How to Achieve More Balance by Living Your Life in Seasons w/ Zulie RaneJul 19, 2021
Welcome to episode 2 of the Mindful & Driven podcast! It’s all about how to not lose sight of what really matters whilst chasing your dreams.
My first ever guest on this podcast is my good friend, Zulie Rane, who’s an online creator with five-figure followings on both Medium and YouTube. Even more impressive, she does all of this in only 20 hours of work per week.
She used to work in the tech industry and left about a year ago and she hasn’t looked back again since. A lot of her content is about how to help people turn their passion and creative energy into a full-time job just like she did.
In this episode, she introduces the interesting idea of living life in seasons, where you batch hard weeks, probably by easy weeks to find balance in the longer term.
I hope you enjoy listening to our conversation! I’d love it if you could subscribe, leave me a review and follow me on social channels.
- You can find all my work and socials here: http://amardeep.co
- Download my free Anti-Burnout Toolkit here: http://antiburnout.mindfuldriven.com
- United for Global Mental Health: https://unitedgmh.org/mental-health-support
- Find more about Zulie: www.zuliewrites.com
- Follow her on Medium: https://zulie.medium.com
- Follow her on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/zulieranewrites
- Introduction (0:00)
- “I’m doing this because I want to live.” (1:33)
- Space to step back (10:23)
- The responsibilities of being your own boss (18:56)
- The importance of focus (20:11)
[00:00:00] Zulie: Like I was using the wrong thing to motivate myself and as soon as I realized, I only want money to live comfortable and everything else is a bonus and I want to do a freelance job because I love freedom not because I want to like stick it to my old job or whatever. That made it so much easier for me to realize what was important to me, how I needed to do it.
And what were the most important priorities for me to focus on. And I, I think a lot of us do the right thing for the wrong reasons. The sooner you figure out what those right reasons are, the easier it will be to find the life that you love.
[00:00:38] Amardeep: Welcome to the Mindful and Driven Podcast, where we help you to decide what’s really important whilst chasing their dreams. My first ever guest on this podcast is my good friend, Zulie Rane, who’s an online creator with five figure followings on both Medium and YouTube and does all of this in only 20 hours of work per week.
She used to work in the tech industry and left about a year ago and she hasn’t looked back again since. A lot of her content is about how to help people say what they love and what they find inspires them and make it a full-time job just like she has. In this episode, she introduces the interesting idea of living the life in seasons, where you batch hard weeks, probably by easy weeks to find balance in the longer term.
I really hope you enjoyed listening today. I’d love to hear what you think. Enjoy, welcome Zulie. It’s great to have you here.
[00:01:23] Zulie: Thank you for having me.
[00:01:25] Amardeep: It’s a weird to be on this side of the camera because you’ve already interviewed me a few times ago.
[00:01:30] Zulie: Yeah. It’s a novelty for me as well. This is going to be fun though.
[00:01:33] Amardeep: So in the introduction, I mentioned how you’re basically living the dream life of what I hope to be one day in a way. But what I want to get from your first is, what’s some common advice that you disagree with?
[00:01:42] Zulie: I think for me, the common advice that I disagree with is thinking that you can like pursue that dream job or that dream career
and I heard this a lot. Actually from people similar to you. Like, oh, you found out what you love to do. You found your dream career. You’re writing for a living. You’ve achieved it. And it’s true that I prefer writing to, you know, being an account manager, which is what I was in my previous job. But the nicest thing about my so-called dream job that I live now is I don’t actually have to work as much as I used to in my previous job.
Like I have so much time to spend on reading books. Talking to people like you. Playing my video games. Hanging out with my cats. So I think there’s so much focus on like find your dream career. Figure out what it is. Nail it down and put all your resources into that. And I just agree with that a hundred percent.
Your dream career. I don’t think it exists for most of us. I think the best of us, or at least the best that I can certainly do is find the job that I enjoyed the most while making me work, at least.
[00:02:41] Amardeep: Yeah. And that’s kind of the two parts of the equation, right? It’s like, it’s, you know, you have to do some work and you want to enjoy where that is, but it doesn’t mean you need to do 40 hours a week where you need to do 80 hours a week because you’re so passionate that you want to do it all the time.
