3 Ways to Divide Labor and Save Time

Today I want to teach you about Sustainably Productive ways to divide labor and save time. Some time management methods say partner should own the whole process and if that works for you and your partner – great! I have not found this to be a solution in our house. If I were to own the whole “feeding the people” task, it would implode quickly. My feelings would be hurt when noses were turned up, I didn’t understand a recipe, or it generally did not turn out as planned. This would not be something I could maintain lifelong.

The other way division of labor is not Sustainably Productive is when the ball is dropped because you thought someone else was taking care of it or if you end up duplicating efforts and wasting time. It looks a lot like Lucille and her friend, Rupp trying to both play with the same stick.

Here are three things to consider as you divide labor in your life.

Do the tasks only you can do

I mean this in the most literal sense of the word. There are some things that only one person can do. Your partner might find a way around it to accomplish a finish, but it would be cost and time prohibitive to do so. Here are a few examples:

  • Only a nursing mom can breastfeed the baby. Sure dad can get a bottle or use formula, but for some people this is not within their parenting strategy or budget to bottle feed.
  • At work, maybe there are certain tasks only a person with a certain certification is permitted to do. A nurse for example.
  • In our house only Bixby can fix the servers when there are issues. I know how to get on the server, but setup, back up, blah blah blah – that is something only he can do. Sure I could learn or hire out – but that becomes cost and time prohibitive.

How this plays into time management is that these types of tasks – the ones that only you can do – need to be the big boulders that go in the time management container first. This Stephen Covey analogy is something you can learn more about in the Sustainable You Course. By making sure you cover the big boulders first, the rest of the little things can fill in around it.

Here is how this might play out in my house. The original plan was for Bixby to mow the lawn and clean the house during my writing time before we had company later that day. But the gas can is empty so the lawn can’t get mowed and the server goes down so I cannot access my book manuscript during my designated writing time. The big boulder goes first – only Bixby can bring the server up.

That has to go first and I shift to cover some of his tasks. By the time I go to fill the gas can and clean the bathrooms, the server is back up. We high five and tag back to our assigned tasks – me to writing and him to mowing and cleaning.

Time management adjustment: Divide labor by first assigning tasks that only you can do.

Do tasks in your wheelhouse

Another way to divide labor is to identify what your wheelhouse tasks are and tackle those – and only those. I am defining wheelhouse here as the things that light you up and put wind in your sails. Tasks that are your jam. You have things that you are good at and enjoy. Don’t compare your contribution to anyone else’s. Embrace what you are good at.

Source: Buddhist Boot Camp

Meals are a great example of this in our house. I do not enjoy cooking or any of its associated tasks – chopping, translating recipes (WTF is blanching anyway?), being patient while things cook, etc. Luckily, all of that is in Bixby’s wheelhouse. He finds it RELAXING to do all of this after a stressful day at work. Before we got married we were talking about division of labor and he said he would take on preparing all dinners as long as when he said he wanted to go out to eat, I would agree.

Ummmmm, ok?

Sounds like a dream, but let me brag about my contribution – I choose the recipes, plan which night we will have what, order the groceries online, pick them up, and clean up the kitchen after dinner. Wheelhouse. My role in the family is Supply Chain and Logistics and everything that happens before dinner falls squarely in that bucket.

Time management adjustment: Divide labor by assigning tasks that you love to do or are good at.

Do what matters to you

There is something about having a clean kitchen when I go to bed that makes me feel like the day is complete. When I was growing up, my sister and I would clean the kitchen after dinner before we started our homework.

[Let me burst your bubble if you have Walton family visions here – I have distinct memories of my dad sitting at the table drinking coffee and making me rewipe the table repeatedly because I did a terrible job. The teeth sucking and eye rolling coming from me would make you think he was asking me to wipe the color brown off of the wood. Kids are the worst.]

But when the kitchen was clean, the kitchen was closed. We moved to the dining room where the homework was done. My mom was a teacher so she was always doing school work at the same time as Sister and me. My dad would sit in the adjacent living room and read the paper. He was the designated quizzer when it came time to prove we were ready for upcoming tests.

Clearly I have strong memories of a clean kitchen signaling a transition and closing ritual. This carries over today.

Bixby could not care less. He appreciates a clean kitchen, but it is not his hill to die on. So I take it on as my task.

Time management adjustment: Divide labor by volunteering for tasks that matter to you.

