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Ep 8 - Conversations in Quarantine - Interview with Allissa Haines and Michael Reynolds (Massage Business Blueprint) - Part 2

A piggy bank wearing a protective facial mask

In Part 2 of our discussion with Allissa Haines and Michael Reynolds of Massage Business Blueprint, we discuss short-term business triage ideas and long-term goals, planning for worst-case scenarios and unpredictability, accounting basics and financial literacy, impostor syndrome, developing your dream practice, diversification, and productivity in a downtime. 

Author Images
A headshot of Allissa Haines of Massage Business Blueprint
A headshot of Michael Reynolds of Massage Business Blueprint
Author Bio

Allissa Haines and Michael Reynolds are the creators of Massage Business Blueprint, a business and marketing member-cased community. Haines is a practicing massage therapist of 15 years and self-described Director of Shenanigans at Massage Business Blueprint. Michael is a former massage therapist, financial advisor and tech entrepreneur, and self-described Director of Nerdy Things at Massage Business Blueprint. Both happen to be authors for Massage & Bodywork magazine and are columnists of the Blueprint for Success column. For more info about them, please visit their site at For more info about their year-long financial series, visit And to find their wonderful article “Financially Surviving COVID-19” that was featured in the Special Issue of Massage & Bodywork, go to


This episode is sponsored by ABMP.

Full Transcript

00:00 Speaker 1: As a way to give back to the profession during this challenging time of COVID-19, ABMP is offering non-members free access and CE to some courses in the ABMP Education Center each week for a limited time, Simply register online at for access. ABMP members earn free CE for all 200+ courses in the ABMP education center, including the new Ruth Warner course, Taking The Danger out of Endangerment Sites.


00:43 Darren Buford: Welcome to Conversations in Quarantine. My name is Darren Buford, and I'm the Editor-In-Chief of Massage and Bodywork Magazine, and Senior Director of Communications for ABMP. Our goal here is to speak with luminaries and experts in and around the massage profession to talk about the effects of COVID-19 on bodywork practitioners, the fears, the frustrations, and more importantly, to discuss next steps towards safely re-opening our doors when the time is right, how to pivot now, how to prepare for the future, and discussing what the new normal will be. We are joined again by Alyssa Haynes and Michael Reynolds of Massage Business Blueprint. I mentioned that I binged all of your podcasts since COVID. And one of the early ones you did was kind of a back and forth with regards to half baked ideas with short-term triage of your business and what does that mean. And you did that early in the process, so I wanna ask you on today, May 6th, where do you feel... Are you anywhere with regards to, again, short-term triage of any ideas that... Tell us what that is, first of all, and then has your opinion changed since shutdown on March 16-ish?

02:00 Michael Reynolds: I'm thinking back to that episode. [chuckle]

02:02 Alyssa Haynes: Yeah. So, I think what we were covering then was just, it was triage. So it was like reach out to your... Cancel your appointments, make sure you proactively reach out to your clients to cancel your appointments, proactively talk to your landlord, make sure that you understand how much cash you have in the bank right now for both business and personal accounts, shut down any auto-pays that you don't need, downgrade all of your subscriptions if you can, or eliminate them. And all of that still applies. If you haven't done that yet because you felt kinda deer in the headlights about this, yeah, you need to hop on top of these things. It would be better. I immediately... Within the first week I shut down my office, I cancelled the cable 'cause there was... Or the internet, because there was no way I was gonna pay like 80 bucks a month for internet when we weren't there. People can hotspot if they had to stop in at the office. And I immediately did that. And yeah, all of these things still apply, because we don't know anything. We just... We don't know. We don't know what... We don't know. We don't know if this is gonna dramatically decline in a month, or if we get really good testing, or if this is just the first of many waves and this is gonna keep happening for the next two years. We have no idea. So yeah, people still should be taking all of those actions to really pull their financial crap together.

03:28 DB: Business likes predictability. Can you tell me a little bit about business in the unknown?

03:36 AH: So, I'm gonna speak to this really quickly and then hand it to Michael, because he's the guy.

03:40 MR: Yeah, go for it.

