About Susan Sanders

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So far Susan Sanders has created 197 blog entries.

Reading Relapse

Remember how I said I was going to read less? I reduced my reading goal so I could free up time to create more of my own content?

Welp, you are only as sick as your secrets so I am here to tell you I relapsed this weekend. I finished three books I had going, and started and finished 3 more. Over a span of 4 days. It is a disease. I am powerless.

In my defense, this was not all my fault.

  1. I was traveling so I just had to do the Read and Return thing. It is not a flight without a R&R book.
  2. The reason for the trip was to help my dad and sister pack up my mother’s things, which I knew would be emotional so I wanted more books to comfort me instead of forcing productivity on the plane.
  3. When I arrived I saw my sister was finishing a book that I had requested from the library MONTHS ago. She finished it shortly after we arrived so I had an opportunity to snatch it and read before she flew home.
  4. We finished early and had time for about an hour at the pool on the last day. I can’t go to the pool without a book – I am not a monster!

But alas, I am here to come clean with a recap of what took me off the clean and narrow path.

Books I Finished

I had three books in progress that I knocked out over the weekend.

Keep Sharp by Sanjay Gupta

My dad bought this, and we are passing it around the family. It is a mix of neuroscience that bounced off my brain at times and practical advice that you can incorporate into your life. Much of his advice is part of the Sustainable You program as well!

The Janson Directive by Robert Ludlum

I really want to be a Robert Ludlum fan, but this is strike 2. And it took 650 pages to get to strike 2 (I cannot even remember what strike 1 was). His books are massive deep dives into foreign policy, weapons, overlapping timelines that don’t need to be there, and poorly written romance scenes. I can’t believe I carried this around the airport. I should have thrown it in the pool when I finished.

Three Girls from Bronzeville: A Uniquely American Memoir of Race, Fate, and Sisterhood by Dawn Turner

This was a book I read on my Kindle after getting an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from Netgalley. This was gut wrenching at times, eye opening all throughout. You cannot understand what privilege means unless you hear – and listen to – what others walk through to know their story.

Books I Started and Finished

Next there were three books that I started and finished over the course of the 4 days.

The Book of Lost Names by Kristen Harmel

While I will always pick up a book about World War II, I loved this point of view and combination of stories – forgers, book lovers, resisters. All from an airport Read and Return! What is not to like?

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Super quick read from multiple narrators. I called the twists but really enjoyed getting there. It was extra fun because my sister finished reading it the day before so I was commenting as I read and we were able to have our own little book club discussion during our visit.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson

OK, not the best choice for a trip spent cleaning out my late Mother’s things, but when the hold comes up at the library you roll with it, right?! This was a super fast read (only 137 pages), filled with frank, practical advice, encouragement, and anecdotes about getting rid of crap now. Between this book and the weekend spent purging 154 reusable shopping bags and 77 bath towels, I came home and scheduled an appointment with a local consignment store.

 

Your Turn

What are you reading right now?

Note: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

By |2021-06-22T08:03:34-04:00June 22nd, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Sleep – A Foundational Component to Sustainable Productivity

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room – sleep deprivation. This impacts almost 70% of Americans. In my 30 years of studying health, wellness, and productivity, sleep has time and again shown itself to be the foundational component to a Sustainably Productive life.

Sleep deprivation has a detrimental impact on all 3 dimensions of Sustainable Productivity (SusPro). Let’s break each pillar down.

Health and Fitness

Lack of sleep has been linked to negative short-term and long-term hormonal changes in your body. Research has demonstrated that sleep loss (less than the recommended 7-8 hours) is associated with a higher Body Mass Index, lower leptin, higher ghrelin, and increased hunger and appetite. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases hunger, while leptin decreases hunger.

I think this is what the movie Gremlins was about. When you go to bed on time and get the right amount of rest, your body responds as a cute little mogwai. You coo and have those big round eyes and are generally pleasant to be around. Hunger is under control and you make healthy food choices because your body is in balance.

