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Ep 366 - How to Get Things Done:"Business or Pressure"with Allissa Haines

A white notebook with a to do list sitting next to a cup of coffee.

It can be challenging to be productive and accomplish business tasks. Getting things done is a foundational skill, and we’ve got a list of ideas to help you move forward in this episode of Business or Pressure with Alissa Haines.


The Anti-Planner, Dani Donovan

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Allissa Haines is a practicing massage therapist and business owner and columnist for Massage & Bodywork magazine. You can find her building a community of massage therapists at





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Full Transcript

0:00:00.0 Allissa Haines: HobaCare Jojoba is 100% pure, high quality Jojoba and it is ideal for massage and bodywork professionals. The closest product to the natural sebum that our skin produces, HobaCare provides a deeply nourishing massage medium that will not clog pores. HobaCare is non-allergenic, so you can use it on every client and not worry about allergic reactions. HobaCare is shelf stable and will not stain your natural fiber sheets, making it an excellent choice for professional use and ultimately saving you money on all those linens. With HobaCare Jojoba, you can offer your clients a superior experience that benefits both skin health and overall well-being, and our listeners can receive 20% off their order using the code, ABMP. Learn more at 




0:01:02.9 AH: Welcome to Business or Pressure, taking the pain out of massage business, with me, Allissa Haines. This is your no-nonsense guide to building a happy, sustainable massage therapy business. And today, we're gonna tackle how to get things done. This is kind of important because the last few episodes, we've talked about things to do to start building a very strong foundation for a sustainable business, but if you can't get the things done that you need to do, none of it is very helpful. I wanna start by noting that any discussion about being productive is worthless if we do not acknowledge that people are different. What helps me may or may not help you. And I also wanna note, this is not some extreme life hacks, be more productive, trendy kind of guide. 


0:01:57.3 AH: I am not looking for you to overwork yourself, I do not want you to have to contribute more labor to a capitalist economy. I want you to be able to get the business things done efficiently, so you can get on with your work and enjoy your clients and enjoy your life outside of your business, knowing that the work is done. If you get one helpful nugget out of this episode, that's a win, because this is a slow building block kind of process. So, first, you gotta know yourself. Some people need ritual and consistency, some people thrive on routine. Completing a task or conquering a challenge provides the dopamine hit that makes you feel satisfied and accomplished. These people create habits and ultimately do these things automatically. They run on autopilot once they have established a system. Some people need variety, they need excitement. 


0:02:55.9 AH: And I'm gonna use that term loosely, 'cause a lot of these tasks are not excitement, but they need variety and novelty. It is the curiosity and the discovery and the challenge itself that provides the dose of dopamine. People who get so close to the end of a project that you can see the finish line, and then drop it like a hot potato, never to finish the task, that is because the interesting part is over. The tedious end tasks won't provide any satisfaction, so the brain is done. If you are this kind of person, you might benefit from changing up your technique to be productive and get things done, every few months, maybe even every few weeks. And of course, there are people, I think like me, who straddle these worlds and even people who can effectively call the strengths of their tendencies and minimize the weaknesses. It helps to think on this a bit, to consider where you fall. But then actually taking the time to consider this is a whole other task that we may or may not get you. Right? So, I recognize what I am asking you here. But to help us do all the things we need to do, I am gonna just pound through some ideas and techniques that could be helpful as you try to build a business or spiff up your resume, or just learn and do what you need to learn and do to be a better massage therapist. So knowing yourself, helpful. 


0:04:15.4 AH: This next one is kind of a deal breaker, but if you can nail this, the rest will be fine. Know what you have to do, know the actual tasks. And two, at any point when you are ready to get some work done, to know what you need to do, you have to have incorporated a trusted system of gathering your thoughts. If you take nothing else away from this episode, take this nugget and use it. This one is worth the effort and adjustment you may have to make to conquer the learning curve, which is really more of a habit curve, and it is to get the miscellany out of your head and into a gathering place of some sort, ideally, please, one gathering place. If you have Post-its in one spot and a to-do list in your email box, and a piece of paper on your desk at home, and then some Post-it notes on your desk at work, this can be really, really hard. It's hard to organize that way, so one gathering place of some sort. And this is where we integrate the know yourself part. 