03:40 AH: Okay, life is unpredictable. I have always assumed that I would have to be out of work for a couple of months for one reason or another, like I break my ankle or I finally get my nose job, or I whatever, I have to take care of an ailing parent. So I've always felt that way. I'm pretty pessimistic in a lot of ways, so I like to... I am comforted when I have planned for the worst case scenario. I did not expect it to be a pandemic. I didn't expect when I couldn't work that my tenants also couldn't work. I didn't expect that if all of my profession was out of work, it was gonna have an impact on my Massage Business Blueprint gig. So yeah, there's that. But, Michael, speak to the predictability and unpredictability of business.


04:25 MR: Well, as we've discovered, business is unpredictable. So, I think it's really shedding light on this concept that in business it's important to plan for unpredictability. It's basically something you need to expect in business. I think we've been lulled into... Not everybody, but I think some of us have been lulled into this sense of, "Oh, things are going great. The economy is strong or whatever, and maybe my massage practice is going well, maybe my marketing is working, and etcetera", and then it becomes a lot easier to say, "Well, I'll just get around to my emergency fund later. I'll just kinda... I'll go into debt for this thing because it sounds like a good investment." And those are all things that sound good at the time when things are going well at the time, but something always happens. Business is cyclical. You can go back any number of decades and years and just look at history. I mean, business is cyclical, this happens over and over and over. Right now it's a pandemic, before it was 9/11, before that it was housing crisis, before that it was something else. There's always something.

05:27 MR: Now, this is different than the other stuff because it affects people in a different way, but it's always something. So business is cyclical, and I think it's really helping a lot of people kind of have a reminder that you have to plan for unpredictability, and a lot of that means good old-fashioned saving money and building up a buffer. And I'm sure we'll talk about this a little more later on all the things that kinda go with that, but planning for the worst. Expecting and hoping for the best, but planning for the worst. And I think those who are able to get in that mindset of planning for the worst and just being prepared for the worst, that makes both the good times and the bad times a lot better.

06:07 DB: Michael, are you getting questions with regards to... Either in your day job or at the Massage Business Blueprint, are you getting questions with regard, yet, about that piggy bank mentality with regards to planning for the unpredictability in the future? What were you preaching or what were you suggesting before to your members with regards to that safety net fund? And has that already come up or are we... That may not have come up yet, but that may be something when people get back to practice.

06:42 MR: Well, how much time do we have? [chuckle] So it's... First of all, it's difficult to talk about this because it's very... Like I try not to be insensitive by saying, "Oh, well, you should have done this", 'cause it's very difficult for someone to hear that when it's happening to them. When you're in a situation where you should have planned better, and you didn't, and now you're paying the price, no one wants to hear like, "Oh... "

07:01 AH: And everyone already knows this.

07:03 MR: And everyone already knows this, yeah. So it's very difficult to backtrack and say, "Well, you know, this is... " But in reality, we do need to learn from it. We need to learn from the fact that having an emergency fund is really, really important right now. And there are lots of other things that go with that. You know, we try to be sure we're always talking about good financial protocols, good financial practices, the things like having a good accounting system in place. Alyssa and I love to argue about QuickBooks Online, but whether it's QuickBooks or Wave Accounting or FreshBooks or whatever, Alyssa even lets them get by with a spreadsheet, I don't. But anyway, if it's something, have an accounting system that lets you pull reports and see how much money you're making, and how much money you made last year in net income. These are very basic things that you have to have in place in order to have a healthy business. File your tax returns on time. There are so many people I've talked to that they can't even apply properly for PPP loans because they haven't filed their 2019 taxes and therefore can't have the documentation or can't figure it out.

08:02 MR: And so those things are hamstringing a lot of people's ability to get the aid they might need, or the relief they might need. You know, just being able to pay your quarterly estimates on time, saving a buffer for that, having accounts set up for those things, setting up an emergency fund. All...

08:18 AH: So pretty much like running your business like a business, huh Michael?

08:20 MR: Yeah, running your business like a business, yeah. And I really hate to sound soap boxy about this, but it's so important and it just trips people up over and over and over. And so so much pain can be avoided by doing things like this and paying yourself properly and consistently. And so I really... I think it's important that we learn from this stuff and we get better and better over time.