Tell me you don’t feel like this when your stomach is growling.
Photo source is Amazon

When you are sleep deprived, your body releases ghrelin which leads to increased hunger. This seems to primarily be related to acute (short term) sleep loss.

When you are sleep deprived, your body inhibits leptin which leads to increased appetite and storage of body fat. Data from the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study found that sleep deprivation is a greater contributor to obesity that hormone imbalance causing high leptin levels and is directly linked to increased BMI. This seems to primarily be related to chronic sleep loss – continued sleep deprivation over time.

Mental Well-being

There is a reason that sleep deprivation is used as a means of torture. Job performance suffers with lack of sleep. Psychiatric illnesses are made worse with lack of sleep. Driving while sleep deprived can have the same result as driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs.

The detrimental impacts of lack of sleep can be devastating and far reaching. They impact all the SusPro components of mental well-being.

  • Relationships. Please tell me I am not the only one who is impatient and crabby with her People when she is tired and sleep deprived.
  • Time Management. You can get more done – and focus more on the right things – when you are not sleep deprived. A couple weeks ago I was mentally limping out of the work week after not sleeping well and literally sat at my computer for a full 60 seconds before I could remember what I was supposed to be doing with a certain report.
  • Hobbies. Creativity is higher in those who are not sleep deprived. Additionally you will have more energy and patience to learn new things if you are not sleep deprived.
  • Rest. It is hard to rest when you are sleep deprived because you just end up falling asleep. This is ok because your body is claiming what it needs, but not great when your Kindle drops onto your face. A SusPro life needs sleep and rest in balance with each other.

Introduction to Sustainable You

Environmental Surroundings

I find that when I am sleep deprived the first thing to go is my environment. When I am exhausted and ready to drop into bed, the kitchen shutdown does not happen, clothes drop wherever I put on my pajamas, and there is a general feeling that a tornado hit the house.

Additionally, because sleep deprivation allows for less mental space for hobbies and SusPro time management, we tend to fall back on numbing out with creature comforts like social media and TV.

It is not something to push through or feel badly about because you “have no willpower.” Your body is trying to be good to you and signal that you need to sleep.

Let’s talk about how to make that happen.

SusPro Sleep Tips

While the Sustainable You Health and Fitness Module goes into depth about how to make small, impactful adjustments to improve your sleep habits, here are a few quick tips that you can try tonight.

  • Stop caffeine 30 – 60 minutes sooner than you do now.
  • Turn off screens an hour before bed.
  • Decrease your thermostat by 1 degree when you go to bed.

Your Turn

How are you sleeping these days? What have you tried that does or does not work? What do you notice about your mood and focus when you have slept 7 – 9 hours per night consistently?

By |2021-06-13T08:28:51-04:00June 15th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Quick Tips to Declutter

It is always darkest before dawn.

You have to crack a few eggs to make an omelet.

There are dozens of pithy sayings to describe the “hit by a tornado” look that happens when you finally tackle your clutter.

But those pithy sayings resonate for a reason – there is a kernel of truth there.

The Storm

Last summer I brought home my mom’s cross stitch supplies. Reorganizing them and incorporating them into my supplies seemed like a daunting task – physically (there was a lot) and emotionally (it made me sad to think of her death).

But every time I went in my office, I saw the pile of floss, needles, and patterns sitting there abandoned.

I decided the effort of organizing this section of my office was less than the effort of seeing the abandoned stash for one more day. I grabbed my tissue box for the tears that would inevitably come, set aside several hours and took over a large space to tackle the work.

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out, and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” Cynthia Occelli

My starting point. The key here is to expect the chaos – and don’t stop when you get to this point. Get rid of what is not working and categorize what you want to keep. Group like items together.

 

Midway – Messy thread contained onto bobbins. This could be a natural stopping point if the day and emotions required it. I still have labeling and storage to do here.

 

The final result. I have seen other crafty people use a label maker on their bobbins, but hand written was good enough for me. This was how I defined “done” before I started – thread on bobbins, organized in their boxes.

