Out of Office

I am taking 2 weeks away to take a step back and recharge. Circle the wagons, if you will. I am taking time off from my day job during Thanksgiving week and plan to hit all the dimensions of a Sustainably Productive life.

  • Health and Fitness: hikes in the woods with Lucille, followed by naps.
  • Mental Well-being: lots of time on hobbies, including crafting with friends.
  • Environmental Surroundings: clearing mismatched Tupperware and putting up Christmas decorations.

I wish you a relaxing start to your holiday season. I hope you take time to recharge, even if you have to say no to a few fun things to create more space in the long run.

By |2021-11-15T19:52:16-05:00November 16th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Time to Slow Down

And every day, the world will drag you by the hand yelling,

‘This is important!

And this is important!

You need to worry about this!

And this!

And that!’

And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say,

‘No, THIS is what’s important!’

Lain Thomasa

By |2021-11-08T19:43:37-05:00November 9th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Pockets of Joy

Finding joy in a day does not have cost a penny. I was trying to think of something to do that would be fulfilling, free, and somewhat low key.

Solution: The public library.

If you don’t have a library card, stop reading right now and go get one.

I went in thinking I might just wander around and soak in the library vibes – it’s been awhile since I have actually been IN a library. Pros and cons of Kindles I guess.

I accidentally left with 6 books all due in 14 days with no option to renew. And I am not sorry about it.

By |2021-11-01T17:02:40-04:00November 2nd, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Fuel, Heat, and Oxygen for your Soul

Remember a couple weeks ago when I said I was living life on a banana peel and only doing crafts to try to make some proverbial space?

Leave it to the queens of authenticity and vulnerability to say it better. Glennon Doyle’s podcast is one of the best things out there. Last week’s episodes touched on this idea of creativity and making space, and said it in a way that resonates all the way to my gut.

The first episode of the week talked about creativity, “Writing & Art: When does your real self get to breathe and be seen?” This really made me think about when I write posts that let my real self breathe vs when I am writing to teach. What is my mission and purpose for this space I write in each week? Do I need to change how I am approaching content that I put out?

Then the second episode of the week was Glennon’s sister Amanda’s view on creativity and generally being “non-productive.” In the episode, “Creativity, Chemistry & Claiming Your Joy,” Amanda talked about a recent valley she was in and the realization that it is not her family’s fault – she needs to take ownership of her needs.

She talked about that need with the metaphor of fire. Fire takes fuel, heat, and oxygen. Without letting oxygen in, the flame dies. You need space for oxygen to come in to fan the fire. Creative pursuits are the fuel and your desire to be creative is the heat.

I have the desire and the fuel. But man that O2 is tough to come by these days.

And life is smothering lately.

And what helps when I am smothered is to do things that breathe life into my soul. These 2 podcasts are such a more eloquent way to say how I feel. I hope you find it helpful as well. The podcasts are well worth the listen.

By |2021-10-26T07:04:01-04:00October 26th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

When Home Changes

The definition of home can change over the years. It is hard to have to let go of “homes” that no longer serve you, represent you, or match your definition of home.

This could be shifting roles in family life, friend groups changing, additional job responsibilities or countless other ways your settled “homey” feelings are kicked off their axis.

It might not be as dramatic as your daily schedule proverbially burning down or moving to a new literal home. It might be a subtle nagging that time spent in a space or relationship is no longer the soft place to fall that you thought it was.

When we think about this through the Sustainable Productivity (SusPro) lens, it means to ask yourself two questions:

  • Is it productive for me: Am I getting the desired outcome?
  • Is it sustainable for me: Can I continue this lifelong if I want?

If the answer to either one of these SusPro questions is no, it is time for an adjustment.

3-Step Adjustment

Once you decide something is no longer Sustainably Productive for you, you can take action through these small, manageable steps. This is not the time to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Sweeping, dramatic changes are not SusPro and often lead to burnout and negative self-talk. Not to mention don’t solve the problem that brought the need for change in the first place.

1 – Name what is not working

This could look and feel a million different ways depending on the issue and your life circumstances. Don’t overthink it. It could be activities just not fitting into the schedule this season. Maybe it is feeling drained after drinks with friends instead of fulfilled. Never quite finding time to reading the selection for book club – for a whole year.