And I think that’s a mistake sometimes people make is that, they’re like, I’m doing my dream job, so then I should be doing this all the time. I should be working 24 hours a day because I was, I don’t love it enough, otherwise I’m not committed enough. And you’ve kind of done the reverse of that. Like I enjoy this but I also love other stuff in my life too.
Has there been a time in the past when you’ve really struggled for finding that balance, like how did you come to where you are now in terms of this working arrangements you have, where you’re doing like 20 hours a week, roughly and what helped you to realign and to make those changes in your
[00:03:25] Zulie: Yeah. So I’ve fallen on both sides of the spectrum before, right?
Like I’ve had weeks where I didn’t have to do a lot of work, so I just didn’t do any. And I found that obviously that really set me up to fail later on in my like, sort of career. So the, the weeks that I didn’t do anything meant that there would be months that I would be either overworked or like really struggling to find work.
So it didn’t set me up for success. So that not that that only came from experience. Right. It was only knowing like, oh, I have to be doing some stuff all the time to make sure that. You know, money coming into the funnel months into the future. I didn’t know that when I started, but the other side is, especially before my husband moved back, which was in March.
I was just kind of lonely a lot, and I worked a lot because that’s really all I had. That was my hobby. I worked so much that when my husband did arrive, I had like, I just kind of, I mean, this has happened actually twice since then, like in March, I did hardly anything at all because I just, I could not muster any energy because I was so overworked from, from the months before he’d come and I just sort of collapsed and didn’t, didn’t really feel like working at all, and then I kind of built it back up. April and May, especially, it was a really, really good month for me. I had a lot of opportunities that I had a hard time saying no to.
And so I worked really hard through those, and then again in June. There were some other factors that kind of made me break down but the fact was the underlying foundation was that I was overworked. I was stressed. I was tired. And then as soon as some extra pressure came on, I was like, okay, I’m crumbling.
That’s it. I’m done for the entire month of June. And it was hard to pick myself back up from that. But I did mostly, I did it actually by kind of realizing, yeah, even though this isn’t my dream career, there, there are things I enjoy doing, so when I was overworked and stressed, I think I was kind of caught up a little bit too much by the greedy aspect with a freelance job, you can keep saying yes, and you can keep getting more money and you can keep getting more work.
If those opportunities are coming to you and I had to realize like, no, actually hang on. I don’t want to, I’m not doing this because I want to work. I’m doing this because I want to live. And that again has come through experience.
[00:05:30] Amardeep: You mentioned that you were working so much because you were lonely and you had, it was almost like, would you say it was filling a void because of the pandemic and because of the things that are going on in the world where you didn’t have other things to do and I guess I thought it was myself as well, where I didn’t have a social life, I couldn’t go, I couldn’t see people, so I threw myself into writing and other aspects. I can see in hindsight that it wasn’t so healthy
but do you feel the same way that if it wasn’t for the kind of situation you were thrust into that you might’ve had more of a balance?
[00:05:59] Zulie: Yeah, I think I definitely would have had more of a balance if I hadn’t had that sort of coping mechanism because I was using it as a crutch. I wasn’t doing it because I loved it, although that did make it a lot easier.
I was doing it because I had nothing else at that point. Like, yeah, I was, I was like trying to find something that would bring me a sense of happiness and fulfillment and work does give me that to some extent but I would get all I could and then I would just keep working to keep looking for what I was like, that sense of fulfillment that I just couldn’t get anymore.
Whereas now I get my fulfillment from like, yeah, spending time with Tom, and going in for activities together, and here in the States at least, it’s gotten to the point where we can go see other people so I’ve been spending time with friends in person, made me realize, yeah, it’s not just work that I get that sense of fulfillment from it’s mostly from hanging out with other people I love.
[00:06:50] Amardeep: Did you find that even before, so is this something that you’ve done in the past where, when things got difficult or when you’ve been stressed out in other aspects of your life that you’ve thrown yourself into work, or is this the first time this has happened for you?
