3 Ways to Divide Labor and Save Time

Today I want to teach you about Sustainably Productive ways to divide labor and save time. Some time management methods say partner should own the whole process and if that works for you and your partner – great! I have not found this to be a solution in our house. If I were to own the whole “feeding the people” task, it would implode quickly. My feelings would be hurt when noses were turned up, I didn’t understand a recipe, or it generally did not turn out as planned. This would not be something I could maintain lifelong.

The other way division of labor is not Sustainably Productive is when the ball is dropped because you thought someone else was taking care of it or if you end up duplicating efforts and wasting time. It looks a lot like Lucille and her friend, Rupp trying to both play with the same stick.

Here are three things to consider as you divide labor in your life.

Do the tasks only you can do

I mean this in the most literal sense of the word. There are some things that only one person can do. Your partner might find a way around it to accomplish a finish, but it would be cost and time prohibitive to do so. Here are a few examples:

  • Only a nursing mom can breastfeed the baby. Sure dad can get a bottle or use formula, but for some people this is not within their parenting strategy or budget to bottle feed.
  • At work, maybe there are certain tasks only a person with a certain certification is permitted to do. A nurse for example.
  • In our house only Bixby can fix the servers when there are issues. I know how to get on the server, but setup, back up, blah blah blah – that is something only he can do. Sure I could learn or hire out – but that becomes cost and time prohibitive.

How this plays into time management is that these types of tasks – the ones that only you can do – need to be the big boulders that go in the time management container first. This Stephen Covey analogy is something you can learn more about in the Sustainable You Course. By making sure you cover the big boulders first, the rest of the little things can fill in around it.

Here is how this might play out in my house. The original plan was for Bixby to mow the lawn and clean the house during my writing time before we had company later that day. But the gas can is empty so the lawn can’t get mowed and the server goes down so I cannot access my book manuscript during my designated writing time. The big boulder goes first – only Bixby can bring the server up.

That has to go first and I shift to cover some of his tasks. By the time I go to fill the gas can and clean the bathrooms, the server is back up. We high five and tag back to our assigned tasks – me to writing and him to mowing and cleaning.

Time management adjustment: Divide labor by first assigning tasks that only you can do.

Do tasks in your wheelhouse

Another way to divide labor is to identify what your wheelhouse tasks are and tackle those – and only those. I am defining wheelhouse here as the things that light you up and put wind in your sails. Tasks that are your jam. You have things that you are good at and enjoy. Don’t compare your contribution to anyone else’s. Embrace what you are good at.

Source: Buddhist Boot Camp

Meals are a great example of this in our house. I do not enjoy cooking or any of its associated tasks – chopping, translating recipes (WTF is blanching anyway?), being patient while things cook, etc. Luckily, all of that is in Bixby’s wheelhouse. He finds it RELAXING to do all of this after a stressful day at work. Before we got married we were talking about division of labor and he said he would take on preparing all dinners as long as when he said he wanted to go out to eat, I would agree.

Ummmmm, ok?

Sounds like a dream, but let me brag about my contribution – I choose the recipes, plan which night we will have what, order the groceries online, pick them up, and clean up the kitchen after dinner. Wheelhouse. My role in the family is Supply Chain and Logistics and everything that happens before dinner falls squarely in that bucket.

Time management adjustment: Divide labor by assigning tasks that you love to do or are good at.

Do what matters to you

There is something about having a clean kitchen when I go to bed that makes me feel like the day is complete. When I was growing up, my sister and I would clean the kitchen after dinner before we started our homework.

[Let me burst your bubble if you have Walton family visions here – I have distinct memories of my dad sitting at the table drinking coffee and making me rewipe the table repeatedly because I did a terrible job. The teeth sucking and eye rolling coming from me would make you think he was asking me to wipe the color brown off of the wood. Kids are the worst.]

But when the kitchen was clean, the kitchen was closed. We moved to the dining room where the homework was done. My mom was a teacher so she was always doing school work at the same time as Sister and me. My dad would sit in the adjacent living room and read the paper. He was the designated quizzer when it came time to prove we were ready for upcoming tests.

Clearly I have strong memories of a clean kitchen signaling a transition and closing ritual. This carries over today.

