Chip Away at Everything That Isn’t David

Sustainable Productivity is pretty much what Michelangelo says about creating a masterpiece:

You chip away at everything that isn’t David.

Let me explain.

Before a masterpiece is a masterpiece, it is a block of marble, a ball of yarn, ink or paint in a jar, dirt. Or in my case – a kitchen table piled with crap.

At least most people would call it a kitchen table. I referred to it as a dumping ground. If we ate dinner together (which was already rare), we ate in the dining room so the kitchen table did not get used very much.

Unless you had a bag when you came in the house, then it went on the kitchen table. Same thing with sport equipment, mail, tools on their way back out to the garage, or any number of things. And these items never left. At one point I had a jock strap cup on my kitchen table for DAYS.

This was not sustainable.

What I Wanted

Let me tell you what my “vision of David” was – I wanted something welcoming and inviting when I came in the door from the outside. For me this means:

  • Uncluttered spaces
  • Inviting furniture
  • Restful colors
  • Meaningful knickknacks

Instead I had the home version of a block of marble.

I had a vision of the kitchen corner equivalent of the statue of David. I just needed to chip away at all that was NOT David – like the nut cup missing its strap.

Eliminate what is not working

Instead of trying to change the behavior of My People, I just got rid of the table. We took it down Thanksgiving of 2019 to put up the Christmas tree. Then decided to live without it “for a few weeks” to see if we missed it.

During that few weeks my mom died, a massive work project went live, then the world shut down for COVID.

Add what works

Needless to say, we had quite a bit of time to plan our next steps. We decided we wanted a cozy coffee corner vibe. I went to town on Pinterest boards for couches or chairs, end tables or coffee tables, book cases or cabinets. We spent time talking about what we would do in that space – I would read a book while Bixby cooked or he could work on his computer while I cleaned up after a meal. This would be a more welcoming and comfortable space that sitting on a bar stool across the counter in the kitchen.

We decided not to shop for a couch online because we just needed to sit on some couches to decide what we wanted. After a few shopping trips in early 2021, we got the tape measure and painters tape out to help us imagine using the space how we wanted with the set up that the furniture allowed.

After we got the couch in place, we lived with it for several days talking about what else to add to the space to create the look and feel that we wanted.

We chipped away at what was not working. The first was not having a spot to put our phone or coffee cup (or Diet Coke can). The second was how sterile it looked with just empty tables. We took knick knacks from other parts of the house to make this corner look cozier.

One miss we had is assuming we knew better for everyone. What is cozier than a having your dog snoozing on her bed next to you while you read under a blanket on a rainy Sunday morning? We bought Lucille’s dog bed before we even had the couch delivered. She loves her 2 beds in other parts of the house. We were wrong about this one though.

Your Turn

Do you have an area in your home that is not working for you? What could you chip away in order to make your home more of a restful masterpiece? It does not have to be clearing a space and waiting 4 months for furniture. It could be moving photos around or resorting books stacks. Purging a shelf to give more open space. Check out the Edit Your Life podcast episode 233, ” Small Yet Powerful Home Edits” to hear about some of the ways they recently chipped away at what was not working.

By |2021-05-23T08:02:33-04:00May 25th, 2021|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

The Push – A Book About Motherhood…and SO MUCH MORE

I know not everyone is a book nerd like I am so I usually save my 5-star book announcements for Sustainable Sue Bookmobile  subscribers. But this book is so much more than a great read – I had to share it with everyone.

Books can make you think and feel things you don’t want to or did not even know existed in your mind and heart. There are times that books make you reconsider what you thought, approved, and wished for. Sometimes books help soothe the rough edges on feelings that you did not even know were there. The Push by Ashley Audrain is that book and more.

The Premise

Here is the Goodreads description of this novel:

Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had. But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter–she doesn’t behave like most children do.

Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining things. The more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity, and the more we begin to question what Blythe is telling us about her life as well.