[00:07:04] Zulie: It usually goes one of two ways, actually, that I’ve just described.
Like I either am so stressed out from external events that I kind of am thrown into, I guess, a sort of passive state where I don’t feel up to doing anything, like not even going out to see my friends, definitely not doing any kind of work. I just sit and don’t feel like doing anything or building anything.
And then, yeah, the other state where it’s more like manic and I feel like I have to throw myself into, it’s happened at various points in my life, like I had my university degree my second year I got really good grades because the throw myself into work happened. And then third year I had terrible grades because the collapsed from the pressure, don’t do any work happened.
And it’s just funny looking back and be like, oh yeah, I’m recognizing these patterns in myself now, so previously due to school, I guess now doing more to more to career pressure and pandemic pressure.
[00:07:56] Amardeep: What are you moving towards in the future? Is this what success looks like for you? Or are you still kind of struggling with some aspects and what changes are you making to try and make yourself happier or build a happier lifestyle?
[00:08:08] Zulie: Yeah. So a couple of months ago I read this really intriguing concept called Seasons and the writer, I think his name was Hunter Walk, he wrote like, look, we expect creators to be constantly putting out content. We don’t really expect that from anybody else who’s producing stuff, like we don’t expect writers to always be writing and publishing.
We don’t expect TV shows to have like 24, 7, 365 days a week. We expect them to create and then have like a rest to, you know, be themselves or come up with new ideas or focus on something else. That really resonated with me and I thought I’m going to try to do that for myself. I’m going to try to have seasons
and I’m hoping that by building in time spots where I focus. So like my first. Would have like a month of creating content on Medium and on YouTube. The second month would be focusing primarily on client work. And the third month would be two weeks of taking time to like focus more on long-term vision and long-term projects.
And the two weeks of just not doing anything to sort of recover, relax, go on holiday. I’m hoping that by building those lanes, it’ll be easier for me to keep that balance between like working too much and not working enough that I kind of find myself cycling into sometimes, and I’m also hoping the other thing that I’ve been getting really bad at recently is just always yeah,
like saying yes to things. I don’t really want to say yes to, or answering emails when, like they’re not super urgent, but I just want to get them off my plate. I think by creating these time slots, it’ll be easier for me to find the balance that I already know works well.
[00:09:38] Amardeep: Are you quite good at keeping work to the weekdays or do you kind of let it spill over across the weekend too?
[00:09:43] Zulie: It’s been weird because my husband has only just now got a job. So weekdays and weekends didn’t really mean anything to me or to him or to the friends that I’ve been seeing because a lot of them were working like part-time jobs, so I found myself working on weekends, but I also found myself like not working on weekdays sometimes.
Like on the best weeks, when I have my balance, I’m excited to do my work. I get it done. Maybe I do some work for the future, and then I just relax and that means sometimes I check out at, you know, noon. I’ve done all my work and I can go read a book in the sun, but it also means that sometimes I get a really good idea for a video, Sunday at 9:00 PM and I want to start scripting immediately, so I do that if I feel like it.
[00:10:23] Amardeep: I’m really interested to see how it goes for you, so then if it works out, it could be something which I can try to mimic and use in my own life. The final month, I think, is the really interesting one in particular, because it’s got the two weeks of long-term vision and the two week break, what are some of the things of the longer term vision that you’re trying to work on, or you want to have time to really have that space to think?
[00:10:46] Zulie: So, one thing I’m most excited about is looking for areas where I think there’s potential that I’m not currently reaching. So the two areas that I think have potential that I’m not currently reaching or my YouTube channel and my courses, I have so many ideas, like for both of them on how to get more viewers, how to actually create content that more people want to see
and buy from me but I just haven’t had time to sit down and scope out exactly what that’s going to look like, how I’m going to deal with the challenges that come my way, and I feel like that’s, those projects are the kinds of things that can really do with having a couple of days to think about it. Like maybe taking time to sketch it out on a piece of paper. That kind of, that those are the projects that I think that those two weeks are going to be most helpful and most exciting for me, where I have the space to step back and say, okay, this is what I’m kind of failing at.
