Key Learning From Behind the Scenes at the Sustainable Productivity Podcast

Learning from experiences is important to me. I come from a family of educators and married into a family of educators. Several friends are educators. Learning is highly valued in my social circles. One of my core values is curiosity. Yet it is hard to keep that beginner mind. As a recovering perfectionist and people pleaser, I want to knock it out of the park every time. 

Let’s find out how that is working by applying the Sustainable Productivity questions:

  • Is it Productive – Am I getting the result I want?
  • Is it Sustainable – Can I continue this as long as I want?

I was reminded of this as I launched the Sustainable Productivity podcast as a solo host. While I know for sure this was the right move for me at this time, there are challenges. Audio editing and all the technical stuff that goes with producing a podcast is a big challenge for me. Also working without another person to respond to sometimes feels like working without a net. All of this can trigger some imposter syndrome for sure.

Not every episode is a hit, but that helps to chip away at what is not the masterpiece. You might remember this concept  from a previous post – not every piece of art is a stunner. Nor should it be. Of the 44 statues Michelangelo sculpted, only 14 completed. 

If one of the greatest sculptors in history is working on a 32% completion rate, I feel good about my current rate of consistently posting an episode each week. Even if that means I have to re-record a couple weeks in a row because I deleted segments as I was editing. Things happen, move on. Learn from misses. They are not failures, and maybe not even mistakes. Just data points to move forward in a different way.

Pep Talk

So here is a pep talk for the next time you have one of those days where you think, “What in the world am I doing?!” 

I am right here with you learning, being curious, and striking out sometimes. I am next to you in the mud wrestling with ideas, technology, time, and my crabby inner voice that just needs a snack so she can speak nicer to me. 

Here are a few behind the scenes peeks and the making of the Sustainable Productivity podcast to let you see that it truly is as Thomas Hughes said in the mid 1800s:

Its not all beer and skittles. 

No fancy recording studio. Behind me is the ironing board and iron for pressing quilt squares. On the desk in front of me is the computer hardware that is my day job. We make do with what we have!
As prep work to interview guests on the podcast, I am learning how to pull audio out of a Zoom call. This is Bixby testing the set up. Super helpful.

Learning to Ask for Help

In lieu of the Sustainable You Reflections, I would humbly like to make a request as we wrap up this weekly essay. Subscribe to and give a 5-star rating to the Sustainable Productivity podcast. Here are some tips:

  • Go here for how to listen to and rate a podcast
  • When searching for the podcast in your app, type “Sustainable Productivity Susan Sanders” into the search
  • Bonus points for those of you who are willing to share the podcast with a friend.

I have 6-month and 12-month goals for podcast growth, and word of mouth is the single biggest way podcasts grow. If you have topics you would like to hear about, send an email to or DM me on Instagram

I am still learning.


Me too, Michelangelo. Me too. 

Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that sustain YOU.

By |2023-03-21T11:18:57-04:00March 28th, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Episode 8: Three Strategies to Improve Your Routines

Your life is made up of routines whether you like it or not. The Sustainable Productivity question for you is – How are those routines working for you? On this episode Susan teaches about the difference between schedules and routines and a theory she relies on to keep routines consistent. After walking through some real life examples, Susan will provide three practical strategies you can use to improve your morning routine, evening routine, clean up routine – ANY routine! Don’t let another day go by with your day running you.

Listen at the link below or search “Sustainable Productivity Susan Sanders” wherever you get your podcasts.

Links mentioned in this episode of the Sustainable Productivity podcast:

By |2023-03-27T08:34:45-04:00March 27th, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments

3 Sustainable Productivity Lessons From Life This Week

I want to share a few Sustainable Productivity lessons I learned from life this past week. As I general rule I try to keep life consistent, boring, and predictable – that is how I define Sustainable Productivity for me right now. But as we know from poet Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

The past several weeks have been a season of life on a banana peel. Maybe you can relate? I have really had to lean on the concept of Real Me vs Ideal Me to focus on the one thing in front of me or to regularly change the one thing in front of me.

