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So far Susan Sanders has created 249 blog entries.

Values and Routines

This time of year everyone jumps on the routines bandwagon. Newspapers, magazines, social media, TV, school pick up lines – everyone is talking about creating fall routines to fix our lives. 

Fixing our lives is an inside job and applying someone else’s routine is not the Sustainably Productive way forward. You don’t fix internal bleeding with a bandaid. You fix it by getting inside to the root of the issue and stopping the bleeding. This is how Desmond Tutu describes it:

“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

Around here we go back to the core of who we are – our values. 

Values are defined as, “judgement of what is important in life.” I would like to build on what Webster has to say here: important in each of our lives today.

Let’s talk more about each part.

…Each of our lives…

What is important to me may not be important to you. On the podcast (Episode 19: Routines and Values, which you can listen to here), Genay made a statement that had me sitting straight up in my chair: I do not want to live out of fear.

This is a stake in the ground that she can bounce all ideas off of. A few of my core values are integrity, curiosity, sustainability. These are the benchmarks that I make decisions from. We covered several examples of this on the podcast.

I want to elaborate here the importance of letting your values lead your systems. Let’s say for example that you and I were both invited to a party on Friday. For the sake of the discussion, consider that sustainability is a value for me, and a value of yours is friendship. 

Knowing that I will be completely drained on Friday evening after a full week of work and life, it does not feel sustainable to me to get myself out the door to interact with a room full of strangers. Now consider that you might be an introvert as well and have had a long, intense week just like me. But your value is friendship so you go to the party to support your friend knowing that supporting her will be fulfilling.

Both scenarios are ok. Neither is good or bad or better than another. This is why values should be considered for each person. 

Let’s look at the other addition to the definition. 

…today.

What is important to you today may change. 

It may change once your kids are out of the house. Or when you retire. Or when you go from being single to being married (or vice versa). Or just because you having life experiences and change your mind about your values. 

All of that is ok. Again – neither is good or bad or better than another. 

Now that we have a better definition of values, let’s look at a couple other constructs around routines and values.

Schedules vs Routines

There is a difference between schedules and routines. A schedule indicates that you have committed to do a certain thing at a certain time. But a routine is a group of activities that can serve as a transition to or from a certain part of your day. Here is an example.

My morning routine serves as an on ramp from being in bed to being at my day job. I have several activities like dog walk, breakfast, play Jeopardy via Alexa with Bixby, specific readings, meditation, and my stretches. 

This is a routine because none of it is time bound. It just happens between when I put my feet on the floor and when I log into my day job. Of course it needs to be reasonable so I don’t get fired, but if I walk the dog at 5:45 am or 6:30 am, it doesn’t matter. It is not a schedule. 

This provides me with freedom on days I want to do yoga. Class is at 6:00 am. If I had a morning schedule that the dog had to be walked at 6:00 am, I would never be able to do yoga. That is not productive nor sustainable. Instead I just rearrange the activities in my routine into a different order on mornings I want to get to yoga. 

Think of time as bumpers, not electrified rails. You have a window of time to get activities done vs. electrocution if you divert any small amount.

The third rail is not a fun and inviting place to be. Source: Photo by Rémi Bertogliati on Unsplash

Returning to my morning routine example, I know I have between 5:30 am – 9:00 am to complete my routine. Some days I can knock it all out by 7:00 am. Some days I may or may not be stretching while my work computer fires up because it took longer to get my feet on the floor or spent longer on the dog walk. But if I viewed this as a schedule, and 5:40 am – 6:15 am was dog walk window and I did not get started until 5:45 am…

ZAP. Into the electric third rail. These are the things that lead us to ditch habits, feel like a failure, and want to escape our lives. 

One more thought on setting yourself up to pair your values and routines. 

Ideal Me or Real Me

Honor the Real You that you are today, not the Ideal You of shoulds and dreams. When building routines start where you are, not where the ideal version of you is. 

And please, I beg of you – if you only get this one thing as a takeaway from this weekly essay – do not do this with shame. There is no shame in what is the Real You today. Shame and judgement will derail every attempt to link your routines and values. 

Maybe the Ideal You has her digital files sorted and organized, photos up to date and backed up, only a few things on her laptop main screen. That is all well and good, but Real You is in the weeds with school aged kids and a full time job where there is management transition. Look at how you can combine values and routines to suit Real You.

  • That might be deleting 5 old files per week. 
  • Maybe it is spending 15 minutes of each kids’ practice time (while you are waiting anyway) deleting old photos you know you don’t want to back up. 
  • Real You might be able to just hire someone to handle it for you. 