08:44 AH: And I think that all of these lessons that we all knew but probably didn't take to heart are just coming around to kick us in the butt. So it's not a secret in the massage industry that many practitioners will take tips and they'll take them in cash and they don't claim them. So they don't tell the feds, they don't tell the IRS that they made that money. Or when a client pays them in cash they don't claim that money, 'cause they don't want to pay tax on it. And that's coming back to kick people in the butt now, because the lower your reported income, the lower the benefits that you're going to receive. And that's not necessarily true for every state because states are handling a lot of this, the unemployment stuff, differently. But in my state, in Massachusetts, your unemployment is based on a percentage of the income that you reported last year. So if you didn't report like $10,000 because you had however many clients pay you in cash, that's less benefit you're going to get now. This is like revolutionary that self-employed people are getting any kind of benefit right now, but it's definitely biting people in the rear who hid their income.

09:56 AH: And I'm not... This isn't to preach about, "See, you should have done this." That's not what's happening here. But these are the lessons that we need to take from this. That terror you felt when you first went to apply for the pandemic unemployment assistance and you didn't know what your schedule C was. You had to like call your tax preparer or your slightly stoned cousin who prepares your taxes because he has two years of an accounting degree. And I say this as someone whose slightly stoned cousin did my taxes for years. If you don't know what your schedule C is, and you gotta call them and depend on them, and they're driving, they're doing Instacart deliveries right now, it's a crisis. But now you know that you need to get a little more literate about your taxes, okay. The bulk of the lessons I have learned in the last 15 years were by screwing something up, and it's just by the grace of who knows what that I learned a bunch of these before this pandemic came around. So not really trying to not come from a place of judgment, we have all been there. But we have to take these lessons with us forward or we don't stand a chance.

11:04 MR: And here's the thing I've noticed. The thing that comes up over and over is a lot of us have this instinctive, well, instinct, to hide from money problems. The thing that rises to the top among all these situations that I see is that people will say, "Well, when money problems get complex or stressful, I just don't think about it. I just wanna kinda hide from it." And when you hide from money problems, they tend to multiply, you know? It's just not really the best approach. And so I used to be someone that did that, I speak from experience. Back in the day, I was really good at hiding from money problems. I got into lots of debt, I got into lots of trouble, I had all sorts of back tax issues and stuff. Nothing major, but just getting behind on stuff and just lots of little problems here and there. And it's because I hid from money problems. And I got tired of that, and I really decided that never again will I let this stuff happen to me. I'm gonna take an intentional approach, I'm going to learn how to do this stuff.

12:00 MR: And it's not that insurmountable. I mean, you can learn to read a basic financial statement, you can learn to use basic accounting software, you can get some help from your accountant for this stuff. You can learn how to understand the basics of taxes. I'm not saying you have to become a CPA, but this is stuff you can learn. And I think it's important that we kind of decide that we're going to learn to become financially literate with our business.

12:23 DB: I'm gonna transition here to a very hard transition to a different topic. Alyssa, you wrote an article for Massage and Bodywork Magazine about imposter syndrome. The title of the article is Imposter Syndrome in Massage Therapists. Is any of that baked in to this COVID experience right now? Is imposter syndrome lessened? Is it heightened due to the virus? Is any of this due to the labeling that massage got non-essential by several government entities? When I went back and looked at the history of the articles that you guys have written collectively over the years, this one really jumped out to me because it was very, very popular. How do you feel about that now?

13:11 AH: I was so... I'm glad to hear this question because I have been thinking about this for a couple of weeks. I have been astounded by the ego and the hubris of colleagues who think that they know more than an epidemiologist. And I happened to be sitting in my office and I looked up and I saw that framed cover with the Impostor Syndrome article that's hanging in my office, and I wanted to throw it into the fire. If I could go back in time and unwrite that piece, I would do it. And I wanna give some credit. Our friend Cal Cates, when I wrote that and she read a draft she said, "This is wonderful, but we need to talk about the shadow side of imposter syndrome." And we discussed it and we talked about how massage therapists can feel insecure because we really got like, what? 500 hours of training. And we do this thing to validate ourselves and validate our work where we really puff up and we act like... And massage is wonderful. Validate it. But I think there's a root of insecurity in a lot of practitioners, and we make ourselves bigger than we really are.