0:05:22.6 AH: So for me, I use an app. The app is on my phone. My phone is with me like 99% of my life. And the app is also installed on my computer and it updates and syncs from either device, so I always have a place to put a to-do or task or idea that I want to make sure I save. You might do better with an actual paper notebook or Post-it notes, but you've gotta keep that with you all the time, or at least keep a little book of Post-it notes with you all the time, and have a system for where those notes, those Post-its get stuck, so that they're all in the same place, one gathering spot. You could use your email as a to-do list, you could have a system to flag certain emails you send to yourself or emails that are sent to you that involve a task, or you can put all of these email tasks, you can keep them in your inbox or you can put them in a separate folder, but that gets a little tricky 'cause some people are out of sight, out of mind. So if things are stored away in a file that's not gonna jump out at you when you open your email, that might not be helpful. If you use email, be sure you use really good subject headings on the emails 'cause that will help you sort through much faster when you do need to pull a task out. You might use just the Notes feature on your phone. Most phones have some kind of fast document feature where you can keep lists or ideas, just like pages in a notebook. 


0:06:51.9 AH: Whatever you got, whatever tool works best for you, find a way to integrate your to-do list, your list of ideas and tasks in one spot. Okay, now that you have all your thoughts and tasks in one place, it's time to play on what to do. And this is different for everyone. Again, all of this has to be customized to what works for you. I like to say, plan your day the night before. At the end of your work day, or maybe before your last client of the day, whenever you have time, towards the end of your work day, make a plan for the next day, for your next work day. Some people can do this the morning of. I can't do that, 'cause if I haven't decided what I need to do before I open my email in the morning, I will absolutely get derailed. So, know yourself. I wake up in the morning and I do my morning stuff and I check my email, make sure nothing is exploding, and then I go right to the to-do list that I planned the night before. I have chosen the tasks that I need to do. That way, when I sit down and have time to do them, I'm not wondering, I'm not organizing, I'm not getting overwhelmed with the list and giving up, 'cause that's overwhelming to the point where I won't do any of the things, I'll give up and go clean my kitchen. 


0:08:13.0 AH: But deciding the night before removes that stress, it removes the decision fatigue. I don't wanna make decisions at the start of my work day, I just wanna do the things. So for me, planning the night before is really helpful. You can think about what the best way is to plan for you, but the whole idea is that, when you sit down to do the thing, you already know what needs to be done. Our next hack here is to be minimal with that plan. And there's dual meanings here; one, I like to prioritize one thing, where if I can complete it, I will feel like it was a good and productive day. So if I can send emails to five clients that need following up, that maybe I haven't seen in a while, that is my priority, that is my goal. And once I send those five emails, I can feel good and accomplished. You can add other little tasks, but limit the absolutely must-do to one thing, if at all possible. And then be minimal and break that step down into rational reasonably-sized tasks, to avoid overwhelm. So if I give myself the to-do, I decide last night that I'm gonna get up this morning and I am going to write a column, that's not gonna work, because there's multiple steps to that, for me. It is unrealistic to think that I can research, draft and write a column in one sitting, in one day. 


0:09:38.7 AH: So, if I just have "write a column" on my to-do list, I will become overwhelmed and walk away. A good task would be, the night before, to say, "Okay, tomorrow, I am going to scan my list of ideas and choose one, and then loosely outline the column." That's it. It can't be, do the whole thing, 'cause I won't do the whole thing, I'll just get overwhelmed. So you've got all your tasks and to-dos in one place, you are thinking the night before or the morning of, or whatever works for you, what you're gonna do. You have been minimal with that plan, and now you've gotta be flexible because stuff is gonna blow up, like a kid is gonna puke on the carpet and a fledgling baby bird is going to appear on your back porch. Things are going to happen that pull you away from your tasks, especially if you're the primary caregiver at home, especially if you're the emergency number for everybody. Things are gonna happen. But if you have identified the bare minimum task and goal for the day, it will at least be easier to chip away at that one priority in whatever time you can make. 


0:10:45.9 AH: One of my favorite resources is called The Anti-Planner by Dani Donovan, who is a comic artist and writer who has ADHD and creates tools for people with ADHD. And The Anti-Planner is pretty awesome 'cause it lists through all these different kinds of obstacles that we run into when we try to accomplish things. You might be stuck, you might be unmotivated, you might be overwhelmed, you might be bored. The Anti-Planner gives you solutions, it gives you ideas to overcome all of these different kinds of obstacles. I encourage you to check out The Anti-Planner. We have the link in the podcast notes here. So I wanna throw at you a few ideas that come directly from The Anti-Planner. One, if you were stuck on something, try gamifying the task with a time limit. So, I know that I need to clean my massage room, but I'm just kinda stuck on where to start, or I'm feeling like it's too big of a task. I can decide, I am going to start cleaning and I'm only gonna clean for as long as this particular song on my playlist lasts. And I'm gonna give myself permission to stop when the song is over. Typically, once you get moving, you'll say, "Alright, I'm gonna keep going until this particular part of the task is done," or "I'm gonna keep going for one more song." 


