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Justine McDonald of Goal Chasers: “Identify your ‘must’ list”

Identify your ‘must’ list. Items that must be completed in the next 24 hours. Maximum three items per life category (business, personal and goals) per day. Then focus on one task at a time and see it through to completion before you begin another task.This will allow you to complete your tasks with more efficiency, […]

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Identify your ‘must’ list. Items that must be completed in the next 24 hours. Maximum three items per life category (business, personal and goals) per day. Then focus on one task at a time and see it through to completion before you begin another task.This will allow you to complete your tasks with more efficiency, less overwhelm and give you a sense of achievement each day. When these items are complete, you’re done for the day. Some days the items will take two hours and some days they will take 10. But allow yourself to turn off and celebrate those daily achievements when you’ve crossed off that last item and to enjoy the rest of your daily guilt-free.


As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Justine McDonald.

Justine McDonald is a mom of two, entrepreneur and coach dedicated to helping career-driven moms maximize their work and home life through online courses, events, coaching & the Mama’s Got Goals Planner. She is the founder of Goal Chasers, a business coaching firm, and has had over 1,000 hours of training with some of the top personal development coaches in the world. She has also appeared as a speaker at the Fort Richmond Collegiate 2019, Louis Riel School Division 2019, MITT 2020, and TableSpace 2020.


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

As a new entrepreneur and mom, I felt flooded with overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tasks I was juggling. I knew I needed some help to build a plan but being new to business, I had no idea where to start. Someone recommended I hire a coach and on my very first call with her, I knew this work would change my life. After six months of intense inner work, my business, marriage, health and confidence were transformed. That’s when I knew helping inspire change in others was the stamp I wanted to leave on the world.

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?

I think this feeling of being rushed is connected to a conditioned response to meet the needs of others. I say conditioned responses because as children, we’re not concerned with pleasing anyone but ourselves. That’s our natural state, to preserve our own life. But as we age, well meaning authority figures in our life teach us to do as we’re told. So we’ve grown to believe that what other people think, want and expect from us is more important than what we want for ourselves. This belief is further reinforced through punishments as a child or consequences from an employer for not meeting their standards as an adult. So when we discuss the feeling of being rushed, it’s really an internal conflict between the external needs of others and our internal desires. And ultimately we desire to be accepted for who and what we are. So we’re feeling the external pressure to meet the demands of others for acceptance while wrestling with the internal pressure to please ourselves.

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

Feeling rushed is a state of stress. Our body manages stress by producing a hormone called cortisol. This hormone is designed to help regulate our fight or flight response system and bring our body back to its resting state after a period of stress. If we’re in a constant state of stress and our body doesn’t have a chance to move into the rest and relaxation state, we will not only begin to break down but it will continue to release cortisol. This excess cortisol can impair our memory & our ability to concentrate. It can create physical health problems like difficulty sleeping, headaches and weight gain. All of these only further impact our physical and mental well-being as our inability to perform keeps us in this cycle of ‘never enough hours in the day.

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?

Allowing ourselves to slow down into our daily lives actually creates more clarity which leads to more decisive decision making. Now, I want to preface this with the understanding that every person has seasons in their life. Seasons where the kids are all consuming or a new business has them up all night. So we have to first recognize that life is filled with these temporary seasons that at times do not allow us to slow down as much as we would like. However, this season will pass and having tools to optimize the season ahead is essential for growth. We don’t want to be creating detrimental habits that will hinder our performance once this season has passed.

Growth is a compassionate process, so be patient with yourself as you learn how to slow down. Be as patient as you would with a child who is learning something new. If you’re feeling the pressure to please, it’s likely you’ve been operating this way since you were a child so there’s a lot of unlearning to do here.

The first thing anyone needs to do is discover what brings them a sense of calm. This will look different for everyone but some examples are: reading an empowering book, exercising, listening to music and having your own private dance party. Whatever it is, start your day on your terms. Set the tone.

Taking 20 minutes at the beginning of each day to fuel your mind will set the mood for the rest of your day. When you start each day in control of your emotions, it’s much harder for the outside world to impact you. When you start your day with social media, reading emails from your boss or wrestling to get your kids out the door, you give that power away. Set the tone, take control of your day and use that as fuel to manage your emotions when your external environment triggers you.