Then their son Sam is born–and with him, Blythe has the blissful connection she’d always imagined with her child. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth.

The Push is a tour de force you will read in a sitting, an utterly immersive novel that will challenge everything you think you know about motherhood, about what we owe our children, and what it feels like when women are not believed.

The Impact

This book made my insides shrivel up in a way that few books ever have.

I am a childless by choice step mom to 2 kids who had just turned 4 and 6 when I met them. My husband and I had some tough conversations in the first couple years of our relationship and marriage about whether we would have kids together. I had a several reasons against having a biological child. Here are a few of them.

  1. Post-partum depression runs in my family. I already lean on meds and therapy to keep the ship afloat. I have taken enough biology and human physiology classes to understand the hormonal chaos that pregnancy and early motherhood wreck on a woman’s body.
  2. I could not imagine how I would manage all of my big feelings while abstaining from caffeine, alcohol, vigorous exercise, and SSRIs for 9 months while incubating, then indefinitely after. I know zillions of women do this every day and have for millenia, but I am a research study with an N of 1. I knew my best coping strategies – healthy or unhealthy as they were.
  3. I loved our life. We had the kids 3-4 days each week, every week. We could do things like the zoo and practices, then drop the kids off at their mom’s house and spend whole days riding our bikes or touring through wineries near the mountains.

But I felt selfish and less than. It seems like I was bombarded with messages ranging from evolution to pop culture about how motherhood is a woman’s purpose in life.

So if I did not want to be a mother (a “real mother” as some women called it, separating out my step-mothering from what they did), what kind of woman was I?

This book explored all of these ideas and more from the perspective of Blythe and flashbacks to her mother ‘s and grandmother’s lives. For the first half of this book, I pretty much decided that I could not rate this book. I felt so strongly about it – loved and hated it, but I would never be able to explain the real truth behind why I loved and hated it so much. I did not want to try to explain all of these big feelings in a book review blurb.

But I decided that I was going to swing for the fences and be honest about the complicated feelings I had about motherhood. As much as I can do that today. As the layers of the onion are peeled, there may be more to share with you in the future.

This is the power of books – it is not just a story. It is how that story makes you think about your life. It can help heal, restore and reframe what we always thought was true.

“A library is a hospital for the mind.” Anonymous

Your Turn

I need people to talk to about this book. If you have read it and want to swoon together, comment below or come find me on social media. I have been pressing this book into everyone’s hands – and now yours. Go read it RIGHT NOW and come back to help me process this.

I know you will want more after you finish reading it. You can listen to an interview with the author here and hear a bookish podcasters talk about it here.

By |2021-05-18T08:47:01-04:00May 18th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

What Road Trips Can Teach you About Goal Setting

Remember the days where we used maps to plan our road trips? In order to get to our destination, we had to know where we were starting from. How do you know what direction to travel if you are unsure of your starting point and end target?

Personal productivity is very similar.

Set Your Destination

Often we see the end result of where we want to go.

  • Moms in Target who has 2 kids walking alongside the cart, not grabbing things off the shelves and whining.
  • The woman at the gym who runs twice your speed on the treadmill.
  • Photos on social media of perfectly organized pantries.

First of all, I caution you against comparing your insides with someone else’s outsides. Seldom does the presentation reality match up with the truth. The end results in the above examples, could be rooted in reality like this:

  • Target Mom may run her household on fear and those kids “know better than to act out in public.”
  • Treadmill gazelle may have an exercise addiction driving her to run herself into injuries or worse.
  • Perfectly organized pantries are seldom found in homes where people feel at ease grabbing what they want (think teenagers having friends over).

All of that aside, you may have a vision of where you want to go. Destinations are great, but it is not productive to start on the path without knowing where you are starting from.

“On any journey, we must find out where we are before we can plan the first step.” Kathy Boevink

Determine Your Starting Point

If we return to the map of our road trip, determining your starting point seems easy. But looks can be deceiving. The more granular your starting point, the more accurate your route can be. This is true whether we are using maps or a GPS to plan our route.

