My Mom Was Right

There is nothing an adult woman hates to admit more than this – my mom was right. 

Perhaps I can only admit this now that she died, which was almost three years to the day that this weekly essay is going out. Needless to say she has been on my mind a lot in the last few weeks. 

One of the things my mom always told us was, “When in doubt… Don’t.”

  • Iffy about that skirt I was trying on during back to school shopping?
    • When in doubt… Don’t.
  • Unsure about accepting the invitation to the party?
    • When in doubt… Don’t.
  • Afraid of crossing that empty parking lot in the dark?
    • When in doubt… Don’t.

What makes so much sense now drove me bat shit crazy when I was a teenager. No one wanted clothes to fit her more than 6 foot tall 15-year old Sue. Pants were too short, all sleeves were jersey length, shoes for my boat-sized feet might as well have come from Dorothy Zbornak‘s closet. 

I knew I was not comfortable in these clothes, but I wanted to fit in so badly. Then came The Phrase: When in doubt… don’t. 

I knew those Guess jeans were going back on the rack for a shorter girl to buy later. 

But Today Sue has been in my mom’s shoes (proverbially, I could not fit in her stylish shoes either). I know what regret can do. I know my mom was right when she encouraged a moment of pause before making a bad decision. 

The Pause

There is so much power in that pause. 

The pause can be a moment. For example, the moment in an argument when it goes off the rails. You know, when “you did not put your plate in the dishwasher” becomes “I do everything around here!”

The pause can be silence after no thank you. As in a response to that weird feeling when a stranger at a bar hands you a drink you didn’t ask for. Or something that seems more benign like an invitation to join a committee or volunteer program.

Stop talking. Pause. Because see, no is a complete sentence. That pause is where you used to fill in nonsense syllables because you felt like you had to fill the air. 

The pause can be more final than that – a decision of no when it is not a HELL YES. 

I know it will feel weird. But weird is just another feeling.

The Weird

Whenever you start to do something different, it will feel weird.

  • Learning to shoot with my left hand felt weird when I was 10. 
  • Lessons behind the manual transmission car felt weird when I was 16.
  • Becoming a step mother at 34 was a step beyond weird (I still often look for the parent in the room before realizing it is me).
  • Learning to live without alcohol when I was 43 – definitely weird. 
  • Saying no thank you <<PAUSE FOR SILENCE>> now that I am 48 is weird. 

If you can get through the weird, you will find that it fades pretty quickly. Science tells us that emotions that go uninterrupted by thoughts will fade after about 90 seconds. 

Ninety seconds. Maybe we could amend what my mom said to this:

When in doubt don’t. Then count to 90. 

You might just be amazed at what comes your way when you stop chasing what you give a doubtful yes. 

Sustainable You Questions

  1. Reflect on last week or notice this week if you give doubtful yes answer. 
  2. Where did the doubt come from? 
  3. Why did you feel you could not say no?

If this weekly essay resonated with you, please share it with a friend. I am trying to grow Sustainable Sue and spread the ideas of Sustainable Productivity. The best way to do that is for you to share with someone you know. 

Until next time –

By |2023-01-31T07:14:26-05:00January 31st, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Ask the Right Questions

It is not enough to just ask questions, we need to ask the right questions. The questions that might need a pause before answering or that you might still be thinking about later. The questions that might make you change your mind. 

Let’s break down why it is important to ask the right questions. 

Example One

Here is a recent scene in our house. Bixby and I were trying to figure out when we would go for our lunch break walk. This is a common mid day reprieve that can happen anywhere between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm, depending on when we have meetings and such. This particular day it was raining on and off so we were planning around Mother Nature instead of Captain Calendars. 

Sue: Alexa, what is the weather?

Alexa: blah blah blah 60 degrees blah blah blah

It was super unhelpful and did not answer the question.

Bixby is freakishly good at the “ask the right question” concept.

Bixby: Alexa, when will it stop raining?

Alexa: The rain should stop in Greensboro at 11:45 am. 

Out the door we went. Boom, ask the right question. 

Example Two

One of my Sustainable Sue goals for this year is to write for an editor. Sure, I edit before hitting publish on the weekly essay, but I am not an editor. One of the best ways to improve writing is to write for an editor. So I have been searching for calls for submissions for various publications. 

My initial Google search, “Calls for submissions” resulted in 250 MILLION results. This was a smidge time prohibitive to sift through. I decided to try again with a better search question, “Calls for submissions burnout 2023”. 

Result: 488,000. This was much more manageable. 

It is important to ask the right question, but maybe you are seeking clarity on why to ask at all. I would like to gently suggest that if you think you are too busy to stop and ask questions – right or otherwise – you might be the prime candidate to do specifically that: pause and ask. 

Why Ask At All?

Curiosity is one of my core values and this often results in the question WHY (or its often more cutting cousin WHY NOT). I want to help you understand why it is important to ask questions at all and especially to try to get to ask the right questions. Engaging in your life means that you are not numbly plodding along doing what you have always done. Sure, routine is important – but even routines get refreshed now and again (if they are Sustainably Productive routines). 

If you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got.

My favorite question at this point is this: How is that working for you?