Nowhere in this bulleted list does it say to shame yourself for not being able to keep up with digital clutter. That is not productive, nor sustainable. 

Sustainable You Questions

1) What couple activities could you reframe as routine instead of schedule?

2) Are there certain times of day that you feel a transition would help – morning, bed time for kids, bed time for you – these are popular places people address first.

3) Is what you consider “Ideal You” matching up to your values or is that what someone else told you the standard was?

By |2022-09-23T12:45:11-04:00October 4th, 2022|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Seasonal Transition – Fall 2022

Whether you call is the start of quarter 4, the autumnal equinox, or back to school, we are smack in the middle of a seasonal transition. I want to share what that looks like for me as I hope it will inspire you to think differently about planning.

Goodbye Summer

Seasonal transitions are not just about planning for what is coming up. It is putting an end cap on what just happened. For me this means practical things like cleaning out the pool bag I used all summer and Sustainable Productivity things like reviewing the quarter 3 habit tracker.

Take note of the sandwich bags of varying sizes. One for my iPad, one for my Kindle, one for a paperback book, and one for phone. I am ready to read ANYTHING at the pool – especially with those easy reader sunglasses in the middle. Not pictured: Bixby’s goggles that I stole to have as backup. I put them back before he noticed.

I would like to say I put some kind of ceremony around it or do something special, but I don’t. That would just be one more hurdle to getting it done. But if that brings you joy, please consider doing it. I know some people who love a trip to the coffee shop alone to do their habit check in. Or others who buy a new pool bag each year. They fine significant closure to throwing this year’s pool bag in the trash after thanking it for its service.

Find what works for you do the wrap up portion of the seasonal transition before looking ahead.

Hello Fall

Looking ahead in seasonal transitions seems more intuitive for most people. You may set quarterly goals or draft a list of fun things to do in the coming months. The biggest impact for me going from summer to fall is the change in weather. It was 48 degrees when I walked the dog this morning and I am still freezing. So part of our seasonal transition is getting the fire place ready to use and digging out the space heater for my office. I try to put this off as long as I can, but I think I have hit my limit.

One new thing I am doing for the 2022 seasonal transition is to make a fall fun list. This feels very out of character for me as I rarely whimsical. I am not the family fun planner. But now that I am 48 perhaps I don’t need to be a curmudgeon anymore!

I have no idea what to put on this list, but by putting it out into the world, I am inviting accountability to this new add to my seasonal transition checklist.

Your Turn

Help a sister out and let me know what is on your fall fun list!

By |2022-09-27T09:08:17-04:00September 29th, 2022|Mental Well-being|2 Comments

Seeking, Releasing Relationships

Weekly essays this month sure seem to surround the topic of seeking and releasing relationships. A more savvy writer would say it is because September is my wedding anniversary month and this is a very strategic plan of mine. Alas I am not that savvy writer. Here is a photo of us celebrating this month though. 

Bixby and I celebrating fourteen years of marriage!!

Talking on the podcast about friends, mentors, influencers, ways to foster relationships, and being a spiritual gangster has put me in a reflective mood about who I am connecting with these days. 

It is easy to let time slip by and all of a sudden it is months or years before you reach out to someone. Then it has been so long it feels insurmountably embarrassing. Which just compounds the issue because more time passes. 

Unless that is just me?

Today I want to look at both moving away from and towards different relationships. Healthy relationships are a component of the Mental Well-being pillar of Sustainable Productivity. Good relationships take effort and sometimes part of that effort is paring down what is not working – releasing those connections that are no longer lifting you up. 

Releasing Relationships

We all raised to not touch the hot stove, to not run into traffic. To avoid physical pain. This is the basis of thousands of years of evolution. Survival of the fittest. 

Did you know that relationships can affect our mental and physical health in similar ways.

Kross, et al published a study that shows physical pain and rejection show up similarly in the brain. When participants were asked to consider a recent rejection, the brain lit up just like brains have in 500 other studies of physical pain. This was not a small result either – this happened up to 88% of the time. 

Rejection hurts – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And sometimes we are the ones that realize we need to do the rejecting. 

Some relationships are for a season of our lives. I had teammates who I spent the majority of my waking hours with, but we eventually drifted away. Some divorces happen because the people grow apart. That does not mean that these relationships were wrong. Sometimes they just run their course. 

You may know what I mean. That lonely feeling you get in your gut when in a room full of people. Maybe you try to explain thoughts and feelings in different ways yet nothing really lands. Instead of trying to fit that square peg into a round hole, what if you considered spending less time with that relationship?