Don’t judge what you name – let it be what comes up. No matter how trivial, petty, or small it might be.

2 – Make small changes

Once you name what is not working, brainstorm ways to make small SusPro changes. Don’t quit book club altogether, let the group know you can only commit to every other month. Instead of always having drinks with that One Friend, maybe ask that mom you see at band pick up if she wants to grab coffee. Or go have coffee with yourself instead of someone who leaves you drained.

If you are not sure how to make a change to what is eating your lunch every day, keep an eye out for when you DO feel at home. Certain clothing, rooms in your home, smells, people, activities, etc. How can you add more of that? Maybe you don’t need to stop having drinks with that friend, but you try to add other people, change to dessert earlier in the night, or just wear different pants!

3 – Evaluate

After a few rounds of your small changes, decide if it is working or not. This could be several months if you are backing off of book club, but it could be days if you are trying steel cut oats for breakfast instead of donuts. Take yourself full circle as ask the SusPro questions:

  • Is it productive for me: Am I getting the desired outcome?
  • Is it sustainable for me: Can I continue this lifelong if I want?

If the answer to either one of these SusPro questions is no, it is time for an adjustment.

Keep in mind the answer might be MAYBE. If you are not able to say no, keep going and see what develops. You might just be in the stage of habit change where you are resetting routines and neural pathways. Give it time to bake in before deciding.

Your Turn

Are you feeling comfortable in your literal and proverbial “home” these days? If so – identify why and what makes you feel at home. If not – what is not working and what small changes can you make?

By |2021-10-18T17:27:14-04:00October 19th, 2021|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Limping Through Life?

When living life on a banana peel, one must move very slowly. If at all.

Here is a rundown of what is not getting done:

  • House cleaning
  • Sustainable Sue content planning
  • Bike rides
  • Uninterrupted night’s sleep
  • Weed pulling
  • Showering
  • Meal planning
  • Reading multiple books in a week

Live footage of me finishing last week:

Source: Giphy, of course

We are down to the basics, and I must add crafting as one of my basics to keep afloat. I am taking this tip from a couple friends who craft to manage their stress levels too.

Above: Sumo wrestler relaxes between matches by cross stitching (Source unknown). Right: Tom Daley, British Olympic diver manages stress at events by knitting (Source: Instagram)

 

NOTE: Before I go further I want to acknowledge all the privilege that I have that allows me to manage mental health. I have money to afford hobbies or therapy, no kids at home to feed when I just want to eat ice cream for dinner, and a job where I work at home and can lie down during my lunch hour if I need to.

My Floors Are Not Clean But…

Here is a snapshot of what that is getting me through these tough days.

1 – English paper piecing is a quilting / sewing technique that I learned at my local quilt shop. I have several projects in mind including a quilt I may try to sell and small handbags for my nieces. Bonus is using up fabric scraps AND scrapbook paper from my stash. Yay for free crafts!

2 – I learned to knit in August and finished a scarf as my first project. I bought some practice yarn scraps from Reconsidered Goods (think Goodwill shop for all things crafts). I worked on my stitching for awhile before purchasing nice yard for a blanket I want to make for a couch we purchased earlier this year. Lucille is a big fan of knitting too, as you can see.

I like this craft because I can carry it easily in a single bag and it is easily contained to do on long car trips or in waiting rooms and such.

3 – I have wanted to make a puff quilt since seeing it on social media. Turns out Lo and Behold Stitchery has a free pattern that includes a video tutorial! This quilt is 720 squares of shades of Christmas colors, plus backing and binding that I was all able to pull from my fabric stash. I really loved using the stash because half of the squares are never seen so I could use some of the less favorite fabric that was in my mom’s stash that I inherited. There is also some fabric from her that is just so old it is hard to work with. I could not part with it, but this way I can use it and it just does not matter how janky it turns out!

Here is my puff-in-progress.

The purpose of this post is not to shame you into thinking you * should * be doing crafts too. This post is a reminder to myself that what I am doing today is enough. I hope you have something in your life that brings light to your days.

Be easy on yourself and others.

Your Turn

What could you stop doing to give yourself a break? What can you start doing to give yourself a break?