Take these as considerations – not hard fast rules. They guidelines you can start to make adjustments with as you divide labor.  The idea is to make the tasks work for you instead of the other way around. This is a time management principle that you can use to create a life you don’t need to escape.

Your Turn

Let me know how this is working for you. If you get stuck, come find me on Instagram to we can work together to find adjustments you can make

By |2021-02-21T08:06:37-05:00February 23rd, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Fundamental Reading Question #2: 4 Books Everyone Should Read

This is part 2 in the Fundamental Reading Question series. You can read about Question 1 here.

I love to be bossy. I do not consider “bossy” to be an insult. So when my friend, Genay, tossed Fundamental Reading Question 2 at me, I immediately opened my mouth to tell her what I thought everyone should do.

But when I opened my mouth, I was speechless. Crickets.

Here is the question that stumped me. Fundamental Reading Question #2: What books should everyone read?

I have been procrastinating writing this post because of that word SHOULD. There is nothing about a Sustainably Productive life that includes the word SHOULD. Yet, I love talking about books, and I love this Fundamental Reading Question.

So with apologies to Genay, I am going to give an answer a bit tangent to this second Fundamental Reading Question. Here are 4 categories of books everyone should read.

Books That Feel Familiar

Reading is not just a hobby for me – it is an escape, a comfort, a respite, and a joy. Definitely something that can help make my life Sustainably Productive. While I rarely re-read a book, but I do have themes that I tend to gravitate towards.

I will read anything about World War II and am fascinated by the politics of the time and how the Third Reich unleashed its hate and fury on the world while good people stood by and let it happen. I will read about concentration camps, resistance groups, both sides of the war, the years leading up to it, the chaos of the whole decade, and the rebuilding after. This topic feels familiar to me and is always a go to topic I pick up when shopping at used book sales.

Taking a very hard turn from WW2 is Little House on the Prairie (LHOP). These are comforting to me, and I recently found Caroline – same stories as the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, but from Ma’s point of view. I watched LHOP growing up and started rewatching last year when it came to Amazon Prime. It is familiar to me. Although revisiting it as an adult makes me cringe at some things we thought were ok to allow on TV in the 70s, the idea of homesteading and family is familiar and comforting.

I have a couple favorite authors that are familiar to me as well. I will read anything by Fredrik Backman or Jodi Picoult. Although their recent releases were misses for me, I will give them a pass. It was a pandemic year after all.

Find a familiar genre or author that you gravitate towards. If you get in a reading slump, return to these. It never fails.

Books That Come Recommended

I will forever and always read what Laura Tremaine tells me to. She is a fellow booklover who has similar reading taste as me. What she recommends, I know I will like. With the exception of A Man Called Ove, books she has disliked have also landed on my Abandoned Books list. [I am not sure how you can’t love a curmudgeon, but I guess Laura is allowed to be wrong once.]

The flip side of this is a podcaster who has the opposite reading taste from me. I know if she recommends something, I will not like it. This is actually helpful because I know what NOT to read – or at least prioritize lower on my TBR. Conversely, when she hates a book, I put it on reserve at the library.

If you are looking to find reading mentors, I recommend starting with Anne Bogel. She has a podcast, a blog, seasonal reading guides, and a reading challenge. Something for everyone for sure! Along the same theme of accessibility for all, her podcast is set up to understand what her guest likes and dislikes in books, then Anne gives recommendations. So if the guest loves sci fi fantasy and so do you, maybe you will like the recommendations Anne gives the guest.

I would love to be your reading mentor! You can also sign up for the Sustainable Sue Bookmobile and I will send you a notice whenever I finis a 5-star read.

Books That You May Not Like

It is ok to abandon a book. Can I let you in on a secret? I have even thrown a book or two because I did not like them that much. Think of it this way – if you don’t identify what you DON’T like, it is hard to identify what you DO like. You may find you like a certain genre, but hate another. You may not be able to read a THING about the Depression Era, but futuristic sci-fi is what keeps the pages turning. Books you don’t like is a category of Fundamental Reading Question #2 because it means you are trying new things.

Speaking of sci fi fantasy – I just cannot. I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane because everyone else did. Same thing with The House of Salt and Sorrows. Caving to peer pressure and picking these books up did improve my reading life though. I learned that I do like fantasy (hello, Harry Potter!), and I do like sci fi (looking at you, anything by Blake Crouch). But I need to keep those separate – it is the combination of sci fi fantasy that is not my jam.