There’s no lonely quite as brutal as the lonely you feel when you’re surrounded by people. Meg Tietz

I would also like to float the idea that you might need to start with releasing relationships that are not working for you in order to make space for the ones you are seeking. This may leave you in the scary in between where it feels like you are alone. 

Trust me, you are never alone. 

Seeking Relationships

You are never alone because you always have your own true self. That inner voice that helps you decide what is meaningful, true, and Sustainably Productive. 

Some call this your conscience or God or the universe or even Jiminy Cricket. 

This core self is where you can always go to establish what is true for you. This is the space where healthy relationships grow from. If a relationship you are seeking connects with this space in your gut, it will feel more authentic and grounded.

Even when the public facing you feels surly and dark, you cannot escape from the light of the true you. I love how Natasha Smith puts it:

Nothing can separate you from the love of God. Not even you.

Sustainable You Questions

1. How do you feel in a room full of people? What are physical signs and symptoms that you might need to think of releasing relationships?

2. What is the first reaction you feel to the idea of sitting still for 5 minutes? Not necessarily meditation, but just being still. If you are anxious about this, why?

3. What is preventing you from seeking relationships that might help you feel seen and restored instead of burned out and empty?

By |2022-09-15T19:09:05-04:00September 27th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Eating Sustainably

On the surface eating sustainably could be viewed as for the environment only, but what about your personal environment – your health, home and happiness? 

On the podcast we talked about eating sustainably in a traditional sense – supporting local agencies and those with humane practices. I encourage you to listen to that episode here. I have had additional thoughts since we recorded about what sustainable eating means for each dimension of Sustainable Productivity (SusPro). That is what I want to explore more with you today. 

Click on the photo to go to the podcast episode page.

Health and Fitness: Nutrition

Nutrition is a component of the Health and Fitness SusPro dimension. The quality of nutrition has a direct impact on your health. It is probably the most intuitive connection to eating sustainably. 

Maybe you choose to eat meat – or not. Maybe you are gluten intolerant – or not. Regardless of what healthy eating means to you, the common theme is to make changes that are sustainable. As you make small adjustments to your nutrition, ask yourself the SusPro questions:

1. Am I getting the outcome I want?

2. Can I continue to do this lifelong if I want to?

If you eliminate a food group because you are trying to be healthy, but don’t have enough energy to be physically active are you really getting the outcome you want?

If you restrict calories thinking it is healthy, but you are hungry and irritated all the time is this something you can continue to do lifelong?

Eating sustainably is as much about habits as the food itself.

Mental Well-being: Relationships

Relationships are a component of the Mental Well-being SusPro dimension. Since food tends to be a natural gathering point, eating sustainably can have a direct impact here. What if you incorporate the idea of eating sustainably into your relationships?

Case Study 1.

Eating sustainably means making adjustments for the season of life you are in. Maybe fall means an especially busy couple months for your family. In order to eat healthy in a way that sustains your sanity, this fall means brown bags in the van or picnics at the ball field with your people. Instead of eating in shifts around games and practices, what if you gathered for 15 minutes in a park in between everyone’s destination to eat a cooler dinner. Young kids especially might be delighted by an al fresco dinner party.

Case study 2.

It is not too early to think about eating sustainably over the holidays. My husband’s family has a few football coaches in it. In order to give them (and their families) some breathing room these holidays, we are moving our gathering to January or February. What is important is gathering in a low stress time to eat together. One of the things I cherish most about these folks is that they are flexible and know what is important to them. I know so many families who implode if Christmas is not celebrated on December 25. Not my in laws. Sustainable relationships are gathering at a time when we can be focused on each other, not on the clock and having to rush off to the next thing.

Case study 3.

What if eating sustainably encompassed experiences with those you are in relationship with? My teenage niece had a slumber part this summer where they made pasta from scratch for their dinner. The idea of pulling these teens away from phones to interact with each other in the kitchen is what eating sustainably means to me. Then bonus when my niece went to visit my dad and she discovered Papa had a Kitchen Aid mixer too! I cried when my sister sent pictures of Sydney cooking for her grandpa. I am sure it is a core memory for him too.

Source: Disney Tumblr

Environmental Surroundings: Physical Clutter

Physical clutter is a component of the Environmental Surroundings SusPro dimension and certainly impacts eating sustainably. Although this has changed over the years, for us it has to do with how we meal plan – we are working on doing a better job at eating what we have. Setting up our physical space to support this is important. Here are a few ways we reduce our physical clutter to support eating sustainably.

1. Clear expired pantry food a couple times each year. I am always stunned to find out spices and hot sauce expire, but they do. Before I met Bixby I thought I was a bad cook. Turns out my spices expired in the 1990s. 