0:12:03.2 AH: But to give yourself a time limit with a song or with an EggTimer, whatever, can take away some of the overwhelm. And it's also okay to give yourself permission to stop when the song ends, when the timer goes off, and move on to something else. That is okay. If you are someone who struggles to meet deadlines and get stuff done just of your own accord, this is where some external accountability might come into place, because external accountability kind of mimics that last minute deadline adrenaline and can help you get things done. This might be in the form of many deadlines where you break up a task and say, "This has to be done by this date," and whoever you owe the item to, whoever you owe the project to, or someone who can hold you accountable is going to check in about those deadlines. You have to turn in your work for this, or report back to a friend, "I have completed this task that I said I was going to complete." You can buddy up. If you have things you know you need to do that are tedious, but you gotta sit down and do them, get a buddy who can sit down and do it with you, or make it fun. If you hate going through your receipts and categorizing all your transactions, get a friend to come over, pop some popcorn, put a old movie on on the background, and categorize all your transactions together. 


0:13:22.0 AH: It really does take the edge off if you can buddy up. Or, one hour, one hour of dealing with bookkeeping, you meet at a coffee shop once every two weeks and get it done. That's it. You just do as much as you can do in the hour and you chat a little bit here and there. A listener wrote in and was very sweet, and said, "I am very excited about the new podcast." Thanks, I am too. "In my own journey, I am very much looking forward to an episode about taking clinical notes when you're a solo practitioner who knows they should, and also knows that if they don't do them, nobody will notice." I feel you, because this is a thing I have struggled with for years. You know you wanna take notes, you might even be required to take notes, but nobody's looking over your shoulder and making sure you take notes. So, this could be a really good strategy for the rules of pairing or reward. So, pair the charting with another task that you absolutely have to do. Create a rule and say, "I will not turn the office lights off until I finish client notes." You have to turn the office lights off when you leave at night, and if you don't turn them off until you finish client notes, you have to finish the client notes first. This does not work for every personality type, but it is one approach. Or, "I cannot check my email in the morning until I finish the notes from the day before." 


0:14:39.2 AH: So if you're someone who works until 9:00 O'clock at night and you know you are not gonna stay late to get that last client's worth of notes done or the whole day done, make a plan for the next day. So you're deciding what you're gonna do in advance, we're bringing in some of our other ideas here. Do not check your email, do not allow yourself to check your email until you finish your client notes from the last work day. Or, you can have coffee while you do your notes from the day before, but you're not allowed to eat breakfast, or you can't do X, Y, Z. But also, you need to set yourself up for success here, so make it as easy as possible to get your notes done whenever you decide you're going to do them. So, if you do your notes on a computer or within your scheduling system, or however you do them, make sure you have the bookmark to your client note screen in your browser, open it at the beginning of every day when you open your schedule. You can set your browser to automatically open any window, so mine opens my scheduling calendar and the link to my charting, so it automatically comes up and it's very hard to ignore. 


0:15:39.1 AH: If there is something that distracts you, put a Post-it on whatever the distraction is. If you get distracted by your phone, put a Post-it that says, "chart first." If you get distracted by going to get a cup of coffee, put a little note on your mug that says, "chart first." Whatever you need to do to remind yourself as you move towards that distraction, whatever you do to remind yourself and push yourself back to the task is really, really helpful. That is the end of my list of ideas. Hopefully, one of them at least will help you. And if you have a tip or a trick about being productive and getting tasks done in your massage business, I wanna hear about it. So email me, And today's high five, my... Thank you, my virtual high-five to a person or thing that I find really, really helpful. This high five is to whoever created the ability to play a video at a faster speed. If you watch videos online, either within Facebook or in YouTube or any of the online video places, there is probably a little settings button, a little gear you can click and you can change the speed of the video. I cannot watch videos at regular speed, especially if the person is a slow talker, so I speed it up. 


0:17:01.7 AH: I listen to things at usually 1.25 speed, sometimes 1.5 speed, and then I can get through it, I can actually be attentive when it's moving a little quicker, because it forces me to be attentive and concentrate in order to take in all the information. Likewise, if someone is moving too quickly through an instructional, I can slow it down and I can play it at like three-quarter speed, and that works really well for me. If you have questions about running your business or an idea for an episode, reach out via email at You can also find me building websites and hanging out with my community of massage therapists over at And make sure you are subscribed to ABMP's podcast so you don't miss a beat. There is so much to learn about building and maintaining a massage business. We're gonna cover all of it. I'll meet you right here for the next episode. I can't wait.