If it gives you the lift you need, ask why this is working for you or how you can get more of it. 

If it is working like dragging an anchor through the desert, ask yourself:

  • Is this me being busy and feeling important or me being busy and getting the important things done?
  • Am I tired from getting things done or context shifting between tasks?
  • Do I resent others not showing up for myself because I am not showing up for me? 
  • Are my hateful feelings because they are taking care of themselves when I don’t seem to be able to get to do that?
  • What is keeping me from showing up for myself and taking care of me?
  • Is what I am telling myself true?

Is this me being busy and feeling important or me being busy and getting the important things done?

  1. Am I tired from getting things done or context shifting between tasks?
  2. Do I resent others not showing up for myself because I am not showing up for me? 

Sustainable You Questions

I want to acknowledge that these questions can feel like a roundhouse kick in the gut. Maybe you are reading this message in the car pool lane or while waiting for take out – inopportune times to reflect to say the least. I have put these questions into a freebie that you can download here for you to take to your journal, your therapist, your personal Board of Directors, your partner, your best friend or your Higher Power. Just because something feels unanswerable does not make it wrong. And just because you are skimming along ok on the surface does not make it right. 

It might just be the fact you have not asked the right questions yet. 

If this weekly essay resonated with you, please share it with a friend. I am trying to grow Sustainable Sue and spread the ideas of Sustainable Productivity. The best way to do that is for you to share with someone you know. 

Until next time –

By |2023-01-17T18:55:50-05:00January 24th, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Why I Don’t Track Phone Usage

People are surprised to learn that don’t track phone usage. We are still in January – the month that has 8,064 days in it. Many of those days we are bombarded with messages that we need to change just about everything about our lives in order to become a better person. 

One of those hot resolution topics is how much we are on our phones. I have zero interest in this goal during this season of my life. 

I was working on some digital clean up and found the setting on my phone where it outlined how much time I spent using my phone. On my Android phone it is called, “Digital wellbeing and parental controls.” This title really caught my eye because digital clutter is a component of Environmental Surroundings – one of the three pillars of Sustainable Productivity. 

So I tiptoed into this section with more than a small amount of hesitancy – it can be hard to have your habits shown to you in cold hard data. But alas, what is measured is managed so in I went.


There was no “MOVE THAT BUS” big reveal. It was pretty much what I expected with a few pleasant surprises added in. 

The truth is I use my phone a lot. But it is used for good as much as it is used for evil. Of the time spent that day, there was a greater percentage of time spent to support positive habits and activities. Here are a few examples:

Supporting Good Habits

  • Audiobook apps: I listen to audiobooks while walking the dog, doing my physical therapy exercises, folding laundry, driving, and more. 
  • Spotify: While writing I need some ambient noise and instrumental playlists on Spotify provide this. 
  • Timehop: As part of my morning routine I look through Timehop to see what this day in history brought me (plus a little trivia). I often share the photos that come up with the people in them. It is fun to share with the kids and it often spurs conversation about what was happening in the memories. 
  • Alexa / Google Home: Each day Bixby and I use the Jeopardy skill to play our daily “J!6” over breakfast. Although it is still surprising to hear Mayim Byalik instead of Alex Trebek, it is a fun ritual we have over breakfast every day. 


  • Apple Music: Sometimes while drafting spreadsheets, closing support tickets, and updating meeting notes for my day job I just need a little hype to get moving. My “Mix Tape” playlist on my phone provides this.
  • Clock: I use timers, alarms, and stopwatch features all day long. Timers to write or stretch for a certain amount of time. I have been using the stopwatch to time manuscripts I’m writing for YouTube videos. Alarms are set to put the laundry in the dryer or leave on time to get to the class at the quilt shop.
  • Reminders: This is another feature that I could not be Sustainable Sue without. I don’t want to keep stuff in my head any more. I set a reminder to floss and do my gratitude journal at night. Other reminders nudge me for several activities for my elderly dad throughout the week. The “set it and forget it” approach clears space in my brain for creativity instead of the invisible work life gifts us. 

Social Media

Let’s talk about the elephant in the living room. I do use social media for more than just posting for Sustainable Sue business. I consume it as well. But I am clear about my purpose when I am opening these apps: mainly entertainment,  connection, distraction. I know very clearly that when I am wading into Twitter at the end of a long day that I am just going for the train wreck. No one is more delighted than me to hang up from a contentious phone call at my day job and scroll Instagram Reels looking for videos of pandas somersaulting down a snowy hill. 

Sometimes I catch myself just scrolling for the sake of scrolling – sometimes our thumbs have a mind of their own, right!? When I notice, I acknowledge (not shame) and close the app. 

Sustainable You Questions

I share all of this to float the idea that just because others preach social media breaks and analog living, does not mean that you have to. You get to decide what is best for you. In order to do that you need to be aware. I encourage you to apply the Sustainable Productivity questions to your phone use. 

  1. Is it productive – are you getting the result you want?
  2. Is it sustainable – can you continue this pace lifelong if you choose?

Based on the answers to these questions you can start to make small adjustments to those habits. Connect with me directly to learn more about how to do that or let me know how your phone usage is impacting your life. 