The Payoff

Once the chaos of decluttering passes, you know you will be pleased with the outcome and glad you did it. Here are some of the ways you might notice yourself feeling post-decluttering:

  • You will feel light a weight has lifted from your shoulders.
  • The mental clarity you feel at not looking at the clutter will be noticeable.
  • This wont be a space you avoid going to – you can fully enjoy your home.

https://www.instagram.com/juliemorgenstern/

Quick Tips to Get Started

  1. Define what done means before you even start. For me on this project, I wanted to get the labeled thread on bobbins in boxes. You might say you are done when your clothes fit in your drawers or the linens fit in the closet.
  2. Start small. Then go one step smaller. I originally was going to sort all of my mom’s sewing supplies this day, not just her cross stitch stuff. I thought I was starting small (just crafts, not all her stuff I brought home – clothes, books, jewelry, etc.). Then I went smaller and landed on just cross stitch. Instead of organizing the whole garage you might do the outside fridge or just the sport corner or shelving unit.
  3. Identify bailout points. Taking breaks or tackling project in small bits of time requires identifying natural bail out points. On this project, I could have sorted one session, labeled the next and stored the third. If you are taking your kitchen one drawer at a time, maybe this is something you do while you watch TV each night. The key is to stop at those bailout points – even if you feel like you have mojo to continue.

Your Turn

What is an area of your Environmental Surroundings that you want to declutter? How can you break it into smaller projects with defined breaks with an identified goal in mind?

By |2021-06-06T13:42:35-04:00June 8th, 2021|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

Beginners and Dabblers

There is a danger in comparing someone else’s outsides to your insides. You most likely will not like what you find – often because you are not comparing your proverbial apples to their proverbial oranges.

There is value in being a beginner, a dabbler.

The Beginner

Let’s say for example you work in a fast paced office in corporate America. You are wildly successful and everyone hangs on your every word, waiting to rush off and carry out your requests.

What would it be like to do a slow paced activity like Tai Chi or Qigong in the evenings. You only have to listen to you and the purpose is to move as slow as possible.

Spoiler – it may feel weird. Like really awkward. You may <gasp> not even be good at it.

Congratulations, you are a beginner.

The Dabbler

Or what about this – you know you need something different, something more. You are seeking out that change of pace so you borrow cook books and the special baking pans from the library. Then you join a Couch to 5k group the following fall. January comes around and you gather 4 teacher friends to start a book club.

All of these things are enjoyable and you want to keep poking around to see what else interesting might be out there.

Congratulations, you are a dabbler.

Beginners and dabblers can be found in components and pillars of Sustainable Productivity. Let’s break down each pillar to see how being beginners and dabblers can help us create a life we don’t need to escape.

Health and Fitness

Ever since junior high school, I had a goal of earning a full ride basketball scholarship to college. It was like a mantra: tuition, room, board, books, and fees.

There was little room for dabbling. I quit the golf team when it interfered with pre season conditioning for basketball. Track was tolerated because I lifted weights heavily (I was a thrower), which was good preparation for playing in the post come basketball season.

I accomplished that goal and let me tell you how much basketball I play now: ZERO. I don’t want to play. Not even H-O-R-S-E. Especially not H-O-R-S-E.

Today dabbling is playing well below average tennis with my husband on a Sunday morning. Or flubbing a drive into the woods with my in-laws (I swear I will be free one of these Fridays!). Swim races across the cove, bike rides, or hikes in the woods – none of which are at anything nearing what normal people call “fast.”

All of this is a pace I can sustain lifelong if I want to.

Mental Well-being

On the May 20th, the Edit Your Life podcast talked about editing stress out of hobbies (one of the components of the Mental Well-being pillar of Sustainable Productivity). One way to do that is to let go of perfection and embrace being a beginner. This means all the uncertainty and messiness of being a beginner. This is very evident in fabric crafts.

Let me paraphrase the comparison idea from the start of this message – don’t compare your backside to someone else’s front side. In embroidery, there is a reason that the back is often finished so you cannot see it. There is a hot mess going on behind the curtain. FOR EVERYONE.

