How identifying priorities and refocusing time and energy helps this mom and her family thrive.
Where will you end up if you stop to think about your priorities?
Ashlee Livingstone (She/Her/Hers) is a proud wife, mom, and Founder of Our Forte Inc. At Our Forte, Ashlee works with individuals to clarify priorities, create capacity, set boundaries to foster productivity, ease and joy while avoiding burnout in all aspects of their lives. In addition to this work, Ashlee loves to play baseball with her son Miller, hike the Bruce Trail with her wife Kate, and loves on their handsome golden retriever, Jaxson.
I met Ashlee through a mutual friend and have had the privilege to reconnect on a few projects over the years. It’s amazing to see where each of us has journeyed and that we can now re-connect as entrepreneurs in social-profit service.
I love Ashlee’s story. She identified priorities and turned her vocation around to align with her passion making her business work for her and her family. Coming from the world of fast-paced, heavy time investment events, Ashlee has transformed her practice to incorporate a focus on mindfulness and breathwork – of which I’m a big believer!
Leaders and non-profit team members read on. You will surely find the benefits of focused time and energy through Ashlee’s story.
Tell me about a day in the life of Ashlee Livingstone.
I typically wake up at 6am to have about an hour – 90 minutes to myself before the rest of my family gets up. In this time, I journal, practice breathwork and build in exercise. I love my mornings as this is such intentional time and space just for me. I have breakfast with my family, we walk our son to school, and then I’m at my desk in my home office ready for my workday by 9:30am.
My days as a coach and entrepreneur are a good mix of working 1:1 with my clients, doing business development and outreach – like podcast interviews, following up with prospects, creating content and value for my audiences.
My fave parts of my job though are the client work. Guiding clients through breathwork and stress management, creating ‘AHA’ moments for them when it comes to workflow, capacity, and identifying boundaries and watching them release the pressure and stress they are often carrying.
By 3:30 I’m wrapping up for the day so I can walk to meet my son. I spend the rest of the day with him and my wife. Sometimes that’s just chilling, and other times it’s taking him to different sporting activities.
Let’s explore your journey a bit. You transitioned your business to focus on creating cultures of value and gratitude and helping teams revitalize their focus on the ‘why’ behind what they do. Where does breathwork and Hypnotherapy come into the mix? How did you discover these?
I’ve definitely changed my business over the years! Moving from fundraising and events to team building and creating cultures of gratitude to now working with leaders and clients 1:1 it all comes down to relationships. It was first about the relationship with donors and stakeholders. Then, about helping teams and clients feel connected so they delivered great results and were happy to go to work. Now I’ve stepped back even further to start with people first.
I’m a huge believer that the relationship we have with ourselves is the most important one. If that one is fractured – because we aren’t physically, mentally or emotionally well or nourished – then the rest of the relationships we have are going to be less than optimal. If we are not sleeping, stretched too thin, living in a constant state of stress and overwhelm, we cannot do our best work, show up for ourselves, our families, our work, or our communities. Breathwork and hypnotherapy have been amazing tools. They help me help my clients connect deeper with themselves, physically reduce stress and create more clarity and focus.
In your Spring feature with Work-Life Harmonized podcast, you shared some great golden nuggets! I wanted to pull on a couple of these. You mention you quit while you were on maternity leave to focus on what you love and spend time with your son. Essentially, realizing your priorities lead you to this decision. Could you share advice on how to better support parental leaves? In an ideal world what would support look like?
My business grew from my desire to have flexibility and time with my child. I knew if I was gone all day, every day, my resentment would grow and my passion for my work would decrease. During my Mat leave, I was cut off from my organization and my role wasn’t even filled – just split up amongst staff. It really made me feel that my role didn’t matter, and it wasn’t important enough to properly fill.
I also knew the demands of the job – early morning meetings, after hour committee and work functions and I had witnessed several of my colleagues get in trouble for taking days off with a sick child. Their sadness and frustration having missed out on their children’s school events was devastating. I knew I didn’t want that for me and my family. Organizations should provide opportunities for flexible hours, remote work, family responsibility days, and more autonomy for employees over their roles.
With all the hats fundraisers wear, priorities can get confusing to say the least. After realising your priorities, what tips can help others incorporate a balance or blend in their current set-up?
I think one of the biggest challenges we put on ourselves is thinking that everything is a priority and deserves our time. This just isn’t true. I walk my clients through priority audits. They identify all their priorities and then rank them in order of importance. When you truly align your days and weeks with your priorities and give your time to your highest priority items first, then you move the dial on your work and life. I’m a huge fan of time blocking and suggesting this practice. Time blocking ensures you are creating the time and space you need. My advice is to block time for your highest priority items first, then fill in the other priorities where they fit (if they do).
You mention you rally resistance when your participants oppose making boundaries. How did you learn how to advocate for your boundaries and are there any examples you’re willing to share?
I used to believe that boundaries were limiting, restrictive and would make me seem unwilling or uncooperative. Many people still have this belief. I discovered this was just a story I’d told myself or heard from others. I reframed boundaries to set me free, to give me more time and permission to say “yes” to what I really want and “no” to things that don’t move my priorities forward.
One good example is that many people think to be a “good leader” we need to have an open-door policy. However, leaders struggle with constant interruptions, demands on their time and solving problems for their team, leaving them unable to focus on their projects and priorities. Instead of having an open-door policy, I’ve started setting office hours and suggested team members book meetings with me based on my schedule availability. No interruptions. This boundary has empowered my team to (in many cases) solve their problems and be strategic with their time. This boundary also allows me to focus on my priorities without distractions.
What is on your current reading list?
Currently reading: We should all be Millionaires by Rachel Rodgers. It is fantastic! There are great reminders on how women specifically have been held back from making and earning as much as men (including but not limited to time off to raise children) and how we can make money without the grind, self-sacrifice and burnout.
And lastly, you play baseball with your son Miller, hike the Bruce Trail with your wife Kate and, have a handsome golden retriever, Jaxson. Is there anything else you get up to when you manage to find a few moments for yourself? What is your go to self-care activity?
100% breathwork…. I love creating capacity in my days/weeks for practicing my own breathwork and I love having other facilitators hold space and lead me. That for sure is my go-to self-care activity. I can do this every day for even just 5 minutes. When I have more space, I can dive deeper with meditative, facilitated sessions that last 60-90 minutes!