High-Efficiency Entrepreneur: Systems for Work-Life Balance

Chris Cooper (00:02):
Hey, welcome to “Run a Profitable Gym.” I’m here with Joleen and Leighton Bingham, and I invited them onto the show because I want you to hear how many things they do in their life—all of them are amazing—and how they balance them. So, guys, welcome to “Run a Profitable Gym.”

Joleen Bingham (00:16):
Thanks for having us.

Chris Cooper (00:18):
Yeah. So pumped to have you both, and especially together. Let’s talk about what you’ve got going on in your life.

Joleen Bingham (00:24):
Oh, where to start? Well, obviously we own a gym, multiple gyms actually. We own one together. I co-own another gym with somebody else. We just brought our youth back into our main location. We own nine doors in real estate currently—manage those, self-manage those as well. We—I know, right? We have three children: a 17-year-old, a 7-year-old, and a 5-year-old. All play different sports at various levels. From varsity basketball to kindergarten basketball to coding classes. And I know I’m missing a lot of stuff, so—

Leighton Bingham (00:56):

Parkour, gymnastics, basketball. Yeah.

Joleen Bingham (00:59):
Yeah. The whole laundry list of kids’ things that everybody else does. We both—

Chris Cooper (01:04):
What about travel?

Joleen Bingham (01:05):
Travel, yeah, we can get travel in there. So, we—I personally travel every quarter to go to some awesome Tinker meetup locations. We just came back from a cruise two weeks ago. Planning our next family vacation to Peru at this point for the summer.

Leighton Bingham (01:21):
What about the last 13 months?

Joleen Bingham (01:22):
Oh, the last 13 months. So, we could go over all the locations that we’ve been in the last 13 months. We actually talked about it yesterday, and it was a little insane.

Leighton Bingham (01:29):
Yeah.

Joleen Bingham (01:30):
All the places.

Chris Cooper (01:31):
Let’s hear it.

Joleen Bingham (01:32):
Greece, Sweden, Portugal. Where else am I missing? Greece, Sweden, Portugal. And then Colorado multiple times because we own properties there. San Diego, Texas, Chicago, Nashville, and many other camping trips with our children. And basketball locations. So, my daughter plays a travel basketball team, and we were in Alabama for that as well.

Chris Cooper (01:53):
And you’re both on the Two-Brain mentor team too?

Leighton Bingham (01:55):
Yep.

Joleen Bingham (01:56):
Yep.

Chris Cooper (01:56):

Amazing.

Joleen Bingham (01:58):
That was a lot all at once.

Chris Cooper (01:59):
Yeah. I mean, do you sleep?

Joleen Bingham (02:01):
I do actually, surprisingly. I am in bed usually before 10 o’clock at night.

Chris Cooper (02:07):
And Leighton, it wasn’t too long ago that you were still in the military, right?

Leighton Bingham (02:10):
Correct. Yeah, so I actually retired, what is it? Three—

Joleen Bingham (02:14):
Two and a half years.

Leighton Bingham (02:14):
Two and a half years ago now. So, we were, you know, doing part of the gym there and then doing full-time military during the day, so.

Chris Cooper (02:24):
Wow. Alright, well we’ve shared your kind of origin story on here in the past, and I think we even talked about the expansion into the second gym, and Joleen’s been on just to talk about building staff journeys and careers and stuff too. But what I’d really like to pick up the story at is where you started like, “OK, now let’s get into property, and let’s also have this travel scheduled out.” Like, when did all that stuff start happening?

Joleen Bingham (02:50):
I would say right after COVID, and I know I have spoken up about this before, but COVID was really the catalyst for us starting to take action and do other things. And actually, the catalyst for our gym to grow, which is a whole different story in itself. But with the travel, I had grown up traveling. My grandfather was a professor of international relations. So, he would take me to different countries with him when he ran the college trips. And I wanted my kids to experience the same—different cultures and meeting different people and seeing different things. And then after COVID I realized, well, why not now? Right? We’ve been in one place and for a long time we haven’t been able to go anywhere. I’m tired of this. Let’s just go see and do new things. So, when we sat down and figured out our plan for the year, it included: Aright, well, we’re going to take time and set aside money for it instead of buying all these extra things that we want. We’re going to devote some of that to experiences for our kids.

Chris Cooper (03:44):
But still, I mean, OK, so you guys have the money because you have so many successful things, but it’s really the time, right? And how do you possibly carve out the time to do all those things and then carve out even more time to travel?

Joleen Bingham (03:57):
So, it’s very scheduled. And I know that that’s a struggle for a lot of people. It is very scheduled down to the minute on our calendars. I have very good systems where each person is color-coded on our calendar. Each day of the week is devoted to a different thing for me personally. I know Leighton might have a different system for his schedule and fitting that in, but all of the things that we do, we block off a week on our calendar, and we make it happen at the beginning of the year. So, for example, our trip in August, we’ve already blocked that off. We already know when that’s going to happen. And so, when we’re looking at “Where do we fit our work in? Where do we fit, maybe a renovation that has to come to the property?” we’re not going to schedule things around those things that are already planned out.

