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

Habit Change Strategies

I do not do any house cleaning.

I make more than average dollars at my job – enough to pay for cleaners (although we do not have cleaners for another zillion reasons). I gain satisfaction (and sometimes anger management if I am being honest) from cleaning. But when given a choice on a weekend to read or clean, go to the pool or clean, nap or clean, ride my bike or clean, write or clean, etc., cleaning usually comes out on the short end of the wishbone.

Caveat – kitchen clean up is different. We have talked about this before – Bixby cooks, I clean. I do not consider this cleaning, per se. It is really more the end of dinner.

But alas, once a year I come out of cleaning retirement for one specific task. Cleaning the blinds.

I don’t know why that is my task, but it is. Sure I could hire it out, but I don’t. And yes, it should probably be done more often than annually (especially as an asthmatic with a dog). But alas, this is the season. Me cleaning the blinds annually is Sustainably Productive (SusPro).

Setting the Stage

This literally takes me all day. We have 26 windows in our house and most of them are 6 foot tall. This is 36 slats per window for a total of just under 1,000 slats.

Each slat is wiped individually.

Plus wiping the window sill and above the window, plus changing the water every 3 windows (dumping water in the outdoor plants to save Mother Earth), plus moving furniture and standing the whole time and standing is hard on my knees, hips, and back.

Have I complained enough yet?

What I mean to do here is to say it takes some trickery strategy to get myself to have bucket in hand.

Enter habit change strategy.

Habit Change Strategy

James Clear teaches his 2nd Law “Make It Attractive” in his book Atomic Habits. To get the blinds done, I need not only a big fat carrot, but I need that carrot to be dipped in the most delicious ranch dressing in the world. Here are some of the strategies I used.

  • Pairing. I do not buy books very often – definitely not audiobooks since I cannot share them when I am done. But I needed a little extra something to get through my cleaning chore. I decided I would buy an audiobook to pair with my unfun chore.

Once I made the decision to buy an audiobook, I was a little stumped as to what to buy from the 500+ books on my TBR. Then one of my book mentors, Laura Tremaine, posted a podcast about what she THOUGHT was going to happen in one of the buzziest books of the summer. Done and done.

Listening to Who Is Maud Dixon made the day much more enjoyable. I also was motivated to keep going because I wanted to hear what Laura thought the twist would be.

  • Partner. Often getting started on an unfun task can be a deal breaker. I recruited a partner for this step of habit change. Over breakfast on the big day, I enlisted Bixby in my efforts to get over my inertia. I knew he had some house cleaning to do (his usually weekend list – see previous, I do none) so I asked if we could hit the ground running on our individual cleaning chores. This felt like we were tackling a project together – us vs. Dirt, if you will.

Bonus was that he got me set up with my audiobook as well. It is nice when your housekeeper is also tech support. Setting up the tech is often a barrier to moving forward.

  • Powerful Rewards. By the end of the 6 hours of slats, I was wiped (get it – wiped, like the slats? Tired? Wiped?). I did not just want a reward, I wanted a powerful reward. By this time I wanted carrot cake, not just a carrot. Proverbial carrot cake to return to the point I was making. Real carrot cake is gross.

My original plan was a reward of ice cream sandwich at the pool while reading another book, but I took too long on the blinds and did not have time. So my reward took shape the next day. I had no shoulds all day. Sure, I did get some “chores” done, but it was all based on my wants and timeline. All day I bounced around from knitting to reading a magazine to pulling weeds to lunch prep for the week to reading at the pool.

The key to powerful rewards is that they take the shape of what is important to you in that moment. This is what separates rewards from powerful rewards. Puttering around would not have been a reward on cleaning day – I was too tired. Plus I did not have but a couple hours left in the day. But puttering around the whole next day was a true delight.

Your Turn

Do you have a chore or habit that you are trying to get some traction on? Maybe pairing, partner or powerful rewards would help you! Try it and let me know.

By |2021-09-06T10:13:28-04:00September 7th, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

Aaaaaaannd….ACTION!

I know we talk about about rest a lot around here. All of that is true.

And sometimes it is true that we need to take action.

“The Gambler” Approach

You know the Kenny Rogers song, “You got to know when to hold ’em; Know when to fold ’em; Know when to walk away; Know when to run.”

When you know you know.

Take time to get quiet enough to hear that voice in your gut – forget your head. Listen to your gut. It might be telling you….

  • To make that doctor appointment.
  • Just go walk for 10 minutes, you can quit after that.
  • Drinking like this is not healthy.
  • Sign up for that class already.
  • Quit.
  • Start.

Dealing with Barriers

What is keeping you from getting up and taking action? Are they true or are they just what you are telling yourself? Here are common barriers I hear about.

