Courtney Elmer is a stress and wellness expert who developed The EffortLESS Life® methodology, a framework that helps entrepreneurs streamline and grow their businesses while working less. She is also the host of The EffortLESS Life® Podcast, ranked among the top 500 shows across globally.
We all start somewhere. What inspired you to start your business?
When I finally escaped the corporate world of 9 to 5+ plus lunch breaks, nights, and weekends, I thought I’d bought my ticket to freedom. Little did I know that as an entrepreneur, the pursuit of success only intensifies, because now that success rides solely on you.
My wake-up call came at 25 years old, when my doctor looked me in the eye and told me I had cancer. In an instant, I learned first-hand exactly what my relentless pursuit of success really cost me: not the late nights at my desk, missed workouts, or telling my friends (again) I couldn’t meet them for brunch because I was too busy. The real price I paid for success was my health, my friendships, and the relationships in life that mattered most to me.
It dawned on me that the successful lifestyle I was chasing didn’t matter that much. If it costs me my peace, it’s too expensive.
That’s when I got really curious. If hard work was what it took to succeed as an entrepreneur, then why isn’t everyone who works hard, successful? I became obsessed with figuring out why burnout happens at such a high rate among ambitious leaders even while pursuing their passion and dreams. I wanted to crack the code on how to break the relentless cycle of entrepreneurial burnout and see if it was possible to work less and still be successful (SPOILER ALERT: it is!)
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
We just launched a fresh new in-depth digital workshop called “Work Less, Make More” where I teach entrepreneurs like you how to stop trading time for dollars, so you can start running your business like a real CEO. Inside this virtual workshop you’ll learn how to master the three key skills you need to create the greater influence, income, and impact you deserve, without spending another late night on your laptop.
We’ve also opened up the doors to our signature coaching program, The EffortLESS Life® Academy, designed specifically for entrepreneurs who want an easier way to take their business to the next level without wasting their time on trial-and-error with cookie-cutter methods for scaling their business.
Most business coaching programs focus on mindset or strategy, which is the reason why many programs on the market today don’t deliver the results they promise. The 5-part, proven EffortLESS Life® Method we teach inside of The Academy gives you a clear blueprint to operate your business effectively and create lasting change from the inside out, so you can stay laser-focused, identify the key activities that drive real revenue, and finally experience the freedom you started your business for in the first place.
Who has been your greatest influence in business and why?
I remember sitting at the kitchen table as a girl, looking at my mom while she told us that we’d be eating Ritz Crackers and peanut butter for dinner that night. First, I shook my head in disbelief, then in the next moment I realize. If this was rock bottom, things could only go up from here.
My mom had quit her salaried job to stay home and raise me and my sisters, and every day I watched as my dad built his business as an entrepreneur. He started with nothing and grew that business to where it is today simply by getting up, getting ready, and showing up for his clients every day. In doing so, he taught me what it means to embody the characteristics of a true entrepreneur: commitment, dedication, and following through by doing what you said you were going to do — over, and over, and over again.
That’s how you build a business — and a legacy — that lasts. Not by racing to the finish line to beat the competition. Not by chasing every shiny object that lands in your inbox or pops up on your newsfeed. You build it by identifying the things that move the needle, and then focusing on moving the needle just a little bit, every single day.
Dad was always home by 5pm every evening. He never worked weekends, and he was there for every important event in our lives, usually sitting in the front row.
I wouldn’t be where I am in business today without him, because he taught me to focus on the important things in life first, and trust that the rest would take care of itself. Surprisingly, somehow it does, every single time.
What do you consider to be your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
There are countless ways to define success, and while some measure it based on their number of followers on Instagram or dollars in their bank account, I measure it differently than most.
When I put my head on the pillow at night, I know that day was a success for me if I’ve accomplished 3 things:
- I’ve done one thing big or small to further my mission of inspiring and communicating to entrepreneurs everywhere that they’re worthy of inner peace
- I’ve spent quality time with the people I love, whether it’s with my boys, a friend, or a family member
- I did something for my own personal well-being, whether that’s prayer, eating mindfully, working out, or enriching my mind through reading or listening to podcasts
That’s why my greatest professional accomplishment to date has simply been trusting myself and believing that I’m already equipped with all I need to succeed. (Although, writing my first book is a close second. 🙂
What’s your best piece of advice for other at-home entrepreneurs?
Relax. Relax your expectations for yourself. Relax your expectations of others. Relax your agenda and relax your mind and body.
Not every day will be perfect, and luckily for you, every day doesn’t have to go exactly like you planned in order to succeed as an entrepreneur. Your business isn’t going to fail if you don’t reply to that email until tomorrow or turn off your phone so you can play with your kids.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live a life where I can’t find 30 minutes in my day to workout, or where I’m too busy to sit down and have family dinner.
If you find it hard to ‘unplug’ picture this: you’re on your deathbed. What will you wish for? Will you wish that you ignored your own priorities more? Or regret not closing your laptop early to spend precious time with the people you love?