Let’s say for example, I decide my starting point is the name of my town instead of the street I live on. This will lead to two very different routes to my sister’s house. One is 30 minutes faster than the other – and when I am going to visit my nieces, every second counts. Drilling down to truly understand where I am starting from helps me not waste time getting to where I want to go.

The same is true with habit change. The more defined vision of where you want to go combined with the more granular idea of where you are starting from can mean the difference between Sustainably Productive (SusPro) habit change and habit change that fizzles out by week’s end.

  • Fizzle Out Habit Change: I want to bike more.
  • SusPro Habit Change: I currently ride 50 miles a week with my longest ride being 30 miles on Sundays. I want to increase that to riding 50 miles on my birthday in June so this week I will ride 33 miles on Sunday and keep the weekday rides short to make sure I can fit them in during lunch.

Or maybe this example resonates with you:

  • Fizzle Out Habit Change: I want to chill out and stop being crabby.
  • SusPro Habit Change: I have zero time where I am still. This week I will sit in silence for at least 1 minute, but no more than 5 on Monday and Thursday. I won’t try to meditate – if I can just be still that will be a victory.

The SusPro method starts with a vision of where you want to go and a granular look at where you are starting from. Now let’s talk about how you can determine where you are starting from.

Getting Started

The Sustainable You Time Tracker is a free resource that can help you determine your starting point. Simply download the tracker and set a timer to go off every 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, write down what you have spent the last 30 minutes on.

Don’t wait for a “normal” week – there is no such thing. You can learn from any snapshot in time. At the end of the week, take a look at what trends you see. Maybe you are surprised to see you spend 2 hours each day waiting at various points of the day. This time tracker is just information – do not use it to shame or blame. Identify patterns that are not serving you and make small adjustments.

Your Turn

Take a stab at tracking your time and let me know how it goes. I love to talk productivity with people so if you want me to take a look at your tracker you can email it to me at Susan@SustainableSue.com.

By |2021-05-08T06:51:56-04:00May 11th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Creativity and Relationships

Soooooo to say I have been in a bit of a creative slump in the last several weeks would be an understatement. I have tried applying my 2021 theme: Wear life like a loose garment.

I have maintained this weekly blog post and related social media content and let that be enough. It was fine, but I still have not broken out of the slump.

Now I want to try the other side of the coin and Laura Tremaine (an author and podcaster who I pretend is my friend in real life) has the perfect opportunity for me – a daily social media writing challenge.

Why It Works

Creativity and relationships are part of the Mental Well-being pillar of Sustainable Productivity. Research has shown that loneliness has a negative impact on mental AND physical health. Additionally, creativity (and hobbies in general) reduce stress hormones, blood pressure, and other markers of stress.

To say 2020 impeded our creativity and relationships would be an understatement. When those 2 components suffer, our Mental Well-being suffers which leads to an overall loss in productivity. This is not a sustainable model. This is burnout.

I am not saying you should put blinders on to the grief caused by 2020. I am saying it is important to grieve those things and give yourself a break. It is equally unhealthy to stuff negative feels so that you can power through your to do list.

But all crises end. Darkness turns to dawn. Maybe you are like me and are starting to see a sliver of light on the horizon.

It is time to reach toward that smidge of sunshine, grab on and crack open a new chapter.

Let me show you what I have in mind.

How It Works

For every day in May there is a prompt that I will write about and want to invite you to come along with me. You don’t have to be a writer or aspiring writer – just someone who wants to share a bit each day. Don’t let the fact that it’s a couple days into the month deter you from starting. Check out the themes below and jump in on themes that move you. The point of this exercise is not to be on social media more. It is about leveraging social media to use creativity and relationships to build a life we don’t need to escape.

If you choose to join the challenge, use the hashtags #OneDayMay and #SustainableSue so we can find each other in a search.

By |2021-05-02T08:58:17-04:00May 4th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

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