2. Pare down appliances. My husband does the cooking and is the gatekeeper to what tools come into his kitchen. He has a rule to not clutter the kitchen with one trick ponies. Garlic press can only press garlic. He has wicked knife skills so it takes less time for him to dice garlic than it does for me to clean the garlic press so out it went. 

3. Make things easier to find. We moved seldom used tools to a separate space. There is no need to move the cake decorating tools out of the way every time we need the pasta pot or immersion blender. The once or twice a year we need to decorate a cake, we can pull that box down from the higher shelf. 

Sustainable You Questions

1. Can you identify what eating sustainably means to you today, in this season of life?

2. How can you get more of that or reduce the barrier to getting more?

If you like what you read, you might like what you hear. Subscribe to the Conscious Contact podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. 

By |2022-09-13T13:42:51-04:00September 20th, 2022|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Sustainably Productive Friendships & Relationships

Healthy Relationships are part of a Sustainably Productive life. Isolation can interrupt sleep, increase blood pressure and cortisol (the stress hormone), and suppress the immune system. Cultivating these relationships can sometimes be tricky as there are several categories these relationships could fall into. The three I want to dive into more are Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors. The initial discussion on these three relationships was on Episode 16 of the Conscious Contact podcast. I had a lot of thoughts swirling around since then. I want to go into more detail here with you today. 

Think of these categories (Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors) as existing in concentric circles – like a bulls eye. The outer most ring is what the world pelts at us – social media, our local community, our workplace, TV, etc. It is appropriate to have differing levels of intimacy – different relationships on each ring of the bulls eye. But the inside of that bulls eye is closest to the core of you, the true version of yourself that even you might not have fully become aware of yet. 

Who gets access to that inner circle these days? Is that working for you? Is this something you can sustain lifelong if you choose to? The idea is not to make all of your relationships the deepest, it is to know what that relationship is for you and if it needs to slide back a ring. Be true to yourself and your need for connection. 

Let’s take a closer look at each ring.

Influencers

This is the outermost category of your bulls eye. These are the most impersonal relationships. Don’t get me wrong – I love the entertainment industry. I think we all need entertainment in our lives. But have a clear understanding of what those relationships are and be conscious of what you are allowing to seep in.

Online Influencers are the people who are given money or material items to get your eyeballs on a product in hopes you will shell out the cash. We don’t actually have the truth about whether they know, like or trust the product – just that they got something to tell you about it. You don’t know their true intention.

In the real world, influencers exist as well. I remember the first several visits I made to the kids’ elementary school after I first became step-mother. When I got dressed, walked in, and interacted with everyone I had a certain type of woman in mind. I was influenced by “good mothers” that I had seen dropping off their cherubs and volunteering. 

The truth is that I had zero connection with those mothers. Honestly – I don’t even know if they WERE mothers. They could have been teachers, staff, nannies or aunts. I was telling myself a story about what I saw, not necessarily about what I experienced

Fake Friends

When you take a step closer to your core, you encounter the category I call Fake Friends. Stay with me on this and focus on the Friend part, rather than the Fake part. I define a Fake Friend as someone I consider my friend, but they don’t actually know 1) I exist and/or 2) that they are my friend.

The examples I used on the podcast are Jessica Turner (you can read more about her here), Laura Tremaine (linked here), and Kendra Adachi (her podcast is linked here). I dedicate time each week to bond with my online Fake Friends as they release content for me to read and listen to.

Click on the image above to go to the Fake Friends episode to hear the original discussion about Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors.

But let me give you a few examples a little closer to my own life. The librarian I talk to on the regular when I pick up my books is doing her job. I assure you that she does not think about me for one more second once I print my book receipt and get out of her hair. But you cannot recommend such good books to me and not be my friend. I have that connection with  a few farmers at the market and Amanda at the yarn store. Here is the difference: My online Fake Friends and my real life Fake Friends have shared enough with me to know we have some kind of connection. 

Yarn store Amanda knows basics about my dad’s health stuff because she helped me pick out a knitting project and yarn to keep me going while I was in Indiana for an extended time. Then she shared some of her stuff to let me know she related to my situation. 

I was honest with a couple farmers about not liking vegetables, knowing zilch about prepping them, but showed interest in learning both. They shared about people in their family who did not eat what they grew either and suggested ways to get around that. 

Online is no different – Jessica, Laura and Kendra (we are on first name basis, naturally) have all shared some hard stuff and associated lessons in their writing and on podcasts. And Jessica even on the Today Show! I am sure there is more to each of their stories. I am sure there is stuff they do not share publicly. This is where the Fake part comes in. I am not deranged, I know these are not real friendships. But they are a part of the concentric circles of relationships. 