This is where I want to get, and this is how I think I can get there.
[00:11:38] Amardeep: I think it’s quite a common problem where people have these big ideas, these grand ideas, but it’s never urgent enough to get done or get started, so it’s always on the to-do list. I don’t know. I used to feel a sense of shame that I’ve got this great idea but I’m not spending any time on it.
I’m not getting it done. Is that something you feel where you’ve got, you know, that you could do better in certain aspects, but because you’re having a good time and then you see it on your list, you’re like, ah, like I’m wasting time or I’m not getting enough done.
[00:12:09] Zulie: Yeah. I think that shame of having it on, like on the to-do list and it’s there the next day and it’s there the day after, because you always have things that are more urgent.
That’s definitely something that I struggle with as well. Like there are, like the course has been on my to-do list since April. We’re in July now, and like, I could’ve made time, but I always preferred to prioritize like, oh, I have to get this Medium post out today. Oh, I need to answer my YouTube comments. That can’t wait.
That has to happen right now. And yeah. When your noses to the grindstone, I mean, even for someone like me where I have like hours in the day where I’m not working at all, even though I could have used those for planning hours, I just, I preferred not to, it was always more fun to like, because there was no sense of urgency,
and I’m hoping also by delineating those two weeks for that vision, that I’m going to be more like, okay, so I only have two weeks. I want to make the most of it. This is going to be, what’s going to set me up for success for the next season. Let’s sit down, let’s actually get it done and have a think about how it’s going to work.
Whereas when it’s always like the lowest priority number on your. to-do list, it’s easy to, to keep pushing it away. For sure.
[00:13:13] Amardeep: Hi everyone. I hope you’re enjoying the episode so far. I want to take a quick break to ask you to check in with yourself. There’s many people struggling with balance and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. It’s tips that my guests might share can hopefully help you along the way, but if you already feel overwhelmed or burnt out, it’s probably best that you ask somebody for help too. For some, this might be a friend or family member, while others might feel like they have nobody they can talk to. If you’re one of these people, check out the link in the show notes, it’s for United for Global Mental Health. They’ve got health plans all across the world, with people willing to listen on the other side. It’s important to let somebody know how you’re feeling. Now, back to the show.
It reminds me of Bill Gates’ Think Weeks. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that, where, so every year he takes a week to just think, and it’s kind of, he goes to a cabin in middle of the woods, wherever it is
and that’s where he thinks about his big ideas. So it’d be interesting because you’ve got two weeks for that, so it’s going to be what, testing my maths here, sixth of the time that you spend is going to be on these big ideas. Do you think almost as you go along, you might need to adjust that or increase or decrease it.
How rigid are you going to be with that? So let’s say you get to the last day of your grand vision and you know that if you just worked a couple more days, then you’d get it done or you’re going to really protect those two weeks’ rest because at some, I think it’s going to be quite hard is knowing when to call it quits.
[00:14:38] Zulie: Yeah. I think I’m going to err, on the side of flexibility also because like, I might have a month that I’ve allocated for client work, but you know, no clients are showing their little heads to ask me for work. I think the life of a freelancer is so haphazard at times, it’s hard to plan for those contingencies
and then if I hand myself in like that, that means I’m losing one of the things that I love most about being a freelancer, which is that flexibility. Like if you were to call me tomorrow and say, Zulie, there are really cheap tickets to go to, I don’t know, the Greek Isles of, you know, Sicily or whatever I’m going.
You should come with me. If I’m, you know, let’s say that’s in my Medium weekend. I’m like, oh no, Amar sorry, I have to write three more Medium articles. Like no way. I want to be able to drop everything and say, yes, I’m getting my swimsuit. Let’s go. So I think that’s why I’ll, I’ll initially start out erring on the side of caution, but then like, as you say, we’ll have to see how things go.
[00:15:30] Amardeep: You might be mad that the Greeks have stolen Sicily there.
[00:15:34] Zulie: Oh God. How embarrassing. I did not score highly on my geography test. I’ll tell you that.
