“Life into harmony!”, with Jackie Minchillo

“Work” is essentially rolled into “everything else,” because at the end of the day, we each have only one life, and EVERYTHING that’s important to us has to fit into it somehow. I now start each week with a list of NO MORE than 4 priorities in the following categories: “Work”, “us” (meaning our family), […]

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“Work” is essentially rolled into “everything else,” because at the end of the day, we each have only one life, and EVERYTHING that’s important to us has to fit into it somehow. I now start each week with a list of NO MORE than 4 priorities in the following categories: “Work”, “us” (meaning our family), “house” (home category in general) and “me”. On Sunday nights, I identify which 4 things in each of those categories will make my week feel like a success come Friday — and I commit to allowing the week to REVOLVE around those priorities, all of which carry equal weight. So for example; me making it to yoga twice and getting the artwork hung on the wall in our guest room is just as important as getting a contract to a new client and launching a lead generation campaign. By bringing each of these areas of life into harmony, it allows me to make space for everything with a clearer direction, and I find that by using this method, I often get way more done than I even outlined for myself, because I am more intentional with my time as whole — rather than trying to silo my time into home life and work life for example.

I had the pleasure to interview Jackie Minchillo. Jackie is a former corporate ladder climber, gone entrepreneur and digital nomad. With a passion for forward-thinking companies dedicated to catering to an evolving workforce, in 2018 she co-founded Pineapple Development; a 100% remote (although the company’s headquarters are in St. Petersburg, FL, the team is dispersed globally), boutique web development agency. The Pineapple Development team specializes in profit-focused eCommerce sites and custom web applications. Jackie brings her agency and communications background to the table, fostering mutually beneficial partnerships and a remote company culture representing the future of business. Since leaving corporate America in pursuit of a ‘life that doesn’t require vacation,’ in addition to diving into new business ventures, Jackie spent 4 years living in Costa Rica and incorporating a passion for writing back into life. Her work has appeared in publications including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, The Week, Role Reboot, Fete Lifestyle Magazine, Thought Catalog and 1851 Franchise Magazine to name a few, and she was a contributing author of the 9th edition of ‘Escape to Costa Rica; Everything you need to know to retire better, invest well, and enjoy the good life for less,” published in 2018. Jackie is passionate about putting the human element back into business, health and wellness, female thought leadership and generally living life outside of the box.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

My background is in digital marketing and then later, publicity. I worked for 3 different agencies in what I now refer to as my “previous work life” and am acutely aware of the agency business model. During the time my husband and I spent living in Costa Rica, as we reached a turning point in our lives and were thinking of what would come next, I took a look at my husband’s then freelance web development business and the way it had grown in a relatively short period of time, and thought “we could make this something much, much bigger.” At that time, I had recently lost my Mom to lung cancer. Any time we have a major life event, particularly a traumatic one, it has the ability to throw us into deep reflection and the decision to found our company came from that period in my life. One where I came to many realizations including the one that I didn’t want to continue pursuing my writing career, because adding a monetary element was negatively affecting the passion I have for the craft. I reflected on my knowledge, skills and strengths and came up with idea of how I thought I could fuse them with what my husband was already doing from a web development perspective, and Pineapple Development was born.

According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?

This stat makes me chuckle because it rings so true for me. One of my biggest pet peeves is “rushing around” as I call it, and it’s something I have to very consciously observe and pivot away from in my life. I think the reasons we all feel rushed are a combination of elements. I definitely think the prominent role that social media has come to play in all of our lives has had a dramatic impact on many levels, including this feeling of always needing to strive for and achieve more. People (it’s human nature) love to talk about themselves and their accomplishments, and even more so when they receive praise. So amongst other parts of our highlight reel, social media has become this place where we’re constantly exposed to what everyone is accomplishing, doing, building, achieving. We don’t get to see the sleepless nights, the process of re-prioritizing, the setbacks, etc. nearly as often. And it creates this feeling of there never being enough time to do everything we need to do to “catch up” to what we have been lead to believe everyone else is accomplishing.When we feel like we’re running out of time to accomplish, it trickles into every facet of life and people feel like they need to do everything faster to fit more in.

Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?

I’m not a psychologist or expert in health; I can only speak from my own personal experiences; but those experiences have been vast and varied, so I’m confident in speaking to this subject with a certain level of authority. When we do not give our minds and bodies time to rest, time to enjoy, time to explore, time to have fun…time to slow; it muddies any chance we have at producing anything of quality or substance. I’m a big believer in the world’s “Blue Zones” which were first talked about in National Geographic in 2005. Having been fascinated by this concept for many years, and then going to live in Blue Zone (Nicoya peninsula in Costa Rica) myself for 4 years, I learned that amongst some of the more obvious factors (like diet) that contribute to people living a long and healthy life, a sense of fulfillment is a major contributing element in whether or not we will live and long, happy, healthy life. And what makes us feel fulfilled? It’s the quality of our interpersonal relationships, it’s having time and space in our lives for things we’re passionate about that have no connection to monetary responsibility, it’s feeling loved (including by ourselves). Slowing down from a ‘production’ standpoint is what allows space for these parts of our lives to blossom. We have to sleep at night because our physical bodies literally cannot survive without rest. And we shouldn’t treat our minds any differently. If you never take a break, never slow down, never make time for enjoyment from something other than constant ‘doing,’ your mind will be perpetually exhausted. I am far more productive in 4 concentrated hours that are “bookended” by other things I enjoy, like going to the gym or taking my dog for a walk along the water, than I ever was from 8+ straight hours a day cooped up in a cubicle. I have seen this difference and felt the difference personally and its dramatic.

On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?

When we allow both our body and mind time to rest and feel rejuvenated, it supercharges us. You can simply be more productive in less time. That’s first. So when you find yourself staring at your to-do list or your computer screen and hit that overwhelming feeling of not knowing where to start, or feeling absolutely zero desire to do any of it; our typical reaction is to resist “procrastination,” or “stop complaining,” because that’s what society tells us is bad and that we shouldn’t do. We continue to try and force ourselves to produce because we’re conditioned to believe we don’t have a choice. THESE are the exact moments where you in fact should do the opposite. Stop. Get up. Walk away. Do something different. Do something that you DO want to do. Read a chapter from a good book, go on a walk, go get a manicure, take a nap, get a workout in, treat yourself to a delicious snack. This is your mind telling you it needs a break and ignoring it doesn’t do anyone any good. Taking a needed break will allow you to come back to your list feeling refreshed. Even though you may have “less time” in the day to tackle it, because you chose to fill up some of your time with something else, you will still be more likely to accomplish what you need to do because instead of spinning your wheels, you will have a renewed sense of focus.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

Amongst MANY tactics to maintain a healthy level of productivity, the biggest and most important shift for me has been in how I view what is “work” and what is not. “Work” is essentially rolled into “everything else,” because at the end of the day, we each have only one life, and EVERYTHING that’s important to us has to fit into it somehow. I now start each week with a list of NO MORE than 4 priorities in the following categories: “Work”, “us” (meaning our family), “house” (home category in general) and “me”. On Sunday nights, I identify which 4 things in each of those categories will make my week feel like a success come Friday — and I commit to allowing the week to REVOLVE around those priorities, all of which carry equal weight. So for example; me making it to yoga twice and getting the artwork hung on the wall in our guest room is just as important as getting a contract to a new client and launching a lead generation campaign. By bringing each of these areas of life into harmony, it allows me to make space for everything with a clearer direction, and I find that by using this method, I often get way more done than I even outlined for myself, because I am more intentional with my time as whole — rather than trying to silo my time into home life and work life for example.

Find SOME type of physical activity/fitness that you can stick to on a regular basis and view it as an obligatory item in your schedule. Physical exercise releases endorphins and elevates our mood like nothing else. This has been shown in countless studies and I’ve found it to ring true in my personal experience as well. I workout at 8 a.m. 4–5 days a week, and when I started to view getting there as just as much of an obligation as if I needed to arrive at the office by 8, that it has now been engrained as a non-option. I also practice yoga 1–2 times a week. Getting out of your mind and into your body, moving, integrating the emotions of the rest of life with the physical body, could be considered taking time away from “productivity,” OR it can be viewed as an essential method of boosting your energy and mental state so that when you are working, you’re in a space to be capable of getting more done and being more effective.

