If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes

When I want to give someone tough love, one of my favorite phrases is: If nothing changes… Nothing changes.

Ouch, I know, right?!

But this week I want to keep things more on the lighter side. If you listen to the Sustainably Productivity podcast, you know Bixby and I traveled to Italy to see our eldest in the second half of April. I felt such awe for the age, history, and culture of all of the cities we visited. I am still rolling that around in my head.

Today I want to talk about how we are quite similar to the Italians who lived thousands of years ago. It reminded me of the Us Weekly Magazine segment: “Stars – They’re Just Like Us!”

Let’s take a little tongue in cheek tour to see how when nothing changes, nothing changes.

We All Have Unfinished Projects

This is a statue of two children playing a game they invented. There is supposed to be a third child in the empty space on the platform. Sort of reminds me of all of the craft projects I have piled on my desk, waiting on the spare bed, and swirling in my brain. Can you relate?

They Don’t Always Take Care of Their Books

Libreria Acqua Alta is a bookstore in Venice that obviously has books that have not survived the floods there. They turned it into a tourist attraction of sorts (successfully – as you can see). I don’t know about you, but sometimes I put books face down on the table or bed. I have been known to dog ear pages – even in library books in an emergency and if it is a physical book I own, I mark it up as needed. Do you have a book confession?

They are Extra About Their Pets

At the same time we were looking at these incredible statues of greyhounds in the square in the Oltrarno neighborhood of Florence, Lucille was living her best life in a pet boarding place where she swam in a pool every day with other dogs and ended her day with a Frosty Paws before bed. How do you spoil your pet?

They Screw Up on Large Projects

Obviously, the photo above is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. But did you know there is a different tower that actually leans MORE than this famous one? The photo below is the Garisenda in Bologna. It leans twice as much as the debacle in Pisa, yet it is seldom spoken of. We did not know about it until we walked past it on our visit.

The wide open field and beautiful grounds in Pisa sure make for a prettier picture. I guess that is another way this ancient civilization was like us – the valuation of beauty and its photo op. Reading up on the cause and impact of these architectural and construction debacles has been interesting. And makes me feel a little better when I make a mistake at my job. What have you bungled today?

They Dedicated Space for Hobbies

This is the ancient writing space for royalty in ancient Italy. I love that there is a window nearby. Looks very similar to my writing nook. Do you have a dedicated space for your hobbies?

Their Physicians Hated Them

Check out the footgear on this dude in the painting. Looks very similar to the torture device Bixby has from his doctor (picture below) after all the exercises for his bad ankle failed him. I feel that way about some of the appliances, wraps, exercises, and devices I have been prescribed too. How is aging going for you?

They Loved Family

All joking aside, we had an incredible time learning about ancient and current culture. But the most important thing we did was see our eldest thriving in a situation we could never have imagined her in. This is one time I hope that if nothing changes… nothing changes.

By |2023-05-26T05:47:17-04:00May 30th, 2023|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Episode 17: Sustainable Sue, the Book Bully

One of the frequent questions that comes into the Sustainable Sue inbox is about where to find book recommendations. Susan does not mind being a bit of a book bully, pressing books into people’s hands and sending unsolicited recommendations at random. But her tastes may not line up with yours. Or you might be in a book rut and need to find a new book bully to tell you what to read.

Here is what you can expect in today’s episode:

  1. The Sustainably Productive adjustment that took Susan 48 years to start and only took 60 seconds to complete
  2. Where Susan finds her recommendations
  3. Why anti-recommendations have value and how to use them to your advantage

As always, even if you are not a book lover, this guidance applies to whatever your hobby is. If you love to lift weights, where do you get inspiration and recommendations for exercises and routines? Travelers don’t know where to go before they actually travel – if this is you, how do you learn the best places to hit in a new city? Maybe instead of a book bully, you wish you had a foodie bully – someone to recommend recipes, restaurants, and techniques to improve your food experience. Listen at the link below or search for “Sustainable Productivity with Susan Sanders” everywhere podcasts are available.