I want to share a few of the Sustainable Productivity lessons that I’ve learned from the banana peel. They relate to different dimensions of Sustainable Productivity and have broader implications (as most life lessons do).

Health and Fitness Lesson

Lesson 1: Take Care of Your Health

As I write this we are in the middle of the 2023 NCAA basketball tournament. My bracket is busted after day 2 (I’m looking at you, Purdue) and my rear is tired from all the time on the couch watching games (sorry, not sorry). One of the biggest stories is that the Kansas coach, Bill Self, is not on the bench. He was having chest pains a couple weeks ago, got checked out, and had stents placed.

Generally I don’t multitask as I write, but banana peel living has put me behind on all my deadlines so here I am drafting this post while watching Kansas take on Arkansas.

Back to business as usual, right? NO. This is where the lesson comes in. He is taking his doctor’s recommendations seriously and letting his assistant’s coach right now. Although he is connect to the team in practice and such, he is not on the bench for games – during THE TOURNAMENT. This is a big damn deal in college coaching. I love this. In a time where athletes are called “warriors” who “do battle” and “go to war,” this puts sports in perspective.

Perspective that we could all stand a little dose of because without your health you don’t have anything else. Not money, a hot spouse, overachieving kids, a C-suite job. Nothing.

Mental Well-being Lesson

Lesson 2: We need to be more evolved than trees

This year I have started taking classes towards being a certified Master Gardener. Right now that means classroom lectures and textbook reading. Because of a long trip for my day job the week before, I was distracted, jet lagged, and feeling like I should be five other places. Then this slide came up.

They will always have that wound although the tree may grow around it. The tree can live and thrive if there is nothing infecting the area when the would closes up, but it will always have that wound.

I sat right up and took some notes. I love this so much – we need to be more evolved than trees. Heal your wounds, don’t just stuff them down. Look at those scars in the cross section of the trunk. If a lightning bolt cuts into this tree and exposes this wound, it puts the whole tree at risk.

The parable here is pretty clear. If you have a wound from your childhood, a previous relationship, or even a misunderstanding with your boss last week – don’t stuff that shit down. If you just compartmentalize and trudge along, the next storm will open you back up. The fallout could be exponential to the original wound. Whether it is therapy, a trusted friend, recovery, or a support group, find a way through your wound. You are not a tree.

Trees don’t heal, they compartmentalize.

NC Agriculture Extension

A better writer than me would have tied this all together with a lesson from the Environmental Surroundings dimension to nicely cover all three dimensions of Sustainable Productivity, but well… see previous banana peel. This one is critical. This is the lesson I want to leave you with: Ask for help.

Sustainable Productivity Lesson

Lesson 3: Ask for help

I usually am the person in our family that handles supply chain and logistics. I make sure there is a plan B, supplies to pivot to plan C, and humor for plan D. When I was traveling for my day job last week, I had slept about 4 hours each night, spent 12 -15 hours a day with people, and was on day 6 of my 7 day trip. I was so ready to be home. As I sat in a very loud room with 75 people (who had just come off an hour of an open bar whilst I drank my club soda) waiting for dinner, America Airlines cancelled my flight home. No rebooking, just a no thank you – do not board, do not collect $200.

I went to refill my club soda to take a time out. By the time I got back, American Airlines had rebooked me OUT OF ANOTHER AIRPORT THAT HERTZ WOULD NOT LET ME RETURN MY CAR TO.

I almost cried. Which would have been the go to for Stressed Out Sue.

But I am healing into Sustainable Sue! I went against my nature and asked for help. Bixby rebooked my flight and my boss suggested a co-worker to return my car. Boom solved. Dinner enjoyed.

I know many of you struggle asking for help. I see you and I am you.

And I am suggesting there is another way forward.

