Holistic Productivity ft. Chris McDonald

Productivity is vital to any successful business. But staying productive can sometimes feel overwhelming. Join me as holistic productivity expert Chris McDonald shares some great tips for how to shift your approach to productivity.

In This Episode, You'll Learn:

  • How not to over-schedule yourself
  • How to include self-care into your daily routine
  • How to approach productivity holistically

Resources Mentioned In This Episode:

Path To Hope Counseling
The Holistic Counseling Podcast
Mindly - Mind Mapping App
Structured Day Planning App

⬇️ Click for full episode transcript ⬇️

Uriah
Today, I have the privilege of talking to Chris McDonald, who is a holistic licensed therapist who also owns a group online practice. She's a 200-hours registered yoga therapist. She's also certified in brainspotting and offers gentle yoga to clients in session, as well as workshops and private yoga sessions. She specializes in treatment of anxiety, depression, trauma, and grief for young adults. Specifically, she also offers therapy for therapists, and is the host of The Holistic Counseling Podcast. Her favorite holistic daily routines include yoga and meditation. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Chris McDonald. Hi, Chris! Welcome to the show!

Chris
So glad to be here. Thanks for having me.

Uriah
Yeah, it's really wonderful to meet you. And just before I hit record, we were chatting about how great it is to meet people in the therapist community at large who are doing fun and interesting things. And so it's wonderful to get to know you.

Chris
Yeah, I'm so glad. Podcasting is one of those modalities that we get to meet so many people we would never meet in normal life. Right?

Uriah
It's true. It's wonderful. I like that a lot.

Chris
Yeah.

Uriah
So we're going to kind of have an open ended conversation about productivity and being therapists and how to possibly approach productivity from different perspectives, specifically, like, a Holistic lens. And so I'm sure I'll share some tips, and you can share some tips, and I got some questions for you. So we'll jump right into it. That's okay.

Chris
Yeah, let's do it.

Uriah
Yeah. So I'm curious what you have quite a bit going on, and I'm wondering, what kinds of things do you have that you juggle in your daily and weekly life that requires some sort of focus on routines and productivity? What have you got going on?

Chris
For sure. So I have this podcast called the Holistic Counseling Podcast, which helps therapist deepen their knowledge of Holistic modalities and build their practice with confidence. And so I make my Mondays my podcast day so that's when I recorded episodes, I guest on other podcasts and do anything related to that. And, of course, some of my private practice kind of sneaks in at times and not 100%, as you know. I have one other clinician working for me in my group practice, and I have a small practice called Pasta Hope Counseling that I own, and I had that open since 2015. So managing that in addition to a podcast can be a lot in itself.

Uriah
Oh, definitely. Yeah. And then there's the rest of life right outside of work, too. Oh, God. Yeah.

Chris
Just that juggle of everything.

Uriah
Are you the type of person that likes doing more than one thing? Is that something that you gravitate towards?

Chris
Sometimes I have to, but I find if I have too many things I'm juggling, that's when my stress level goes up and my anxiety goes up. And I think that's one thing I learned from your podcast, too, about not over scheduling because that's my tendency to be like, okay, well, I got this and this and this and try to block too much. And then I'm just at the end of the day, if I don't feel like I had gotten hardly anything done, then I'm stressed out and feel worried about the next day and the rest of the week. That's what I've learned from my mistakes with that too, to schedule less to do is hard to find sense of accomplishment, right?

Uriah
Yes. I personally, like, I get excited about he is, and I have a couple of businesses, of course, and so running two businesses is challenging in and of itself. So I have all these ideas and things that I like to that I want to pursue, but then I also really value, like, open space and free time. So my idea week has at least two, if not three days with zero meetings and just the ability to focus on creative projects. But then I'll think of something else to do that I want to start. I do this very easily. Takes up my time. Yeah. So you can relate.

Chris
Yeah, it's that clarity and focus. Like, how do we find that? And I think if you're a creative person, because I come up with so many ideas, which I use another app for that too, where I have to write down ideas because sometimes I'm in that space and I'll be like, okay, wow, that would be really cool. Hang on, let me save that somewhere. And my problem, before I put it on my phone notes or I put it on a Post It note, and then I have a pile of I'm like, what am I doing? I use a lot of circle back to say organized.

