How I Thrive: “I try my best to plan my days, weeks and months in a way to avoid being too busy to take care of myself” with Ming Zhao & Cat LeBlanc

I try my best to plan my days, weeks and months in a way to avoid being too busy to take care of myself. I leave a lot of time in my schedule. My ideal schedule is open enough for me to do what I need to do to stay healthy. Whether that is to […]

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I try my best to plan my days, weeks and months in a way to avoid being too busy to take care of myself. I leave a lot of time in my schedule. My ideal schedule is open enough for me to do what I need to do to stay healthy. Whether that is to go for a walk with my dog in the middle of the day, have a properly cooked lunch, go to a pilates class. Whatever it is that I need to stay true to myself AND deliver quality for my clients. I still get stuff done, but without forcing myself to stare at my computer all day.

At times it feels like wellness or elevating one’s wellbeing, is diametrically opposed to high achievement and high performance in one’s career. The stress, mental energy, long hours, lack of restful sleep, preoccupation that result from a high-achievement life seem to directly inhibit wellness. And yet, in order to sustain the creativity, flexibility, mental acuity and resilience that are necessary for high performance, wellness and wellbeing of the mind, body and soul are also mandatory. So how do we achieve both? This is the question I’m hoping to answer through conversations with high-achieving women who have gleaned and are practicing their own philosophies on maintaining their wellbeing.

As a part of this series about what successful women leaders do to thrive, both personally and professionally, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cat LeBlanc.

Cat LeBlanc is a Business Strategist who helps budding entrepreneurs start a business that fits their personality so they can live, work and make money their way. She is the author of Your Business, Your Rules, host of The Your Business, Your Rules Podcast and creator of the Entrepreneurial Design System. Cat started her career in England and Germany and is currently living in the rainforest near Melbourne, Australia. Her website is

Thank you so much for doing this with us Cat! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path and to where you are today?

Growing up in England I didn’t have any contact with entrepreneurs. I didn’t know it was a thing you could do. I knew I wanted to travel and experience more of the world so when I was about sixteen I looked at the career book and took a skills and personality job-match test to see what I could do to make that possible. I remember being so disappointed with the answer! Become a programmer.

Still, my Dad was a programmer, it was a good secure career, and after a gap year in Brazil and getting my degree, I was able to get a good software engineering job in Germany.

This was the weird part though. Germany was wonderful, I spent eleven years there in different cities, I could travel on the weekends to explore different countries, I had a well-paid position and relatively little stress. But some part of me was unfulfilled. It wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life.

To the surprise to many of my friends who felt I was giving up a cushy situation, I emigrated to Australia in 2011. That move was the catalyst for creating what I have today. Because the environment was right. I met successful, inspiring people who were running their own businesses. It got me thinking.

So I jumped in, started a business, not the right one, but I kept going, kept working, tried again. I worked out what I had to offer that others needed and that I got a lot of enjoyment out of supporting them with. I haven’t looked back.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

While having a completely remote business is kind of the point, the exact thing that enables the lifestyle that is important to me, I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t get lonely at times!

I never have to leave the house for day to day business and it’s not usual to meet my clients in person. My clients are all over the world and our coaching sessions are online. So when I was visiting Chicago for a conference a few years ago, I was so excited to find out that one of my very first clients was in Chicago at the same time.

Both being away from home we shared a cocktail looking out over the lake. It was a special meeting that solidified for me what I was doing in the world. Now my favourite thing is meeting clients in real life and, whenever I can, I try and meet up with clients once they have graduated.

I have met up with former clients in Sydney, Chicago, my home town of Melbourne, Australia and in London.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

Going into business involved a LOT of getting out of my comfort zone. One major drawcard of choosing IT as my initial career was that I figured I’d be unlikely to have to do presentations.

When I first started trying to do video, and to get past my fear of being in the public eye in my business, I was cringingly bad on camera. I couldn’t even look in the camera and get through one sentence of my preprepared lines.

When I watched the film back it was so ridiculous that just having a phone looking at me made me behave that way. It took a long time to get better at making videos and now I can just turn on the camera and ad lib.

The lesson I took from this is that everything happens in baby steps. It took me two years to be good at video, but it happened with persistence. Essentially, to make this possible, I had to confront and was able to get over a life long fear of being on camera. I think it’s important that people know you don’t have be thrown in the deep end and you can take your time and chip away at things you want to get better at and in time you will be better at them.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture and work life?

My clients are mainly people that are looking to escape an inflexible and often high-stress work environment. As my business grew I needed to take on staff. It was, and is, incredibly important that I maintain integrity in my role as a leader.

The last thing I would want is to have my staff going to someone else because I’m creating the exact kind of working environment that my clients are coming to me to escape from!

I think having a fantastic work culture comes down to open communication and treating people as you would want to be treated.

I encourage my staff to come to me with ideas and also to let me know what they need. I try to be as flexible as possible with hours and working conditions.