One of the top 5 regrets of the dying is, “I wish I hadn’t worked so much.” When you feel the pull to work late, miss your kids’ soccer game, or skip Pilates class for a last-minute conference call, ask yourself this simple question: If I say “yes” to this, what does it mean I’m saying “no” to… and what’s more important?
What’s the largest challenge you encountered and how did you overcome it?
Despite the hard things I’ve done in my career as a whole, undergoing cancer treatment was by far the most challenging, because for the majority of that time, I was alone with my own thoughts. I was forced to revisit my values, take a good hard look at my life, and ask myself what was most important.
Overworking and living in a constant state of stress and anxiety had become a comfort zone for me, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, it provided a benefit: it was how I numbed myself from the deeper emotional pain that I didn’t want to face. I’d gotten used to using “busy-ness” as my go-to coping mechanism to distract me from feeling.
So, while it was terrifying to feel how fragile life is, it also gave me the greatest gift: the freedom to be who I’ve been created to be, who I am, without reservation. Life is short, and when all is said and done, my business is simply an extension of me. Which means if I’m not growing and taking the best care of myself, then I can’t expect my business to grow and, in the way, that I want it to.
Through this experience I learned that facing your feelings and choosing healing over past hurts is something you should never put to the back burner. The faster you cultivate the courage to work through whatever it is that’s holding you back, the faster you’ll experience true peace, happiness, and fulfillment in your life and work.
What one thing have you learned as an entrepreneur that has served you well over the years?
Create space for yourself every day.
This takes a little bit of practice and a whole lot of patience, because it’s easy to jump right into work and start putting out fires. But when you cultivate the discipline of starting each morning with just 20 minutes of quiet time reserved for you (even if it means getting up earlier to make it happen) you’ll be amazed by how much more progress you’re able to make in a single day.
Use this time to source inspiration by putting on your “CEO hat” and stepping into the role of Visionary that your business needs. Ask yourself, what 3 things do I need to accomplish today that will move the needle the most? (Hint: posting on Instagram or checking email should not be among these 3!) When you sit down at your desk, do these 3 activities first… before tackling your inbox.
What are your favorite tools to run your business?
“Simplify & Automate” has become our unspoken mantra behind the scenes here at The EffortLESS Life®. We’re always on the hunt for ways to streamline our back-end processes, so that we can truly walk our talk and work smarter, not harder.
Here are five of our favorite tools for getting things done, without having to work so hard.
Boomerang (for Gmail and G-Suite users)
When we discovered Boomerang, it was like the clouds parted and angels sang. Boomerang for Gmail lets YOU take control of your inbox by letting you choose when to send and receive emails. Our favorite feature is its ability to pause your incoming messages and have them delivered at a set time each day, which helps you stay out of your inbox and focus on your most important work. It also can temporarily archive messages and bring them back to your inbox at a later date, as a reminder or follow-up. Boomerang recently added a snazzy new calendar feature that lets you share your calendar availability in real time making it easier than ever to schedule meetings with your contacts, right there in the body of your email (which means no more scrambling for calendar links to share or running the risk of double-booking yourself!)
Some people say I’m the queen of organization, but the truth is, I have Monday.com in my back pocket. Monday.com is a project-management tool that simplifies the way teams work. We’re obsessed with how easy it is to communicate and execute action items, group projects by tasks, assign those tasks, and track their progress to completion. Having all your projects in one spot also makes it easy to collaborate when you have multiple people working on a single project, which boosts productivity and helps you get more done with less back and forth.
We use Google for literally everything. From Drive for storage, to Docs, Sheets, and Forms for productivity, Google office makes it easy for our team to collaborate and communicate, without having to send hundreds of emails back and forth or risk important items getting buried in someone’s inbox. Plus, every document, sheet, photo, and folder can be accessed from the Google Cloud, making it even easier to share content without needing loads of storage space.
The next best thing to delegating is automating, and this is especially true if you’re working solo without a huge team. Zapier makes it easy to connect apps that otherwise wouldn’t integrate and automates tasks and workflows with ease. Want to push your Instagram posts to Pinterest and Twitter? Done. Want to automatically spreadsheets? Done! We love how much time we save collectively as a team, simply by automating our many workflows with this one powerful tool.
Bookafy is the best calendar management tool you’ve never heard of, and there’s a reason it’s ranked among highest rated online appointment scheduling software. It integrates seamlessly with a number of digital calendar systems (like Google Calendar), automatically sends meeting reminders on your behalf, and we especially love its ability to create unlimited appointment types and add multiple users from your team so everyone’s calendar is synced in one spot!
What are your hobbies?
Teaching Xtend Barre and Rebound (trampoline) classes is one of my secret superpowers. I’ve been teaching for over 5 years, and not only is it a great outlet for me to unplug, it keeps me in shape, too!
Although we haven’t been traveling as much as we used to due to COVID, I’ve been filling my time with creative design projects around our home. With my background in decorating and design, I find sheer pleasure in sourcing art, making custom draperies, and creating an atmosphere that feels calm, spacious, and well — effortless.
How can readers get in touch with you?
Podcast: The EffortLESS Life