There is one more section to cover today – the people I call Mentors. 

Mentors

This is the inner most circle to your bulls eye. Your most trusted group of relationships – the ones that perhaps have seen you cry and / or vice versa. Sometimes my brain gets a little sideways and knowing I can run my reactions and responses by someone else who knows the body count is helpful. I call this my personal Board of Directors. 

These are relationships that I have in real life. Trusted women (plus Bixby) that I can bounce ideas off of. Bonus – I know the response coming back is filled with love, respect, and truth in a way that I can hear it. Couple things about this.

1) Yes, all women except my husband. For a long time I did not trust, truly know or like many women. This has shifted as I got older, and I cherish the women in my life now. 

2) My Board of Directors tells me the truth in a way I can hear it. This means they know me well enough to know what that means. Not the kiss and kick method of delivering feedback at work. Not a dump and run when and how it works for the message deliverer. Together we work through some hard shit. Emphasis on together. 

In summary, I want to suggest that you be aware of the relationships in your life and if they are helping you create a Sustainably Productive life. Stay connected to yourself in all of your relationships so that you can stay true to yourself. 

Sustainable Productivity Questions

1 – As with all things Sustainably Productive, I encourage you to start where you are. Think of dividing life into a pie chart. At the very minimum, a Sustainably Productive life would have equal division of Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors. Literally get a scrap piece of paper, draw a circle. Think about who you spent time with in the last 7 days. Which categories do these people fall into?

2 – How do you feel about this division? If the division is not working for you, what relationships fall into the category you want to impact first? Just identify what is not working. Small steps lead to bigger change.

If you like what you read, you might like what you hear. Subscribe to the Conscious Contact podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. 

By |2022-09-07T20:02:27-04:00September 13th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Inconvenience as Sustainable Productivity

People often think that as a productivity coach I offer hacks, tips, and tricks to get more done. 

Nope. I truly cannot stand the term, “hack.” 

I would rather help you find out how to do more of what matters and delegate the rest to the floor.  The message that I want you to hear is about SUSTAINABLE productivity, not just productivity. Sometimes sustainability is not convenient. Sometimes sustainability is not pleasing to other people. But this is your life. To paraphrase poet Mary Oliver, “What will you do with your wild and precious life?”

Disconnection

I would like to suggest you consider being / doing / consuming less convenience. Recently on the Conscious Contact Podcast, Genay and I talk about fast food – the convenience of it and how it encourages this “hurry up” type of life. Please hear this – convenience encouraging a “hurry up” life extends beyond fast food that does not satiate.

Here are a few non-food examples:

1 – One night stands don’t satiate the need for connection with others. 

2 – Over exercising doesn’t satiate the need for connection with our bodies. 

This lack of feeling satiated or satisfied leads to disconnection. That disconnection leads to feelings of needing to numb out or escape your life. You deserve to have more than this with your one wild, precious life. 

“Joy is a state of appreciation that allows us to fully participate in life.” Pema Chodron

Recovery

One way to inch toward creating more connection is to make small adjustments over time. This can be done in each dimension of Sustainable Productivity – health, happiness, and habitat. 

Health – Nutrition

In the podcast we go into depth about ways to move away from convenience food. But maybe smaller steps are needed to make the sustainable forward progress. Today maybe you eat fast food biscuits twice a week. What if one week you made the tube biscuits that pop on one day and had fast food biscuits one day. Try that for a few weeks, then you might have poppable biscuits at home both days. 

If that feels Sustainably Productive for you, experiment with biscuit recipes and move away from the tube biscuits. Connect with the process of cooking. Bank the money you save for a special reward – clothes, a movie, books are my favorite, of course. Include your people in the process to make the connection even more special.

Bixby and my niece making homemade ravioli over the summer.
The time Bixby taught my niece how to use a kitchen torch. It went deliciously well!

Happiness – Career

If you are feeling disconnected from your career, instead of quitting, consider what is not working for you. One of the most life changing things I learned about burnout came from Jim Loehr in the book The Power of Full Engagement, “If you never fully disconnect, you can never really connect.”

Do you sneak looks at your work email after dinner on your phone while watching TV with your kids? Do you work on that one report “real quick” on Sunday morning instead of going to church with your spouse because you are golfing later? How often do you lose sleep because you are replaying work conversations in your head?

Not productive. Not sustainable. 

What are small ways you can work on disconnecting in order to make connection that much more special? Here are a few things that worked for me when I was at a particularly burned out point in my career:

I took lunch away from my desk with no coworkers. Even if it was just 15 minutes to eat my brown bag lunch on a bench or in my car, the break was impactful.