14:25 AH: And I'm... Again, I'm watching colleagues with 500 hours of training think they know more than an epidemiologist. I'm embarrassed, I am embarrassed on their behalf, and I am embarrassed for the profession when I see this. And I think the low barrier of entry into this profession is kicking us in the rear right now. And I am terrified. And I wanna go back in time, and I wanna make that piece about humility and how we validate ourselves in our work, and how we need to really value our work and our skills without tying that to our whole identity. 'Cause that's what happening right now, right? We're being told we're non-essential, and I'll come back to that, but we're being told we're not needed. It hurts our feelings. Our clients want us around, they miss us, we miss them. We're financially in jeopardy. Oh, yeah, and I don't have an identity now because I'm not out there, I'm gonna air quote this, "healing people". And we go bonkers, and it drives us into this denial that we think we know more, that we want so much to get back to work that we will believe anything we can believe to make that true.

15:35 AH: And that is leading to unsafe behavior and ego-driven behavior, and it's terrifying. And I was on a call with somebody and they said, "Well, what do we do about people who get so upset by being labeled non-essential?" And I said, the same darn thing I do when my partners kids don't call me mom even though I'm taking care of them every day. I get the hell over it." Like you get the heck over it because I'm not their mother, it doesn't matter that I care for them every day. It doesn't matter that it hurts our feelings that we're called non-essential, that should not be part of our decision making here, and we have to take our ego out of it. And in the purposes of this crisis non-essential means we're not life or death. We're not. No one has ever lived or died because they did or didn't get a massage. The safest thing we can do is stay the heck away from our clients. And I wanna go back in time and unwrite that, and maybe I just have to rewrite that, so we'll talk.


16:38 DB: Anytime. Anytime, my friend. It's always good to revisit a piece. Let me ask you with regards to... You're on this path, and I know 'cause I've heard you and I've seen your writings over the past month-and-a-half, you've been really adamant about not practicing and potentially until there's more testing, until we know more, until there's a vaccine, whatever all that means. And you've cited sometimes in your comments that it could be 12, 18, 24 months. How do you balance that with what you do with Massage Business Blueprint because you provide business advice for your members? This is one of your sources of income. And I'm just curious if no one's practicing, what does that mean if Massage Business Blueprint didn't exist because of that?

17:28 AH: Well, what's really fun about Michael and I is, as much as we love money, we don't care about money. So we, at the core... And this sounds so self-important, I'm sorry, after talking about impostor syndrome. We care about service. Michael and I met volunteering in a message organization. We care about serving the people we adore, and we adore sole proprietor massage businesses. We love a one-person massage business. We just do. So we don't... We're not striving for balance, we don't give a crap about balance, we care about honesty. And I'm not going to try to sell some crappy how to pivot your business to an online platform course for the money. And I'm not gonna blow smoke up anybody's rear just to sell premium memberships or courses. That's not what we're about. So if the Blueprint tanks for a bit, we're okay. If we run at cost for a while, we'll figure it out. And again, Michael and I are both fortunate to have figured out financial literacy a couple of years ago. He's got nine other businesses going on. Michael's fine.

18:33 MR: Three other businesses. Three.

18:34 AH: Sorry, just three now. [chuckle] It's a running joke about how quickly Michael starts a business. I have other things I can do. So if we run at cost for a while, we're okay. We will ride this out so that we can continue to serve, because we love money but it ain't that important to us.

18:55 MR: Yeah, I'm gonna add to that by saying I think right now is... We are... I don't say we're needed 'cause that sounds so self-important and arrogant, but I think we are providing value now more than ever. Because again, who saw this coming? Nobody realized we'd be here at this point. And there are so many massage therapists who need the support, not just from us, but from their peers in the community, and the resources that we're able to pull together and help people with. And so, yeah, nobody's practicing right now, or I should say most people are not practicing right now, but they still need community, they still need support, they need to know what's the path to re-opening, what is the path to reinventing my business, what does that path look like, and how do I do this with some community so I'm not alone. And so, I think we're right alongside them. Yeah, before COVID-19 we were doing, "Hey, marketing, and business, and social media, and the fun stuff." And now we're like, "Hey, let's get in the trenches and figure this out together so we can come out through that path on the other side stronger than ever, and we've done it together." So I really like the fact that we have been able to be alongside our members through the whole thing.

