Learn to appreciate the little things. If you are like me, you probably read this quote a lot but until recently didn’t really pay much attention to it. I have found myself enjoying quick walks more often, appreciating a clean house or a home cooked dinner and going back to the social media detox, really loving just slowing down a bit on the weekends.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Holly Haynes.
Holly helps female entrepreneurs take back control of their time with proven productivity techniques, systems, and structure to create a strategy that scales long term. An industry expert, host of the Crush the Rush Podcast and featured Thrive author with a 20-year business consulting background with Fortune 500 companies, Holly runs her strategic coaching business and the Crush the Rush planner company while raising her twin daughters with her husband in addition to working for a non-profit in Columbus, Ohio.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, 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?
In terms of career paths, I’d like to say it was intentional, but how I got to where I am today was the determination to just keep growing and learning. Because I work full time and run a full time strategy coaching business, my “career” path is very different from your traditional corporate path.
I started out in business consulting immediately out of college and loved the experience of soaking in the knowledge of these large, successful corporations. I got to travel all over the country and work on really strategic projects, helping companies grow and scale.
I started as a developer as in actually writing code and worked my way up to a program manager and eventually director of consulting services managing teams and working with executives on our company’s growth strategy. I used my background of coding and technology to merge the communication gap when it came to executive level risk management and was a skill that many appreciated. Along the way I became more interested in strategy so I continued the expected path and got my masters degree. I can remember vividly sitting in class one night (I worked full time while going back to school) and was listening to the founder of Jeni’s Ice Cream speak. She was this creative powerhouse that built an amazing company that was based in our hometown, Columbus Ohio. It sparked this creativity in me that had been hidden for so long. Why weren’t there more women in our MBA classes? Why was I one of two female leaders in our company? I knew I needed to do something differently but I wasn’t sure what.
Fast forward a few years later, I got involved in creating a women’s leadership group at the consulting company I was working for, starting working more in the local community and began teaching women business owners and employees leadership skills through my consulting role. In parallel, I also had twins, and was dabbling in running my own health and fitness accountability coaching business because I thought this was my path to help women grow.
After a few years of helping keep women accountable with their wellness goals, I kept getting asked the same question. How are you balancing running a business, a family and working full time? So I very organically started answering it. I shared my strategy (I created my method called the Crush the Rush Method), how I timeblocked my day, focused on priorities etc. Long story short, I kept sharing and people kept asking for more. So in January of 2020 I launched the Crush the Rush podcast which focuses on helping women who work full time build a side-business without burnout. That turned into offering coaching services which then turned into launching a course, a women’s leadership mastermind and now an actual planner to help busy women better manage their day.
So all and all my journey has been very organic. I listened to my gut which was telling me to do something more and I listened to my audience which was asking for a solution. Today, I work full time for a non-profit and run my strategic coaching business. I call myself a side-hustle strategist and help business owners and entrepreneurs take back control of their schedule with a strategy that scales long term.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
Personally, I think the most interesting story with my business and overall journey is that my biggest growth year was 2020, the year of the pandemic. I decided to launch my podcast in January which is before the pandemic hit. I had no idea that almost 14 months later we would still be in this crisis. And while there were some panic moments in early 2020 as I asked myself if this was really the right time to be launching, what I found was most women wanted more support. They were craving community and interaction. They were also facing new challenges and wanted a support system to ask questions. So that is what I created. My entire business journey is centered around listening to my audience and delivering what they are asking, with my vision layered on top. I think the moral of the story here is that there is never a right time, so if you have a calling on your heart to do things differently, you should do it!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! I just recently launched a quarterly planner that is designed specifically to teach women strategically how to plan their quarter and then break it down into monthly, weekly and then daily goals. When most women start a business, I don’t think they are prepared for the number of hats you have to wear. Most women start some sort of side business for that “time freedom” or the ability to control their schedule. But what happens is they end up trading all their time to work on this dream and they end up frustrated and burnout.
The Crush the Rush Planner is an actual paper planner that walks customers through how to plan their quarter, month, week and year. It merges all things productivity with a proven strategic process to help customers find their focus and see real results in the priorities that matter the most to them.
With the strategies I share in this planner, you will see you can make an impact in half the time you think it will take if you commit to keeping efficient and effective strategies at the top of your to-do list.