Bixby could not care less. He appreciates a clean kitchen, but it is not his hill to die on. So I take it on as my task.

Time management adjustment: Divide labor by volunteering for tasks that matter to you.

Take these as considerations – not hard fast rules. They guidelines you can start to make adjustments with as you divide labor.  The idea is to make the tasks work for you instead of the other way around. This is a time management principle that you can use to create a life you don’t need to escape.

Your Turn

Let me know how this is working for you. If you get stuck, come find me on Instagram to we can work together to find adjustments you can make

By |2021-02-21T08:06:37-05:00February 23rd, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Fundamental Reading Question #2: 4 Books Everyone Should Read

This is part 2 in the Fundamental Reading Question series. You can read about Question 1 here.

I love to be bossy. I do not consider “bossy” to be an insult. So when my friend, Genay, tossed Fundamental Reading Question 2 at me, I immediately opened my mouth to tell her what I thought everyone should do.

But when I opened my mouth, I was speechless. Crickets.

Here is the question that stumped me. Fundamental Reading Question #2: What books should everyone read?

I have been procrastinating writing this post because of that word SHOULD. There is nothing about a Sustainably Productive life that includes the word SHOULD. Yet, I love talking about books, and I love this Fundamental Reading Question.

So with apologies to Genay, I am going to give an answer a bit tangent to this second Fundamental Reading Question. Here are 4 categories of books everyone should read.

Books That Feel Familiar

Reading is not just a hobby for me – it is an escape, a comfort, a respite, and a joy. Definitely something that can help make my life Sustainably Productive. While I rarely re-read a book, but I do have themes that I tend to gravitate towards.

I will read anything about World War II and am fascinated by the politics of the time and how the Third Reich unleashed its hate and fury on the world while good people stood by and let it happen. I will read about concentration camps, resistance groups, both sides of the war, the years leading up to it, the chaos of the whole decade, and the rebuilding after. This topic feels familiar to me and is always a go to topic I pick up when shopping at used book sales.

Taking a very hard turn from WW2 is Little House on the Prairie (LHOP). These are comforting to me, and I recently found Caroline – same stories as the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, but from Ma’s point of view. I watched LHOP growing up and started rewatching last year when it came to Amazon Prime. It is familiar to me. Although revisiting it as an adult makes me cringe at some things we thought were ok to allow on TV in the 70s, the idea of homesteading and family is familiar and comforting.

I have a couple favorite authors that are familiar to me as well. I will read anything by Fredrik Backman or Jodi Picoult. Although their recent releases were misses for me, I will give them a pass. It was a pandemic year after all.

Find a familiar genre or author that you gravitate towards. If you get in a reading slump, return to these. It never fails.

Books That Come Recommended

I will forever and always read what Laura Tremaine tells me to. She is a fellow booklover who has similar reading taste as me. What she recommends, I know I will like. With the exception of A Man Called Ove, books she has disliked have also landed on my Abandoned Books list. [I am not sure how you can’t love a curmudgeon, but I guess Laura is allowed to be wrong once.]

The flip side of this is a podcaster who has the opposite reading taste from me. I know if she recommends something, I will not like it. This is actually helpful because I know what NOT to read – or at least prioritize lower on my TBR. Conversely, when she hates a book, I put it on reserve at the library.

If you are looking to find reading mentors, I recommend starting with Anne Bogel. She has a podcast, a blog, seasonal reading guides, and a reading challenge. Something for everyone for sure! Along the same theme of accessibility for all, her podcast is set up to understand what her guest likes and dislikes in books, then Anne gives recommendations. So if the guest loves sci fi fantasy and so do you, maybe you will like the recommendations Anne gives the guest.

I would love to be your reading mentor! You can also sign up for the Sustainable Sue Bookmobile and I will send you a notice whenever I finis a 5-star read.

Books That You May Not Like

It is ok to abandon a book. Can I let you in on a secret? I have even thrown a book or two because I did not like them that much. Think of it this way – if you don’t identify what you DON’T like, it is hard to identify what you DO like. You may find you like a certain genre, but hate another. You may not be able to read a THING about the Depression Era, but futuristic sci-fi is what keeps the pages turning. Books you don’t like is a category of Fundamental Reading Question #2 because it means you are trying new things.