20:03 AH: I'm just gonna pop in. One of my favorite things about this Blueprint gig we have is that I am the ultimate guinea pig for everything. I am a practitioner, I got my hands on people all the time, except for now. So, shutting down my business and pausing was really scary for me. I'm like, "Well, I'm gonna lose all my credibility if I'm not practicing." And then I looked around and there's so many of our members who are in the same position, and they're making the decision to get out of their lease or give up their office space. And I was like, "Oh. Yeah, that's right, I'm the guinea pig." And we're encouraging our members, and we're launching a new platform next week based around what you need to do and know so that when you emerge from this you are working in your dream practice. And I hate that terminology, it's so floofy, but I made plenty of mistakes running my business early on, I am fixing those and I am the guinea pig for the training that we are doing, and the teaching, and the community, and the questions we're asking each other, and the peer mentoring. So that when we're out of this and it's safe, I am going back to work and I am gonna have all the things I wanted in my business but I screwed up the first time.

21:06 DB: Let's pause for a second as we take a quick break.

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21:44 DB: Now, let's get back to the podcast. Okay, so let's assume we've got PPE. Let's assume we're gonna get the disinfectants that we need. And your state's ready to reopen. When you reopen, what do you do, A, B, and C?

22:03 AH: And I am going to decline to answer this question because we're not even at the point where we can discuss this. We just don't know enough. And when these discussions happen months from now, they'll be ongoing, but months from now, as hopefully the situation improves, those discussions should be led by people who are much smarter than me. Ruth Werner, Tracy Walton, Cal Cates, people who are in hospitals, are studying pathology, have worked with people with... And taught us how to work, taught me how to work with high-risk and complicated medical conditions. Alyssa the marketing nerd is not someone you should take pathology and safety advice from. I'm happy to speak to the ethics of it, but no, I'm not your girl and I refuse to answer it.

22:49 DB: How do you create waves of sustainability when your state opens and closes, and then opens and closes, if we do experience second or third waves? How can MTs prepare for that?

23:03 AH: Michael, I want you to take this one.


23:05 MR: Oh, I was just thinking, "I'm not qualified to answer this."


23:08 AH: Alright, so my guess is, how do you sustain this, is, one, probably a good relationship with your landlord. Not signing a five-year lease any time in the near future, not signing a new lease, asking for month-to-month, side gigs and savings, have...

23:26 MR: No, I was thinking of... Sorry, I was thinking of the health aspect of it. You were thinking of the foundational part, that's why you threw it to me.


23:33 AH: Yeah, I don't know. Maybe I'm not even answering the right question.

23:35 DB: No, this is... Yeah, you're on the right path.

23:38 AH: I think side gigs. I think that massage is also an awesome part-time job. It's a wonderful full-time job, and I have been so lucky to make a living doing it for a long time, but it's also a fantastic part-time flexible gig. So, maybe that needs to be an option. And maybe focusing on lowering your expenses and increasing your income via some jobs, other things you may be qualified to do. That might be how we sustain ourselves in the long haul of this.

24:13 MR: Okay, so I will jump in now that I understand the question better. [chuckle] I'm a big fan of multiple sources of income. Like this whole... It sounds scammy, I mean you hear this term "multiple streams of income", and people are trying to be scammy about it sometimes, but I 100% believe in this. This is why I have four businesses. [chuckle] There's a reason for it. So, in investing, which is one of my worlds, diversification is a thing. It's a concept people are interested in doing because it's safer to diversify. And so, I believe in diversifying business as well. Not for everybody, but in this particular context I agree. I mean, I'm helping some massage therapists launch marketing agencies and web design companies, because they can do it virtually on the side. There's all sorts of things you can do that are knowledge-based or technology-based that might be short-term or long-term.

25:03 MR: So, I'm a big fan of multiple sources of income, and I talked to one of my massage therapist actually just this week that was saying, "Hey, I can really make money doing this other thing. Wow. And I can serve clients anywhere in the country." And then I was like, "Yeah, and if you want to, when you go back to massage, you can do it because you love it and you love serving people, not because you have to make a bunch of money doing it." She's like, "Wow, that would be amazing", and her eyes just lit up. And so, I think this is gonna help a lot of people fall in love with massage even more when we get to that path to reopening.

25:40 DB: You are both marketing and business experts. Where have you not taken your own advice from the past, and now, right now, you're like, "Ouch, I wish I would have done that"?

