Photo by Meghan Powell

The 21 Day Timehacker Project matches readers with coaches who help them find time for their most important goals.

DAY ONE: Michelle Mitchell, 38, works full time running YoKid, a nonprofit she helped found, based in Alexandria, Virginia, whose mission is to teach yoga to under-served kids and teens. She organizes classes, sometimes teaches and, as executive director, is responsible for training teachers and hosting a national conference every year on how to teach yoga to children. She also has three children, ages three, five and six. As both the organization and the kids grew, she’s been feeling tapped out, overwhelmed and, ironically for someone in the yoga world, out of balance.

“I want to learn how to delegate, to get clearer about the work that needs to be done. And at home, I want to do more than just keep my children alive!” she said. “It gets to be a little nerve-wracking sometimes, balancing everything.” She also wanted time to herself, for the first time in years, to attend a yoga class herself, meet friends or go running.

“I teach a stress management class at George Washington University, so I know what I need to do,” she added. Mitchell has a master’s in counseling and an undergraduate degree in sports medicine and sports psychology. “I just need to do it.”

THE TIMEHACKS: Mitchell worked with Laura Palmer, of Bridgenosis in Alexandria, Virginia, who uses a unique method of hypnotherapy to help people uncover and rewrite their unconscious, limiting beliefs, so they can find the time to do what’s most important to them. Palmer had Mitchell take Palmer’s online “Mindshifter” program, with a mindset assessment and six audios with positive hypnotic suggestions to listen to as she fell asleep to transform limiting beliefs.

1. BEING IMPERFCT IS OK: “Michelle took a mindset assessment, and her strongest fear was making mistakes and being imperfect. That’s driving her to look for what’s wrong and be overly critical of herself,” Palmer said. “This is a limiting belief that most folks in our culture have. In school, there is a clearly defined parameter you can meet to achieve perfection and rewards for doing so and discipline measures for not doing so. As a leader, you are a creator, and there are no clear parameters. This is where following your inner-voice is key.”

“If you are afraid of making mistakes, being criticized or being seen as “imperfect” then it will cause you to pause,” Palmer continued. “Instead of listening to and trusting yourself, you will do what you think is “right” and often go against yourself.”

Palmer said the audios helped retrain Mitchell’s mind to first hear, then begin to trust, her intuition.

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2. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY: When we’re afraid we’re not perfect, that can drive fear of receiving negative feedback and criticism, Palmer said, which can impact your ability to lead. We can also take rejection of our ideas too personally. “Most of us have a fear of rejection,” Palmer said. “If you are a leader, at some point, you have to face it.”

3. YOU ARE ENOUGH: “In school, we learn our value is based on hard work as opposed to joyful work that involves using your gifts and talents–those things you can do so easily that everyone else thinks are hard, so we discount our intuition/gut/gifts/inner-voice,” Palmer said. “And a really common limiting belief arises: ‘Am I good enough?’” One of Palmer’s audios helped Mitchell to retrain her subconscious to stop asking the question, and to know that the answer is “yes,” Palmer explained. Instead of focusing on what may be lacking, Palmer said the mind shift helped Mitchell to begin instead to give her full attention to all the positive things in her life.

4. YOU HAVE TIME FOR WHAT MATTERS: Mitchell worried she didn’t have enough time for her growing nonprofit, and her growing family. She worried about work-life balance. Palmer suggested that, too, was another limiting belief, and asked her not only to question it, but begin to think about what life would look like if she believed she did have time for what was most important. One of Palmer’s audios directly addresses what she calls that “scarcity” mindset. After listening to it, Palmer said Mitchell shifted her thinking, to “Change can happen.” And that time is abundant when we choose how best to use it.

Palmer suggested that Mitchell re-evaluate time frames she’d set to complete projects, ask others for help,and organize her personal and work schedules so they were more in sync.

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DAY 21: Mitchell said things began to change fairly quickly once she began working with Palmer, listening to audiotapes at night, being aware of her thoughts and feelings as they arose, and learning to listen to what Palmer calls her “inner compass.”

“I am doing more things that I enjoy, so I have more time to hang out with my kids, take classes, read books and more time to just be me, be a mom, be who I am,” Mitchell said. “At the same time, I’ve been able to really nurture the skill of communicating with the people on my team, in order to keep the organization running and the doors open.”

She’s managed staff and board member changes by communicating clearly, and keeping focused on the greater mission of the organization.

YoKid grew quickly, and at its peak, was offering more than 2,000 classes a year. Mitchell worried that fast pace of growth not only wasn’t sustainable, but was causing the organization to lose sight of its mission, to teach kids physical health and wellness while being a mindful, compassionate and well-run business. Their goal is to teach 1,000 classes a year.

“Now, we’re moving toward having an active board that has the same values we teach the kids,” Mitchell said. “That’s a big deal.”

She’s hired someone to help her with administrative tasks in the office. And to stay true to their mission of health and wellness, Mitchell partnered with Radiance Yoga and offered unlimited yoga classes to interns and part-time staff. “That helps,” she said. “So now I don’t feel guilty if I go take a yoga class, too.”

And instead of constantly worrying about making payroll, trying to fund the organization through teacher training fees and some class fees, Mitchell has begun to look for sponsors and bringing on board members who can help them meet their financial goals and raise funds.

Mitchell also has come to realize that the next phase of growth, both for her and the organization, is “learning how to let the organization grow without me doing every single thing,” she said, “and knowing that the only way it will grow is if I DON’T do every single thing.” Part of her ability to begin to let go, she said, was learning to let go of the perfectionism that had been driving her.

“The biggest thing about working with Laura was learning to get out of my own way. Learning that I am enough. I’m OK. I’m more than OK,” Mitchell said. “Before, I was super- focused on the things that would go wrong, or could go wrong. Now, even though things aren’t perfect, I have more than enough time for what’s important. More than enough resources.

“When we take the time to look up, and focus on the positive, and appreciate the good things that are happening,” she said, “we realize a lot of things are getting done. And that change is not only doable, it’s happening.”

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