Speaking of sci fi fantasy – I just cannot. I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane because everyone else did. Same thing with The House of Salt and Sorrows. Caving to peer pressure and picking these books up did improve my reading life though. I learned that I do like fantasy (hello, Harry Potter!), and I do like sci fi (looking at you, anything by Blake Crouch). But I need to keep those separate – it is the combination of sci fi fantasy that is not my jam.

Books That Make You Question

This category of books you should read will probably be the hardest to approach – more so than even reading books you don’t like. Books that make you question what you have always known as fact can rattle the foundation that you were raised on. Here are three suggestions on where you can start.

  1. American Dirt. Anti-immigration comments and views of children torn from their families at the border break my heart. The “helpful” advice, “Go back where you came from” is unacceptable. Read American Dirt and ask yourself if you are the kind of person that you would force another human being to return to a country where they will most likely be killed. American Dirt is a story about why a family fled their home and what hardships they encountered on the way to America. There is controversy about the fact a white woman wrote the story of these Mexicans fleeing from Acapulco, but don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater by skipping this read. It is an entry point for those who need and want to learn more about immigration stories.
  2. And the Band Played On and The Great Believers. No one deserved to be dismissed like gay men were during the AIDS crisis. These two books are heart breaking and at times outrageous examples of how terribly people can treat other people. Yet both books do have hope as there are good people who stood up for what was right, not what was easy.
  3. Nickel and Dimed, Evicted, and Hillbilly Elegy. Minimum wage is a hot debate right now. Cost of living keeps going up while basic wages don’t. Sure most teenagers don’t need to be paid $15/hour for their summer jobs, but some entry level jobs support families of 4 or more. Americans living below the poverty line cannot solve the problem by working harder and saving more. I admit I am a bleeding heart liberal, but I was raised to believe hard work can solve all of your problems. These 3 books were startling eye openers about poverty and the factors that often create a perfect storm.

I would like to offer the old saying: you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got. Ignoring other people, lifestyles, cultures around you out of ignorance is not ok. I encourage you to pick up one of these books to see where you might some similarities to your story. We are all more alike than we are different.

Your Turn

If you choose to pick these books up I would love to hear about it. Just a reminder I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and will earn a commission if you click through any of the links in this post and make a purchase. In the meantime, think about your answer to Fundamental Reading Question #2. Tell me what books do YOU think everyone should read?

By |2021-02-13T10:31:26-05:00February 16th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

4 Steps to Get Started

Eventually the winter will end and it will be time to get started. Last week we talked about NOT setting goals and I could feel the hard charging goal getters cringing while quickly deleting the post.

There was a time in my life where I was Goal Getter going balls to the wall while ignoring my empty tank of energy. My spirit was limping along. I am choosing to do things differently now by taking the winter to rest. Maybe you are too.

But eventually spring will come and you will be rested and ready to tackle a project, learn something new, or go after a new goal or two. I want to invite you to consider a softer, gentler approach to get started.

1 – Start Anywhere

If you suffer from analysis paralysis this tip is for you. There is no perfect way to begin. The only way to fail is if you never start at all. Begin somewhere – even if it is in the middle. Laura Vanderkam talks about this on her Before Breakfast podcast from July 29th. There are all kinds of starting points – just pick one, just get started.

2 – Start Smaller

Do you think you have to be an expert before you can take up a new activity? Let’s take yoga for example. I often hear people say, “I can’t do yoga, I am not flexible.” First of all, there is more to yoga that who is most bendy. That aside, flexibility is not a pre-requisite to yoga. You are there to improve your flexibility (among other benefits). Start smaller than pro level.

Next I ask you to consider how you are defining “done.” You don’t have to do an hour of yoga each day to have a yoga practice. Start with 10 minutes once a week. Start with one pose each day. Think about what you want to do and cut that in half. You can build over time if what you are doing is working for you. Get started – small.

3 – Track Progress

What gets measured gets managed. While some of you may not love this tip (I am looking at you, Rebel Tendencies), tracking your progress can help you gain momentum when starting a new habit. If you have taken the Sustainable You course, you might use that tracker. You might have a tracker in your planner or as an app on your phone. It could be a tick mark on the back of the envelope your phone bill came in.