Uriah
Yeah, I'm going to ask you about that one because that's really interesting. Yeah, you're right. Creative entrepreneurs, creative therapists of any kind. We don't have a lack of ideas, but we might have a lack of focus and clarity. Okay, I'm going to come back to that and ask you about that. So I'm kind of curious, with all the things you have going on now and even in the past, what challenges have you had with trying to keep yourself focused and keep your tasks and your projects organized?

Chris
I have really battled with trying to find the right system, to be honest with you. It's been a long haul of trying different planners. I'm more old school. I like paper. I've resisted online things and apps for a long, long time. But I've tried both. I tried online things. I've tried all different kinds of planners. And for me, some of these planners, when they have all these, like, oh, let's put our long term goals and let's write about this and journal about this. I don't do that. I would only use them for to do lists and very specific things. And I needed something basic. I just was having a lot of trouble finding something that worked. And I resisted structuring my time, too, because I know time blocks. You're supposed to oh, let me work from one to two on this project. And I resisted that until recently. And then I have started to do that more often to schedule time blocks for certain things, and that's made a huge difference.

Uriah
That's good to know. So are you currently using a combination of paper solutions and then digital ones?

Chris
No, once I found the structured app that I use, that's made a huge difference because I like apps, I like to be on my phone. What I do is I time block things. So I look at the day and just, what do I need to work on? What are my three goals, the three things, and depending on how long those things will take, I try to guesstimate in my mind, and then, what are my free time that I put? And I put those in for certain times, and I got rid of my paper planner.

Uriah
You did? Wow. That's huge difference. Yeah. That's great. I'm like you in the sense that I do like paper, and I like the experience of writing on paper. So, I mean, I'll never give it up. I like a good pen and a good notebook, so I keep that around.

Chris
Yeah. I still have a couple of things I write down. Like, if I don't have time to put it in my phone, like, in between sessions or something else going, I'll still write down, but then I transfer it the same day because my problem is I'll have ten pieces of paper and notes, and then I get overwhelmed because I'm like, I got all this stuff to organize.

Uriah
I guarantee you the people listening to this right now can relate.

Chris
They're, like, looking at all their notes in front of them right now.

Uriah
It's like, oh, yeah, I forgot about that, or this idea or that thing that I was supposed to do. Yeah. Keeping it in one place. And honestly, from my perspective, I talk about, like, personalized productivity, because your system may or may not work for me. Your brain might work different than mine. So each person kind of has to figure out the set of strategies and approaches that work for them. So that is 100% valid. So tell me about the apps that you use. So I'm curious about that. You mentioned at least two. Tell me what's in your structured app.

Chris
Yeah. So at least you put it in for the day of what you want to get done that day. I believe you got to find what works for you. But I really like it because once you're done, you press a little circle and it checks it off, but then it crosses it out for some reason. That's satisfying. I like that to have both. And so I'm like, I almost want to add things so I can cross more things off. I love it so much, and I can see how accomplished I am for the day. I'm just looking at it now, and then at the end of the day, I go through, okay, if something's not done, you can reschedule something. So I'll reschedule it for the next day and see when I have an opening to work on whatever it is I didn't get done. The other app.

Uriah
Can we talk about structure for a second?

Chris
Sure.

Uriah
I did actually download it yesterday. I had never heard of this particular one.

Chris
Okay. Yeah.

Uriah
And I just started using you can start to use it for free. I downloaded the version on my iPhone. I think it has an Android version. I'm not sure.

Chris
I'm not sure, actually.

Uriah
Yeah, hopefully it does, but I like that. When I first downloaded the app and set it up, it said, what time do you wake up and what time do you go to sleep? So it actually puts that in there, which is kind of nifty, and it.

Chris
Reminds you if you do the up the pay version.

Uriah
Okay. Right.

Chris
Time for bed.

Uriah
Oh, nice.

Chris
Yeah.

Uriah
So it keeps you on track, and it seems like it's the kind of app that sort of takes your tasks and combines them with your calendar so you can kind of see everything together and then kind of organize it in a structured way. I like that. How is that different than what can be?