Put limits on weekend work. I had to ween myself off weekend work. Only Sundays for awhile, then only Sunday afternoon, then only what I could bring home, then only an hour. Until I stopped weekend work completely. Cold turkey is hard – use a step down approach when needed.

Double the time you think it will take to do ANYTHING. If you block 30 minutes to work on that performance review, expand it to an hour. We have a tendency to overestimate ourselves and underestimate the task. 

Habitat – Physical clutter

If your home is feeling cluttered, instead of doing a trash bag shovel out disconnecting with ALL the stuff, consider what specifically is not working. 

Do you have a cabinet that has stuff fall out every time you open it? Is your sock drawer so stuffed you cannot open it? If you need to start smaller, take 10 minutes to wander around your home with a piece of paper and pen. Open cabinets and drawers, look at the memorabilia on shelves and photos on walls. Does your environment give you the vibe you are going for? If not, what is 1 area that you know you cannot accept lifelong – start there. 

Sustainable You Questions

1 – Do you seek out convenience so that you can jam more activities into less time? Why do you think that is?

2 – How is that working for you? How does that feel in your body at the moment you are jamming things into less time? 

If you like what you read, you might like what you hear. Subscribe to the Conscious Contact podcast on Apple podcast, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. 

By |2022-09-05T14:30:42-04:00September 6th, 2022|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Procrastination, Part 2 – A SusPro Case Study

Sometimes procrastination happens because the goal feels (and often is) insurmountable to accomplish in 1 step. You cannot leap from point A to point B, but you can take 10 small steps to get you from point A to point B. This is the power of small steps.

This is part 2 about procrastination. You can read part 1 here, although it is not necessary to understand part 2. But with all things, starting with why is usually your best bet. Part 1 deconstructs some of the why behind procrastination.


Sometimes procrastination happens because it feels overwhelming to have to stop and figure out how to break the goal into smaller steps. This is the power of a Sustainable Productivity (SusPro) case study!

Non-SusPro Scenario
In March of this year I completed my employee health screening for my day job. The results were poor – my blood pressure, blood sugar and weight were each at an all time high. This information about my weight made sense considering how my joints were feeling – especially my knees and hips.

This was not the result I wanted and this was not something I could continue lifelong. This was not a SusPro lifestyle.

Adjustments
These days you cannot swing a dead cat without hitting ads for weight loss. I have a Masters degree in Exercise Physiology and have coached enough people to know one of the least SusPro goals you can set is, “LOSE WEIGHT.” This often leads to short term, unhealthy fixes

Sure it is productive – you get the weight loss result you want. But it is not sustainable – you cannot continue it long term. Eventually the unhealthy fix catches up to you.

So I looked at what was not working – food, exercise and stress – and made a few adjustments to each.

Adjustment 1 – Eat more fruits and veggies. This alone is not a SMART goal, but applying the small, sustainable steps idea made it so.

In March I was not eating much if any fruits and vegetables. So in March my goal was 1 serving per day. I tracked this in the MyFitnessPal app. In April I upped it to 2 servings per day. May’s goal was 3 servings per day, but by then I had started my breakfast smoothie routine which gets my 5 servings per day – before I even wake up enough to remember I don’t really like fruits and vegetables!

Adjustment 2 – Move more. Same situation here – “more” is not really a SMART goal, but I started where I was and made small adjustments each week, tracking on my daily habit tracker.

I was mostly just doing my daily dog walk in March. Luckily this is the time of year where I live that the weather starts to improve. I started road biking more often (increasing by 10% longer time per week). And I got back in the hot yoga room.

Adjustment 3 – Have more fun. This one was a head scratcher for a bit. How do you quantify “fun?” How do you know when you get more of it?

I took the SusPro approach to see what was NOT working. Around this time I had a bit of a meltdown with Bixby where I was whining (perhaps shouting) about how much I hated the time we lost to the TV. I felt like a sloth every night collapsing into the couch for a couple hours with my phone and the remote.

Not productive. Not sustainable. Not fun.

But it sure was time I could count on. Different people might leave the house after dinner to conquer the world, but not us. I decided to work with where I was and use this brain suck time to boost my fun.

I started to designate a craft as TV time craft. Knitting, painting, hand sewing are my current favorites. I might be able to take that knitting project in the car on a road trip, but nope – it is my TV time craft.

So far it is working and I have lots of scarves to donate or gift.

Yarn from a trip to Black Mountain, NC wound and ready for TV Time Crafting!

Results and Readjustments
Although this message is more about the process of breaking goals into small steps, not telling you the result would be like a Choose Your Own Adventure Book without which page to turn to.