If this weekly essay resonated with you, please share it with a friend. I am trying to grow Sustainable Sue and spread the ideas of Sustainable Productivity. The best way to do that is for you to share with someone you know. 

Until next time –

By |2023-01-11T07:51:27-05:00January 17th, 2023|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

Year End Review

A year end review is weirdly fun for me as a project manager and productivity coach. There is a project management principle that what gets measured gets managed. I have been tracking habits on a plain old Excel file for five years now. It is interesting to see trends, think back to big milestones that impacted the totals, and consider where I need to make changes (or not!).

Here is a sneak peek into part of that review. 

Health & Fitness

Goal: My intention was to do more to improve my chances of being able to exercise in my 80s. 

Action plan: More physical therapy (PT) exercise, more yoga, improved eating habits


Walking: 446 miles (12% increase over 2021)

Biking: 1581 miles (123% increase over 2021)

Yoga: 33 hours (6% increase over 2021)


I did not track it in a way I can report here, but my eating habits improved greatly. I reduced by ice cream intake about 90% and with the magic smoothie you have heard about I was able to average about 5 servings of vegetables and fruits each day. These changes greatly continued to almost 30 pound weight loss in 2022. This in turn made it less painful to walk so the miles there got a bump.


I sort of cheated on this one and have started already. As the weather got colder I was cycling less so I decided to add a second day of hot yoga to my routine. I want to keep doing this even when I ramp my cycling mileage back up.

Mental Well-being

Goal: My intention was grow my connection with my higher power and show up consistently for my writing. 

Action plan: Writing most days of the week, increase time spent meditating, morning reading more days than not.


Meditation: 2986 minutes (98% increase from 2021)

On ramp: 202 days completed (33% increase from 2021)

Books: 221 started, 190 finished (~10% DNF rate) Note: a full book recap will be coming 

Joined Genay as cohost of the Conscious Contact Podcast

Started year four of Sustainable Sue

Began drafting a book proposal

Started a new volunteer gig at a book garage sponsored by a local church


This SusPro pillar sure grew a lot last year! I was very intentional about adding things because I wanted to honor the sustainability part of life. No sense taking on so many things that nothing is fulfilling anymore. Averaging an hour each week in the book garage is sustainable. Working on the book proposal 90 minutes once per week is sustainable. Breaking large goals into small, repeatable steps is the key.


Continue the above, plus add new goal of building a YouTube channel. Here is how I break down this big goal into small, repeatable steps:

Brain dump of all my initial thoughts around this task

Sorted brain dump into Trello

Scheduled time for weekly deep work dedicated to this goal one day a week

Environmental Surroundings

Goal: My intention was to be able to find what I need without hassle and be comfortable in my surroundings 

Action plan: Get rid of stuff I don’t use, need or love


Clear digital clutter: 2 sessions (89% LESS than 2021)


Womp, wommmmmp. I did not do well here at all. Even though I said this was important, I did not make time for it. I regularly cleared my photos off my phone and backed them up, but the amount of screen shots and random photos of things I want to do, read, or follow up on is out of control. The old system was not working for me at all. 


I revamped my digital clean up checklist and set a reminder on my phone to follow the checklist on Monday and Thursday evenings. So far into 2023 I am 100% compliant. Celebrate the small victories, friends!

Sustainable You Questions

Even if you did not formally track habits or progress, there is still value in conducting a year end review. Take time and ask yourself these questions:

  1. What worked and why? How can I get more of whatever made that work?
  2. What did not work and why? What needs to happen to minimize that in 2023?

If this weekly essay resonated with you, please share it with a friend. I am trying to grow Sustainable Sue and spread the ideas of Sustainable Productivity. The best way to do that is for you to share with someone you know. 

Pace yourself, friends –

By |2023-01-10T07:26:06-05:00January 10th, 2023|Habit Change|0 Comments

Non-Resolution Resolutions

I am a sucker for a trend and for DECADES I set loads of New Year’s resolutions. And to be honest – they worked for a long time. Until they didn’t.

Now I embrace the trend that is the Word of the Year. This is more than a New Year’s Resolution. This is a lifestyle change – or it least it can be. I have used Peace, Lifelong and Wear Life Like a Loose Garment (ok, that is six words, but you get the idea). 

This year my word is EQUANIMITY. 

This is a little difference from balance, which feels like having yin over here and yang over there. Life does not seem to be giving me much separation lately. I parent adult children and I am an adult child that sometimes parents a parent. Anyone in corporate America can attest to the Slack messages flying in during a meeting while you are on do not disturb, emails that come at all hours of the day and night. I have given up the struggle for balance. 

Instead I want equanimity. This is partly inspired by the yoga classes I do a couple times a week. There is a section called equanimity. I struggle with balancing on one foot, then she suggests closing the eyes. 

But one day she said, “This is what equanimity is about. Knowing falling is part of what you are supposed to do because that means you are alive. Being ok with the mess in the middle of the work.”

Equanimity, y’all. It’s where its at for me in 2023. 

What about you? Did you pick a word? 

By |2023-01-02T17:44:53-05:00January 3rd, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments


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