Sustainable You Reflections

  1. What can you do today to take care of your health?
  2. What can you do today to take care of your mental well-being?
  3. What small thing can you ask for help with today?

I would love to hear the responses to these reflections. If you need a safe space to process or just want an accountability buddy, you can reach me at or find me on Instagram or Facebook

Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that sustain YOU.

By |2023-03-18T20:33:54-04:00March 21st, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Episode 7: How Susan Reads 200 Books a Year – and What This Means for YOUR Hobbies

In this episode Susan shares how she reads about 200 books each year. Although books might not be your thing, the suggestions she shares about different ways she fits reading into her schedule during different seasons of life might work for your hobby of choice. Listen to learn some tools and tricks that might help you find more time to read, craft, exercise, sing, or whatever brings you joy.

Listen at the link below or search “Sustainable Productivity Susan Sanders” wherever you get your podcasts.

Links mentioned in this episode of the Sustainable Productivity podcast:

  • Sign up for episode emails, weekly essays, and links so you never miss a thing!
  • To hear more book talk from Susan, check out Episode 4: February Reading Roundup
  • If you feel like you don’t have time for hobbies, listen to Episode 5 to hear how Susan found out how much time she was really spending on her phone
  • Sign up at this link for the Sustainable Sue Bookmobile to be notified every time Susan finishes a 5-star reads. Your To Be Read list will thank you!
  • Follow Susan on Goodreads at this link to see what she has read, what she is currently reading, and the hundreds of books she plans to read next.
By |2023-03-20T07:41:42-04:00March 20th, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments

Equanimity in Setbacks

Equanimity is my word of the year for 2023 and I sure have had a chance to practice it lately. Quick refresher on the definition:

I have a visualization for equanimity that is a tall, solid tree in a fierce wind storm. The outside stress of the wind is bending the tops of the tree. The tree is visually swaying with and resisting the force of the wind. Yet it remains steadfast and grounded by its strong, deep roots in the earth. Roots that have been tended to in times of calm to prepare it to withstand the inevitable storm.

And boy did that storm come for me. 

The specific circumstances don’t matter, but generally life has not been smooth sailing lately. Nothing catastrophic, just those nagging things that life brings:

  • Schedule too full (even with good, fun things)
  • Learning curves
  • Challenging relationships
  • Rain (and other bad weather)
  • Work demands
  • Medical appointments

How these nagging things came together to create chaos for me will surely look different for you, but the resulting feelings are what might be more familiar.

I wanted to just crawl in bed and pull up the covers. I felt like a failure because I could not get everything (or anything) done that I had planned. It felt like everything I had been working on would suffer from this setback. 

Have you ever felt this way? Are you feeling this way right now? It was like complete overstimulation on life. It was neither sustainable nor productive, which is the signal for me that adjustments needed to be made. 

These adjustments took on two different views. This was not a case where I needed to work on habit change so that in six months I would feel less pressure. I needed immediate relief too. Luckily I have this snazzy word of the year to lean on. 

Short Term Adjustments

The first thing I did was triage and made adjustments to the plans for that weekend. Basically I cleared the decks. Cancelled two activities and modified a third to not have to leave the house. The only chores I got done were the truly necessary ones. 

I want to acknowledge that I am really privileged to be able to do this. I did not have work on these days, and I did not have kids depending on me. The lesson that we might be able expand on though is that if we as adults are feeling this burnout, I wonder if our kids are too? If we are feeling overwhelmed at work, maybe our co workers would appreciate a softer foot on the gas pedal too?

This short term fix helped restore some equanimity but I still needed to do more work. 

Mid Term Adjustments

A major part of my spin out was being overcommitted. The adjustment I needed to make was not a fun one. I had to reschedule somethings, cancel others, and not take on some really fun things that I wanted to. Inevitably, I disappointed people, which of course made me feel badly. I am working on reframing this – I would rather disappoint you than make myself sick with overcommitment. People who really care about me will understand.