I had my annual physical with my doctor a few weeks ago (about 4 months after my work screening). My weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar are all down significantly. And you already know about the scarf pile from Tv time crafts. Fun increase for sure.

I talked about a few adjustments in the Summer Status Update and will be making a few more as we move into Fall. Notice these are adjustments – not just doing MORE MORE MORE or eating LESS LESS LESS. For example, as the weather turns colder, what adjustments will be made with biking. Stay tuned!

Sustainable You Questions
1. Is there an area of Health, Happiness, or Home that is not working for you right now or that feels unsustainable?
2. Where do you want to be in 4 months?
3. What small step could at least lean you in that direction?

By |2022-08-27T08:49:09-04:00August 30th, 2022|Habit Change|0 Comments

Making Extremism Sustainably Productive

Recently my cohost and I unpacked Extremism on the Conscious Contact podcast. Extremism is the idea of choosing a side and believing the other side is garbage. It is black and white thinking that often dismisses the whole other argument, not even considering there could be a thread of value. 

This was not a super comfortable discussion for me, and I was not looking forward to it as the day of recording approached. 

For decades my MO was to skim along the surface of a discussion long enough to be socially acceptable, then bolt. Ironically those are also the decades where I had no opinions of my own. In all of my relationships (as a daughter, employee, partner, friend) I liked what you liked. I believed what you believed.

Spoiler Alert: This is not the sign of a functional relationship. 

“When we avoid difficult conversations, we trade short-term discomfort for long-term dysfunction.” Peter Bromberg

Difficult conversations and disagreements are a natural part of healthy relationships. And healthy relationships are a component of the Mental Well-being dimension of Sustainable Productivity. When we return to our basic definition of Sustainable Productivity, this tracks. Take for example, 20 to 40 year old Sue and her go along to get along attitude. 

Is it Productive: Are you getting the result you want?

Is it Sustainable: Can you continue lifelong if you want?

Along the surface, sure – being agreeable was getting people to like me. But they were really just liking the Sue that agreed with them – not necessarily the real me. Taking it a step further, today I believe that not knowing the real me is also not sustainable.

That is how this whole writing and podcasting thing was born. I started making small adjustments to live a life I did not need to escape. One of those is having hard conversations with people who I trust and feel safe with.

Here are a few things that help me have these difficult conversations. Maybe they will help you too.

1 – Acknowledge out loud the conversation is hard for you. Verbalizing that the words are stuck in my throat helps the other person understand what the pauses mean and why my words are coming slowly.

2 – Breathe. Often my first thought is wrong. Breathing gives me a chance to respond using my second (or third) thought instead of reacting. Breathing also loosens the words stuck in my throat. Bonus if I am in a setting where I don’t feel ok to cry. Breathing will even out my voice to avoid the crack that always comes when I am emotional. 

3 – Set a time limit. If you don’t think ahead to set a certain amount of time to talk and you find yourself needing a break, voice that. I have said, “I need to take a break here. I want to hear more of what you have to say, can we come back together at 5pm to talk about this again?”

Now it is your turn. Take a few minutes to answer the following questions – either in your journal, in your mind on your daily dog walk, email me at Susan@SustainableSue.com or on social media. The more we talk about the hard things, the less extreme they will feel. 

Sustainable Productivity Questions

1 – Are there topics in your life where you trend toward Extremism?

2 – After listening to the podcast (Season 2, Episode 13), is there one small adjustment you can take to your relationships to make them more work for you in a way you can continue?

Click the icon above to go to listen to the Extremism episode.
By |2022-08-22T10:53:04-04:00August 23rd, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

The Power of Words

As part of the on ramp to my days, I read a couple daily devotion books, meditate, then read a non-fiction book for 5-10 minutes. I was recently struck by how powerful these words were that described an individual’s spiritual awakening. Perhaps this landed so strongly with me because I fancy myself a gardener and love all things nature. But the phrasing and imagery expressed was so beautiful, I had to share it.

“He was on different footing. His roots grasped a new soil.”

Think about transplanting the treasures from the plastic store pots to our gardens. We amend the soil and make the most hospitable home for our newly found plant friends to thrive and grow. This is the analogy described here, “…grasped a new soil.” When we make those Sustainably Productive (Sus Pro) small adjustments, we allow ourselves to grasp new soil, to take root inch by inch in a new way of living.

“It melted the icy intellectual mountain in whose shadow I had lived and shivered many years. I stood in the sunlight at last.”

I don’t know about you, but I am often too smart for my own good. While I am full of righteous indignation, I am on the mountain top alone. And it is cold up there. By giving up what we must, we can melt that icy exterior of our protective walls and step into the sunlight.

