A day with neuro-inclusivity expert Ashlie Collins

Humane Startup founder Ashlie Collins shares how she navigates her day and calms her nervous system as a neurodivergent business owner

As a serial entrepreneur, Ashlie Collins shares a typical day where she juggles her businesses and busy family life. Ashlie gives us an exclusive insight into the routines she has designed to set her up for the day, as well as how she tackles being neurodivergent.

Finding the right career path

I am learning to embrace the wisdom I have collected over my now 18-year professional career (gulp). 

I’ve admittedly zig-zagged between working for industry leaders and serving on the founding team of HRTech startups, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. 

Each new opportunity has exposed me to amazing leaders to learn from and pushed me to hone my new skills fast as I looked to serve the largest companies (and employers) in a variety of different roles – from Sales rep to CEO. 

In every role, I have been part of the revenue generation machine. It’s been a wild ride and one that has exposed me to the mental and physical health risks that come along with running at that pace for a long period of time. 

Witnessing myself and so many I care about, putting themselves in a position where the demands of their lives outstripped their coping skills. 

There were a lot of people in my world burning out (in the very real medical sense) while they tried to make a positive difference in the world, and I just knew I had to do something about it. 

So, last year (after joining my third startup) I decided to do my own thing; merge my business toolkit with my behavioural therapy and neurobiology toolkits to help all my fellow under-satisfied overachievers out there! 

Kickstarting the day

I am neurodivergent (ASD and ADHD), so I tend to vary my morning routines to keep my interest-based nervous system happy. I am also a mother of three, so flexibility (and prioritising sleep) are musts for me. 

That said, I do ensure that I have at least one mindfulness practice in place – even if it is as simple as 1 minute of breathwork or listening to Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life by Dr. Wayne Dyer (this is a go-to for centring me) in the shower.

I do my best to fit this in before I engage with the kids (or my husband), but that just isn’t always strategically possible and the negative effects of sacrificing sleep put a stop to waking up at the crack of dawn to tick the mindfulness box. 

That said, checking emails/going on socials, and/or taking work calls/meetings before I’ve done it is an absolute no-no. I like to think of it as nervous system containment. 

Some tools I keep in my toolkit to pull out on days where I can carve out a bit more me time or can just feel that I’ve gone full-on Dark Phoenix and need some additional support: 

  • A variety of breathwork techniques 
  • Yoga (YouTube can be a beautiful thing) 
  • The Tapping Solutions App (EFT) 
  • Dr. Joe Dispenza Meditations 
  • A host of versions of The Tao Te Ching 
  • Running 
  • Pilates 
  • Grounding 

Planning out the day

My day looks so much different now than it used to and I truly believe you need to design a routine that works for you and where you are right now, and re-evaluate your setup once every 3 months. 

My kids are aged 5–12, and a huge part of my life is being present with them as much as possible. My day almost always starts at 9 and can end anywhere from 2–10PM depending on what’s going on with the family schedule. 

I always keep the hours of 5–8 blocked out as “sacred time” and block my days around functions: ie Finance Friday, Podcast Thursday, Marketing Monday etc. My calendar is beautifully colour-coded and time blocked, but I have grown to accept that things often don’t go to plan.

Embracing the flow and adjusting in alignment with my core values as/when needed has been a game changer for me. 

Those values are: generosity, courage and self-discipline, and getting clear on these (not as easy as it sounds) made navigating scheduling choice points so much easier (and reduced guilt massively). 

The day’s challenges 

The most challenging part of my day is the multitude of context-switching. From Mom to CEO. From Operations to Coach. From Coach to Marketer. From Marketer to Wife. From Wife to Friend. 

It can get heavy and emotionally draining, even for the therapeutically trained. 

Sometimes I find myself losing compassion or empathy in certain situations and that is when I really have to step back and reach inside my toolkit. 

If I don’t have a check-in system in place for myself then all of my relationships (and my performance and productivity) suffer. That’s why self-discipline is a core value for me. 

It’s such a misconception that burnout comes from the number of hours worked, it’s really more about ensuring that your coping skills outstrip the stress in your life; tipping that balance in your favour and setting healthy boundaries. 

Enjoying the day’s rewards

It is going to sound so cliche, but it really is reconnecting people with the truth of how awesome they are. 

Whether it’s my kids or my clients, I spend so much time listening to people speak really negatively about themselves. Doubt and judge themselves and then question why they aren’t achieving what they want to achieve. 

But after spending a few weeks together, the penny finally drops, and someone reconnects with themselves and their unique gifts - it is just magical! 

Finishing the day off well

At the end of the day, I take the pressure off myself. 

Life is not predictable and I think there has been a really unhealthy message floating around that in order to be “successful”, you have to wake up at 3AM and have a 3-hour wind down routine. 

Sure, when I can dedicate a full hour to an evening routine that’s a massive win for my nervous system, my mood, my decision-making– but that can’t come at the cost of sleep and it shouldn’t be something that adds more pressure and stress to your life. 

Much like my morning routine, I have a stacked tool kit and I look for fun new things to add to it all the time. If I have to keep to the basics of personal hygiene and 1 minute of breathwork, I am not going to beat myself up over that and neither should you - tomorrow is a new day! 

My kids are super active – both in school and after, so doing things exactly the same everyday just doesn’t work for us. 

We do try to do things together;  like washing our face, brushing our teeth, getting our stuff ready for the next day so that not only do I make sure it gets done, but also so they can see me doing the same things I am asking them to do for themselves.

I also really like to read to the kids whenever possible. I find that it’s not only really calming, but it also gets a good dose of fiction reading for me as I can over-index on heavy nonfiction topics sometimes. 

Once we have get the kids to bed, the husband and I do try to spend at least 30 minutes together, just us, to reconnect and that doesn’t always leave time for much more than a body scan and breathwork before I get to sleep.

I also always keep a journal by my bedside to jot down thoughts that may be racing (even after breathwork) to make it easier to drift off. 


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