That way my people know they can come to me about anything, and if we can make something work for them we will.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. In my work, I focus on how one can thrive in three areas, body, mind, and heart. I’d like to flesh this out with you. You are a very busy leader with a demanding schedule. Can you share with our readers two self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.

Busy is an interesting word. I feel like it has become a kind of ’badge of honor’, I believe as an entrepreneur it’s a choice to be busy. Busy is valued socially so it’s particularly difficult to say you aren’t busy as people assume that means you are lazy and not contributing.

I try my best to plan my days, weeks and months in a way to avoid being too busy to take care of myself. I leave a lot of time in my schedule. My ideal schedule is open enough for me to do what I need to do to stay healthy. Whether that is to go for a walk with my dog in the middle of the day, have a properly cooked lunch, go to a pilates class. Whatever it is that I need to stay true to myself AND deliver quality for my clients. I still get stuff done, but without forcing myself to stare at my computer all day.

Another self-care routine I have that makes a huge difference to my days is not setting an alarm. Except for six days a month when I have early client calls scheduled, I don’t set an alarm. I literally get woken by the sun because I live in a forest and have no direct neighbours so I don’t use blinds. Even though it means I can’t plan as exactly as some people might, as I don’t know when I’ll wake up, it means I can expect to feel rested when I do wake up. I find this gives me a huge boost in my well-being.

It has happened before that in winter I haven’t woken up until 9 o’clock, and haven’t gotten out of bed until 10am, but I choose not be bothered by ‘the hours I lost’ because I know my body must have needed it. Plus I am the CEO. It doesn’t help anyone if I come to work tired and grumpy, so I choose to see it as doing everyone a favour, rather than being judg-ey about it. Ultimately I know I’ll get more done if I get my sleep.

Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

In my experience, looking ahead to endless to-do’s and no time off can be hugely emotionally draining. I have my schedule planned so I have one week every 4 weeks where I have no meetings and no client calls. This allows me time to recharge.

I can choose to do project work that week, I can have a week off with just a minimal check-in each morning, or I can work a normal week.

Having the freedom to choose what is best for me to continue to thrive gives me a lot of mental headspace. If things are getting a little hectic I know I have that week coming up when my time is almost completely my own.

My team know, they are prepared and can carry on without me. It’s so much healthier than in the beginning when I worked all the time and didn’t take holidays at all. Because with an online business, I can take my business on the road it’s so important that I create this routine of taking time out.

I also design the programs I deliver to clients to fit my own workstyle, as well as to optimize their results. Workstyle is the term I use to describe people’s preferred way of working. Everyone has a way of operating, a way they show up in the world, and in order to be happy in their business, they need to be aware of this and work with it.

I work well with people on an individual level, so I keep my groups small so I am able to know who all my clients are. If I didn’t do this I would lose some of the enjoyment I get from my work. It would create stress for me. It’s also important for me to have structure, to work from home and have more control over my work environment.

As an example, in one of my coaching programs my clients have fifty four coaching calls available to them over six months. I have these scheduled on one morning and one afternoon a week (except for the no calls week). This is specifically so that I don’t have too much coaching on one day. It’s important to be completely present for my clients during the coaching time, so I need to make sure that the rest of the time on that day I keep a clear and calm mind so I can focus on them and their needs.

Finally, can you share with us two routines that use to help your heart, your emotional or spiritual life to thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

Living remotely and working from home I make an effort to connect in person with a friend, who is often another business owner, once a week if possible and at least once a month. I look forward to these times. I’m sure any reader can relate to how heart warming it is to spend time with your favorite people, especially if you don’t get to see them every day.

Something else, which may not sound like an emotional routine on the surface, but it is for me, is that I make sure all the processes in my business are documented. I know it sounds kind of bland. But this solves an important emotional issue for me.

If I solve a problem once I’ll video the solution in case it happens again. This way I know my staff can handle just about anything and if one person is away someone else can do their work. This allows me to feel at peace on a day to day basis. Just knowing almost everything can be handled without me gives me a huge amount of emotional freedom. If I need a mental health day I can take one and know that everything will tick along without me.

It’s especially important for me because I live in a fire-prone part of Australia and it has happened a couple of times that I have needed to leave urgently due to fire risk. Knowing everything is handled and we can just grab our essentials and get to safety without me worrying about the business is a huge emotional load of my shoulders that I feel very few CEOs have.

When life is very busy, and you cannot stick with your ideal routine, are there any wellness practices, rituals, products or services for your mind, body, or soul that you absolutely cannot live without?

Yes, I’m a big fan of back up plans! I was lucky enough to find a great psychologist not far from me who I see regularly to maintain my mental well-being. I find it incredibly helpful to be able to talk about whatever is happening in a safe space with someone who knows me extremely well. My psychologist helps me untangle business problems, helps me see when I get stuck in the same behaviour or problem more than once.

I also know from experience that it’s when things are busy, and I can’t keep a routine, that I have a tendency to not make the best decisions, so these sessions are non-negotiable for me.