And we can do this as many times as it takes.

“I ruthlessly faced my sins and became willing to have my new-found Friend take them away, root and branch.”

Source: photo by József Koller on Unsplash 

Please tell me I am not the only one whose weed pulling never ends. Pruning branches, removing volunteer plants, weeding, weeding weeding – it does not end. But we do have a better chance at removing the offender if we take the time to dig to get to the bottom of the root. We may not get as many weeds, but if we ruthlessly get to the bottom of one at a time, we will slowly make a difference.

The same can be said for the things that do not serve us anymore. Do we have attitudes that are no longer productive? What about habits that are not sustainable? In order to get rid of them and make way for more Sus Pro habits, we need to remove them root and branch. With thorough interrogation as to why they took root there in the first place. Perhaps you were raised to believe you could not take a rest and always had to be busy. Maybe being perceived as overweight was shamed in your family growing up. Some people feel an expectation to never say I don’t know. Get to the root of the issue to eradicate it.

“I felt lifted up, as though the great clean wind of a mountain top blew through and through.”

As much as I love summer, the cold bracing air of a winter wind does feel cleansing. Especially when it is accompanied by a piercing blue sky and a fresh dumping of snow. That is the image I can see and feel – almost even smell! – when I read about the “great clean wind of a mountain top”.


Source: photo by Hendrik Morkel on Unsplash 

Imagine being in the sunlight of the spirit having cleared out your side of the street and feeling that cleansing wind on your face.

Sustainable Productivity Questions

1 – When is the last time you read something that resonated with your senses, not just your mind?

2 – What was it that connected with you and how can you get more of it?

3 – If you have not felt connected like that in some time, where can you make some changes to seek out authentic connection?

By |2022-09-18T10:00:32-04:00August 16th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Summer Status Update

We have about 1 month left of summer so I want to do a short check in to help us finish the season strong as we intend to. It does not have to be strong. This is not Coach Sue yelling, “Sprint through the finish line!!”

I want to encourage you to check in with what you intended this summer season to be and see if it is Sustainably Productive.

1 – Is it productive? Are you getting the result you want?

2 – Is it sustainable? Can you continue lifelong if you want?

If the answer to either of these questions is no, then it is time to consider mall adjustments you can make to improve the outcome. Here is my summer status update broken down by each dimension on Sustainable Productivity (SusPro) to encourage you to do a check in on your season.

Health and Fitness

I set a goal to eat 5 fruits and vegetables each day. I am definitely hitting this average. More days than not I start the day with a smoothie that has all 5 servings in it. Adding in a couple more fruit servings as a snack puts me over the top and boosts that average for days I skip the smoothie. There is really not a recipe, but here is what I put in the blender this morning:

  • 1 banana
  • 1/4 frozen raspberries
  • 1 frozen peach, quartered
  • 2 fist fulls of baby spinach
  • 1/3 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 2 T flax seed
  • 1/2 cup OJ

One adjustment I would like to make is related to exercise. I swim laps at our neighborhood pool in the summer. I would like to increase my lap swimming since the pool will only be open for about 6 more weeks.

Mental Well-being

Hobbies have been on fire this summer. Knitting, sewing, quilting, reading, and gardening have all served me well. Relationships component doing well as I got to spend a week with my sister and nieces, quality time with my daughter as she is home for the summer from college, had a great dinner with my in laws and have a date planned with my mother in law next week. I started a new volunteer gig this summer as well.

Career wise I am loving the new opportunity to podcast as cohost of the Conscious Contact Podcast. It is helping to churn lots of creative ideas for the future of Sustainable Sue as well.

The adjustment I would like to start now in the summer and continue to work on in the fall is with my day job. I am not sure how to monitor progress here, but I need to untie my self-worth from the job’s outcome.

Environmental Surroundings

Ironically here is where I have shoved unsuccessful attempts in the proverbial closet to hide. I was targeting to clear a certain amount of digital clutter each week. I am carrying a big fat 10% success rate in this area. I am not really mad about it – there just have been more interesting things to do and the clutter is not on fire. I imagine that in the fall and winter when I am not outside as much this will improve.

I do want to make an intentional effort in the last few weeks of the summer season to do some cleaning. A little late for spring cleaning, but …. here we are. Seems reasonable that in the next 4 weeks I can purge and deep clean 2 freezers, the pantry, and the coat closet. I will check back in to let you know how it goes.

Sustainable You Questions

  1. What about your summer is SusPro – working for you and sustainable?
  2. As the summer is winding down, what adjustments do you want to make?
By |2022-09-18T10:00:43-04:00August 9th, 2022|Habit Change|0 Comments

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