Pep Talk From (and For) Uncomfortable Sue

Time for a pep talk, gang – circle up. No one likes to be comfortable more than I do. I love my sweatpants. Crocs are my go to footwear right now. I have had the same hairstyle since I was 8. But this writing and podcasting thing sure has me stretching my comfort zone these days. 

I have been finding encouragement in weird places and wondered if some of these might help you too. Sometimes we need non-traditional methods to break into our stubborn brains. It is sort of like the unmotivational posters from Despair that remind us to take ourselves a little less seriously in the office. 

Slow Growth

I was watching some science thing and they made a comment that a variance in just one molecule changes the make up of something, technically rendering it a different species. This is a pep talk for Uncomfortable Sue (and maybe Uncomfortable Sue) who feels like she is making progress too slowly. I feel like I should have more readers and listeners by now. I want all the results to be successes, no failures. 

This is magical thinking at its best. But what this science inspirational nugget does is tell me that these small, incremental adjustments do matter – even when I cannot see the progress. You cannot see changes on a molecular level unless you have a microscope. I am sure there are microscopic ways the Sustainable Sue business is growing that I just am not aware of. 

I just need to be patient about the time it is taking. Which leads to the next pep talk for Uncomfortable Sue.

Painful Disconnect 

Glennon Doyle said something on her podcast that made me pull the car over and write it down. The pain is between the knowing and the action. This is why when our insides and outsides are not matching up, we feel uncomfortable and disconnected. Because we are – there is a disconnect between knowing something is wrong and doing something about it. 

The fun part (or “fun” – we are talking about pain after all) is that now that you are aware of this idea, it might even show up more for you. This concept has shown up in my life in big and small ways since I heard it months ago. 

  • Each spring I want to be a woman who grows her own herbs and vegetables, yet I don’t take action on making a plan to prepare the soil and remembering to water the plants.
  • In 2017 I knew something was wrong with the way I was drinking alcohol, but I lied to my counselor for years about it, refused to admit I had a problem, and blamed everyone else for my misery.
  • My digital clutter makes it hard to find files and costs money to store and back up. Although this drives my crazy, when the time block to do something about it pops up I have been dismissing it without taking action. 

The truth is when the pain gets great enough, that is when we will change our behavior. Sometimes it take a long, dang time. But I do believe that you become a truer version of yourself as you get older. We can shed the fears and other obstacles to really learn who you are. 

“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.”

David Mitchell

When you meet the true you, this is when your insides and outsides can start to align. You can become a fully integrated person and this is where the pain is relieved. 

Sustainable You Reflections

  • What do you think is taking too long to get the result you want?
  • What small (even microscopic) changes have you made to move from the knowing?

If this pep talk was helpful for you, I would be grateful if you shared it with a friend who might need some encouragement. 

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

By |2023-04-14T08:50:59-04:00April 25th, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Episode 12: Exercise as Treatment for Burnout

Everyone knows exercise is good for them, yet we don’t seem to be able to consistently start and continue a fitness program. At the same time we are (proverbially) running full out on an empty tank. What if I told you that you can use exercise as treatment for burnout? In this episode you will learn why exercise is important to our Health and Fitness, what the components of fitness are, and get a few tips to inspire you to start, return to, or keep going on your exercise routine. Don’t worry – this is more than just lace up your sneakers and get running!

Links mentioned in the Sustainable Productivity episode:

By |2023-05-01T06:15:39-04:00April 24th, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments

Course Correction

Course correction can be a tricky thing. I am the queen of overcorrection gone awry.

Overcorrection is generally my jam. When I can’t find a clothing item in my closet, I throw out too many things. Inevitably there is something I end up needing to repurchase (I’m looking at you, khaki pants). I cancel all my streaming services to save money, then buy 5 books and a ball of yarn to keep busy and can’t figure out why the balance is still negative. 

Sometimes adjustments that don’t work are not overcorrection as much as just paying attention to the wrong thing. I focus on not crashing into trees while mountain biking or people while surfing, then crash into those trees or people. Today I want to talk about how to navigate course correction when you know a habit is no longer serving you.

Course Correction from Coach’s Playbook

As an athlete I understand that sometimes to teach a skill you have to overcorrect in order to fall in the middle. When I swam on a masters team I struggled with a part of my stroke where I was crossing my hand too far in one direction. In order to correct this, my coach had me swim with my arms REALLY wide. It felt awkward, unnatural and slowed me down. This did not seem like it was making me swim faster (i.e., not productive) and it was extra tiring mentally and physically (i.e., not sustainable). But this is the neat thing about the body – it can adapt to almost everything. It wants to be good to us so it adjusts to the conditions we give it – for better or for worse. After doing the wide arm swim drills consistently for a few weeks, my stroke was corrected (that part of my stroke at least). An amazing thing happened – with a more efficient stroke I was able to go faster with less energy. 