Books That Make You Question

This category of books you should read will probably be the hardest to approach – more so than even reading books you don’t like. Books that make you question what you have always known as fact can rattle the foundation that you were raised on. Here are three suggestions on where you can start.

  1. American Dirt. Anti-immigration comments and views of children torn from their families at the border break my heart. The “helpful” advice, “Go back where you came from” is unacceptable. Read American Dirt and ask yourself if you are the kind of person that you would force another human being to return to a country where they will most likely be killed. American Dirt is a story about why a family fled their home and what hardships they encountered on the way to America. There is controversy about the fact a white woman wrote the story of these Mexicans fleeing from Acapulco, but don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater by skipping this read. It is an entry point for those who need and want to learn more about immigration stories.
  2. And the Band Played On and The Great Believers. No one deserved to be dismissed like gay men were during the AIDS crisis. These two books are heart breaking and at times outrageous examples of how terribly people can treat other people. Yet both books do have hope as there are good people who stood up for what was right, not what was easy.
  3. Nickel and Dimed, Evicted, and Hillbilly Elegy. Minimum wage is a hot debate right now. Cost of living keeps going up while basic wages don’t. Sure most teenagers don’t need to be paid $15/hour for their summer jobs, but some entry level jobs support families of 4 or more. Americans living below the poverty line cannot solve the problem by working harder and saving more. I admit I am a bleeding heart liberal, but I was raised to believe hard work can solve all of your problems. These 3 books were startling eye openers about poverty and the factors that often create a perfect storm.

I would like to offer the old saying: you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got. Ignoring other people, lifestyles, cultures around you out of ignorance is not ok. I encourage you to pick up one of these books to see where you might some similarities to your story. We are all more alike than we are different.

Your Turn

If you choose to pick these books up I would love to hear about it. Just a reminder I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and will earn a commission if you click through any of the links in this post and make a purchase. In the meantime, think about your answer to Fundamental Reading Question #2. Tell me what books do YOU think everyone should read?

By |2021-02-13T10:31:26-05:00February 16th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

4 Steps to Get Started

Eventually the winter will end and it will be time to get started. Last week we talked about NOT setting goals and I could feel the hard charging goal getters cringing while quickly deleting the post.

There was a time in my life where I was Goal Getter going balls to the wall while ignoring my empty tank of energy. My spirit was limping along. I am choosing to do things differently now by taking the winter to rest. Maybe you are too.

But eventually spring will come and you will be rested and ready to tackle a project, learn something new, or go after a new goal or two. I want to invite you to consider a softer, gentler approach to get started.

1 – Start Anywhere

If you suffer from analysis paralysis this tip is for you. There is no perfect way to begin. The only way to fail is if you never start at all. Begin somewhere – even if it is in the middle. Laura Vanderkam talks about this on her Before Breakfast podcast from July 29th. There are all kinds of starting points – just pick one, just get started.

2 – Start Smaller

Do you think you have to be an expert before you can take up a new activity? Let’s take yoga for example. I often hear people say, “I can’t do yoga, I am not flexible.” First of all, there is more to yoga that who is most bendy. That aside, flexibility is not a pre-requisite to yoga. You are there to improve your flexibility (among other benefits). Start smaller than pro level.

Next I ask you to consider how you are defining “done.” You don’t have to do an hour of yoga each day to have a yoga practice. Start with 10 minutes once a week. Start with one pose each day. Think about what you want to do and cut that in half. You can build over time if what you are doing is working for you. Get started – small.

3 – Track Progress

What gets measured gets managed. While some of you may not love this tip (I am looking at you, Rebel Tendencies), tracking your progress can help you gain momentum when starting a new habit. If you have taken the Sustainable You course, you might use that tracker. You might have a tracker in your planner or as an app on your phone. It could be a tick mark on the back of the envelope your phone bill came in.

4 –  Be a Beginner

Have you ever watched a child experience something new for the first time? They are in awe of everything they experience with their senses, what their body can do, what the result of each action is. When do we become so fearful of being a beginner?

I was recently working on an embroidery project that I found in my mom’s sewing box after she died. It was a Family Circle pattern from the 70’s still in the envelope it was mailed in. There were some instructions that I just could not figure out – I skipped around in the pattern until I could not put it off any longer. I reached out to a craft group I am in on Facebook, and they didn’t know either. Paralyzed with not knowing the perfect next step, I decided to just embrace being a beginner with this step of the project and take a leap.