Chris Cooper (04:38):
Wow. OK. So, if you’re listening, here’s a prompt to this interview. I sent Joleen and Leighton a text. I’m like, “You guys got a lot going on. I don’t know how you do it.” And Joleen says—

Joleen Bingham (04:50):
Systems. Systems and scheduling.

Chris Cooper (04:51):
Yeah, “I got a system.”

Joleen Bingham (04:54):
Yep.

Chris Cooper (04:54):
OK. Well, what I’d love to do before we actually give people the system or teach them how to build a system is: Let’s get really specific. So, let’s start with your gyms. Tell me about your two gyms.

Joleen Bingham (05:04):
Yeah, so our adult location is primarily personal training at this point. We do a little bit of semi-private, and I would say it’s about 85% personal training. We own that one together. We have an amazing team that helps us and allows us to travel, but also helps us run it. And then our secondary one is corrective exercise. I co-own that with a woman who has 20-some years of experience in the field of physical therapy. And she is very much the hands-on, technical part of it, and I run the business side of it. Our youth one, the school district decided not to renew our lease, so we’ve now combined that back into our adult one. And so, they’re running in the same location.

Chris Cooper (05:46):
OK. And on top of that, I saw a Facebook post from you that actually prompted the conversation, where now you’re looking to partner with or acquire other gyms in the area too. Is that right?

Joleen Bingham (05:55):
Yeah, so I really like creating systems, obviously the whole reason we’re here. And I like helping business owners develop those and run them and be able to have the time in the day that I have. But some gym owners just want to coach. They love the coaching side of it. They don’t want to run the business side of it. And that’s what I would like to help them with outside of that.

Chris Cooper (06:15):
So good. And marketing too, I think, right? Is that Leighton’s? Yep.

Joleen Bingham (06:18):
That would be where Leighton takes over.

Chris Cooper (06:20):
That’s fantastic. I know our friend Per is doing something very similar in Sweden where, you know, he partners with a gym and does like an equity stake and then he brings the gym into Two-Brain and then, you know, and it’s awesome. OK. Well now, let’s talk about property. So, you said that you have nine doors. I don’t think that fully paints the picture of what you guys have going on. Do you want to share that?

Joleen Bingham (06:42):
Yeah, so we have—well, I’m going to let Leighton share that. That’s his thing. I don’t need to speak the whole time.

Leighton Bingham (06:48):
Well, so we have obviously our Airbnb in Colorado.

Chris Cooper (06:52):
Beautiful.

Leighton Bingham (06:53):
Yeah. Which was actually our second house. She owns one by herself, a single-family home. Then we have another duplex here in Pennsylvania. We have a quadplex here in Pennsylvania.

Joleen Bingham (07:07):
And then our primary home.

Leighton Bingham (07:08):
Then our primary home. Yep.

Joleen Bingham (07:09):
And then I’m also—I also am half-owner on another house still currently too.

Leighton Bingham (07:013):
Yeah.

Chris Cooper (07:14):
How much time does that take? Like my worst nightmare—I have commercial buildings because I’m worried about getting that 3 a.m. phone call about the clogged-up toilet. Right. So, like how much time does this take for you?

Leighton Bingham (07:24):
Well, so, as long as there’s—well, time. Well, I’ve got a few 3 a.m. phone calls or 1 a.m. phone calls when a tree—when two trees—fell on our quadplex. But as far as time, I mean, depends on the week, but yeah, five to 10 hours a week, just kind of fielding phone calls or fielding text or whatever. Recently, we just had to put two new tenants in there, so that required a little bit more time, but it’s, you know, it’s only about 20 hours a month to manage them too, so.

Chris Cooper (07:56):
And how do you guys do the one that’s way—I think you said it’s Colorado but might have been Montana.

Joleen Bingham (08:01):
Colorado.

Chris Cooper (08:02):
Yeah. How do you manage that?

Joleen Bingham (08:03):
We have an amazing property manager in place who has compensated well. That’s planned into our rates that we charge. And I actually recently took it back over from a company that we had marketing it, just from like putting it on all the different platforms, and have been able to triple our rates and have better occupancy just by having that human touch in it.

Chris Cooper (08:25):
Amazing. I’m not surprised that staffing is one of the keys, I’m sure, that you’re going to mention for your success. And I think you brought it up in every case so far, but let’s talk about systems. So, Joleen, when you’re starting this, do you make a plan for the year, or are these just systems that have kind of organically evolved over time?