Looks like nice, tight and even stitches, right? Don’t turn it over!!!!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I will save you from having to hear all of the times I had to rip out stitches or miscounted. Some of those errors are still in my embroidery. The list of rookie mistakes I have made in the name of hobbies is enormous:

  • Typos in every single one of my yearly family photo albums
  • Dead plants
  • Seams ironed the wrong way

You get the idea. But that is all part of the game.

Environmental Surroundings

Beginners and dabblers can make impacts to the Environmental Surroundings pillar of Sustainable Productivity as well.

My daughter is an artist and aspiring interior designer so we set her loose in her room with paints of all colors a few years ago over Christmas break. Some parts she knocked out of the park, some pieces did not get started.

My sister participates in a 365 day declutter challenge each year. Some items in the challenge she might tear through (junk drawer), while others are harder (storage bins with keepsakes).

It is in the trying that we create a life we don’t need to escape. Like we mentioned last week, it is chipping away at what isn’t David – even if you created the non-David that needs to be chipped away. Try something and see if it brings more satisfaction and ease to your environment.

Even if it is not perfect or perfectly executed.

Your Turn

Is there something you have been wanting to try or get back to? What small step could you take today to become a beginner or dabbler? Which interests you more – being a beginner or dabbler?

By |2021-05-31T16:31:27-04:00June 1st, 2021|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Chip Away at Everything That Isn’t David

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

You chip away at everything that isn’t David.

Let me explain.

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

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

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

This was not sustainable.

What I Wanted

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

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

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

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

Eliminate what is not working

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

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

Add what works

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

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

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

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

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

Your Turn

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

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

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

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

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

The Premise

Here is the Goodreads description of this novel:

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

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

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

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

The Impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Turn

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

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

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

What Road Trips Can Teach you About Goal Setting

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

Personal productivity is very similar.

Set Your Destination

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

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

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

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

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

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

Determine Your Starting Point

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

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

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

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

Or maybe this example resonates with you:

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

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

Getting Started

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

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

Your Turn

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

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

Creativity and Relationships

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

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

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

Why It Works

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

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

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

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

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

Let me show you what I have in mind.

How It Works

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

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

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

Calming a Cluttered Mind

Suggestions for calming a cluttered mind can fit into all three dimensions of Sustainable Productivity. This may seem counterintuitive to suggestion action for an already overworked system.

However, Sustainably Productive habit change comes from replacing one behavior with another. When you stop doing something, there is a void. You have to replace that void with a different something.

Here are some suggestions for what that replacement could be.

Health and Fitness

Walking meditation as a way of calming a cluttered mind.

  • Engage your 5 senses. Notice your surroundings by identifying something you can see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. Therapists recommend a strategy called the 54321  Grounding Technique to overcome anxiety.
  • Cal Newport’s “Productive Meditation” is a sort of walking meditation as well. Although the name seems counterproductive, focusing on a single problem while moving – especially in nature – can unstuck the most stuck of us.

Mental Well-being

Traditional Meditation is another option for you to begin to settle a mind in overdrive. There are numerous apps, books, and classes that can teach you about or guide you through meditation.

What has worked for me is simply sitting with a 10-minute timer set and clearing my mind. If thoughts wander by, I imagine them as clouds floating through. On days where my mind wanders a smidge more aggressively, I imagine picking up that thought and depositing it in a filing cabinet.

You may never make it through the whole 10 minutes wander free, but noticing the wander and returning to intention to clear your mind will help with calming a cluttered mind.

“Nothing in the universe can stop you from letting go and starting over.” Guy Finley

Environmental Surroundings

Set up your surroundings to soothe you from the outside in. This requires you to pay attention to what you pay attention to when it is “one of those days“.

  • Get rid of what may set off monkey mind. Are the walls closing in on you in your home office because of the bags of donations that need to be dropped off? Do you get frustrated at the lack of counter space every time you meal prep? Address those areas instead of continuing to be annoyed.
  • Seek out what calms your mind. Here I want you to notice when soothes you. Maybe you feel the knots in your belly untie when you sit under a certain blanket. Do you imagine sinking into a corner of the sofa at the end of they day? Or is the seat at your kitchen table with the sun streaming in where you find you are best at calming a cluttered mind?