By |2021-10-11T19:11:05-04:00October 12th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Fitness Without a Finish Line

I want to share some words with you a little differently this week. Kindred Mom blog invited me to talk about redefining strong, brave and beautiful in the second half of life. I shared about the Sustainable Productivity concept of  “fitness without a finish line” and then recorded it as a podcast with them. You can find this piece here. I hope you enjoy it. Here is a small excerpt:

My 45 year old belly I see in the studio mirror is far from the six pack abs that belonged to the collegiate athlete who was weighed each week and when she hit her (coach’s arbitrary) scale goal was told to start dropping body fat. Young Susan did as she was told – mostly through high intensity cardiovascular workouts which were part of pre-season/in-season/post-season/off-season training programs anyway. And let me tell you––if it was on the training schedule it got done. If there is one thing Young Susan (and sometimes Today Susan, if I am being honest) loved, it was a gold star.

Health and Fitness

By |2021-10-05T08:53:13-04:00October 5th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

A Very Important Question for You

How are you? No, like really – how are you?

We are turning the corner on 18 months of a global pandemic. Layer that with a social justice revolution, a contentious political election, a coupe attempt, and all the personal upheaval that does not get paraded across the nightly news…

Well, it is a lot.

And I know you are the ones keeping the plates spinning.

So how are you really?

I had quite a few plates crash at various points of 2020, then 2021. I wanted to share a couple things that are helping me in case they help you too.

Grounding Routines

While morning routines are all the rage and do indeed have their place in starting your day, I want to suggest a routine that you can do at any time. And to be clear, I am playing fast and loose with the word “routine.”

Routines do not have to be long and involved. Last year at this time I was balking at the routine I had created because it took too long. By taking the Sustainable Productivity (SusPro) approach, I pared down the routine to what was  truly SusPro.

And I still felt it was too long – because I should this and shouldn’t that. Blah blah blah. Then I came across this article talking about since so many people are working at home now we could fake our commute. It occurred to me that my morning routine was still half that time that I was spending on driving to the office before the pandemic. This subtle shift weirdly gave me permission.

Now I have a series of activities I do in before work and another for after work.

But these grounding activities don’t have to be time consuming or even a series of events. Let’s talk about something even more simple.

Quick Hits

1 – A short walk is a game changer. I am not talking about anything Apple Watch worthy. Just put on your sneakers and move your body. Physical activity has been shown to boost mood and reduce depression. I often find it helps me overcome inertia on the nights we have eaten dinner in front of the TV, then get sucked into Netflix. We are more likely to leave the TV off when we come home. With the TV off I will craft or read or – gasp! Even talk with my spouse!

Source unknown, but I know it was not me. I would love to give credit where it is due – let me know!

2 – We covered gratitude lists in last week’s essay. Simply jotting down when you are grateful for is a quick hit that can ground you any time during your day. I also heard a suggestion to offset each complaint with a gratitude. Find yourself complaining about the heat? Offset with gratitude you can afford air conditioning. Crabby about the line at the grocery? Give thanks (even if just in your thoughts) for having food available to you.

If you are looking for accountability, set a reminder on your phone and post your list to the Sustainable Sue Facebook page each day!

3 – Yes all of this aside, you may only have time for this last quick hit: b r e a t h e.  Instead of walking into school to pick up your kids while answering a text, leave your phone in your bag and take a deep breath. Hold it for a few seconds, then slowly exhale. Maybe even get crazy and do it again!

What would it feel like to give yourself 10 more seconds in the bathroom between meetings to breathe? After running car pool and errands is it really true that you cannot spare 20 seconds before going into the house to take 2 deep, slow breaths?

Your Turn

What about you? How do you ground yourself in a moment of chaos? Or just tell me how you really are.

By |2021-09-26T10:08:15-04:00September 28th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

What SusPro is Not

Let’s pause for a moment in our personal growth to clarify what Sustainable Productivity is NOT.

Getting More Done

The Sustainably Productive (Sus Pro) life is not about getting more done.

I repeat – it is NOT about getting MORE done.

It is about getting the right things done in a way that you can maintain over time so that you don’t need to numb yourself to live your life.

It is right there in the name: Sustainable Productivity. SusPro for short.

Productive: Are you getting the intended result?