Joleen Bingham (08:43):
I think it’s been a combination of both. You know, they had to organically evolve because life throws you curveballs, and then you have to figure out how to fix that. But now we’re at the point where we sit down, and we have planned in January this year—we normally try to do it in November or December—but in January and plan out our year. What do we want to accomplish? Where do we want to travel? Which, sometimes fun places come up, and you just have to go. Where do we want to travel? When are they fitting in the year? What do we need to make that happen? So, do we need to hire additional staff? Do we need to make more money, more revenue because that’s a key part of it. How are we going to do that? So, we have our family plan, and then we have our business plans. And those two—I know when we talk about work-life balance, they still have to be integrated with each other.

Leighton Bingham (09:27):
Well, and I think we also have like somewhat of individual goals or plans as well. As long as they mesh well, they work with the plan, and so.

Chris Cooper (09:39):
Can you give me an example of that, Leighton?

Leighton Bingham (09:41):
So, last year I was like, “OK, I want to go back to doing CrossFit, and I want to do a competition, but I also want to buy more property.” So, the CrossFit competition was my thing, and then buying more property was an “us” thing. Not that I—actually, it wasn’t last year, but the year before, I think, that I did the CrossFit competition, and I hated it.

Chris Cooper (10:02):

I didn’t expect you to say that. It caught me off guard.

Joleen Bingham (10:06):
I didn’t either, actually.

Leighton Bingham (10:08):
I was like, “This hurts. Everything just hurts.”

Chris Cooper (10:12):
So how do you, how do you resolve that? So, let’s say that like the work goal is in conflict with the personal goal. Like, we want to make an extra hundred thousand, but we also want to work less. Or maybe it’s in conflict with like, you know, the family goal, the work goal or the personal goal. What happens if there’s a conflict somewhere in that trifecta?

Joleen Bingham (10:30):
So, I can tell you what—for me, the family goal always comes first, right? So, my hierarchy is family goal, personal goal, work goal, right? So, if I have to make a decision, this one, the family one’s always going to come. But I also, every single time that comes up, I ask myself a question, and I know I heard it somewhere on Two-Brain, but: “If I say yes to this, what else in my life am I saying no to?” Right? So, if I say yes to an opportunity that makes me more money, is that thing I have to say no to, is that less important to me that I’m OK saying no to it?

Chris Cooper (11:03):
Very interesting. OK. I think that question is going to come up again in a moment. So, when you’re sitting down, and the two of you are setting up kind of your family goals for the year, what does that look like? Do you go away someplace? How do you start the conversation? Are you taking notes? Walk us through that.

Leighton Bingham (11:20):
Yeah, so we do a destination away from the kids. And this year, how many days is it this year?

Joleen Bingham (11:27):
Three.

Leighton Bingham (11:27):
Three days this year. Last year, it was only a day or a day and another half day. But there are some questions that kind of prompt it. Like, we do have, like “What do you want to accomplish in the next year?” or “What didn’t you accomplish last year?”

Joleen Bingham (11:46):
So, there’s a template, basically, of questions that we run through from start to finish, starting with, “Did we accomplish everything we wanted to? Why or why not?” And then, you know, overarching plans, individual plans, timeline for each of those, KPIs for each of those, and how that’s going to happen.

Chris Cooper (12:03):
Incredible. And maybe walk us through how you do it for your business too. So, if you’re listening at home, I’m going to preface this by saying Joleen is one of our most popular mentors in Two-Brain. And every year at this time, every gym goes through this process of annual planning, and it starts with the “perfect day” of the owner. And then we tag revenue goals and profit goals to that. And then we back out the revenue goals, et cetera. And all the metrics that you need to hit to get to that personal goal. Joleen is amazing at this. I’m sure nobody is surprised by this point, but Joleen, can you just walk us through, like, how do you go from those personal goals to the gym goals and set up your gym’s annual plan?

Joleen Bingham (12:43):
OK. So, one of the things that we have to identify first to set up our gym’s annual plan is how much money we want to make from the gym and how much of that we need, basically for all the things that we want to accomplish. Once we have that, one of the biggest things that I also need to look at is how much staffing do I need? So, I’ll look at how much do I want to make? Do I need to add any more staffing to do all the extra things that I want to do? So, are there things that I have to give up? So, maybe I need a 30% increase in staff costs in order to take on some of the additional things. I think that’s one of the things that gets forgotten a lot. And then recurring revenue—or not revenue, sorry. Expenses. I’ve been running through these so much in the last few weeks.