Just as with traditional meditation, part of the calming happens just by noticing.

Your Turn

I would love to hear your strategies for calming a cluttered mind. What has worked – or not worked? Let’s crowd source our ideas – a high tide raises all boats. The more we all can reduce that frantic pace of life, the more we will create a culture of Sustainable Productivity.

By |2021-04-27T04:48:15-04:00April 27th, 2021|Mental Well-being|2 Comments

Making Adjustments

It is ok to change your mind – that is what making adjustments is all about. Sometimes your well-crafted plan to live a Sustainably Productive life does not work. There could be several reasons for this.

  1. Schedules change
  2. Priorities change
  3. Minds change

Whatever the reason – making adjustments is OK. In fact, making adjustments is encouraged. That is part of the Continuous Improvement work that is in the Sustainable You coursework.

At the start of 2021, I set a goal to do 90 minutes of yoga each week. I applied Sustainable Productivity principles and broke it down to do a 30 minute YouTube video 3 times each week.

This was great for the first 3 months of the year. Once the weather started getting nicer, I wanted to be outside and on my bike more. Now that I am vaccinated, I want to join my regular in person hot yoga class (exercising in a 100 degree room with a mask on sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?!).

But what about the original goal I set for 90 minutes a week? If I do 1 class in studio each week that is only 60 minutes. 2 classes in studio does not fit my budget or schedule right now. The YouTube video is not as inviting since I would have to be inside.

Non-Sustainable Productivity solution: Throw out the whole plan.

Sustainable Productivity solution: Make adjustments using the Continuous Improvement steps.

Step 1 – Record the result

This is an easy one if you have been using the Sustainable You Habit Tracker. If I look back at the last 2 weeks, I have a big ZERO for yoga.

Step 2 – Why this result

This step can take some tough love. A tool that can help to get to the root cause of the result is the 5 Whys. Start with the high level question: Why did I skip yoga over the last 2 weeks.

  1. I wanted to garden and ride my bike instead. Then ask why again (2nd why): Why did I want to garden and bike instead?
  2. A desire to be outside. Then ask why again (3rd why): Why did I want to be outside?
  3. The weather has gotten so nice. Ask why again (4th why): Why did I want to be out in warmer weather?
  4. It is pretty this time of year, so much to look at and do. The last (5th) why: Why is this different from yoga?
  5. I am bored doing the same routine and need a change of scenery. 

Once you get to that 5th question, you usually have a root cause that you can use to make your adjustment.

Step 3 – Adjustment

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater in not sustainable nor productive. Not doing yoga is not a productive way to improve my mental well-being or physical fitness. But continuing to “require” the 30-minute YouTube video 3 times per week is just going to make me crabby, which is not sustainable.

Enter the beauty of making adjustments. Here are a few that I am making for this week:

  • 1 yoga class in studio
  • 2 bike rides
  • Garden on breaks from work

Next weekend I can repeat these Continuous Improvement steps and see if any more adjustments need to be made.

Permission Slip

I can hear you thinking (or perhaps yelling at me through your device screen): BUT YOU SET A GOAL FOR THE YEAR FOR 90 MINUTES!!!

That is true. And you know what else is true? It is ok to change your mind.

If you go to the core of your WHY, then you can be true to your intention of creating a life you don’t want to numb out and escape from. HOW you create that life can change as you make adjustments.

Consider this post a permission slip to change your mind.

I want to create a life I don’t need to escape by calming my monkey mind and being physically active to reduce physical aches and pains. I can do that through yoga or time in the garden or in the bike saddle – or a combination of all three!

Your Turn

What isn’t working with your habits? What small adjustments can you make? I encourage you to try the 5 Why’s exercise to try to get to the root of the issue. If you need help walking through this or the Continuous Improvement steps, I would love to talk it through with you.

By |2021-05-18T08:48:07-04:00April 20th, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

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