I sure want to be the person who can fit ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag and skip happily though life but I am not. Living life in reality vs. fantasy is what will make my choices sustainable. 

Dance with the one that brung ya, am I right?!

Life will continue to keep coming and while I am through this particular patch of overwhelm, it will happen again. This is what life is made of. There is a such thing as good stress. Science calls it eustress. Having a baby is a good kind of stress. Getting married is eustress. We don’t want to live a bland life without any stimulation. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist spiritual leader, has said (and had a book with this title, “No mud, no lotus.” Without suffering through the mud, you cannot find the happiness of the lotus. Without grit, there is no pearl.

I want the pearl and the lotus. And I know that to do that – and be able to enjoy it when I have it – I need to feed my roots to create a life that is Sustainably Productive. To go back to my equanimity visualization, I need to accept where I am and feed the roots to be able to withstand the future storms.

Sustainable You Reflections

  1. Write down the last time or two where you wished for a snow day to cancel plans or that you could just hide from your schedule. How would it have felt to have a chunk of time freed up for you?
  2. Looking at your calendar for the next week or month, what 1-2 things can you cancel or reschedule to create that space?
  3. Take a 30-day reprieve from taking on new things. No new classes, dinner dates, travel, etc. 

Let’s check in. How are you doing? No, like really – how are you? You can reach me at or find me on Instagram or Facebook

Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that sustain YOU.

By |2023-02-28T08:14:29-05:00March 14th, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Episode 6: The Biochemistry of Sleep & How It Can Make You More Productive

What does biochemistry have to do with sleep? What if I told you that it is linked to a more Sustainably Productivity life? On this week’s episode you can learn about what is happening in our bodies when we conk out, why shift workers are more prone to obesity, and why cravings for fat and salt happen more often when you are sleep deprived than when you are rested. The episode wraps up with a few tips that might help you get more zzzzzzz’s tonight!

Links mentioned in the sleep and Sustainable Productivity episode:

By |2023-03-13T09:50:02-04:00March 13th, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments

Unresolved New Year’s Resolutions

I originally wrote this post as a New Year’s resolution hype speech. As we all know, January is the time of year where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a discussion about NEW YEAR NEW YOU! These messages are delivered by really enthusiastic people with oddly non-wrinkled skin who have teams of people supporting their every need. But here we are in March with many of our New Year’s resolutions left unresolved.

Sustainable Sue here to deliver a couple reality checks for us mere mortals as we consider the fresh clean page that 2023 has to offer us. I also want to introduce you to an alternate approach to these resolutions that might help you get more traction on habit change.

Reality Check #1: There is nothing magical about January 1

New Year’s resolutions can happy on days other than January first. Sometimes I set goals on my birthday in mid-June. When I flip my notebook to a fresh page I make decisions about what I will spend my time on that week. Today I made a resolution in the afternoon to get a third dog walk in after dinner.  

Don’t get sucked into thinking if you missed Jan 1 “magic” that you have to wait 364 more days to change your habits. 

Reality Check #2: Will power is a myth

Despite what you may have been taught by old school coaches (well meaning or not), your will power does not dictate your success. Motivation and determination are factors that can help you succeed with resolutions, but they are not the be all to end all. 

If you cannot muscle through that workout while you are running a fever – you are not lacking will power. If you did not get your kids’ homemade Halloween costumes sewn this year, it is not about will power. Quitting goals, leaving jobs undone, abandoning projects – this is not a referendum on your will power. 

It is a reflection of the approach to habit change that you picked. Not YOU for picking it, but just the wrong approach for the wrong time of life. 

An Alternate Approach to Resolutions

One of the basics to consider with habit change is that we act because the pain get to be too much. Let me give you a few examples from my own life.