It’s not just a planner, it’s a productivity guide to help you finally take control of your schedule. For business. For life. For long term growth that supports your dreams. Without burnout. Which is what the Crush the Rush Method is all about!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
In the last year one of the most important things I did from a business growth standpoint was join a mastermind. What came out of that was not the growth you would expect from joining a high-end training program but an amazing community of support. I have a small knit community of about 7 women who are all building a business alongside me. Because we are all remote, we set up Voxer (a walkie-talkie like app) and support each other daily through it. Whether it be a business strategy question, or just a weekly goal setting check-in these women have been my strength and my guidance through all of this. Finding a community of support is so key. Just because you are running a business and are a team of one (at least at the beginning) doesn’t mean you need to work alone.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
My husband and I, like any family, faced quite a few challenges this year. But I think the biggest was balancing working our 9–5 careers at home (he is a local realtor so we both work full-time) and then having our 7-year old twins home full-time. At the beginning of the pandemic our twin girls were just finishing kindergarten. So we went from them being at school full time to managing zoom classes. Because of their age, you have to be very hands on. I am not sure if you have ever watched a class of kindergartners on zoom, but it is very hard to hold their attention. Because school was challenging and they were at an age where they were learning life skills (like reading, math etc.) we also had to supplement the education. I think this was the biggest challenge. Our girls had never (and still haven’t) had a real first day of school. They learned to read and write and tell time remotely to name a few subjects. Our living room turned into a school room and our kitchen table a laptop island for zoom calls. Because they are twins, we had to manage them together (they were in the same class) but also address their different learning styles. Then layer in 9–5 meetings, family responsibilities etc. and it was a lot. I joke that it was harder than getting my MBA (and some days still is!)
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
To be honest I am not sure we have it all figured out just yet, but my biggest piece of advice is to give yourself some grace. But what worked best was for us to keep everyone on a schedule. We moved a white board in our kitchen and mapped out the day everyday the night before. We made sure the girls knew what time we were starting school and when they would get breaks. And while it was an uncertain time for everyone, we did our best to keep a routine and structure. This helped us manage expectations and work together better with various work schedules and meetings.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
I call it zoom fatigue, but there are no work / life boundaries. I sometimes start zoom meetings at 7:30am and don’t end until 6:30pm. In my 9–5 career a lot of my co-workers do not have young children so are experiencing a lot of benefits of working from home (like additional time from not commuting etc.) I joke that I am still waiting for those benefits as I think we inherited a 3rd job (i.e. teacher). I have had my girls doing homework while I present to my CEO, sit with headphones trying to do homework while I work (so I don’t have to listen to reading lessons) and have even braided their hair during meetings. Additionally, I think the stress builds because there is no transition time. I go straight from talking strategy or working with a client in my business to making dinner and bedtime routine in less than 30 seconds. It has been a big challenge to try to figure out some boundaries with zero transition time between roles.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
- Create transition zones. In the morning I usually create a “focus” time where I am up before everyone else to get organized and better understand how to tackle the day. When I switch from let’s say making dinner mode, I try to take 5 minutes and just take a deep breath and reset my boundaries in terms of what my focus is. One of those is putting my phone away and not getting back on (if I have to) until my girls are in bed. The girls have also created their own zones when they get ready in the morning, when they do go to school (and come home on the bus) and when they get ready for bed. Everyone has a routine in these areas and it helps us stay on track. Of course not everyday is perfectly planned but even if we are 75% here with this routine it helps.
- Take a social media free day at least once a week. By Friday my zoom fatigue is pretty high. So Saturday’s are usually my detox day. I would encourage everyone to try a screen free day. It is life changing. Do it for the whole weekend and you won’t recognize yourself on Monday. Bonus, challenge your spouse and kids to do the same. Our family has spent more time outside this year than ever before. Which has been a pretty enjoyable adventure.
- Batch your activities and meetings if you can. As an example,I try to batch my coaching business activities so certain days I have specific focuses. Monday’s are my CEO days which is when I plan and organize and prep for the week. Wednesday’s are podcast interview days. Friday’s are 1:1 client days. It allows my family to know (and get used to my schedule) but also allows us to plan accordingly and for me to juggle my 9–5 as well. I work late on Monday’s as an example, so we eat leftovers from Sunday night. (Doesn’t everything revolve around food at some point? Especially with young kids!)