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?

Remind yourself that nothing is an emergency. Unless there’s immediate, life threatening danger associated with the task at hand, it’s not an emergency so it doesn’t require our bodies fight or flight response system.

Clear your mind with a brain dump — write down everything that’s swirling in your mind. This releases the clutter in your mental real estate and allows you to move to clarity. Look at that list and remove anything that’s a ‘should’.

Identify your ‘must’ list. Items that must be completed in the next 24 hours. Maximum three items per life category (business, personal and goals) per day. Then focus on one task at a time and see it through to completion before you begin another task.This will allow you to complete your tasks with more efficiency, less overwhelm and give you a sense of achievement each day. When these items are complete, you’re done for the day. Some days the items will take two hours and some days they will take 10. But allow yourself to turn off and celebrate those daily achievements when you’ve crossed off that last item and to enjoy the rest of your daily guilt-free.

Use exercise to help manage your emotions. Exercise is a powerful tool for creating clarity and releasing emotions. Just 20 minutes a day will help release those feel good endorphins, flush excess cortisol and increase energy. This can look like a walk in nature, a 20 minute HIIT workout on YouTube or a visit to your favorite yoga studio. Whatever makes you feel good.

Deep breathing & meditation

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break and do an activity that requires your full attention- play chess, do a crossword puzzle, read a book. This will change your physical and mental state and allow you to return to the previous task with more attention and focus.

A morning routine

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

Mindfulness is simply a conscious awareness of one’s thoughts. Everyday our brain processes upwards of 60,000 thoughts but most people never stop to examine those thoughts. Where did they come from? Do they represent your current beliefs or were they picked up by your subconscious throughout your life? Are these thoughts serving the life you’re working towards or holding you back?

So if I was to tell you right now that you are absolutely capable of making 1 million dollars in 2021, you would likely smile for a moment at the thought then quickly find yourself flooded with limiting beliefs about what’s ‘realistic ‘ for you. You may hear something like ‘yeah right. I barely pay my mortgage every month. I’m not resourceful or smart enough to make that kind of money. Plus, I wouldn’t even know what to do with it’. Being mindful is recognizing these thoughts and a mindfulness practice would be dissecting these thoughts for validity.

Our thoughts drive our feelings and our feelings drive our actions so controlling our thoughts and aligning them with the life we want to live is how we create a new reality for ourselves.

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

A simple mindfulness practice is to take five deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth and to focus on your breath. Notice the thoughts that are swirling in your head and ask yourself if that thought is working for or against you? This is especially helpful when you’re faced with an emotional situation and are trying to manage your emotions in the moment. This calms the mind and allows for better clarity even under stressful circumstances.

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

Breathing exercises. Taking a few deep breaths before reacting is a very powerful tool if you’re feeling triggered and need to move into a state of calm & clarity quickly. Our ability to manage our emotions under pressure is a skill that separates the high performers from their colleagues. Managing your emotions effectively allows for more decisive and confident decision making, resulting in a higher level of efficiency.

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

I love Dr. Joe Dispenza — he breaks down the pretty complex topic of neuroscience into a language that resonates with so many. He backs his mindfulness teachings with science which helps many people buy into this practice.

I also listen to a variety of sleep meditations to reprogram my subconscious. I love to tell people to borrow the thoughts of others until they become your own and this is what listening to meditations while you sleep does as it speaks directly to the subconscious mind which controls 95% of our daily actions.

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

“You had the power all along my dear” — Glinda the Good Witch.

So often in life we’re looking for something outside of ourselves to feel whole, to fix us, to feel happy. When we are the only one responsible for our happiness because we are the only ones capable of changing this. Happiness is an inside job.

I spent many years of my life trying to accomplish my way to self-worth. When all I really needed to do was stop defining myself by others opinions and start loving the person I am. Without the need for external validation. I kept looking for happiness outside of me and found that power was always within me.

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 inspire a movement of moms around the world to take fierce ownership of their dreams. They have little eyes watching them and teaching them what stars to reach for.

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

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