Sustainable: Can you continue this over time?

A Sustainably Productive life is one you don’t need to escape.

A Destination

A SusPro life is not a destination. It is something you can do now. Today. This moment. Start by asking yourself 2 questions:

  1. Is this working for me?
  2. Can I maintain it for life if I want to?

If the answer to either of these questions is no, then it is time to make adjustments. These adjustments are also part of the SusPro life. It is a path to walk, not a place to go. Start where you are.

Protection Against Bad Things Happening

The third thing SusPro is not is protection against bad things happening. Living a SusPro life is not about perfection – you will probably backslide into overcommitting or people pleasing. It does not mean you won’t sometimes feel prickly or judgy. But prickly and judgy is neither productive nor sustainable. Don’t stop here.

What I would like to suggest is that when bad things happen, when you feel prickly and judgy – that is a time to take stock in what you have and how far you have come. This is the time to rest on your laurels and find gratitude.

Your Turn

What is your version of prickly and judgy? How do you know when you need to pause and be grateful? What are you grateful for today, in this moment?

By |2021-09-19T08:44:30-04:00September 21st, 2021|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

4 Ways to Find More Time to Read

One of the most common questions I get it HOW DO YOU READ SO MANY BOOKS!?

Left to right.

hahahahaha. Ahem.

It is natural for me because reading is one of my favorite hobbies. It serves as entertainment, distraction, escape, and personal growth. Reading has always been encouraged in my family. We often trade books and talk about what we are reading.

But I know that is not reality for everyone. Often people grow up only reading the books school requires or going to bed with no stories read to them or generally reading not being a value. When people with these reading histories ask me how I read so many books, they are often asking how I find the time to read so much.

I want to share a few suggestions on different ways I have fit reading into my schedule during different seasons of life. Reading looked different when I was a parent to school-aged kiddos compared to my current empty nest life. When I was a full time grad student also working full time, fun reading looked really different to times when I was between jobs for a several weeks. Vacations vs. work days. Winter vs. summer. All of these are variables that impact reading, but there are some common tools and tricks that might help you find more time to read.

Timers

You will be amazed at how quickly you can get through a book by reading only 20 minutes per day. Set a timer for 20 minutes and over a couple weeks you will be able to get through a 300-page book. If you don’t think you have 20 minutes in your day, I gently suggest that you look at the report on your phone that tells you how much time you spend on different apps, particularly social media.

If you truly don’t have 20 minutes, what about 10 minutes? I have family members who spend more time than that on the toilet everyday.

Identify small pockets of time

A corollary to the 20-minute suggestion is to identify pockets of time where you wait. These could be small pockets of time that occur naturally throughout your day. Car pool lines, picking up groceries, waiting for dinner to cook / water to boil, while the coffee percolates.

You also could manufacture small pockets of time for you to fit some reading in. Arriving to an appointment extra early, placing your dinner order at the restaurant instead of calling ahead. Yes – generally being “inefficient.” But is it truly inefficient if it is building in time for a hobby that brings you joy?

Different formats

If you find yourself without time to pick up a book, maybe switching to audiobook would work for you. Are you in  “Mom’s Taxi” years of parenting? The car is a great place to engage in audiobooks. A Kindle is a great option for readers on the move. Often a book is cumbersome to carry around, but a Kindle can hold hundreds of books and easily fit into a purse or briefcase.
Perhaps the fiction books you are reading are not really landing with you lately or you lose track of fiction books on audio. Switch to non-fiction. Putting down romance for historical fiction or sci fi might reignite your love of books. Burnt out on non-fiction self-help? Pick up memoir to break out of your rut.

Keep a list of suggestions

What happens when you identify small pockets of time, set your timer and then can’t decide what to read? Plan ahead for this eventuality by keeping a list of book recommendations. You probably have come across suggestions in magazines, podcasts, this blog, friends, and more. Keep these suggestions in 1 location so you can grab a title when you are stumped.
Some readers like a simple notebook to list their To Be Read books. Others use a Word document or Excel list. I use the app Goodreads. You can read more about this decision here.

Your Turn

If you are a regular reader, how do you make time in your day? If you are not, what is keeping you from reading more?
By |2021-09-12T19:58:05-04:00September 14th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

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