Chris
It's all in one place. I feel like I was more all over the place because it seemed like it was hard for me to pick one area. So this just kind of puts it all together because it puts my regular calendar, even personal things, into integrates it, and I have it all in one spot. And I've just kind of made this intention at the end of the day to transfer things over because that's the problem I had before my paper calendar. By the end of the week, I had all these blank spots of things I didn't get done, but then I would wait until the end of the week, and then I was, like, overwhelmed and like, oh, gosh, I don't want to transfer everything in the next week. So now that I'm doing it each day, then it's been more helpful. And I think that's the thing. People got to realize that to be really organized, especially if you have a lot going on, you got to take the time to put into it to really get yourself each day organized, because otherwise it builds up.

Uriah
That makes so much sense. I have a question for you about this app. You've been using it for a while, so, you know more than ideal.

Chris
Yeah.

Uriah
In their marketing, interestingly enough, a couple of their testimonials, they didn't mention you at all. No, I'm kidding. But they did have a couple of different things that they put on their website. And these are testimonials one person says, I have ADHD, and this app helped me a lot. And then another testimonial was someone with autism. And I thought, this is interesting. And I was wondering to myself, interesting, maybe you'll have an idea about this. I don't know, but I wonder if this app versus other apps might work better for folks who have more neurodiversity. I don't know. What do you think about that?

Chris
Yeah, no, I worked a lot with clients with ADHD and autism, actually, and anxiety. So, yeah, I think this could be beneficial. I haven't recommended it to a client. I've actually only been using it for a couple of months. But I really think it could be because it's visual, too, because it has all these different colors and color coordinated things. And to me, that's just more likely to look at it, too, because it's engaging.

Uriah
Right. It keeps everything in place and it's visually interesting.

Chris
Yeah, and it has reminders, too, so it'll say episode recording with your eyes at 05:00. So it keeps me in line, too.

Uriah
That's wonderful. And then the other app you were going to mention for keeping ideas, what is that one?

Chris
It's called the and I'm not sure if it's M-I-N-D-L-Y mindly. I think that's how you pronounce it. It's really fun because you can do it by categories, and it does, and I'll show you because it's hard to describe.

Uriah
Hard to describe?

Chris
Yeah, it is hard to describe. If I'm just doing audio, you put an idea and it has a circle, and then you put all different ideas. This was different solo episodes I want to do for my podcast. So then I'll just add them to the circle, and it's kind of a visual thing. So then I do it by different topics and put the ideas in there to organize them. Or like I'll do for TikTok, I'll put ideas in there.

Uriah
I think that would be really good for brainstorming.

Chris
Yeah, it is, totally. Yeah, it's all brain based kind of way of looking at things, too, I think.

Uriah
Okay, so this is technically a mind mapping app, which is mind mapping.

Chris
That's what it is.

Uriah
I don't think a lot of people use that, use these types of apps. Maybe in certain industries they do, maybe not therapists, but they're really helpful if you're a more visual person. And I actually really like the way this one looks. Yeah, right. This one uses circles. A lot of circles. The circles, connected circles. That's cool. Okay.

Chris
So if you have a main topic in the middle, like if I have my podcast episodes, ideas, and then I can click on the outside circle and then put additional ideas for that one.

Uriah
Right?

Chris
Yeah, it is the brainstorm thing, but then you can expand it as much as you want or as little.

Uriah
Let me ask you a specific question about that app. So when you have an idea or something you want to remember. That's not for now, but it's for later. Do you go and open up a certain file in mindly and then add it to that sort of mind map? Yes, you do. Okay, so you've got one for podcast.

Chris
Episodes, one for podcast episodes, one for yoga course that I'm going to be doing. So whatever comes up because things come up, and I think a lot of therapists might identify with this too. Even things to use with clients. Oh, that worked really well today. Let me write that down. And of course, if you wait, it's gone.

Uriah
It's true.

Chris
Getting it down or you realize you're like, wow, what I said today was really good. I could use that again. Let me write that down again. What I used to do, I'd either put it in my notes on my phone or I put it on little notepads and I had it both places. I lose stuff and it was overwhelming myself, my system.