  • After finding my clothes without elastic waists did not fit well anymore, I made the habit changes to lose the weight. 
  • When my knee pain became too great, I recommitted myself to my physical therapy regime. 
  • I started blogging and podcasting when I was lonely in a group of people and wanted a truer, sustainable connection. 
  • I quit drinking when alcohol became more of a problem than a solution. 

Let’s see how science can help you with your resolutions.

Physics 101

Inertia is Newton’s first law of motion. A body at rest will remain at rest until acted upon by an outside force. Our resistance to habit change is a LAW OF NATURE. This is not about your will power, this is how the universe works. 

But let’s talk about that “outside force” that can get a body at rest to change. This is motivation. Usually motivation is pain, although for some people it might be faux inspiration on Instagram or TikTok or the PTA meeting. Motivation can be summarized as a reason for acting or behaving. 

But the further we get from that pain, we need to shift our reliance to commitment more than motivation. Commitment is dedication to a cause – this is a slight, but important difference when it comes to habit change. 

Physics 201

Consider a fly wheel. As defined by Wikipedia, “a flywheel is a mechanical device which uses the conservation of angular momentum to store rotational energy; a form of kinetic energy proportional to the product of its moment of inertia and the square of its rotational speed.”

JK – this is Sustainable Sue, not Physics Corner. But I do want to consider the fly wheel. It takes effort to get the fly wheel to start turning. But once it is turning, a simple flick can keep it going.

See that long arm attached to the wheel, that body at rest needs to move in order to start the fly wheel turning. It takes a large amount of energy to make that happen. But once it gets going, physics takes over and it rolls on with little external effort needed. The fly wheel of habit change is similar. 


It takes a large amount of energy to start the wheel. You know what has a large amount of energy? Pain. Pain starts the fly wheel turning. It is hard, but motivation to not experience the pain anymore keeps you going. It takes effort to juggle the schedule to fit meal prep into the after work times. You forget that you meant to practice guitar because it is not part of your routine. You over did it at your first visit back to the gym and now need to skip a couple days so you can walk down the stairs. There is resistance at first. Starts and stops as this new you churns to life. 

But then habits and routines start to form and grease that fly wheel. You have a streak of 5 weeks in a row where you flossed your teeth more days than not. Three days in a row of journaling become three weeks in a row and you see the benefits peeking through. Saying no to something frees up space in your life that is much needed.

Here is an example of how that worked for me. 

Sustainable Sue Resolves to Show Up Consistently

I set up a habit tracker check list of sorts for different activities. One for Sustainable Sue work so I can show up consistently – writing, social media, podcasting, networking  and the like. I have another for physical therapy routines so I don’t forget any exercises. It seems trivial and inconsequential that I would need a checklist to remember to post to social media. But it is the consistency that I want for my business. In order to get people to know, like, and trust me I need to show up on social media. The book proposal isn’t going to write itself, I need to work on it regularly. But what happens over time – over several weeks of showing up for myself and these seemingly small actions – is that they are the small pushes that keep the fly wheel going. It is motivating to see the checkmarks accumulate. There is peer pressure to do the thing that I don’t feel like doing. Yesterday Sue got it done. Future Sue will want to see a streak in tact. Therefore Today Sue better do the work. The work doesn’t need to be liked, it needs to be done. 

But you have to start. Not by purchasing all the books on organizing to get your house in order. Not buying a yoga wardrobe before your first down dog. Start where you are with what you have. I recently pulled out old paints my daughter had stuffed in the back of her closet because I wanted to noodle around with painting. No need for an easel, a studio and classes yet. I might not even like it! 

Sustainable You Reflections

  1. If you set goals for 2023, what pain is driving the motivation to take these on? Identifying the why can help later when the fly wheel starts to slow.
  2. Do you really have the time and effort to take on this goal now? Will this be sustainable long term?
  3. List three things you can do to set yourself up for success? If you take on this new goal, how can it be productive for you?

I can’t wait to hear about your results. Send feedback or questions to or find me on Instagram or Facebook. 

Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that sustains you.