Joleen Bingham (13:23):
Do we have any increases coming up? Did we lose a sublease? Did we gain a new sublease? Are our costs going through the roof with inflation? And coming up with that overall number. Then when I just ran through this with our gym—it’s actually on my list to finish up this week—it’s a number we’re not at right now, where I want to be for next year. And then we break it down even further. OK, so here’s the number we need to be at; here’s where we’re at. What do we need to add additional? What do we need to stop doing that might be actually costing us money? And that was a big one that I looked at. And then how are we going to make that happen? Like what are the exact steps that we’re going to do? So, a lot of times when I work with a gym, it’s, you know, they’ll come with, “OK, well we’re going to do digital marketing.” “OK, great, let’s come up with the exact plan for that. How much money are we going to spend on that? How are you going to monitor the metrics?” So, we just break it down in even more detail. I like numbers a lot, if you can’t tell from listening to me talk.

Chris Cooper (14:15):
No, I love this. And in fact, I’d love to just throw something that I didn’t prep you for. And that is, so let’s say that a gym owner says, “OK, I want to put a down payment on an Airbnb. I need $96,000. OK, 8,000 more per month in, you know, take-home or whatever to be able to do that.” How do you, from there, build a plan out to help them get there?

Joleen Bingham (14:40):
Yeah, that’s great because I just did that last week with somebody actually. Not for a house, but they needed more money. So, we look at current expenses, obviously where they are currently. Is there anything that we can do an expense audit and cut that and provide them an immediate boost in owner’s benefit. Yep. But then, OK, you need an additional $8,000? What are your revenue streams that you can pull the levers on currently? What do you currently have, right? If you’re doing personal training, is there an opportunity for more? If you don’t have personal training, let’s talk about adding that and how to sell that. Are there specialty programs that your clients have wanted, but you’re not offering right now? Right. And so, we talk about: How do we stack on top of or sell more of what you currently have? And then before we are done with that: What staff do you need to make this happen? Because you can’t add $8,000 worth of revenue yourself and implement all of it yourself. And then taking into account the staff costs. OK, now you’ve added $8,000 worth of revenue, but you’ve added $2,000 staff costs, so now we’ve got to add more. Making sure they’re getting what they want.

Chris Cooper (15:42):
I love it. And the reason I really wanted to go deep with that is because when—if I said to a gym owner, “How are you going to make an extra $5,000 next year?” Their answer is always going to be, “Marketing, but I’m just going to market better.” Right? But that’s not it. And you know, the expenses, the staff costs: You have to figure all those things in. And if you’re listening at home or while driving, you might think, “Wow, this is complicated.” But actually, it’s not. When you work one-on-one with a mentor, and they’re guiding you through it and asking the questions and clarifying—like, I always have to work with somebody else to pull this stuff out of me, or else I just can’t do it. Just pivoting to you for a second man. So, Leighton is a marketing specialist at Two-Brain, and he gets on these calls, and he helps people set up their ad accounts and gets their ads going and tweaks them, et cetera. Leighton, how big—like how important is marketing to the overall solution when somebody says, “I have a specific goal of making an extra $50,000 next year?”

Leighton Bingham (16:37):
I think that’s a good question. The reason why I say that is because there’s—it’s twofold. Organic marketing plays a huge role into it because if you don’t build your avatar client, and you’re not marketing through organic marketing, that’s a big issue because you’re not going to be drawing in the people—I get so many people in—like, we get so many people in the door saying, “Oh, I’ve seen your Facebook post, I’ve seen your Instagram post, or whatever.” But then, I think the paid ads play like a 50/50 role, you know what I mean? So, and with the paid marketing, we can reach new people versus everybody that just sees your organic marketing over and over and over. But I really think it’s individual per gym as far as like, how big of a role it plays. So, but for us, it plays a pretty significant role. We do—well, she does the organic marketing; I do the paid ads. And I keep like upping our ad spend budget.

Chris Cooper (17:40):
OK.

Leighton Bingham (17:41):
But we’re seeing an ROI on it. So, I don’t see why, you know, like you could make $50,000 a year, and if you spend 10,000 on ads and you’re getting an ROI on the 10,000, I don’t see what the problem is.

Chris Cooper (17:58):
Yeah, exactly. It’s an investment when you know what you’re doing, not at expense. It makes sense. So, I was about to ask you guys like what are your biggest points of leverage to buy back your time, but I think one of your biggest levers is each other. It really sounds like you have a very complimentary working relationship. I mean, Joleen, not many people come on here and say, “I love systems, and here’s my husband who loves marketing.”

Joleen Bingham (18:22):

Right.

Chris Cooper (18:22):
Would you guys agree with that? Like, do you lever each other?

Joleen Bingham (18:25):
I think so, and I think one of the important parts is that we reassess the things that we like to do in the business frequently. Right? So, when he came—when he left the military and he came back to working in the business, there were things that he wanted to work on. And then I realized that they weren’t being enjoyed very much. So, we did a reassessment and said, “OK, these are the things you love and that you want to work on. These are the things you don’t love and you want to work on.” So, let’s find somebody to take them on. And the same thing for my roles, right? Like every six months I’ll sit there, and I’ll say, “Do I still enjoy doing this?”
Yes. I’m going to keep doing it.”

