How can you build a meaningful life that involves multiple roles and a variety of interests? Jennifer Fleury shares how she's doing it.
Managing multiple roles requires intention
Like many 21st-century women, Jennifer Fleury is managing multiple roles. She teaches full-time at a small business college in Massachusetts, heading up the entrepreneurship program there. On top of that, she's owned a fitness studio since 2004, which she calls “a hobby gone wild.” What started as Jennifer and another instructor teaching at a local exercise facility has now evolved into her own studio with over 40 classes a week and 17 instructors. She's also a single mom to her two daughters, ages 8 and 10.
Jennifer started a blog a few years ago to share some of the tips, tools, and strategies she's learned in juggling these multiple roles. Since she has had so much experience as a fitness instructor, she wants to expand her reach beyond her local area and help people develop motivation and strategies to bring exercise into their lives regularly and meet their personal goals.
A typical day
Jennifer says, “There is no typical day, but some are more normal than others.”
During the school year, Jennifer wakes early, as she and her daughters have to leave by 7 a.m. She drops her kids off at school, then she travels to work at the college. She is usually there until mid-to-late afternoon, and then she goes to her studio a few days a week, where she'll teach a class. After that, she picks up her children and heads home for the typical family nighttime routine. She prepares lunches for the next day, helps with homework, gives baths, and then they will read books or watch TV, and the kids will go to bed. Then Jennifer will correct papers or work on business-related tasks. Those days are especially busy.
Jennifer’s full-time college position is a 4-day schedule. On her days off she might be at her studio more. Her teaching breaks often align with the children’s breaks so they can do fun things, housework, and yard work, or she will have a work day where she will spend time on her business or coaching.
Jennifer admits that one of her biggest challenges is that because she puts so many things on her plate, sometimes the plate is a little too full and she feels overwhelmed. It's a hazard common to many of us who are managing multiple roles.
Sometimes when she thinks about everything coming at her, she feels overwhelmed. She tries to pause and remind herself that she doesn't have to do all those future things right now; she can focus on one or two tasks that are upcoming and deal with the future as the future unfolds.
Jennifer says, “This is where the yoga teacher training comes in handy. I've found that meditation is so powerful. It can really change your mindset and put you in the present moment, so you have that opportunity to take a breath.”
While this can be hard for some people to do, Jennifer assures us this is why it's called a meditation “practice” — it really does take time to learn. The first time you meditate, you probably aren’t going to have that feeling of calm, tranquility, and acceptance that you're looking for, but as you practice, it will come more easily. To help establish that practice, Jennifer recommends the free Insight Timer app for meditating. You can set the timer to any time you want, and have it chime at certain intervals, or there is access to free meditations on different topics and lengths.
Productivity tools Jennifer uses and recommends
The Asana project management tool allows Jennifer to assign tasks to different people, and it sends an email to them to remind them, and then she gets an email when they complete it. You can use it on the desktop or on an app.
Jennifer depends on her smartphone to calendar events and reminders. One of her favorite features is to use the voice to text feature. She'll open a document in Google Drive and narrate an idea or a to-do list even as she is walking around the house, or use it to add grocery items to her lists on her phone.
Dropbox is another favorite for Jennifer because it lets her access needed materials no matter which location she's working at. She uses it to store and access resources such as choreography for a barre class or a syllabus for her college course. It's also a great tool for sharing materials, such as videos, with others. Jennifer can upload videos on her phone to Dropbox and then easily grab the share link and share it with friends or co-workers. She likes that Dropbox allows you to use it as a drive on a computer, so she saves most of her documents there.
A few of Jennifer’s favorite reads:
- The Compound Effect, by Darrin Hardy — Jennifer's blog post
- The Big Leap, by Gay Hendricks — Jennifer's blog post
- The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod — Jennifer's blog post
- Living Forward, by Michael Hyatt — Jennifer's blog post
Jennifer Shares Advice on Fitting Exercise into an Already Busy Life
People need to put some sort of exercise into their life because of its physical and mental benefits. Getting in a little exercise into your life is going to improve other areas of your life. As studies have shown, you will be more energetic when you exercise. Physical activity not only gets the physical juices going, but also the mental juices.