25:53 AH: Opportunity plus hard work equals luck, right? So we can look at this situation and be like, "Oh this is bad luck", or, "It's good luck for me that I had some savings, and that I could email my clients." Opportunity, which I had because I had lots of support building my business, and hard work, which I have done for many years, equals my luck. I feel so good about finally taking a lot of my own advice and Michael's advice and everyone else's advice in that because I did that I got set up really well. It was easy for me to email my clients because I had a foundation of that. I have savings, I am making all of my decisions from a place of reason and financial awareness, and not ego and fear. And I struggled for a week with whether or not to close my office because I was so worried about, "Will I ever be able to find an office again that suits me?" And plenty of people assured me that there will be plenty of office space available. But I almost got stuck in that cycle of making a decision from a place of fear, and that decision would have cost me a lot of money. So I guess that might be one example. But I have felt recently in the past few years that I really had my crap together, so I don't have a super handy example. I'll have to think about that and follow up.

27:13 MR: Yeah, I'm kind of in the same boat. I think I make mistakes every day in some sense, nobody's perfect, but... And Alyssa kind of alluded to this. One thing that's unique about us working together is we give each other advice, [chuckle] and we learn from each other, and we have different angles we come from. And so, yeah, I think in general, especially as a business, at Massage Business Blueprint we've been pretty good at taking our own advice for the most part. Which is nice to see. I think we're pretty proud of that. We have a niche, we focus on massage therapists, we have good financial practices, we save money in the bank, and we keep our expenses low and our profitability high and our debt zero. We practice what we preach. And I think if we didn't practice what we preach then we wouldn't be happy with that. We wouldn't be able to say, "Hey... " Like Alyssa said, she's a guinea pig. We experiment on ourselves and we follow the things that we teach because we believe in those things. So by doing that, I think we've ended up in a pretty decent spot. Nobody's perfect, but pretty decent, I think.

28:11 DB: Well, also you mentioned that you have an accountability buddy, and you have a community of accountability buddies, so I'm sure that's... People are really leaning on that right now and finding a lot of value in that. Alyssa, I know that you... We spoke a little bit earlier, but I know that you've mentioned before, now is the time... Even though it may be corny, slightly corny. You've mentioned the dream practice. What does the dream practice mean for you when we're able to practice again?

28:40 AH: For me, it means a better schedule. I work too many stretched out days and I'm going to compact my days better even if that means that some clients don't come back, which is a little sad, but I'll get over it and so will they. It means not taking clients that aren't a good fit for me. I don't want clients who want the crap beat out of them. That's not the kind of work I do best, and I just don't wanna do it, so I'm not gonna. And it means no other people that I'm responsible for. After five, more than that, years of having renters, and at one point I tried to have a larger studio space, a yoga studio and stuff, and I don't want to be responsible for anyone else. And this, the COVID stuff with the liability of other people in my office and keeping it safe, has really cemented that down for me. It's time for me to go small and know that I won't have any stress worrying about other people's protocols or anyone making me look bad, 'cause it'll just be me. I'm the only one that gets to make me look bad and I do that frequently enough.

29:46 MR: To add to that. So, now is a... And first of all, I wanna preface this by saying not everybody is in hyper-productivity mode like me, that's okay. If you need space to just kind of grieve and to shut down for a little bit, that's valid. But if you're able to find some energy toward productivity, now is a really good time to redesign your website. Now is a really good time to think about your niche, if you want to focus on a niche. Now is a really good time to get your finances in order, to get an accounting system set up, to categorize and do some bookkeeping and get caught up with that. Now is a really good time to navigate different email marketing systems and pick the one you like best. Now is a really good time to re-evaluate your scheduling system, if you wanna switch schedulers. Now's a really good time to work on all the stuff that you can never get to because you're too busy working. So those are all things that, if you can find the energy to have that productivity, I really recommend looking at those things.

30:40 MR: Because when you have a new website that's new and shiny and reflects your services better and your practice better, and your software is set up the way you want it, and all your systems are working and your books are in order, and you launch when it's time to reopen, you're gonna have such a strong foundation that that momentum is gonna carry you forward even better. So part of your dream practice, in my opinion, is getting all that stuff in order that you never got to when you were working.

31:07 DB: And Michael, do you have any... I know you guys have spoken on your podcast about productivity. I know it's something that you really geek out about. It's something that I enjoy as well. From my own personal experience, since this has happened I've maintained some very rigorously my routine, daily routine. I still wake up at the same time. I still do... The dogs take a walk at the same time. I still do meditation at the same time. I still start work at exactly the same time. And for me, that's been an extension of helping me with my own sanity, of being productive. Do you have similar type things that you suggest that work for you, or you suggest other people try?