[00:15:40] Amardeep: I’m sure they’ll forgive you. Then there’s final two weeks, is I think I have. So it’s really interesting where, so I took a week off when I start, when I quit my job and I was going into this new career, all this excitement I’m going for at the moment.
And having that week off, I found really hard to get back to work again, because I’m really good at completely switching off, so if I’m off, I’m off. I’m not thinking or planning or doing anything. I am just in the moment, and it’s really good for when I’m there but then the after that when I’m back of having that rustiness, is quite difficult for me.
Are you concerned about that at all, in your plan of if you’re having two weeks off, do you think it’s gonna be hard to get back into the swing of things again and will that kind of cost you some time and then mess up your plans a little bit?
[00:16:27] Zulie: Yes, I did, I did have to stop because I’m, I’m like you, like once I’ve kind of been derailed, it’s very hard for me to re rail, you know what I mean?
It’s hard to get back on track, so I tried, I still think about that and I thought Medium and YouTube. That’s the creative stuff that I love doing, and I was hoping that by setting that after my break, it would make it really easy for me to be getting excited about the articles that I was going to write in the videos I was going to get.
And I’m, I’m very lucky. I know that YouTube comments are a terrible place for a lot of people, but my community is so nice to me. Like they really hyped me up, and so for me, like that’s something I’m super looking forward to is I love reading my YouTube comments, so I’m hoping that that will help me segue back into work because that’s where a lot of my best Medium and YouTube ideas come from actually is engaging with the community on medium and on YouTube.
And that really inspires me and makes me want to create.
[00:17:19] Amardeep: Do you think, in these two weeks, it’s going to be no emails, or I know that when I, when I take time off, I look at the emails, see if they’re important or not and then if they’re not important, I leave them and genuinely nothing is that important that if I’m off, I can’t leave for another week,
so you’re going to ban emails, ban work, and really relax or is it going to be the kind of hybrid, I’m off, but I’m not really off.
[00:17:44] Zulie: So here’s my issue, because I normally do the same thing you do. I’m like, all right, I’ll check my emails just to make sure nothing is urgent and usually nothing’s urgent.
Right? That’s the thing. It’s all people, mostly people who can wait for a week or two weeks, but my problem is when I see those pile up, that starts to really stress me out and I’m like, oh, I have got to answer these emails. They’re just hanging over my head and every time a new one comes in, I’m like, oh God, more work for me to do
when I get back and I just get so anxious about it. So I think, and it’s not like they’re actually time sensitive. Most of them are, yeah. Like they can wait a week or two weeks, especially if I, you know, put out an out of office email and let them know cause a lot of people ask me questions and I think like, I don’t want to say that they don’t deserve an answer soon.
They do. You know, as long as they’re aware that there, they might be waiting two weeks for an answer, I think that’s okay. But I think I’m going to try to like delete the app off my phone, do my best to not check it on my laptop and just actually sign off and check out because I used to be so good at doing that from my corporate job, but I can’t bring myself to do it from my day, from like my current job
and that feels like I still deserve the time off. I can still, I should still be prioritizing that myself.
[00:18:56] Amardeep: Do you feel that extra sense of responsibility because you are your own boss that you’re almost, you’re not giving yourself the time off, whereas an actual employer would just let you have this time off,
so you’re your own worst boss in some ways.
[00:19:10] Zulie: That’s a good point. And I guess with my old job, I could always say like you needs, if you absolutely desperately need something, you can get in touch with my colleague. He’ll be happy to sort you out and I can’t do that because I’m my only colleague. Me and the cats and I can’t, I can’t hardly hold them off ’til like after like, oh yeah, my cat would get back to you as soon as she’s going to email to you this week now.
So I think that probably is a large part of it. Like only I can take my responsibility for not answering those emails.
[00:19:35] Amardeep: Have you ever consider getting a virtual assistant or getting somebody to help out in that side? Or is it you’re too concerned about the personal touch and making sure that it’s you responding personally.