Chris Cooper (18:57):
Oh, very cool. Very cool.

Joleen Bingham (18:58):
So, I think while we leverage each other, it’s also reassessing what we’re doing. Is it still working? And are we still the best person for it in our business? Because that might not always be true.

Chris Cooper (19:07):
And what if it’s not?

Joleen Bingham (19:09):
Then somebody else needs to do it.

Chris Cooper (19:10):
You hire somebody?

Joleen Bingham (19:11):
Right. Or one of—or we’ll swap it, right? So, for example, you know, the most recent one is some of that organic stuff. Yep. Right. I just naturally will talk to people. It’s something I’m good at. It’s something that he doesn’t want to do from an organic marketing standpoint. He’s really good at the ads. I’m not. So, we might swap that out. Now, I’ll never take the ads from him because that would not work.

Chris Cooper (19:34):
Just, you know, full disclosure, Leighton is one of two or three people that work on ads from my gym, and I would never take that from them either. So, I get that. Yeah.

Joleen Bingham (19:43):
No, I look at it, and I see numbers, and while I love numbers, I don’t love them in Meta’s background. So.

Chris Cooper (19:49):
Yeah, I get that. OK. So, you are each others’ levers. That’s good. How else—like what are some other big levers that you can pull that create time and financial freedom for you? It seems like personal brand might be one, Joleen.

Joleen Bingham (20:04):
It is. Personal brand, for me, has made a lot of connections. And I think that that’s the biggest one. I resisted doing personal branding for so long. Everybody kept saying, “You need to build your brand; you need to build your brand.” I was like, “No, I’m just going to post my kids on Facebook. Nobody cares about what I do.” And then realizing that people saw what I did, and they made a connection to it, and they realized that they could leverage something from me too. And I know that sounds horrible, but that’s really how we build—that’s how you build things, right? You leverage connections with other people and the relationships. So, from those connections, we’ve been able to make investments that allow us to have more time, right? So, while the real estate is time consuming, it also provides us a source of freedom, right? Like, he might do five hours a week, but they can be whenever. So, we can go to our kids’ sporting events; we can be there at their school. We can show up when we need to show up. And I think circling back to when we talk about work life balance, that’s the biggest thing is that freedom of time. Like I’m not sitting here saying I don’t work a lot, but I work when I want to work, and I work around the things that are important to me.

Chris Cooper (21:11):
How integrated are your kids in the business?

Joleen Bingham (21:15):
They—well, they’re employees of the business. First of all, they actually do some work.

Chris Cooper (21:18):
Literally. Yeah.

Joleen Bingham (21:19):
Literally, our employees in the business. My teenager does some social media, and my kids are part of pictures and marketing and things like that, but they’re there all the time. So, my son, his favorite thing is to come and do math on the whiteboards at the gym. My daughter loves the rings. They are her favorite thing to do. So, they’re there frequently. They like being there because we’ve made it a happy, positive place for them to be. And my teenager trains with us for sports.

Chris Cooper (21:48):
They’re also a big part of your personal brand, I think too, Joleen. Like, I look at your stuff on Facebook because I don’t really look at Instagram, and what I see is like, here is somebody who can do so much. And on days when I’m feeling overwhelmed, like I can’t keep all these balls in the air, I’m like, man, Joleen’s doing way more than me. Keep paying attention to Joleen.

Joleen Bingham (22:09):
Thank you.

Chris Cooper (22:10):
Yeah, yeah, sure. In fact, you know, I didn’t even think of integrating the family into the businesses until you brought that up. But this summer we were cutting grass at one of our buildings, and my brother-in-law goes by, and he is like, “Ah, sucker, you’re out here on a hot day, and you’re cutting the grass.” And my son turns to me, and he says, “How many hours a month do we work at this place?” And I said, “I don’t know, three?” And he is like, “How much do we make a month?” And I said, “$12,000.” And he’s like, “So, $4,000 an hour is what we’re making to cut the grass?” “Yep.” “Oh, I got it. OK.”

Joleen Bingham (22:44):
I love it. I love that story.

Chris Cooper (22:46):
Yeah. So, it was just like—to see that teenager brain kick over like, “Ah, right.” Would you say that your kids are aware that they’re part of the business or like working in the business with you?

Joleen Bingham (22:59):
Yeah, so it’s a funny story. We were actually driving to school one day and talking about the businesses. And my son—he’s seven now, but I think he was six when he brought this up—said, “So if we buy more gyms, we get to make more money. Right, Mom?” I said, “Well, yes, but there’s a lot more work that has to go into that.” He’s like, “But we make more money, right?” And then now, they recently—they want to open their own business within this one. So, they want to have their own things where they sell to people coming into our business to make money for themselves.

Leighton Bingham (23:30):

Yeah, cakes. They want to bake cakes inside the gym.