I think this flower turned out pretty great!

My perfectly imperfect first attempt at this stitch and interpreting crazy instructions from the 1970s.

Plus, this is art that did not exist in the world before I did it – imagine that! I could not be happier with the outcome. This might not be what the instructions intended, but it is my interpretation on it.
“The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang best.”
Henry Van Dyke
What are you holding back on? Is it fear of perfection keeping you from getting started? Pick somewhere to start – even if it is in the middle. If that still feels wrong, make the step smaller. Consider tracking your progress. Embrace being a beginner – we are all beginners at some point. What a gift to continue to be able to begin again.
By |2021-02-09T09:45:43-05:00February 9th, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

January is Terrible for Goal Setting

Except for the fact that it is the start of the calendar year, January is terrible for goal setting.

Consider how Mother Nature treats winter.

  • Plants are dormant.
  • Animals hibernate.
  • Sunrise is later and sunset is sooner.

      This is 6th grade Susan. I cannot tell you how shellacked those bangs are. I never did really get the hang of a curling iron. Some might say puberty is a type of winter.

Why, in the middle of this dormancy, would we insist on setting Big Hairy Goals and setting up schedules and requirements to fulfill them? It literally goes against nature to do so.

Winter is a time for rest and recuperation. Go back to the example of plants – that dormancy does not mean the plant is doing nothing. Deep in the ground the roots are growing stronger and extending their reach to support the growth that will happen in the spring and summer.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” Anne Bradstreet

In all of the Little House on the Prairie books, Laura talked about the cold winter days in Minnesota where nightfall came early. Sure they did what chores were required to survive, but in the winter, they hunkered down together reading, sewing or listening to Pa and Mr Edwards fiddle while they danced in front of the fireplace. They connected.

What if you also took that time to rest and recharge during winter in preparation for an active spring and productive summer and fall? Rest is so important that it is a component of each of the 3 pillars of Sustainable Productivity and is covered in each lesson in the Sustainable You course.

Here are a few ideas on how you can spend your winter differently since January is a terrible time for goal setting.

Health and Fitness

  1. Rest. This is not sleep, this is rest. Sitting without sleeping or distractions. Maybe all you can stand is 5 minutes. That is a good place to begin.
  2. Take breaks in your day. Because I work from home, I take a slow walk around the garden sometimes as a rest from work. My dad and I talked about this once when he was trying to quit smoking when he was still working as a school superintendent. He said he needed the timeout that smoking gave him. If he were to just go stand outside, people would look at him funny. But if he were standing there smoking, it was more socially acceptable. Let’s think about that – taking a moment to smoke is more socially acceptable that taking a moment to rest. Of course, some of that is our own perception, which is where my walk around the garden comes in. To someone else it might look like I am just surveying my plants, but I am not making my list of garden chores, I am just walking slowly in nature.

Mental Well-being

  1. Silence. When is the last time you sat in silence so quiet your ears almost hurt. The phrase deafening silence exists for a reason. I am not talking about meditation. Just sitting and listening to the quiet. Silence can satisfy a need for social, emotional, spiritual and creative rest.
  2. Rage. Imagine a mosh pit for one. This may feel counter intuitive to rest, but consider how heavy pent up anger is. Anger acts similar to stress. Having that rager can help your body physically process the cortisol and associated glucose so it doesn’t sit in your body.

Environmental Surroundings

  1. Create a restful space. I recently earned of the “Japandi” decorating trend and I am pinning and following it like crazy. This is the type of restful space I would love to have. I don’t have it now, but I can dream. Find what feels restful for you.
  2. Rest from screens. More than just turning screens off, help your eyes rest from those screens. Lower the brightness on your computer and mobile devices or experiment with blue-light-filter glasses to limit the blue light beaming from your screen.

Some of these suggestions might spur other ideas that resonate more with you. Maybe you need to make a list of how to rest. Get creative with your ideas and make them yours. Maybe your mosh pit is in your car. Maybe you sit in silence in your closet because it is more soundproof. Consider this a different type of goal setting – recharging and setting yourself up to tackle those Big Hairy Goals with a full tank.

I would love to hear how you rest. Comment below or send me a message on social media. In the meantime, rest up!

By |2021-01-29T08:49:19-05:00February 2nd, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

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