will just share with you my three levels of self-care rituals. So the first one is like the “oh shit” day, so it’s like a really bad day. And then, cause I use CALM. CALM is a guided meditation app, and then they have a episode, it’s called Panic SOS. So you can pick like 4 minutes or 10 minutes, and it’s a guided meditation, and then basically you just focus on your breath like 4-4-8. So, 4 seconds inhale, and then you hold your breath for 4 seconds, and then you exhale for 8 seconds, and then that’s how I ground myself. And then at the normal day, I have a ATM routine. So A stands for Appreciation, so it’s about… I just treat it as like a gratitude journal, so what are three things that I really appreciate in life today. And then T stands for Tracking, so I track my mood daily. And then M stands for Meditation, so I do guided meditation or deep breath every day. And then for the awesome day, I will also add in that I go to the park and then take a bath.
Lourdes: Wow woman, you got it all together as far as relaxation and taking care of me first approach! I love what I’m hearing!
Joanna: Thank you, that means the world to me.
Lourdes: Oh yeah, oh my gosh! So, now comes the time when I ask you a funny or weird question, are you ready?
Joanna: Yes, can’t wait.
Lourdes: So Joanna, if you were stuck on a deserted island and had all the food water and shelter that you needed, what three personal items would you bring?
Joanna: Personal items… Hm… That is hard.
Lourdes: C’mon, I already thought of one for you!
Joanna: Oh really, what is it?
Lourdes: A journal.
Joanna: Oh, that is true but… I mean, I’m already on a deserted island, so I could just use the sand to write my journal.
Lourdes: That’s true.
Joanna: Yeah, it’s precious so… I think I need a personal chef! [Laughter] If I have all the food I need somebody to cook it!
Lourdes: [Laughter] Ok, that’s cool, that’s, I don’t see why not!
Joanna: And then my partner…
Lourdes: Not an item!
Joanna: He could be the personal chef, so that’s good. So I have two more… And my dog. Like, I love my dog to death, he’s just the best. And… My books, like I can’t live without books. Does book count as one… Can I bring more books?
Joanna: I need to bring a lot of books, yeah. Like I have a bookshelf full of books. Actually in 2019 I read like 40-50 books.
Lourdes: That is a lot of books!
Joanna: Well, I shouldn’t say I read it, cause I use audio, like Audible, so I listen to a lot of books. But yeah, I love reading books. Or listening to books now.
Lourdes: Yeah, yeah for sure! So, okay, and Joanna, how can anybody get in touch with you? Can you provide us how to get in touch with you?
Joanna: So my website is https://joannahuang.com/, so I will just send you the link. And then I’m really active on Facebook, so please feel free to add me as a friend on Facebook, it’s Joanna Huang. And then follow me on my Facebook business page, and I do have a LinkedIn profile and I’m looking to get into Clubhouse sometime in the future. And on my website, there’s 2022 Intentional Life Monthly Planner that you could sign up and get so that we can all start living intentionally.
Lourdes: Perfect. So Joanna, this was such a pleasure to talk to you and find out more about you and what you do. And really, I am impressed by your program and what you have shared with our listeners about being over-stressed and not getting to a point where we’re burning out and not taking care of ourselves. We should be, like I love the way you put Me First approach, I love that.
Joanna: Thank you!
Lourdes: So, thank you again for being my guest! This was a wonderful wonderful experience and interview with you.
Joanna: Thank you for having me.
Lourdes: And join us next week, when I have another guest that will talk about managing your stress and your health issues with your breath.
I hope that you enjoyed this podcast and please share this episode with your friends! Please subscribe, rate, and review this episode! And as always, the show notes will be available at https://8thlevelpodcast.com. Thanks for listening!
Joanna’s website: https://joannahuang.com
Joanna’s Blog mentioned: https://joannahuang.com/5-tips-to-take-care-of-your-mental-health-today/
Books Joanna mentioned:
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