Chris Cooper (23:34):
Maybe on the way out of the gym is when I buy the cake.

Joleen Bingham (23:37):
Yeah. But it’s there. I do.

Chris Cooper (23:38):
Product market fit. I mean, that’s perfect, right? By the way, if you’re not following Joleen on Instagram and Facebook, you need to do it because her son, especially, is brilliant. Like this kid is one day going to open Three-Brain Business because he is like three times as smart as the average person. So, that’s awesome guys. What I’d love to hear is just kind of like, what is your weekly schedule? Has that just kind of like organically evolved, or are you planning this out ahead, writing down a schedule, and then just like following it?

Joleen Bingham (24:08):
Yep. So, I actually—a way long time ago, the schedule was a mess. So, this all came at why I’m good at this from being a mess to begin with. I started planning my weekly schedule, and because of all the different things we do, I had to allocate certain periods of time to each thing. I can move back and forth things pretty quickly, but it’s just annoying to do, and you lose time. So, Monday is a day where I go do an athletics class at my kids’ school. It’s a fun thing. I just do it for them. And then I have the rest of the day to have meetings with staff. It’s dedicated to my one gym business. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday I dedicate to Two-Brain mentoring, but between very specific hours. So, for example, Tuesday mornings, I start at 5 a.m. my time because I work with gyms in Europe, and I want them to be able to do the same things that I say, like, “When you’re home with your kids, be present” and not have to be at home doing a call with their child. So, I do the 5 a.m. calls for them.

Chris Cooper (25:06):
Wow.

Joleen Bingham (25:06):
I love that time of day. I might be weird with that, but I love that time of day. And then Friday is my catch-all day. And I think this is where I’ve—the biggest system that helped me is having that, OK, if I didn’t get anything done, if I need to meet with somebody, if there’s something that came up, that catch-all, even if it’s only a couple hours, it allows me to go in the weekend and be present with my kids and family. So, it’s three hours that I don’t touch at all.

Chris Cooper (25:31):
How do you avoid distractions? This is for both of you. So, you’re—I know what it’s like to be a mentor. You’re on this call. When we hang up, you’re going to look at your phone, there’s going to be 12 texts, three Slacks—maybe not, because I’m also on this call—but like five emails. How do you avoid distraction when you’re doing one thing?

Joleen Bingham (25:51):
Yep, so turning things on Do Not Disturb: number one thing. The one thing that I want to trial at home, and I know this has been brought up before, is they have those phone lockboxes. And so, for somebody who might actually be distracted during the day at work, that might be helpful for them—putting their phone in the phone lockbox. Do Not Disturb on my computer. And then, just continually repeating to myself, “These are the hours for this time.” So, if somebody comes to me and says, “Hey, I need you to do this.” I can do it then when I have it allocated for that. But that’s how my brain works, and I’m really good at doing it that way. But I’m not—

Chris Cooper (26:25):
Does it still take some practice too, Joleen? Sorry to cut you off.

Joleen Bingham (26:27):
Oh yeah, yeah. No, it definitely takes practice. And it’s always that question again, “If I say yes to this and change my schedule, what now has it messed up for me later in the week?” Right? Like, what does that sick kid do? If I’m the one staying home with them, what do I need to shift everywhere else?

Chris Cooper (26:41):
That’s great. I think it’s a really, really good tool that will help people get used to second-order thinking. Like, what is the downstream effect of doing this? And you know, what Joleen said earlier was, “If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to?” I think that’s a fantastic exercise. So, Leighton, I think I’ve said this to you before, but I actually think that your superpower is really deep focus. Like, when you’re focused on one thing, you’re not distracted by something else. Like how do you—how do you do that? How do you stay on one field of play at a time and partition your attention?

Leighton Bingham (27:13):
Well, so, I do have like hyper focus. So, a little bit of Asperger’s, ADHD, so I’m just naturally, we’ll say, gifted that way. And I turn on my Do Not Disturb. But I also use an app to plan my days and the tasks that I need to accomplish. And then they send me reminders. So, and then everything else unfortunately gets blocked out. So, like you said, I’ll have 12 text messages, five phone calls, you know, 16 emails. But those come after those things.

Joleen Bingham (27:52):
And I’ll say—

Chris Cooper (27:52):
Go ahead.

Joleen Bingham (27:53):
Sorry. No, I’ll say when he hyper focuses, even somebody speaking to him, he’s not going to hear it. And my son’s very gifted in the same way too, but it is really like he tunes everything out around him.

Chris Cooper (28:05):
I know a lot of entrepreneurs will claim, “Oh, I’ve got ADHD,” but true ADHD actually does come with that gift of hyper focus. Do you think that the other entrepreneurs who are saying like, “I just can’t focus; I’m so scattered.” Is it maybe just a case of them not being disciplined, or what is it?