Sometimes we just need to get out of our own way and try something radical. I watched the Robin Roberts interview with Michelle Obama a few months ago and something Michelle said struck me. She was talking about always trying to achieve and be her best. She said, “Sometimes my mental health gets in the way, it’s not sustainable.” Perhaps Michelle listens to the Sustainable Productivity Podcast?!

Course Correction from a First Lady

This was the interview where she talked about learning to knit during the pandemic. She wanted her book Becoming to be out in the world, but COVID cancelled her book tour. She was like we all were – concerned about the world, our kids education and mental health, and where we would get toilet paper. So she had to take the opposite approach and find a way to check out of her monkey mind and found knitting. 

This is like another Michelle Obama gem: They go low, we go high

I’m trying, girl. That is a tall order. 

But you see where I am going with this related to course correction. Instead of trying harder, longer, faster, more in the same direction – let’s opposite to get what you want / need.

Slow down to go fast. If you are training, make sure you get your rest. Rest and sleep is when your body rebuilds itself. Be sure to work on flexibility, not just strength training. A flexible muscle is a strong muscle. 

Go quiet to find your voice. When I am struggling with something I am writing, it helps to stop and take a break. I always try to work ahead because nothing stops creativity for me than a deadline. There is a corollary to this with relationships too. In order to help my spouse understand what I am saying, I need to shut up and listen to what HE hears me say. Communication is weird!

Go small to go big. This is another one from Michelle Obama.  To do big things, focus on small details. You cannot change world hunger if you don’t learn what you need to learn today. To run a marathon, you need to do a 3 mile recovery run today. To manage your anger and repair your relationships, you need to spend an hour with a therapist today. 

Friends, sometimes we just keep going down the same worn path and wonder why you are not getting the result you want. I encourage you to take course correction in another direction. Maybe the opposite, maybe just a swerve. It might be counterintuitive or it might be what the universe keeps tapping you on the should to know. Beware of that overcorrection, but if you end up there we can course correct together from there.  

Sustainable You Reflections

  • What habit have you been thinking about adding, removing or changing?
  • What is one small course correction you could take today or tomorrow?

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

By |2023-04-04T16:33:16-04:00April 18th, 2023|Habit Change|0 Comments

Episode 11: Unpopular Opinions

This episode is all about unpopular opinions because I’ve got a few. This is kind of exciting because for a long time I did not have opinions at all. Well, I had them after you gave me yours, but overall – I just liked what you liked. If I did have an opinion about what I did not like, but it went counter to what you thought, I stuffed it down. I could not make sense of all of this until therapy and recovery in my 40s. It is simple people pleasing. As I started to loosen my grip on people pleasing and explore what I did like, an interesting thing happened – I identified things I had been acting like I enjoyed for decades. I discovered some of these were unpopular opinions.

My hope for this episode is that by revealing my unpopular opinions, you will hear acceptance of what I like and don’t like, and that this will help you figure out yourself a little bit more. This is how we discover what is truly productive for the REAL us – no sense continuing something long term if it does not serve us or bring us 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:

By |2023-04-17T04:39:45-04:00April 17th, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments

The Evolution of the Sustainable Productivity Triangle, Part 2

This is part 2 of the Sustainable Productivity Triangle origin story. You can find part 1 at this link.

In last week’s essay I introduced the geometry concepts, and this week I want to show you how they apply to a Sustainably Productive life.

Concept 1: “Each side of the triangle relies on the other sides for strength.”

A triangle by definition has three sides and three angles – just two sides doesn’t make a shape. If you have parallel lines they may run next to each other, but that is not how life works. Life is less like sleek parallel lines and more like spaghetti. We need the reliance on all three sides of the Sustainable Productivity triangle in order to make sure that the life we create can be sustained long term. Missing a side or having a weakness can cause collapse of the triangle, which shows up as burnout in our lives. Let’s review a few examples. To keep the high school math analogy, let’s look at each as an equation.

Example 1 = (Health and Fitness + Environmental Surroundings) – Mental Well-being

Imagine a woman who is fit and strong, kills it at work and has a penthouse apartment with a great view. Now imagine she is lonely – you don’t have to try hard, I think this is pretty much Tully Hart in Firefly Lane, right? Not sustainable. Not productive.