31:49 MR: Yeah, yeah. So everyone's different, so the stuff that works for me won't work for everybody. And I just kind of like to say that out loud. But for me specifically, I really like to... There's a couple of things that I just always go back to and always kind of point to as like the big things. One is, I think of... Well I think in... Actually three things. I think in context. So if you're... I have a to-do list that is based in context. A context is basically in a business, like, "This business is these to do items, and this business is this, and phone calls are this, and emails are this, and whatever." And so if you batch things into certain context or categories then you can kinda blow through certain contexts really quickly and then move on to the next context. And a context is like a state of being. So if you're doing a bunch of emailing, sit down for a half hour and do all of your emailing. If you're doing a bunch of financial stuff, sit down for an hour and do your financial stuff. If you're doing a bunch of phone calls, go do that in one context. That really helps to batch things. The second thing is to have one trusted system. So literally, I'm not making this up, the number one thing I see over and over 99% of the time when people say they're disorganized or having trouble being productive, is they have multiple systems and therefore nothing is trusted.

32:55 MR: So the brain wants a trusted system. The brain wants to know where all the things are stored. But so many people have a post-it note here and a notebook over here and an electronic to-do thing on their computer and an app on their phone and something on the fridge and a whiteboard over here, and they just kinda scrabble things everywhere. And when you do that you don't have any trust behind any of it because the brain's like, "Well, which one is the real thing?" And so I think it's hyper, hyper important to pick one place to put everything. And for me, that's Microsoft To Do. It's a to-do list. For some people it's a notebook they carry around, or some people it's something else. But the important thing is you pick one thing. It doesn't mean you can't scribble notes places, but you have to know that you've assigned this one thing, that's your trusted place for all the things you have to get done, and that's what kind of dictates the stuff that's moving in your world that you have to accomplish. The third thing is I think of work as kind of a flow. You mentioned routine, Darren, that works really well for a lot of people.

33:56 MR: For me, routine is like the anti-productivity for me, I thrive on variety. And so, if you're the kind of person like me who thrives on variety and changing things up, then every day, my to do list is there, but I sometimes knock out certain things, I will be very fluid, I'll move certain things to the next day or next week. I'll think of it as kind of a flow and I'm going around the rocks and the branches and all the stuff, but the water keeps moving forward. So it's a pattern of flow that gives me permission to not get everything done, knowing that I have re-assigned it by letting it flow around the rock for tomorrow or flow down the stream to next week. And if you think of it mentally, like a flow, then I think it gives us permission to lower stress about the stuff we didn't get done, but also let nothing fall through the cracks. That's kind of my approach. Probably pretty corny, but that's my approach.

34:50 DB: I find when I... You would cringe right now, because there are 10 notes...

34:56 MR: Yeah, I knew it.

34:57 DB: Sitting right beside me. And you're totally right. It's paralysis by analysis. I look at it and it just looks like this thing, and so then I avoid it. And even though I'm really good at having a to-do list that usually is my go-to, but work has been really hectic in the past eight weeks, so I just... Things get moved to the side and I...

35:22 MR: Let me give you a pro tip on that.

35:23 DB: Yes.

35:23 MR: You're allowed to do that, but on your trusted system there needs to be a to do item that says, "Go check this other system." So for example, I have a CRM in my financial advisory practice that has to do items in it.

35:33 AH: Michael, what is CRM?

35:35 MR: Sorry, I'm... Jargon alert. Customer relationship manager, which is like a database of people you talk to, like customers, clients, contacts. So my master to-do list is Microsoft To Do, which is on my phone, but on a re-occurring basis there's stuff every so often that says, "Go do these things", and the things might be in some other system. So I'm allowed to have other systems as long as I have one that tracks everything as an overarching system. So you might be able to combine the post... You might have a stack of post-it notes, and on your to-do list it might say, "Go check post-it notes", or something, or, "Go process the basket of paper", that's okay.

36:11 AH: That's what I do.

36:11 MR: But the point is to have one.

36:12 AH: Yeah, I use Microsoft To Do as well, it's an electronic checklist, essentially. And there is a to-do on there once a week that says, "Look at your notebook." 'Cause I keep a notebook on my desk where I just make notes, things that come into my mind. I don't wanna open a program to write them down, and I physically write them down. And once a week I flip through the last week's worth of notebook stuff and make note of any ideas that need to be recorded somewhere solid, like blog post ideas and, "Oh, I wanted to ask that person whatever, where they got that massage oil or whatever." And I aggregate all of that information regularly in to my to-do list, or I accomplish those tasks, immediately and X off that notebook page and I move along. And my brain is allowed to relax because it knows I have a system for aggregating all of that information.