Leighton Bingham (28:26):
I would say discipline is a big thing but also not being organized. That was—for a while, that was my largest issue. Once I became organized, then I could hyperfocus on everything that I wanted to do.

Chris Cooper (28:44):
Do you ever get tired when you’re going from one area of focus, like working on the real estate to “I’ve got to fix the marketing from my gym”?

Leighton Bingham (28:50):

No, because I do have time blocks, or I do one thing and then the next thing, but what was I going to say? Yeah, I don’t remember. Yeah, I don’t remember.

Chris Cooper (29:01):
Do you break up your day so that you’ve got, like work, exercise, work, kids, et cetera? Or is it just kind of like one long window of work, and now you’re done with work, and you’re onto working out, or?

Leighton Bingham (29:12):
Uh, no, it’s blocked. So, it’s work in the morning, kids, and then exercise, and then work for—what is it?—9 to 2:30, and then it’s home with the kids and wife.

Chris Cooper (29:27):
Love it. So, guys, I mean, we know that Jocko likes to say, “Discipline equals freedom.” In this case though, it’s less discipline, I think, and more planning is what you’re saying. Am I reading that right?

Joleen Bingham (29:38):
Yeah. Yes, very much so. And the acknowledgement that we do have three kids, which means, especially this time of year, one of them is going to be sick most likely every single week. And honestly, that is why—that’s why I built that catch-all time in there because I was getting so stressed out with losing that time and not having anywhere else to make it up with. And that was causing a lot of anxiety for me, so that’s why that specific block is in there.

Chris Cooper (30:06):
Joleen, you’ve been doing this for a while, and do you find that this actually gets easier as people become more successful because there’s less stress? Or do they become more successful as they get more disciplined at blocking their time to do the work?

Joleen Bingham (30:20):
I think the second thing. Yeah, it allows more clarity of thinking too because you’re not trying to worry about five things at one time. You can focus on getting the one thing done you need.

Chris Cooper (30:29):
What do you tell mentees? Like if they’re just starting out and they’re coming into the program, they’re like, “Oh, I’m so overwhelmed. I got all this stuff to do. How can I do this work that you’re giving me?” Like how do you coach them into getting the work done?

Joleen Bingham (30:38):
We start with creating a schedule they can work around, and they still might be coaching 20 to 30 hours a week on the floor, but we’ve got to find at least one block of time where they can set aside time just to work on the things they need to with no other distractions. And showing people how important that is through my own stories is really what’s helpful for them.

Chris Cooper (30:57):
Yeah. Listeners, it’s not released yet, but thanks to Joleen’s experience and success in doing this, we now do this with every gym. Starting in January 2024, the first exercise you will do is carving out the time to do the work so that we know that you can do the things that will make you successful. So, thanks for that, Joleen. I mean that’s—it’s going to really help a lot of gym owners. Guys. If somebody said—they ran into you at Starbucks—“I’m a gym owner; I’d love to do all the stuff that you guys are doing. There just aren’t enough hours in my day.” Where would you tell them to start?

Joleen Bingham (31:30):
First of all, I’d tell them to find a mentor, right? That’s what I tell everybody. Find a mentor, and then sit down and really look at what you are actually doing. Because a lot of times you get the screen report from your phone, there’s six hours a day on your phone, seven hours a day on your phone. So, a time audit of: What are you actually doing? Have a third party come in and help you with: What do you need to accomplish? What are those main things you need to get done in order to make progress?

Leighton Bingham (31:55):
I think I think the annual plan is like a—like just the planning in general is a huge thing. Because I like to push forward about a thousand miles an hour and jump to the end of things. Like, I want all the glamorous things before I plan and make it happen. So, I think the planning is a huge thing too.

Chris Cooper (32:17):
So, before we sign off with Leighton and Joleen, I’ve asked her to get very specific. So, she’s going to go step by step in how she actually plans her day to get all this stuff done.

Joleen Bingham (32:27):
So, and it might—this might seem a little bit long, but I sit down, and I say, “OK, I am working on these three things today,” right? So, I know Monday, I work from 9 to 2:30 on my business. Very specific: 9 to 2:30. Nothing outside those hours because the rest of the time is devoted to my kids. So, if I need to accomplish these three things, when are they happening in that time? Well, from 9:50 to 11:20, I’m at my son’s school, so they’re not happening there. My workout is before that, so it’s not happening there. So, I will very clearly, on my calendar for the day, actually draw in when I’m accomplishing three specific things I need to get done that day. Tuesday—

Chris Cooper (33:06):
And what happens if you don’t get it done? I’m sorry.

Joleen Bingham (33:08):
Oh, no. I—what happens if I don’t get it done? This is where the discipline comes in. Those are the things I have to accomplish that day. That means after my kids go to bed at night, I’ll accomplish those things.