Links to Learn More

Links mentioned in this episode of the Sustainable Productivity podcast:

We would love to hear from you. Send your feedback on the episode, suggestions for future show topics or guests, and anything else to Susan@SustainableSue.com or in a DM on Instagram.

By |2023-05-29T08:21:30-04:00May 29th, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments

How to Get What You Want

Assuming you already know what you want, I want to tell you how to now get what you want. 

Ask for it.

Ask for what you want. It is unreasonable to be angry with someone for not doing something you did not tell them you expected them to do. Expectations are pre-meditated resentments. Here is an example from my life. I expected my kids to put their dishes in the dishwasher after dinner. I never asked them to do this – I just expected it. Every time we got up from dinner, they put their plates on the kitchen counter and I put my anger into slamming the kitchen cabinets. See, I had an expectation – an unvoiced request. Once I say my expectation, if they agree – then we have an agreement. If they agree to put their plate in the dishwasher and don’t, then we can have a discussion. But if you don’t ask for what you want, how can you expect people to give it to you?

Ask for it – that is how you get what you want. It is that easy. And yet.

Surface Level Example

I was recently felt like I wanted a little more attention from Bixby and requested a bouquet of flowers from him. Of course I did this in a very efficient, Enneagram 1 manner – I put it on the grocery list before he went to the store. I was very specific in my ask. Here is my verbatim entry on our grocery list app:

Bouquet of flowers for Susan – include sunflowers, but not just sunflowers. 

Lordy we are romantic, aren’t we? But check it out – it worked! It helped me to get what I want!  

<<flower pic>>

A Layer Deeper

I have a three strike rule. When something comes to my attention three times, I do it if at all humanly possible. 

  • After a movie or TV show comes to my awareness three times, I add it to the queue. 
  • If I needed a certain fabric or thread three times, I break down and buy it instead of looking for a different project. 
  • When I was on the fence about whether or not a Subaru was the right car for me, I saw it everywhere – way more than three times. 
  • If a book is discussed in something I am listening to or reading on three different occasions, I add it to my TBR. 

I think this is the way the universe says, OK, Sue, let me help you get what you want. 

This happened to a quote recently. The main character in a fiction book read the quote in his school textbook, then I saw it on social media, then it was the quote of the day in one of my daily devotionals. I give in! I accept this sign that action is needed to get what you want. 

Here is the quote:

And then the day came

when the risk to remain

tight in a bud was

more painful than the

risk to bloom.

Anais Nin  

 It takes courage to make the ask. But that ask is how you get what you want. Which leads me to my next ask. 

The Ask

I want to bloom. Specifically, I want to grow the Sustainable Sue business. I have been afraid to swing for the fences and I believe the universe has sent me this message so I can acknowledge that if I stay tight in this small space, it will keep being not what I want. So here I go:

I want to double my podcast listeners by August 1st and my email subscribers by September 1st. I need your help to do that. 

Will you share the Sustainable Productivity podcast and the Sustainable Sue weekly essay with a friend? Here are a couple ways this could look:

  1. Hey – you know how I was struggling with cleaning the kitchen? I heard this great episode of a podcast my friend hosts. Here is the link – maybe it will help with your garage project?!
    • Link: https://sustainablesue.com/14-2/
  2. A friend of mine is trying to grow her small business. Here is the link to her podcast and blog. Check it out and subscribe if you think it is helpful for you. 
    • Podcast link: https://sustainablesue.com/podcast/
    • Essay link: https://sustainablesue.com/blog/
  3. Maybe this bad thing in your life is actually an opportunity to take advantage of extra time to help recover from the burnout you have. Running on empty, burning the candle at both ends is not something you can continue long term. Check out my friend’s website – she has great messages and resources that can help you. 
    • Website link: https://sustainablesue.com

Thank you for being a supporter of the Sustainable Sue business. Now let’s go get what we want – a life we don’t need to escape!