4 –  Be a Beginner

Have you ever watched a child experience something new for the first time? They are in awe of everything they experience with their senses, what their body can do, what the result of each action is. When do we become so fearful of being a beginner?

I was recently working on an embroidery project that I found in my mom’s sewing box after she died. It was a Family Circle pattern from the 70’s still in the envelope it was mailed in. There were some instructions that I just could not figure out – I skipped around in the pattern until I could not put it off any longer. I reached out to a craft group I am in on Facebook, and they didn’t know either. Paralyzed with not knowing the perfect next step, I decided to just embrace being a beginner with this step of the project and take a leap.

I think this flower turned out pretty great!

My perfectly imperfect first attempt at this stitch and interpreting crazy instructions from the 1970s.

Plus, this is art that did not exist in the world before I did it – imagine that! I could not be happier with the outcome. This might not be what the instructions intended, but it is my interpretation on it.
“The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang best.”
Henry Van Dyke
What are you holding back on? Is it fear of perfection keeping you from getting started? Pick somewhere to start – even if it is in the middle. If that still feels wrong, make the step smaller. Consider tracking your progress. Embrace being a beginner – we are all beginners at some point. What a gift to continue to be able to begin again.
By |2021-02-09T09:45:43-05:00February 9th, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

January is Terrible for Goal Setting

Except for the fact that it is the start of the calendar year, January is terrible for goal setting.

Consider how Mother Nature treats winter.

  • Plants are dormant.
  • Animals hibernate.
  • Sunrise is later and sunset is sooner.

      This is 6th grade Susan. I cannot tell you how shellacked those bangs are. I never did really get the hang of a curling iron. Some might say puberty is a type of winter.

Why, in the middle of this dormancy, would we insist on setting Big Hairy Goals and setting up schedules and requirements to fulfill them? It literally goes against nature to do so.

Winter is a time for rest and recuperation. Go back to the example of plants – that dormancy does not mean the plant is doing nothing. Deep in the ground the roots are growing stronger and extending their reach to support the growth that will happen in the spring and summer.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” Anne Bradstreet

In all of the Little House on the Prairie books, Laura talked about the cold winter days in Minnesota where nightfall came early. Sure they did what chores were required to survive, but in the winter, they hunkered down together reading, sewing or listening to Pa and Mr Edwards fiddle while they danced in front of the fireplace. They connected.

What if you also took that time to rest and recharge during winter in preparation for an active spring and productive summer and fall? Rest is so important that it is a component of each of the 3 pillars of Sustainable Productivity and is covered in each lesson in the Sustainable You course.

Here are a few ideas on how you can spend your winter differently since January is a terrible time for goal setting.

Health and Fitness

  1. Rest. This is not sleep, this is rest. Sitting without sleeping or distractions. Maybe all you can stand is 5 minutes. That is a good place to begin.
  2. Take breaks in your day. Because I work from home, I take a slow walk around the garden sometimes as a rest from work. My dad and I talked about this once when he was trying to quit smoking when he was still working as a school superintendent. He said he needed the timeout that smoking gave him. If he were to just go stand outside, people would look at him funny. But if he were standing there smoking, it was more socially acceptable. Let’s think about that – taking a moment to smoke is more socially acceptable that taking a moment to rest. Of course, some of that is our own perception, which is where my walk around the garden comes in. To someone else it might look like I am just surveying my plants, but I am not making my list of garden chores, I am just walking slowly in nature.

Mental Well-being

  1. Silence. When is the last time you sat in silence so quiet your ears almost hurt. The phrase deafening silence exists for a reason. I am not talking about meditation. Just sitting and listening to the quiet. Silence can satisfy a need for social, emotional, spiritual and creative rest.
  2. Rage. Imagine a mosh pit for one. This may feel counter intuitive to rest, but consider how heavy pent up anger is. Anger acts similar to stress. Having that rager can help your body physically process the cortisol and associated glucose so it doesn’t sit in your body.