By |2023-02-21T09:03:38-05:00March 7th, 2023|Habit Change|0 Comments

Episode 5: A Non-Goal Consideration for You

Let’s talk about a non-goal for a second. People are surprised to learn that Susan doesn’t track phone usage. Getting rid of your phone is often one of the first strategies articles about productivity offer.  We are bombarded with messages that we need to change just about everything about our lives in order to become a better person, starting with detaching our phone from our lives. This episode is about how Susan came to that decision and why it may or may not be a Sustainably Productive goal for you too.

Links mentioned in the Sustainable Productivity episode about the non-goal of not tracking phone use:

By |2023-03-06T07:10:01-05:00March 6th, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments

Full Body Yes

Today I want to introduce you to the idea of a full body yes. As a recovering people pleaser, I am not always sure what is my opinion and what is your opinion. Smarter people than me might refer to this as an issue with boundaries and codependency. That seems fancy. All I know is that I woke up one day and after over four decades of people pleasing there sure were not a lot of pleased people hanging around. 

Including me. 

Perhaps especially me. 

At this point in my life the situation was unsustainable and unproductive. It was time for an overhaul. If my life were corporate America, it would have been ripe for a hostile takeover. This line of thinking really planted itself in my brain recently after reading an article about conscious leadership

You are the leader of the enterprise that is you. Would you give the CEO of your life a raise right now? If the answer is no, it is worth taking a deeper look at who is in charge. Maybe you are like I was all those years ago and the inmates are running the asylum. It is time to act like Chief in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.

Rip out that sink, throw it through a wall and break loose!

If you are faced with a decision, check in with your gut and if it is not a full body yes, the answer is no. 

Practical Application

It seems really simple, right? Here are a couple practical tips that work for me when I am slipping back into people pleasing.

Stall. I often say yes and regret it later. I have a response that I have drafted and practiced. Yes, I literally wrote it down and practiced saying it out loud. I kept it in my email drafts for years so I would always have it in my hand. Now when someone makes a request I say, “That sounds great, let me confirm my schedule and get back to you.”

It is not a lie – everything sounds great in the moment. Tickets to a basketball game on a weeknight even though I am asleep by 9:00pm? Sure! Dinner with a large group on a Friday night when restaurants are packed and I’m hangry? Fun! All day rodeo? No, but it sure would make you happy so I am in!

Giving myself a timeout gives me a chance to check in with my gut. It allows me to check for the full body yes.

MVP. Having a Minimum (or Maximum) Viable Product (MVP) allows me to bump decisions up against something besides, “Will this make the other person happy?” For example, around this recent Christmas I had several activities I wanted to do, invitations I wanted to accept, and people I wanted to celebrate with. What has happened in years past is that I do all of this and cry every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s because I am tired and overwhelmed. Then Bixby dropped this truth bomb on me during one of our lunch time walks: You don’t want to want what you want. 

Seriously – for a man of few words, he chooses them SO WELL.

I don’t want to be this introverted all the time, but well – here we are. So I established an MVP around holiday activities. Who was it critical I celebrated with? This is how a 24 hour car trip got on the books. What activities reflected Christmas spirit for me, not other people. I am sure “listening to Tracy Chapman’s O Holy Night on repeat while looking at the Christmas tree lights in a dark room” was not on any one else’s bingo card. There were a few other criteria and when an invitation or idea came in, I was able to ask:

Will this new thing leave room for my MVP things? Often the answer was clear. If it wasn’t then I went back to the basics: check in with my gut and if it is not a full body yes, the answer is no. 

Sustainable You Reflections

  1. Time to do a You Audit. If you were doing a performance review on the CEO of your life, what grade would you give?
  2. Where is that CEO falling short? Can you identify 2-3 areas of concern or low hanging fruit that would be a place to start?
  3. What obstacles does that CEO need removed in order to improve the performance that if your life?

By |2023-03-02T05:50:33-05:00March 2nd, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments


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