By |2023-05-16T10:09:14-04:00May 23rd, 2023|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Episode 16: Fitness Without a Finish Line

It is one thing to make a Sustainable Productivity adjustment to your habits, but it is another thing to fully embrace that adjustment mentally and emotionally. Susan had to create a new normal around Fitness for herself in order to make it Sustainably Productive – something that worked for me long term. Fitness means so much more than who crosses the most finish lines or is the fastest or thinnest… despite what you may see in today’s culture and on social media. Here is what you can expect in today’s episode:

  1. The full story of Susan’s fitness background and why it lead to burnout
  2. The two areas where Susan made adjustments
  3. Practical, actionable adjustments and what that looks like today

Additionally, today’s episode launches a new segment you won’t want to miss! Listen at the link below or search for “Sustainable Productivity with Susan Sanders” everywhere podcasts are available.

Links mentioned in this episode of the Sustainable Productivity podcast:

We would love to hear from you. Send your feedback on the episode, suggestions for future show topics or guests, and anything else to Susan@SustainableSue.com or in a DM on Instagram.

By |2023-05-29T10:34:53-04:00May 22nd, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments

How to Work Through Self-Sabotage

A draft of this essay sat in my drafts folder for over a year – talk about self-sabotage! I tinkered with it every few months, but could not get it over the finish line. Today I am giving myself the full time I need to work through this message. Here’s the thing – in the effort to get things done, sometimes I focus too much on productive at the expense of sustainable. I wonder if that might ring true for you too.

  • You focus on being the mother doing it all for your kids… at the expense of your relationship with your partner.
  • Time, energy, and finances are directed towards purchasing the house or planning a wedding… at the expense of the life you will be living for the next 50 years.
  • Your effort is used on everyone else… at the expense of not knowing what you really like.

Self-sabotage is usually not a conscious action. Often it creeps into our lives in phases. The actions that we eventually view as self-sabotage can even start out being helpful.

Phase One: It Works…

Before thoughts and behaviors sabotage us, they protect us. They work until they don’t.

Let’s say you are a new mom with a full time job out of the house. You must be a master at putting infant needs first, then compartmentalizing those needs while you are at work. When your baby goes to sleep at night you might start to crack open that compartment, but more likely you have a partner that might have a feeling or thought to run through with you. Or there are chores, errands or other minutiae to wade through.

It may seem like there is precious little time for you to have thoughts and feelings independent of others during this season.

Phase Two: …Until It Doesn’t

Then the season passes, your infant no longer relies on you for survival. However your lizard brain has not gotten the message and you are still in fight, flight or freeze all the time. You still feel uncomfortable having a feeling of your own.

Or more likely, you don’t realize it has been 5 years since you have considered your own thoughts and opinions. You have just piled on more. A raise at work, a side hustle, more activities for your kids (resulting in more logistics for you), returning to school, relocating, volunteering, etc.

All of these things can be good stress, but they are still create pressure and time constraints. They still take up time and space. Before you know it you have created a life you just want to hide from.

Phase Three: Sustainably Productive Adjustments

When I was little my mom taught us that if we were ever lost in a store, we should stand still and she would find us. At least this is what I remember – it might have been an after school special or a Box Car Children book. Regardless, the sentiment is the same. When you feel lost and overwhelmed in chaos, getting still is a good place to start. If you get still you might be able to see a way forward, maybe literal or proverbial sunshine will start to come through the cracks. In order to be able to move past this acute burnout, you need to create space to avoid self-sabotage. Reaction happens when you are butted up against the stressor. Response happens when you have space for discernment.

I want to share three ways making space might look for you, one in each dimension of Sustainable Productivity.

Health & Fitness Dimension – Sleep. I have written about sleep here and here as well as dedicated a podcast episode to it (you can listen here). Sleep is when our body physically and mentally takes out the trash in our bodies. It helps to reboot your systems. If you shortchange this process, you will struggle to make good decisions. For example, if you are committed to healthy eating, but you sleep only five hours a night, self-sabotage creeps in when you pass by Biscuitville. It isn’t willpower, chemical change in your body from being sleep deprived inspire these cravings.