Example 2 = (Mental Well-being + Health and Fitness) – Environmental Surroundings

For this scenario our woman has created good stress management habits with a variety of hobbies. She shares her joy with friends by gifting her fiber crafts and painted landscape masterpieces. But what if there is a significant amount physical clutter that she has collected for these hobbies that prevents her from truly enjoying her home? Or worse yet – her home is not safe for her to live in. Not sustainable. Not productive.

Example 3 = (Environmental Surroundings + Mental Well-being) – Health and Fitness

Consider the woman who always has a house full of people. Hers is the gathering place for her kids and neighbors and she loves having relationships where people feel welcome and a house to make that possible. What she is missing is caring for herself as she does everyone else – the results of her annual wellness visit are a disaster. Not sustainable. Not productive.

While this might be productive – or appear productive, these scenarios can rarely be sustained long term. Each side of the Sustainability Triangle relies on the others for strength. While a weakness can be accommodated in the short term, this is not a long term solution for a life you can be fully engaged in.

Concept 2: “If force is applied to a corner of a triangle, the shape of the triangle automatically shifts to the other sides to carry the load.”

Imagine a triangle where each side is a Sustainable Productivity dimension. Life is not static – there are always stressors that are applied to us by external forces. If you have a Sustainably Productive life that includes all three dimensions, then when the force is applied to that corner, the opposite side shifts to take the stress. Shifting to accommodate that stress is how we can prevent or heal from burnout. Here are a few examples, of course in the format of an equation.

Example 1 = Force x (Environmental Surroundings + Health and Fitness)

Perhaps you have been sleeping poorly because there is a significant amount of physical clutter in your bedroom. Your Sustainable Productivity triangle shifts so Mental Well-being can shoulder the load and offer a solution of Time Management. For example, time blocking 30 minutes per day to get the space cleared up could relieve the stress. 

Example 2 = Force x (Health and Fitness + Mental Well-being)

What if you want to exercise and eat healthy, but you just cannot seem to find the time to make it happen? If this example resonates with you, consider looking to Environmental Surroundings for your solution. Set up your refrigerator and pantry with healthy foods that make it easy to meal prep (meal kits and precut veggies are great for this). What if you spent less on a gym membership and more on equipment you could use at home? Or even a membership to an online exercise program that led you through workouts with what you already have on hand?

Example 3 = Force x (Mental Well-being + Environmental Surroundings)

Although it may seem like social media use creates connection, the connection is not the same as in person (phone/video chat falls somewhere between those two). This loneliness can find a solution in the Health and Fitness dimension. Connect with others over a walk or hike. Invite your mother in law to cooking classes. Go out to dinner or coffee with friends instead of texting. 

Thus, the Sustainable Productivity Triangle

Clearly we as humans are not machines or architectural structures. Human beings are always changing – our insides and our outsides.  But what we have in common is that all three – humans, machines, and buildings – experience outer forces of change. A machine needs to be engineered, or re-engineered, to keep up with advances in technology and humanity, and a person needs to adjust to the impact these advances have on our lives as well. Just as a sky scraper needs to bend and flex with the seasons of nature, we need to bend and flex with the seasons of our lives.

Habit change is not just about doing the thing that maximizes efficiency and effectiveness. Habit change needs to be about what you can maintain. Maintenance could be a season of life or just until you change your mind about what “working for you” means. This is where sustainable habit change enters. We need habit change that is productive and that we can maintain over the long haul. Habit change that can withstand the impact of outside forces acted upon it.  The Sustainable Productivity triangle shows you how.

This was the birth of Sustainable Productivity. Stressing the system – even if it is on behalf of positive change – can lead to burnout, which leads to illness, addiction, and disengagement.

You are here because you want another way forward. A way that helps lead you to your goals yet does not make you want to escape your life.

Sustainable You Reflections

  • Which of the above examples felt most like the life you are leading right now?
  • What small adjustment can you make to remove something that would cause an improvement in this area?
  • What small adjustment can you make to add something that would cause an improvement in this area?

If you are not sure what to add or remove, I am open to hearing the scenario to help you identify a potential shift. You can reach me at or send a DM on Instagram.