Exercise makes us feel better and makes us more productive. Naturally, Jennifer would like everyone to embrace exercise and join a gym like hers, but through her experience she's learned you have to find something that fits you. It may be walking or swimming, dancing, golfing, or yoga, but we should find something we enjoy–it doesn't have to be at a gym. These days if you want to take a class, there are many streaming opportunities, so you can take a class from an infinite number of instructors right from the comfort of your home.
If it's something you really want to do but you're lacking motivation, try the buddy system. People are often more consistent when they have someone to go with. This makes it more fun and provides accountability.
Jennifer says, “Don’t choose an activity just because it’s popular, but choose something you really enjoy.”
What happens on a day you feel gets away from you?
Jennifer tries to go into her meditation mindset on a day that gets away from her. The college where she teaches actually has a meditation club, and they have a 10-minute break where students, staff, and faculty will go and meditate for 10 minutes. Participating in that meditation break often helps her get back on track.
Jennifer believes in the importance of having people we can rely on for support and encouragement. She recommends having someone who can calm you down, listen, and help you.
Sometimes, when she reaches those moments of crisis, she'll take a step back, evaluate what’s going on that's making her feel overwhelmed and what's on her plate. In those moments she may realize she needs to let go of something, even if it’s not what is causing a problem in the moment.
What's on the horizon for Jennifer?
People have told Jennifer she's good at helping others set goals, so she decided to focus on helping people find the time and motivation to put exercise and meditation into their lives. She's currently working on a 30-day inspiration and challenge, in which she'll start with pilates and then move on to yoga. She wants to get people familiar with the poses, and put that into their lives.
Jennifer has created an offshoot of her studio site at DoingPilatesAtHome.com, and doingyogaathome.com (both to launch soon). She has learned that it’s not realistic for everyone to get to her studio, and that many people are apprehensive about going to a gym or fitness studio. She's creating ways for people to get some level of comfort with the exercises so the idea of working out won't be so unfamiliar and intimidating.
Last Words on Making a Life That Matters
Jennifer has found that blocking out chunks of time has been very helpful. By nature, she likes to schedule things, and when she sets aside a block of time to do something, making sure it is uninterrupted time is very, very helpful.
“When you get overwhelmed, try to see what you can let go of,” says Jennifer. During the academic year she avoids a lot of time on social media, because she knows that time could be better spent exercising, or doing something more productive. She has also let go of some of her yard work and handyman jobs and passed them off to someone else.
What do you think?
Any questions for Jennifer? Thoughts on what we discussed in this episode? Jennifer and I would love to hear from you. Please share your questions, comments, or ideas in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman community Facebook group, or email me!
Connect with Jennifer:
More about Jennifer:
Dr. Jennifer Fleury is a productive woman.
Currently, she teaches at a small business college in Massachusetts, where she chairs the college’s Entrepreneurship program. In addition, she operates and teaches at the fitness studio she's owned since 2004, Auburn Yoga and Pilates, in Auburn, Massachusetts. She is also a single mother to two young daughters.
With over twenty years of experience as a fitness instructor and professional educator, Jennifer knows what to do to help people stay on track and motivated. Since last year, she has been blogging (JenniferFleury.com) about books, apps, and/or services that can help you to set and attain your goals.
Now, after working with a business coach to help her harness her knowledge and expertise to help students beyond her studio and college classroom, Jennifer will soon be launching a program to help people find the time and motivation to include exercise and meditation in their lives. Her first free program, learning how to do yoga and pilates at home, will be available by the time that this podcast airs. (If you need help finding the motivation to get your physical and mental health back on track, join her free challenge at DoingPilatesAtHome.com so that you can receive access to the free 30-day inspiration and challenge.)
Resources & Links:
- Asana – helps teams (work, family, or other) track their work.
- Use the app to access all documents from your mobile device.
- Install the drive on your computers to store and access all of your documents.
- Insight Timer App — a free meditation app.
- Google Drive
- Create documents and access them from any device.
- Documents can be stored offline.
- Dictate documents to yourself on your phone using voice-to-text.
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