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
I think my biggest piece of advice is that your schedule doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. If anything this is the time to be more flexible and figure out what works for you when there is not the pressure of additional activities (outside the home). What works for our family might not work for yours and that is OK. Just keep trying and adjusting. Give yourself time at the end of the week to focus on what worked. And what needs to change. So you can continue to learn.
My second piece of advice is sleep cures most problems. For everyone. When I can see the girls, myself or my husband getting run down, our immediate action is to scale back and get some extra sleep. A new day is a great fresh start.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
The winter was very long and difficult for us being in Ohio. It is grey and dreary and hard to stay positive. You crave sunshine. This is typically the time when we would take a vacation to someplace warm but because of Covid restrictions could not. So we started to implement some small weekly celebrations that really helped us look forward to everyday life.
First, every night at dinner we always share our peak and our pit. (The good and the bad of the day). The rule is you have to end with your peak. It was a great new daily habit for us to just get into the practice of gratitude. Anyone can implement this pretty easily
The second thing we do is have a family night once a week. Which is now usually ordering pizza (Yeah for not cooking…and yes, back to food again), watching Fixer Upper or some DIY show on Discovery + and just hanging out as a family. We celebrate our WOW’s (Wins of the Week) and then plan what we all want to do over the weekend. This is where the school whiteboard comes back into play and we all get to pick something we want to do. They are simple activities like going on a hike, organizing the playroom (that would be mine) or some sort of craft etc. It sounds really simple but it gives us something to look forward to at the end of the long week.
Finally, my husband and I have a pretty strict evening routine. Phones off at 8pm (or earlier). The girls are in bed by 8:30. And we have between 8:30 and 10:00 to focus on what we want to. Which usually is a Netflix show or in some cases going to bed early. But it has become the reward that drives me to stay so focused during the day.
Everyone needs a little quiet and their own space and this is how we have created it even though we are all home.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Just because you have always done things a certain way, doesn’t mean that it is the best way to do them. The pandemic has forced us to look at our habits, routines etc. and really identify if they are working and in some cases be forced to make a change. This actually has allowed us to save money during this time, launch a business and streamline a lot of our activities. We even got rid of a car because I was no longer commuting to work. Think about what has changed in your schedule and how you can make it work more for you. For us, no commute, meant we didn’t need two cars as an example.
- Learn to appreciate the little things. If you are like me, you probably read this quote a lot but until recently didn’t really pay much attention to it. I have found myself enjoying quick walks more often, appreciating a clean house or a home cooked dinner and going back to the social media detox, really loving just slowing down a bit on the weekends.
- You are way more capable than you think. Never in a million years did I think in an international pandemic that I would launch a business, a product, and deal with our entire family being home 24/7. It has forced me to take a closer look at our systems, routines and relationships. Which has ended up being very positive.
- Your health should always be a priority. If anything, I feel like this pandemic is a great reminder that your health should always come first (and I know as a working mom a lot of times it falls to the back burner). This year we put our health first and it 10x our output on everything else.
- Gratitude can change your perspective on anything. Overall, this pandemic has helped us realize as a family how lucky we are. As a business owner and a coach, I make sure that I take time everyday to really appreciate all that we have. Staying home with wi-fi and all the comforts of home isn’t that bad is it? Even on our most stressed days, we always try to find something positive to end it with.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
For the first half of 2020 I suffered from pretty extreme anxiety. So I can relate to this question quite a bit. The kind that is debilitating when you wake up and even have a hard time breathing at times. I am happy to say I have almost cured it completely but it took some effort. There are a few things that helped.
- Having a consistent schedule (even when no one leaves the house).
- Giving yourself some quiet space alone. For me this is in the morning when I am journaling or working out. You have to be able to get your feelings out. And have a space to process them.
- Sleep. It cures all things. I used to be a 6.5 hours a night sleeper, but now I am for 8 almost every night. It is a game changer. When all else fails I go to bed early. When I am tired my body shuts down and makes everything harder to deal with which then makes my anxiety worse.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Change your thoughts. Change your life.”
When you are forced to be in the same place in the same situation for a long time your mindset is the ONE thing you do have control over. I started studying more about the power of the subconscious mind, how to re-train my thoughts and how to keep myself focused each day. (Let’s face it when everyday feels like groundhogs day on repeat you need this). I even hired a life coach. Reading, journaling, empowering affirmations. You name it, I have tried it. And it works. Anyone can focus on positive thinking and crushing those limited beliefs. Try it.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!