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

By |2023-04-04T16:32:23-04:00April 11th, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Episode 10: Reframing Sustainable and Productive

If we are lucky, we will live long enough to change and grow. What is considered productive today, will be different in five years. What used to be sustainable ten years ago is no longer tenable. Shifting perspective and reframing priorities are skills that we will all require as we go through life. No one can do reframing sustainable and productive better than today’s guest – Ainslie MacEachran.

Ainslie MacEachran is a former professional cyclist having competed all over the United Staes, Belgium, Holland, and Ireland. He owned and operated health and fitness facilities for 25 years and was a personal trainer and USA Cycling Level 2 Cycling Coach for 15 years. Ainslie now operates Source Fitness and Health, an online store for exercise equipment and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with his wife and two kids.

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

Links mentioned in this episode of the Sustainable Productivity podcast:

By |2023-08-22T09:00:09-04:00April 10th, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments

The Evolution of the Sustainable Productivity Triangle

As I draft the proposal for my book about Sustainable Productivity, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the evolution of the Sustainable Productivity Triangle. When I was in high school I dreaded going to Geometry class. I was terrible at it. Often tears would flow as I tried to wrap my brain around proofs and other geometric nonsense. Then there was my teacher. Mr O’Brien scared the crap out of me. He was really smart, really intense, and really did not understand my not understanding. It reminded me of how the Princess felt in War and Peace when Prince Andreyevich was teaching her geometry.

There was one lesson though. This lesson stuck out. Mr O’Brien showed slide after slide of triangles. Triangles in architecture. Triangles in nature. Triangles in construction. Triangles in anatomy. This man who loomed so large and scary waxed poetically for 50 minutes about the strength and beauty of triangles. 

I have a vague recollection of him talking about something to do with the compression, fixed angles, and tensions – honestly, I was just looking at pretty pictures and marveling that I actually related to this geometry lecture for the first time. It seemed like the more Mr O’Brien got warmed up, the more slides he clicked through, the more he changed into a real person.

I started connecting with the different concepts:

“Triangles are the strongest structure.”

“Each side of the triangle relies on the other sides for strength.”

“What nature creates and enhances on its own, man drafts and erects in order for his structure to sustain all kinds of weather and hardship.”

Thirty Years Later

I loved this lecture and it has stuck with me for over 30 years. I notice triangles in nature and buildings and bridges. Then my noticing expanded to other trios. Triangles and groups of three are often referenced in literature, religion, astronomy, and mathematics.  The triangle is a symbol in groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and the Free Masons. Consider these groupings of three:

  • Three Stooges
  • The Holy Trinity
  • Delta, the mathematical symbol of change
  • Three branches of American government
  • Roman Triumvirate
  • The Brady Bunch Boys and The Brady Bunch Girls

Sustainable Sue and Triangles

Then I noticed triplets in my own work. After years of coaching women on habit change, a few common threads started coming together into the Sustainable Productivity Triangle. The women I worked with expressed a consistent desire to change habits in three different areas of their lives:  

  • Health and Fitness
  • Mental Well-being
  • Environmental Surroundings

We worked on a variety of components in each of these pillars. Fitness, nutrition, rest, stress management, physical clutter, social media use and more. I began to wonder if the concepts of Mr O’Brien’s lecture could apply to habit change to address burnout. The overall theory is that triangles are the strongest structure. Not rectangles or squares – these can be shoved and you get a rhombus or parallelogram – no one likes a leaning structure. Circles are not the strongest – a slight breeze and your structure rolls away. Triangles are the strongest because of how the angles and sides rely on and take up for each other. 

Next week’s essay will cover how each dimension of Sustainable Productivity acts as a buttress for the others in times of stress. Until then, your only homework is to look up and notice.

Sustainable Productivity Reflections

  • Where do you see triangles in nature, architecture, etc.?
  • What trios do you notice as you go about your day?
  • What three pain points keep appearing in your life?

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

By |2023-03-28T07:52:55-04:00April 4th, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Episode 9: Habit Change Check-in When Habits Crash Around You

Habit change is easy when it can be done in a perfect world. But none of us lives in a vacuum. We are challenged by schedules, other people’s chaos, shifting priorities – you know the stuff that makes up life. And we don’t always want to avoid these things either – a friend coming to town is a good thing. A last minute cancellation in your schedule can be freeing. But it can impact the success of our habit change.

In this episode Susan walks through the results of the first quarter of 2023 – it is truly the tale of two halves. But this is life on life’s terms. You will hear a transparent and real scenario of habit change set back, questions to reflect – not ruminate – on what happened, and what this means for the long haul.

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 |2023-08-22T09:01:34-04:00April 3rd, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments


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