[00:19:45] Zulie: Yeah. So I think I do want a personal assistant. I’ve been thinking about it, but most of the emails I get are from people asking questions about Medium and what I would love to do is get someone who knows about Medium or at least it’s familiar cause a lot of times the answer already exists in one of my articles or my YouTube videos
and if it doesn’t. Frequently, it should, and that’s, you know, that’s where I get a lot of my ideas for content. It’s like, oh, a ton of people have been asking me about, you know, this new lists feature or whatever,
[00:20:11] Amardeep: Just moving on from like your season’s idea, that, which I think is great and I really hope it works out for you.
What is a mindset shift that you think the audience could make and it would make them happier and achieve better balance in their life?
[00:20:27] Zulie: I think it’s so important to know what you’re aiming for when you start to do work. When I quit my job, a lot of it was from resentment because I felt like my talents were being used at my job
and when I sat down to like, make my, my income goals for the next year, it was driven by greed rather than like actually thinking, okay, this is the money I need to be happy and then the rest I can, you know, put towards the future. So, especially in the beginning, I really struggled with feeling responsibilities to my freelance job and like really worrying about income when I really didn’t need to be because I was going at it for the wrong reasons.
Like I was using the wrong thing to motivate myself, and as soon as I realized, I only want money to live comfortably and everything else is a bonus, and I want to do a freelance job because I love freedom, not because I want to like stick it to my old job or what. That made it so much easier for me to realize what was important to me, how I needed to do it,
and what were the most important priorities for me to focus on, and I, I think a lot of us do the right thing for the wrong reasons. And the sooner you figure out what those right reasons are, the easier it will be to find a life that you love.
[00:21:37] Amardeep: Yeah. I think that’s a great point about the resentment side, as well as particularly where you shouldn’t be leading your life based on causing somebody else,
not even pain, because I doubt your boss would really care how well you’re doing. They’re not going to be like, oh, I wish I didn’t fire her. I wish they kept her on or whatever it is. You’re putting yourself as if it’s such a big deal to their life, and they’ve probably moved on. So you’re being motivated by that anger, but a person doesn’t even care anymore.
It’s just, what’s the point? You’re not getting anywhere. It’s just that anger is eating you up inside more than anything else.
[00:22:15] Zulie: Yeah, it was so one-sided I think. Yeah, it was as soon as I was like, they do not care about me anymore. They’ve got their own stuff that they need to focus on and I should probably do the same.
That made me so much happier. Yeah.
[00:22:29] Amardeep: It’s been a pleasure to talk to your Zulie and for the audience who aren’t familiar with you, where can they hear some more from you and where can they learn more about what you do?
[00:22:36] Zulie: Yeah, the sort of hub for all my work is ZulieWrites.com. From there, you can see my latest videos, my articles. You can find all my links for like LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram BBM, everywhere else.
And you’ll also have the chance to sign up for my newsletter. I send out emails twice a week about how to, how to make a living by writing.
[00:22:54] Amardeep: Awesome. Thing I want to finish on, to wrap up is what’s something that’s recently brought joy to your life, one small thing.
[00:23:02] Zulie: We got home from a flight yesterday, and as soon as we came home, my cat jumped, like jumped into my arms and I was like, she really missed me. That made me so happy.
[00:23:13] Amardeep: What about the other cat?
[00:23:14] Zulie: He was very chill. He was, you know, he, he showed his face and he was very casual. I could tell that he was happy to see us as well, but he’s not quite as clingy or needy is as Astrid is.
[00:23:25] Amardeep: Maybe, maybe next time,
[00:23:27] Zulie: Maybe next time. Yeah. He’s, he’s quite heavy though, so I’m glad that he didn’t.
He’s like 23 pounds, so he’s a chunky cat. So I think that would be, I only have weak little noodle arms so all for the best I think.
[00:23:37] Amardeep: Thanks for coming on Zulie and talk to you soon. It’s a pleasure.
[00:23:41] Zulie: Talk to you soon Amar. Thank you so much for having me on.
[00:23:48] Amardeep: If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, I love it. If you could leave me a five star review, it really helps get the message out further. Wherever you’re listening, it would be awesome. If you could subscribe and to share in your social media channels. If you want to see more of my work and advice, you can find all of the links in the show notes..
Thank you again for listening and I hope you have a lovely day.
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