Mental Well-being Dimension – Schedule buffer. In a recent essay I talked about time blocking. I cannot overemphasize the need for buffer time in your schedule. I used to work for a woman who would accept a meeting scheduled to end across town at 9:45 am, then book a meeting with me for 10:00 am. It was physically impossible for her to do both. If you are feeling burned out, schedule buffers can help build in rest. Literally blocking an hour as “Rest” or giving yourself twice the amount of time needed for a task or adding time at the end of a meeting to do your notes and follow ups. Buffers could be as simple as giving yourself realistic time to drive from one place to another.

Environmental Surroundings – Manage screen time. Stay with me on this, it is not eliminating screen time. Sustainable Productivity is about small adjustments you can maintain over time. Overhauling your screen time is not a small adjustment. But what if you put down screens 10 minutes earlier than you do today. Or started 10 minutes later. Maybe you see how much screen time you rack up today, then for the next week, try to average 10 minutes less? You will know intuitively what feels easiest or most important to you. Trust your instincts. Give your eyes, hands, and mind a rest from devices.

These are just a few suggestions on how rest can help you avoid self-sabotage. When you feel rested and centered, you can start to see other small changes you need to make and where you are ruining your chances for success. This is another area where there is no finish line. But that is good news – you can make these adjustments as small as you need to in order to have success.

Sustainable You Reflections

  1. Where does self-sabotage appear in your life?
  2. Which, if any, of the three suggestions resonate with you? How could you adapt them to fit your life?

There are infinite number of ways to rest. I would love to hear what you choose. You can reach me at Susan@SustainableSue.com or via DM on Instagram

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

By |2023-05-13T17:44:48-04:00May 16th, 2023|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Episode 15: What is Making Life Sustainably Productive

Today we are talking about what is making life sustainably productive this spring. This episode is originally publishing on May 15, 2023 and I know many mothers who refer to this month as Mayhem. Or May Madness. When I start to spin out on the business of life, it helps me regroup by identifying what IS working. Things that are working have gone through iterations of Sustainable Productivity adjustments. This episode will give you insight into the before and after scenarios in the hopes that you can identify areas of your life that need small adjustments, learn how to make adjustments, and celebrate success.

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 |2023-05-15T08:14:15-04:00May 15th, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments

Episode 14: Sustainable Sue Cleans the Kitchen

Sometimes on the podcast we will talk about existential questions like why we do the things we do, what happened in our childhood to make us the way we are, and how to move forward when you are so burned out you can’t sit up straight. Today, it is a topic that might seem more trivial and purely surface level. But I assure you there is always more to what meets the eye. Listen to the latest episode for a look into how Sustainable Sue cleans the kitchen.

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 |2023-05-08T08:57:15-04:00May 8th, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments

Time Blocking Your Way to a SusPro Calendar

There must be something about spring that makes me fired up about time management. As I was drafting this weekly essay, I discovered I wrote about time blocking around this time a couple years ago. Is it the final thaw of winter? Maybe the blooming of all the flowers makes me want to do ALL THE THINGS! Whatever the reason, here we are again for a little spring cleaning of our calendars and to do lists. 

First, let’s ground this essay in the Sustainable Productivity framework. Time management is a component of Mental Well-being and one of my favorite time management tools is time blocking. Think of time blocking as assigning a job to specific units of time in your day. This is less about making every second of your day productive and more about paying attention to what you pay attention to. 


There is no special tool or magic product for time blocking. Cal Newport has a time blocking planner and links to videos where he teaches you how to use it. Some people swear by digital tools because their time blocks are managed by other people or change with greater regularity. The beauty is that there is not one best answer. The productive answer is whatever works for you. I keep my appointments in a digital calendar because it is shared with other people. Bixby can add things to my home calendar and my colleagues at my day job can add things to my Outlook calendar at work. But my time blocks go in a notebook. It is just a half-used notebook left behind by my son after he graduated from high school. I ripped out the Spanish conjugation and started blocking my days. 