Uriah
Our brands are really not set up for that kind of random access of databases. I mean, some people are better at that than others. I'm terrible at it. That's why I use technology to supplement.

Chris
Yeah, especially if you can just keep it all in one place too, because now I won't allow myself because I was even putting files on my computer, but then I'd lose them. I'm like, oh gosh, I can't do it this way anymore.

Uriah
I'm so glad that you found some systems that work for you. That's all organization is about is just knowing where to find the things that you need when you need them.

Chris
When you need them.

Uriah
Yeah, I think one of my superpowers is organizing information. I don't know why. It just makes me so happy to have it dialed in the way that I want it dialed in and it makes feeling easier. It is, yeah. So I'm curious, you started your group practice in 2021, is that correct?

Chris
No, actually that was my podcast. Right. I started a group in 2018 and just only kept it really small. I don't really want a big practice, and now I'm moving more in the podcasting realm and expanding with that.

Uriah
Okay, excellent. So I'm curious to chat with you about how therapists might think about productivity and organization from a more holistic perspective, because I know that's a big focus of what you do and what you talk about and how you train therapists. What can you share about that?

Chris
And I think we started to talk about this before we record too, right? How important it is that what you do outside of your job, career, whatever you want to call it, is so important, impacts your productivity, your overall well being. This is all connected, right? If we look at Holistically, Mind, Buddy Spear, if any one of those are weak or we have issues or problems, then it's going to impact the others. And of course, can crack your day with your job. I think it's so important to figure out and I put this in my schedule as well, when am I going to do my morning routine? What days can I do that? Because some days obviously are more difficult. But I do meditation, yoga most days, or I do a workout. So getting some movement is so important to my focus. And let me tell you days that I don't do that or do yoga or breath work or something, that I am much more scattered and more overwhelmed. I am very type A and I can keep going, going, going and not take a break. But I'm much more centered and more likely to have a calm if I do those practices in the morning. And I rearranged my whole private practice in podcasting around self care. So Monday nights I do yoga. So tonight is my yoga night and the only way I don't do it is if I'm sick. So I don't give any excuses. It's part of my lifestyle. And I work out around my business is around my workout schedule too. So I don't see clients till later, Mondays, Fridays, because I work out. But all of that impacts how we present to clients in our sessions, how we take care of ourselves.

Uriah
Yeah, it makes so much sense that you'll actually get more done and be more effective at the things that you do when you pay attention to all your needs, not just certain areas, all of your physical and spiritual and otherwise needs. Yeah, some of us are better at that than others, I suppose. And maybe, I don't know, maybe the more ambitious folks can just move forward without paying attention. I used to definitely work too long until I ate lunch. Just as an example.

Chris
02:00 why am I schedule your lunch?

Uriah
Yeah. Why am I not feeling great? Because you haven't eaten lunch.

Chris
Yeah, exactly. I think if you are an entrepreneur, that's really just like focus, laser focus, it's harder to take those breaks, but on the app you can also put your break in there. It'll remind you lunchtime.

Uriah
Yes. Some of us need an app or something to remind us that, hey, you stop working, you should go and take a walk.

Chris
Or another thing too is having an end time. It's important too to say what is my definite? Because sometimes, unfortunately, I'm guilty of this too, that sometimes I like, okay, well, I still got to do this. Let me prepare for the episode tomorrow that I'm doing or prepare for the session that there was something I was going to talk to this client about. I was going to look up and I'm like, no, this is my end. I need to stick to it and have a ritual to end it too. I just interviewed somebody about breath work and she said, yeah, one thing to end your day with is to do some breath work of five minutes. And that's a good transition. I said I'm going to write that down. You would think I would have done that by now, but no, I haven't. So I think, yeah, finding something that works for you to make the transitions can make a big difference.

Uriah
How do you think a therapist in private practice who's very busy and somewhat overwhelmed and probably overworking can figure out what they should focus on to take a more broader perspective of their day, their time, their energy? What would you recommend?