Incorporating daily meditation into my life (even if only for 10 minutes) has been a game changer for me. The idea that no matter WHAT is going on in your life, you have the safe space to take 10 minutes just for yourself, to sit, stop doing, and just breathe is comforting, grounding and so powerful.

Put down your phone. We’ve become so attached to the computers in our pockets I don’t think many people realize just how much of our time is taken up by them. We rely on them to stay connected at work and at home. And there are so many ways to communicate now. Texts, Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, MarcoPolo, FaceTime, phone calls, emails — these are just all the ways I know people can contact me personally — and I know many people have even more! Keeping in contact with people has been engrained in us as an obligation. So when we have a lunch break or a commute or a few spare minutes or that calm in the evening in between dinner and bed time, there’s this constant pressure to return the call, the text, the video message, etc. Relieving myself from the “guilt” of having to always return communication has given me so much more mental capacity and space. We all have different thresholds. For me I am fortunate to have a lot of people who I love very much, all over the world, to keep in touch with. Sometimes I feel like reaching out and chatting and can be very communicative. But sometimes, there’s simply too much going on. I have a magnet that I keep on my fridge, that was actually given to me by one of my closest friends and it says “Good friends are like stars; you don’t always see them but you know they’re always there…” and looking at this every single day has helped remind me: People who love you, who fill you up, who are meant to play a continual role in your life — number 1. Life is probably very busy for them too, they get it. Number 2. If they love you unconditionally they will whole heartedly understand your need for quiet and space. If they don’t, it’s time to reevaluate. Shifting from viewing my phone and all the activity it represents as another obligation, to viewing it as a helpful piece of technology that’s there to support me in whatever way I need at any given moment has been incredibly helpful. My phone has an obligation to me, not the other way around.

Practice saying “no” and feeling good about it instead of feeling guilty. I, like many people, struggled through many years of people pleasing. Being afraid that saying “no” would cost potential friendships, opportunities for promotion, opportunities for fun, and the list goes on. But when we say “yes” to everything, we quickly find ourselves doing a lot of things that we really do not want to do. And that’s physically and mentally draining. Finding ways to say no to things, obligations, activities that don’t interest me in a respectful, yet assertive way has truly changed my life. An example is that when my husband and I first moved to St. Petersburg we didn’t know anyone. Anytime you move to a new place, the pressure to meet new people and start building your community in this new place in high. Within the first few months, we were invited to join 3 leagues for shuffle board, kickball and softball. These are normally activities that my former self would have felt obligated to say “yes” to in the interest of making friends by accepting invites that had been extended. But I know, based on my current schedule, that adding any of those things to my list of weekly commitments would end up feeling like a chore, regardless of the potential fun to be had. I know I’m at my capacity for regularly scheduled commitments and so I practiced saying no by simply explaining this and politely declining. The relief in harnessing the power to make decisions like this is big.

How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?

Mindfulness to me has been in honing the ability to observe my own thoughts and analyze what they’re telling me about my own needs. And then taking that one step further and actually practicing how to listen, not to the thoughts, but the needs they represent. I’m currently in a period for example where I’ve had on my list for weeks to research flight options for a couple of upcoming trips we want to take. I keep putting it off because there’s so much going on with work, but then every time I hit a task I don’t want to do, my mind is wandering to “gosh I need to book those tickets, why haven’t I done that yet, but I can’t do that until I get X, Y, and Z done, let the travel be an incentive to get all of these other things done, etc.”

As I write, I realize I need to take my own advice and book those tickets, today. My thoughts are not telling me I’m lazy. They’re not scolding me for procrastinating. They’re telling me I need a break. They’re telling me I need to fulfill that need for some exploration and fun. They’re telling me these things are not taking away from my responsibilities, but rather they will enhance my ability to fulfill them.

Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?

Some of the examples I would list have already been included in my answers above. Saying no, daily meditation, recognizing when you need a break from being in constant contact, etc. I would also add that incorporating little things into your daily life that bring you joy and peace make the general, overall human experience better. Things that you know will make even the least desirable tasks more enjoyable. Things like taking the time to make or go grab your coffee and enjoy it exactly the way you love it the most. Burning a candle that smells so good when you catch a whiff of it makes you smile. Finding music you can play in the background that instantly lifts your mood. Taking a little time every day to get some fresh air and connect with nature. Whether it’s driving with the windows open, taking a walk, sitting on your front porch — even if for a very short time. It’s in our human nature to be grounded and calmed by the natural environment around us. Doing these things and making an active effort to observe and notice how they shift your experience can be transformational.

A daily gratitude practice has also been very powerful for me. When you spend time actively identifying things you’re grateful for, every single day, no matter how big or small; you will notice a shift in your mental energy and an ability to notice more and more of those things, rather than focusing on things that feel like they’re going wrong. Sometimes I’m grateful for big things in my life, like having a loving, supportive husband. Sometimes I’m grateful for things that seem really small, like being able to drink my morning coffee out of a mug that I really, really love. Paying attention to these things, big and small, helps to realize there’s usually a lot more going on around us, contributing to our experience, that’s good, than we typically allow credit for.

Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?

As I outlined in my first strategy for slowing down, mindfulness for me has been about reversing the idea that we should separate work from the rest of our life, and view it instead as our one, overall human experience where every element is equally important. My mindfulness tips for “home” and personal life are the same as they are for work. I try my best to collect tools and tips and tricks along the way. One tip that I do specifically use during my work day, and I can’t even recall where I read this, but it’s a practice for grounding yourself. So I have this sticky note on the bottom of my computer screen: “To Ground: 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, 1 things you can taste.” It’s a practice in tapping into all five of your senses and essentially hitting the reset button. When I have moments that feel particularly overwhelming, I try to take a step back and do this and it’s usually very helpful. It reminds you that you’re here now, in this experience, and there is more to this life than the stressful client email you just received.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices?

I use the “Calm” app daily. I love their guided meditations, sleep stories, ambient music. It’s a great app. Music as I mentioned. I almost always have music on in the background because I have noticed how positively it affects my mood and outlook. A book I found really powerful in shifting my perspective of my whole self and being able to integrate all parts of myself and my nature into all facets of my life was “The Shadow Effect,” by Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford and Marianne Williamson. For tapping into potential, passion and fulfillment I also really connected with “Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear,” by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

This is a tough one, I’m a sucker for a good quote and have many that I’ve loved.I love “I live in a world of fantasy, so keep your reality away from me. I see what I want, I want what I see and that is all okay by me.” — Itzah C. Kret. I love this because I feel like our society puts a lot of pressure on keeping up with the Jones’ so to speak. A lot of pressure on living life in a specific way, hitting certain milestones, checking certain boxes. In reality, I’ve learned we’re all in our own, unique human experience and our reality is different from everyone around us as a result of that unique experience. When we look inward at what we want out of our own lives rather than outward at what everyone else says would benefit our lives, we start truly living a life that feels fulfilling to us.

A longer one I also really love, because I found it has rung true again and again and again:

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.” -L.R. Knost.

It’s a beautiful reminder that there’s continual space in our lives for all the different phases that will ultimately shape who we are and what we decide to do with the person we have become.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂

I would love to start and see a movement of people speaking their truth in a raw and authentic way without the fear of what other people think. There’s another quote, I’m not sure by who, “The greatest prison people live in is the fear of what other people think.” We all have different definitions of success, professional, love, fun, joy, passion, health, goals, safety, security…If we could all harness that concept of the single human experience rather than segmenting life into work and home and family, trying to figure out how to balance it all and taking on different personas to accommodate what we think we need to be in each of those areas to satisfy others…I think we’d all be much more fulfilled.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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