Block Projects

As with all Sustainably Productive adjustments, I encourage you to start small when you are learning to use time blocking for your time management. What is one task that you do weekly or 1 project you could schedule. This is not your appointments, this is working on what is important to you. This is not an appointment for your piano lesson, this is the time block for the piano practice ahead of the lesson. Determine when you will do the practice and add it to your calendar just like an appointment. 

Block Days

As you look at your calendar, (I hope) you have open times between appointments. If you do not, you may need to think about delegating – including delegating to the floor. More on that another time. Today I want to encourage you to think about what you want those empty blocks of time to do for you, what they could be dedicated to. 

Paperwork or errands. Batching items can be a more efficient use of your time. You can just put “errands” on a 2-hour time block for the day, then fill in later what those are. Knowing you have Wednesday afternoons for running errands could alleviate the repeat trips to the same strip mall across town. 

Catching up. What job do you want your commute time to have? It might be to just get you to work, but you also might want it to be when you catch up on podcasts (like the Sustainable Productivity podcast) or call a different friend each week to catch up (hands free phones of course!)

Rest. As mentioned earlier, the idea is not to cram 10 pounds of crap into a 5 pound bag by doing it efficiently. But if you can be efficient with your to do list for a couple hours, you may find yourself with an open hour or so most days. Or conversely, what if you scheduled rest, then built the other time blocks in your day around that? 

Sustainable You Reflections

  • What did you feel in your gut when you read that you can assign a time block to rest? Did it feel like you’d need to hide it from your people? Did you get nervous? Excited? Nervous belly?

There are lots of ways to time block. I would love to hear how it goes for you. You can reach me at Susan@SustainableSue.com or via DM on Instagram. 

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

By |2023-05-09T08:05:42-04:00May 5th, 2023|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Reboot Your Systems

Sometimes you just need to reboot your systems. A few weeks ago I was spinning out about something. Feeling overwhelmed and out of control. It felt like messages were coming at me from all angles – email, texts, phone calls, post it notes. I was trying to finish an audiobook from the library while drafting some emails and meeting notes at my day job. Bixby was walking into my office all day. 

I desperately wanted to check out of my life for an hour or so to reboot my system and adjust my attitude. I was to a point I could not even stand to be with me. It was a beautiful spring day in North Carolina so I decided to go for a bike ride. As I rolled out, I started up my Garmin as usual. This is the message I saw:

It stayed that way for the whole 20-some miles. Ironically it displays the message, “Working” while it is indeed NOT working. At first I was pissed off. Just another thing not working for me today. Then I had to laugh – I was yelling in my head, “Reboot your system! Get in nature and disconnect!” My Higher Power is quite a joker – clearly I did not need this technology either. 

You know how this story ends. I finished my ride and came back a much happier, whole person. This is not an accident. This is pretty much how the universe works. 

  • Kids melt down less if they have time where they are unstimulated. 
  • Your computer needs to be rebooted regularly to run updates and get rid of digital garbage.
  • Sleep is where our bodies clean up and heal us mentally and physically. 

The moral of the story is the most excellent Anne Lamott quote: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

Sustainable Productivity Reflections

  • Write or talk about a time where you were in a tizzy. How did your body feel during your meltdown? 
  • Brainstorm 5-10 things you can do to disconnect, shutdown or reboot your system, your morning, or your interaction. 

I don’t know about you, but I suck at apologies. If you had a come apart with someone recently, maybe this essay could be an entry point to your apology. Share with a friend or loved one who needs to know you were just overwhelmed and now you have a few new tricks to try to reboot your system next time. 

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

By |2023-04-15T06:10:43-04:00May 2nd, 2023|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Episode 13: Literary Life Lately

Its time to see what’s happening in Sustainable Sue’s literary life lately! It has been awhile since we have checked in on what Susan is reading. This episode expands past books to include magazines and prepping reading material for business travel or vacation. Of course we talk about a few books Susan read since we caught up last. Some books were a hit, some a miss, and one was in the paranormal fantasy genre. Yep, not a typo – paranormal fantasy. And that is not one of the books she abandoned.

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 |2023-05-01T06:09:38-04:00May 1st, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments


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