  1. Time. While it is true that time is finite, I wonder there are ways to refigure how time is spent to help you free up small amounts. If you scroll social media while watching TV as a way to connect with your partner, could that time be repurposed for a 10 minute walk together? A couple I know grocery shops together as their date night. Reimagine how time is spent.
  2. Money. If you don’t have money to spend on a class, could you create a list of YouTube videos to learn the same thing? No money for a piano – perhaps a used keyboard is in the budget.
  3. Ego. OK, no one actually says this out loud, but it is there. “What if I suck at this?” News flash – you will because you will be a beginner. When I recently started knitting, my project was supposed to have 30 rows. When I went back after a week of working on my own, I had 46 rows. I suck at knitting right now, but am getting better with practice.

What if people laugh?

One thing I have learned over the years is that the people who I may hear teasing from are often the people who are afraid to try something themselves. Those are not your people. Your people are the ones that feel the fear and do it anyway.

Your Turn

What have you been on the verge of? What wish is itching to get out? What is keeping you from taking action? Identify a few ways to chip away at that barrier so you can take action this week.

By |2021-08-29T10:38:30-04:00August 31st, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

Time Management – Weekdays vs. Weekends

While rest is a mandatory part of a SusPro life, a bit of structure around the weekend can make sure that the important things get done. Each of us will have a different idea of what those important things are. Likewise, we will all have a different tolerance for planning out a weekend. I also want to assure you moms that are in the thick of it that there are different seasons of life in your weekend planning also. You will not always be chained to the steering wheel for hours on end every weekend.

This week’s post will introduce you to time management principles to consider when creating a weekend plan and how weekend time management might differ from weekday time management. The intention is not to accomplish more, but to create a rhythm of life that you feel does not suck all of your energy. Its all about creating a life you don’t need to escape.

Let’s dive in.

Weekday Time Blocks

For a traditional work and school schedule, the weekdays (Monday through Friday) is where the action happens. Time management during these days tends to be more intense. There is more happening, involving more people, and deadlines are less flexible.

Most of our days are ruled by a digital calendar or paper day planner. Time blocks present themselves neatly around parts of your day. Here is how my schedule might break out:

Block 1 – before work: 5:30 am – 9:00 am

Block 2 – work day: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm

Block 3 – after work: 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

During block 1 I usually exercise, do a few house chores, maybe run an errand, and generally on ramp my day. Bock 2 is completely ruled by my Outlook calendar. Here is what that looks like in an average week.

This is open to everyone in my company so I often juggle my schedule based on what has been added to my calendar since I logged on last (note: this does not juggle my PRIORITIES, just the time where I can get priorities done. This is a topic for another day). Block 3 is dinner, crafting, and any socializing I might do (which is rare during the week).

I am relatively inflexible during the week. Although I may have an opportunity to do a quick bike ride during work hours if I skipped exercise that morning, it is not a sure thing that I can count on since work hours are dedicated to the office.

Weekends are a different story.

Weekend Time Blocks – What

My goal for most weekends is to recharge and restore. I cannot stress enough the reality that “recharge and restore” means something different to each person. The first thing is to determine what recharge and restore means to you.

  • Is it knocking out a chore or errand? Or designating an hour for each. Sometimes crossing things off my to do list early paves the way to relaxation. I know recharging is the right thing to do – as a recovering perfectionist, sometimes I need a little trickery.
  • Is it physical activity? Workdays often leave little time for exercise. The weekend can be an ideal time to make your physical fitness a priority.
  • Is it hobbies? Singing or dancing lessons. Time at the painting easel. Writing, reading, drive in the country. All of these activities can be the “big rocks” that you build your restoration time around.

Once you decide what you want to spend your time doing, let’s decide how to time block the days so you can accomplish what you intended.

Weekend Time Blocks – How

One of my favorite ways to organize the weekend is from Julie Morgenstern – breaking the weekend into 7 blocks.

Here is what this might look like in a weekend filled with SusPro activities):

  • Fri evening – dinner out (Nutrition / Health & Fitness), family movie night (Media / Environmental Surroundings)
  • Sat morning – long run (Exercise / Health & Fitness), meal planning / grocery trip (Nutrition / Health & Fitness)
  • Sat afternoon – nap (Sleep / Health & Fitness), house cleaning (Physical Surroundings / Environmental Surroundings), and yard work (Hobbies / Mental Well-being)
  • Sat evening – date night (Relationships / Mental Well-being)
  • Sun morning – singing in choir (Hobbies / Mental Well-being), phone calls to family
  • (Relationships / Mental Well-being)
  • Sun afternoon – meal prep (Nutrition / Health & Fitness), hike (Exercise / Health & Fitness and Rest / Environmental Surroundings)
  • Sun evening – planning for the coming week (Time Management / Mental Well-being)

Your Turn

Time to plan your weekend! First figure out what your true priorities are. Then block your weekend into 7 parts and strategize how to fit your priorities into each segment. Tell me how it goes!

By |2021-08-23T19:41:04-04:00August 24th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

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