Both from personal experience and from working with my clients over the years, it’s become clear to me that we are so often getting in our own way. I think it’s important to take that seriously. Taking care of my mental well-being is essential. It allows me to perform at my best, and when things aren’t going my way I have an impartial person who can help me wrap my head around the situation and find the best way forward.

All of us have great days and days that are not as great. On days when you feel like a rockstar what do you do? What does that day look like, and what did you do to get there?

This usually happens after I have been eating well and had a great sleep. I might wake up at 6 am pumped to start the day. I’ll have some breakfast, I can’t resist my avocado toast, and get into the day. I have a morning routine where I read my goals, journal, and plan my day. Then I’ll get stuck in. This will often involve some creation work — writing or recording a podcast, checking in with clients and answering their questions and potentially some optimization tasks. I love checking my metrics and seeing what I can change to do better. I have lunch at home and try to wrap up by 3pm before my stepson comes home from school.

In contrast, on days when you feel down, what do you do?

I ask myself what I physically and mentally can do and if it makes sense to do that. Sometimes napping is the best option or a trip to the ocean to clear my head is what is needed and I’m okay with that. If it’s that kind of a day I try not to just push through unless it’s a situation where I genuinely have to.

Often I find there is something constructive I can do and start there. It can be something super simple and that enables me to get momentum and build up to some other work that needs doing.

Do you have a story about the weirdest, most bizarre or most humorous wellness experience, treatment, practice, or practitioner that you’ve ever partaken in? If you do, we’d love to hear it.

I experiment with a lot of different treatments. EFT, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, massage. Even if something is a bit weird it can be incredibly helpful. I think there’s a lot to be gained by trying new things. Especially if you are aiming to be a top performer.

The most bizarre treatment I’ve ever done was work with a Core Energetics practitioner. I was hesitant because I was told I might need to scream, and that there would be physical exercises involved, but one of my friends swore by it so I thought I’d try it out. Happily, there was no screaming involved in my session and it was strange to be pacing around and doing different ‘exercises’ with a stranger. I only went once but I did find it interesting and it helped me moved through some blockages I was experiencing.

You’re a high achieving business leader, and you also have family and loved ones that may require a different side of you at home. How do you leave the executive at the door, and be the most loving caretaker at home?

This can be a big challenge working from home and I have, at times, considered getting an office outside our home to make it easier. My current office is on a mezzanine, so I am right above the lounge, which can cause issues in the home as I need a quiet environment to do my work. I’m also right next to the bedroom so there’s practically no separation between my home and office life.

To manage this switch, and turn up for my family how I want to, there are a few different practices I’ve implemented. First of all, I keep an eye on not going over my planned work hours, otherwise my work physically impacts everyone else at home. Then, once I’ve finished work I make sure not to reopen my laptop.

I have a system with my team, who work in varying timezones, so that they can contact me if they really do need to, but that it doesn’t involve me being at my computer.

I also avoid having lunch at my desk. On days when my partner is home this means we can have this time together as well before my stepson is home from school. Of course, it’s not always possible to completely stop thinking about my business. When something like a launch is happening for example, we manage it by preparing and talking openly about it in advance.

Is there a particular practitioner, expert, book, podcast or resource that made a significant impact on you and helped you to thrive? Can you share a story about that with us?

Definitely David Neagle’s podcast — The Successful Mind. He talks a lot about mindset and psychology in a way that I find incredibly helpful. Even though I’ve already invested so much time learning about mindset — to the point that I have my own methods and tools to support my clients with. I feel that you can never have enough input on these topics. There are so many important and relevant messages that will click when you hear them presented by a particular person in a particular way. I get a lot out of what David Neagle shares.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My mission is to enable independence through entrepreneurship. While I know that many people have incredibly rewarding careers working for companies, just like my staff, there is a proportion of people who want to go their own way and in doing so, take control of their lives at a different level.

This makes it possible for you to design your own life in every aspect, gives you more control over your hours, and enables to not only build a lifestyle and supportive working environment for yourself but others as well. That is the movement that I’m working on.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

One of my favourite quotes is ‘Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.’ Abraham Lincoln.

Even though I have a relaxed work schedule compared to many people, there will still be times that I want to spend all day watching Netflix, or I just don’t feel like doing a particularly stressful or annoying task, then I have to remind myself why I am doing this. That it’s about helping my clients, supporting my staff and supporting my family. This concept helps me come back to the bigger picture and know what’s important.

This quote also helped me deal with the fear of being the face of my business, particularly when I launched my book last year. Releasing a book is exhilarating but it’s also a public medium where you will receive reviews on your work from strangers. By the time the book was live I was already burned out from writing it, figuring out the process of launching, building a launch team, choosing a cover, reviewing illustrations and everything else that came with releasing it.

When launch day came I would have preferred to just hide under the covers for the day. Coming back to choosing what I wanted most — more people to be able to access entrepreneurship — helped me get through the launch and deal with the discomfort that came in the moment.

What are the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

I’m active on LinkedInFacebook and Instagram.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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