Chris
I think sometimes too, the way you frame it too with a lot of these practices because a lot of people say, I don't have time. Everybody's got time. It's what you prioritize too. But even incorporating some of these and things you're already doing, like taking mindfulness if you have to drive to the office, doing your mindfulness in the car, just feeling the steering wheel, noticing the clouds in the sky, hopefully not too long if you're driving, but noticing colors, shapes, right. We can still do those grounding things, mindfulness things that while we're already doing something else, it doesn't have to be a separate practice. Just noticing your breath while you're in the car or waiting in line like at the grocery store, instead of standing there impatiently shifting from leg to leg, just taking a moment just to notice your feet on the floor, notice how the basket feels beneath your hand. And those are all important practices too. But figuring out what is something I can do that's going to care for me mind, body, spirit each day sounds like something.

Uriah
Part of that is definitely slowing down and paying attention to yourself, all aspects of yourself and what you need in the moment and in your life right now. I like that. I recently started doing the miracle morning again, which I've done over time. And the model is called Life Savers, savers being the acronym. But part of it is Silence and Affirmation and Visualization and those three aspects. I've been particularly benefiting from getting back into that because oftentimes I would wake up and I would do my morning routine and then I would pretty quickly end up in front of my computer starting to work. And so now I'm sort of making that time period longer where I'm actually doing some morning practices that are more focused on my own well being and groundedness and all that. And it's really been nice. It's really been good because the work will always be there, right?

Chris
It will be there and putting it away, I think that's hard, especially if you have a lot of things going on. To disconnect. That is a mindful practice to put. I call it putting on the shelf. It's going to still be there in the morning. I'm going to disconnect and let it be there because otherwise it can pull us in. Let me check that I didn't send that email. Let me go send it right on the shelf.

Uriah
I like that. Like literally closing the laptop and putting it on the shelf. And then also, metaphorically, I tell clients.

Chris
Because some of them, well, can I just go and reach up on the shelf and take it down? Like, no, put a lock on it. To put two locks, you might need.

Uriah
To upgrade your visualization to a more.

Chris
Secure, like, a container exercise. Right. We got to really make sure that we can't get to it.

Uriah
I love working from home and coming through the pandemic, even have done a lot more of that, like most of us have. And just in the last two weeks, I started walking to a coworking space that's about ten minutes from my house, and I got a membership there. And it's been really nice because I'm actually working less from my home office and more outside of the home. And I didn't think I needed this or wanted this, but it's helping me create better boundaries between the two, which I love that apparently I need it. Yeah, it's been great.

Chris
Good idea.

Uriah
If you're listening to this and that resonates, I think you should take some action on that because.

Chris
I work from home. I know.

Uriah
Super blurred.

Chris
Yeah.

Uriah
Too much, definitely. Some of us have to reassess sort of post pandemic, if you will, if our current schedule and current routines are really working for us. If they need to be tweaked.

Chris
Yeah, exactly. And they might have to be, because.

Uriah
Now it's a great conversation.

Chris
What I've realized is I have to get out more, and I think a lot of clients and other people feel this way, too, is I got kind of sucked into being at home too much. And it wasn't until recently I even went to a yoga studio, and I had done that since before the pandemic started and started doing in person yoga. And I realized I have to get out each day. I have to at least go to Walgreens or something to see other people face to face, because I do all video sessions, and I'm doing more networking in person. So making those leaps of, okay, I got to have some time outside of my office and outside of my work.

Uriah
That's really good. It's good on the human connection level and also just the physical aspect of changing your environment and getting out.

Chris
Yeah, that's good for balance.

Uriah
These are great ideas. I appreciate you saying all this and helping me think about my habits and routines as well. So if people are interested in what you have to offer therapists or anybody who's listening to you, where can they find out more about you and your work?

Chris
Well, interestingly enough, I had my 100th episode last week, so if you haven't checked that out, I highly recommend with Gordon Brewer. So we talk about creating balance in your life as a therapist, which that's a challenge, but it's an awesome episode. We have chop full of different tips for you. Really hands on things that you can do to help create more balance between work and personal life. And that's hosted Counseling Podcast.com or on Apple podcast.

Uriah
That's fantastic. Congrats on 100 episodes. That's a thank you.

Chris
Yes. Yeah, I'm happy to be here.

Uriah
That's fantastic. Good. Well, thank you for your time, and you have a wonderful day.

Chris
Thanks. You too.

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