Chris Cooper (33:17):
Wow, OK.

Joleen Bingham (33:18):
Yep. And I will say there are caveats, like if I’m sick, I’m not going to make myself more sick by staying up. You’ve got to give yourself some grace. Tuesday/Thursday, I have a block from 5 to 7 a.m. for mentoring, and then on my calendar, I draw out from 7 a.m. to 8:30 is when I get my kids ready and get them to school. Like, it’s very, very specifically time blocked. And I just want to make people aware that you can’t be too specific on your calendar, right? I know people are like, “Oh, I’m going to work from 9 to 2.” Well, what are you doing from 9 to 2? What are you actually accomplishing? So, then I might go in and from 9 to 1, I’m going to do mentoring calls; from 1 to 2:30, I’m going to work out; from 2:30 to 3:30, I’m going to pick my kids up.

Joleen Bingham (33:58):
And then the rest of the night is with my kids. So, I get very specific with the hours of the day and what’s happening through the whole rest of the week. So, I know when I said Friday is my catchall day—well, I’m still going to write out what is happening during that time. I’m not going to just leave it as an empty blank. So, whatever I didn’t accomplish—because maybe a sick child was at home—I’m going to draw on my calendar. This is what I’m doing from 9 to 10, 10 to 11, and so on. And for me, that accountability comes from seeing it there. Yeah.

Chris Cooper (34:28):
OK. And you might write that in like Thursday night or something?

Joleen Bingham (34:30):
Yes. Yep. I do everything the night before for the next day.

Chris Cooper (34:34):
Oh, fantastic. So, is this kind of like how you end your day? Do you reflect on what you’ve already done and make your plan for the next day?

Joleen Bingham (34:41):
Yes. Correct.

Chris Cooper (34:42):
OK.

Joleen Bingham (34:43):
Yeah.

Chris Cooper (34:43):
Incredible.

Joleen Bingham (34:44):
And all of that’s kind of on an overarching calendar, but the specifics of like what’s happening from 9 to 2, that’s in my daily planner. And I’m a paper person; I’m still old school with that, but those specifics are written there because if I put it on the Google calendar, it would be way too much for people.

Chris Cooper (35:00):
Do you save like your past calendars, the stuff that you’ve done?

Joleen Bingham (35:05):
I do.

Chris Cooper (35:06):
Do you just like stack them up? Do you—you could probably build a fort out of them right now, right?

Joleen Bingham (35:09):
I have a shelf, a bookshelf, in my office at home that has them, but I also take notes in them. And so, there’s a table of content, so when I need to refer back to the notes, I can find them.

Chris Cooper (35:18):
That’s so awesome. I’m going to start doing that. What I love to do is just like track words written. That’s a really important metric. I know that I’m like mentally healthy if I’m hitting 750 words a day. I know that my thoughts are more organized, and I’m more focused. So, that’s the only one that I track. I also use Google tasks to check off as I finish things. And so, I track those every week. Like how many things did I actually check off? But you will find out, like you’re gaming the system a little bit, right? Like “Start call with Leighton and Joleen on time”: Check. You know?

Chris Cooper (35:51):
I need some wins. Give me—you know.

Joleen Bingham (35:54):
That is—it’s very true though. And I think that’s important though for people who feel like they’re not accomplishing something. Put something in your checklist you can check off. It makes you feel good.

Chris Cooper (36:02):
Exactly. Oh, that’s an awesome little tidbit too. OK guys, thanks again for coming on, and yeah, we’ll post your contact info at Two-Brain and also your Instagram link too, Joleen.

Joleen Bingham (36:16):
All right, perfect. Thank you.

Chris Cooper (36:18):
Alright, well hey, thank you very much. I think this is actually going to help a lot of people who just feel overwhelmed, like they can’t do it all and they’re sacrificing the business for the family or vice versa, or they’re sacrificing their fitness for everything else. You know, Leighton and Joleen are amazing role models to me and everybody else in Two-Brain, and if you really want some inspiration on how important this planning is and what kind of lifestyle it can provide for you, you can follow Joleen on social media—and Leighton, if you can find him.

Leighton Bingham (36:47):
Yeah, well I just recently opened my account to friends, so.

Chris Cooper (36:51):
OK, well that’s great. Are you posting, like, “This is me driving 14 hours straight from Colorado to Texas?

Leighton Bingham (37:01):
No, actually, I didn’t do that. It’s more of the kids and thoughts of the day, that kind of stuff to encourage discipline and things moving forward.

Chris Cooper (37:10):
Awesome. Guys, thanks. Thanks so much for your service and your time.

Leighton Bingham (37:13):
No problem. Thanks for having us.

Thanks for listening!

Thanks for listening! Run a Profitable Gym airs twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. Be sure to subscribe for tips, tactics and insight from Chris Coooper, as well as interviews with the world’s top gym owners.

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