37:02 DB: My... I thoroughly enjoy crossing something off of the checklist. [chuckle]

37:08 MR: It does feel good, yeah. With a pen.

37:10 DB: It does.

37:10 MR: The pen on paper does feel good. I'll admit that.

37:12 DB: Yes. Even though I do have a... I do not use Microsoft To Do, I'm absolutely gonna look into it after this. I do have a Word document that I constantly am revising all the time with my to-dos, but it's not the same feeling as the tearing of the page and throwing it in the garbage or recycling or crossing it off with a pen. There's a joy that a couple of my coworkers and I talk about a couple of times, and one of my co-workers has mentioned numerous times that she'll write something... Even after she's done it, she'll write it down just so she can cross it off. [chuckle]

37:43 MR: Valid, valid.

37:44 AH: Alright.

37:46 DB: Alright, there have been so many good things we've talked about. Let's end with a couple of quick questions, some feel good things. Is there anything that you're avoiding right now?

37:54 AH: Caffeine. I already have enough palpitations going on. I'm allowed half a cup of coffee in the morning and that's it.

38:02 MR: I can't think of anything I'm avoiding, nothing comes to mind.

38:05 DB: I will absolutely agree with Alyssa. I have shifted from the coffee to the tea, just to dial it down a little bit. And social media. Ooh, social media.

38:18 MR: Yeah, that's a good one. Yeah, I'm trying to limit Facebook and putting the phone down during bedtime and stuff like that, so I'll use that one, yeah.

38:26 DB: What are your healthy escapes right now?

38:29 AH: I am going for walks and listening to podcasts, because I realized that I was missing my downtime of my commute, which is only 15 minutes, but it was still like twice a day and running errands, and I really missed that alone time to listen to my podcasts. So now I'm going for a walk by myself and listening to podcasts.

38:45 MR: Outdoor time and yard work. I love mowing the lawn. I know it's weird, but [chuckle] like I love mowing the lawn because it's exercise, it gets me outside in the sun, a sense of accomplishment. You can see the results of your work. So I love yard work, I love going for walks around the neighborhood. My five-year-old is learning to ride a bike, so just exercise outside in the fresh air.

39:09 DB: My healthy escape right now is really dumb television. Anything I don't have to think about, anything that takes me away from the seriousness. And it's not that I don't have to focus, or I don't wanna focus on the seriousness of what's going on, I just need that escape. And that usually comes in the evening sometime. It helps me dial down before, before bedtime. And finally, what gives you pleasure right now?

39:33 AH: So I am mostly responsible for the 11-year-old in my house, for his "homeschooling" with some loving air quotes around that. And one of the things that we're doing is for his Phys Ed class we are learning like old school line dances. So we did the hustle, and we learned the alley cat, and next up is the hully gully, and then the cotton eyed joe. We're gonna get a little more modern. And I am having a blast, just a blast.

40:03 MR: So also kid themed, I'm having a blast kinda watching Eli's personality develop, my five-year-old. He's so much fun, he's getting such an expressive personality, so just doing family stuff together. And I'll give you a boring businessy one too. I love... I get so much pleasure out of building something in a business sense. So, Alyssa and I are having a blast building this new community. By the time this podcast airs, I'm sure it will be launched, or at least close to launching, and it's so much fun because we are kind of burning down the old thing and we're building something new, and it's so much better and cleaner and better organized and beautiful. And nothing's perfect, but it's like, "Oh, we get to do this again, all over again, and start with something new." And so there's a new website and a new community platform, and I'm getting so much pleasure out of every detail that goes with putting it all together and getting ready for launch.

40:57 DB: I will say my dogs give me pleasure, just because I think they look at us like, "Why are you here all day long? You don't do this so this is weird. And we get to do more walks and then we've ever done." And I just like that a lot. Okay, so thank you so much to our guests today, Alyssa and Michael. And soon check out their website and new community platform. Please visit, and for more information about their year long financial series in Massage and Bodywork Magazine, visit Thank you guys for joining.

41:33 MR: Thank you, Darren.

41:34 AH: Thanks.

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