Environmental Surroundings

  1. Create a restful space. I recently earned of the “Japandi” decorating trend and I am pinning and following it like crazy. This is the type of restful space I would love to have. I don’t have it now, but I can dream. Find what feels restful for you.
  2. Rest from screens. More than just turning screens off, help your eyes rest from those screens. Lower the brightness on your computer and mobile devices or experiment with blue-light-filter glasses to limit the blue light beaming from your screen.

Some of these suggestions might spur other ideas that resonate more with you. Maybe you need to make a list of how to rest. Get creative with your ideas and make them yours. Maybe your mosh pit is in your car. Maybe you sit in silence in your closet because it is more soundproof. Consider this a different type of goal setting – recharging and setting yourself up to tackle those Big Hairy Goals with a full tank.

I would love to hear how you rest. Comment below or send me a message on social media. In the meantime, rest up!

By |2021-01-29T08:49:19-05:00February 2nd, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

10 Ideas to Conquer Digital Clutter

One of my goals for 2021 is to conquer digital clutter. That is a vague, ambiguous goal so I set a more specific, measurable goal to clear the digital clutter from my phone weekly. Generally my digital clutter falls into three categories: photos, notes, and websites. Here are ten ideas in these categories that will help you reduce the digital clutter.

Photos

This is the largest bit of digital clutter I have – and I bet most of you are in the same boat. Right now I have 685 photos on my phone. It is overwhelming to go back and declutter all of them so I am starting where I am. Each week I deal with those photos I took in the previous week. There are a few of the actions that you can take.

  1. Delete. I cannot be the only one who tries to carry too many things and ends up taking photos of the side of the car. Or trying to get a cute photo of the dog sleeping, I end up with 10 of the same snoozing pup. Delete the obvious, narrow down the precious.
  2. File. Screenshots fall into this category. Some examples might be the screen shots of books I want to read or products I might want to purchase. Each week I add to my To Be Read list on Goodreads, buy the item if is a no brainer, or add it to my Amazon wish list.
  3. Inspiration. Quotes, ideas, or other inspiration I want to use for Sustainable Sue work goes to Trello or Scrivener. Trello is a project management app where I can create a “card” with the quote (or whatever I took a photo of) and add it to the board. For example, the board might be quotes on digital clutter I could use in a post about the same topic. Then when I want to write about digital clutter, I pull that quote off of my Trello board and place it in the post.
  4. Save. Some photos I save for scrapbooking – these live in Lightroom. Each week I put a heart (on my iPhone – I bet Android has an equivalent) on those photos I want to save. On the first day of each month, I have a reminder that pops up telling me to move photos to Lightroom. I don’t have to scroll through 600+, I just get the hearts and move them to Lightroom and then delete from my phone once Lightroom is backed up.
  5. Share. I share memes and old photos with friends and family. Here is a gem that came up this week of me and The Girl back in the day.

Notes

This is the digital equivalent of Post It notes.I keep notes in a couple places on my phone so decluttering my notes is a critical component to conquer digital clutter.

  1. Lists. When I am driving down the road and need to capture a thought, I ask Siri to capture it and she adds it to my “Braindump list.” This is a catch all that is sorted at least weekly. Sometimes I add things to my calendar, sometimes things move to another list, sometimes things are deleted because I have no idea what I meant.
  2. Notepad. This is another catchall spot that builds up. If I hear something meaningful I want to remember later I will open the Notes app and jot it down. Same with a website I want to check out later from a webinar I am watching or perhaps shared notes. But these notes are not helpful if they just live in the Notes app. Weekly I move them to a place that is more useful. This might look like any of these:
    • Set a time block in the upcoming week to review the website.
    • Move the quote to a Trello board.
    • Delete the idea that seemed brilliant in the middle of the night, but seems useless in the light of day.

Websites

This is a recent pain point for me. I am not sure when my browser got so out of control. Today I have 64 windows open. Experts disagree on if this impacts your phones performance or not. What I am interested in is whether or not this is Sustainably Productive. When you shine the lens of sustainability on 64 open Chrome tabs – no big deal. But the productive side of the equation is different. I can’t find a ding dang thing amidst 64 open windows. Not productive.

“Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor – it’s anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living.” Peter Walsh

For this task I set a timer as part of my weekly digital declutter session. 5 minutes to close windows. I start with the most recent and close. I look at the website that is open before closing it in case there is an action step I needed to take.  For example, I may have left the window open because I was halfway through paying for an online meal pick up for the week when the doorbell rang and I forgot to go back to it. Some windows are quick – when Facebook opens in Chrome, for example. No brainer – close it, I would rather use the app.

I would love to help you conquer digital clutter. Check out the Sustainable You Environmental Surroundings course to learn more today.

By |2021-01-23T18:47:55-05:00January 26th, 2021|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

This is Sustainable Productivity

Sustainable Productivity is the backbone of the work you are doing to create a life you don’t need to escape. As you are deciding if the adjustment is the right next step for you, ask yourself this question: “Can I continue to do this lifelong?” Not that you must continue forever, but could you if you wanted to. It is ok to change your mind and of course, life changes around you. It is natural that internal and external factors impact our habits. Sometimes the answer to the Sustainable Productivity question (“Can I continue to do this lifelong?”) is no.

To gain more control over habit changes and adjustments, you can break down the Sustainable Productivity question (“Can I continue to do this lifelong?”) into 2 separate parts. This blog post will walk you through that.

Is this sustainable?

The beauty of the Sustainable Productivity questions is that they can apply to all aspects of life.

  • Habit change – is this change sustainable?
  • Time management – is this schedule sustainable?
  • Clothing – is this pinching waistline sustainable?
  • Chores – is this pace of mulch spreading sustainable?

What “sustainable” looks like will change as you make adjustments to your activities and as life changes around you. What feels manageable today? Is this something you can maintain lifelong? Not that you HAVE TO, but CAN YOU if you want to?

A habit can be sustainable but not productive. Anyone who has ever binged Netflix knows this. While it may sound fun in the beginning, eventually you find yourself wanting more. Wanting to contribute in a better way.

Which leads to the second Sustainable Productivity question.

Is this productive?

There are so many things that need your attention these days. If you are going to do take an action, that action needs to work for you. It needs to positively contribute toward your life, your goals, your purpose, your values.

In our world we have plenty of examples of non-productivity. We tend to relabel it as laziness or wasting time. I encourage you to define “productive” differently. According to Dictionary.com, productive is defined as achieving or producing a significant amount or result.

What if you redefined “productive” and what “counted” as a significant result in your life? Here are a few ideas:

  • Sleeping 7-9 hours each night is productive.
  • Blocking travel time into your day to create a realistic schedule is productive – even if that means you get less done.
  • Saying no to something that is not a HELL YES is productive.
  • Saying yes to an activity that puts wind in your sails is productive – even if that means you leave a chore undone.

You may need to stop and take a deep breath here. Are you uncomfortable just reading that list? Do you have a knot in your belly thinking about missing 1 bedtime tuck-in each month so you can take a pottery class? That is a sign that you are in the right place?

Keep reading.

Sustainable Productivity

The place where these Sustainable You questions intersect is your sweet spot.

But you have to be able to answer yes to BOTH questions.

A habit can be productive, but not sustainable. For example, getting up at 5:00 am to watch a MasterClass lecture is productivehobbies and learning are part of a sustainably productive life. But if you are not getting enough sleep and starting to resent that early alarm and hating your hobby, that is not sustainable. Therefore, this habit is not Sustainably Productive.

That sweet spot where sustainable overlaps productive is where Sustainable Productivity lives. This is where you can continue something lifelong if you want to.

You are allowed to change your mind when something is no longer Sustainably Productive for you. In the Sustainable You course you can learn about how to know something isn’t working and which change to make. You can also get dozens of suggestions for  adjustments in multiple aspects of life.

As you go through your daily activities and appointments in the upcoming weeks, ask yourself the Sustainable Productivity questions.

Is this sustainable?

Is this productive?

You don’t need to take action at this point, just observe what your intuition is telling you. If you have any reactions or aha moments, comment below. I would love to hear from you!

By |2021-01-18T09:01:56-05:00January 19th, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

Taking January by Storm

You cannot swing a dead cat without hitting announcements about taking January by storm.

Don’t let another day go by!

New Year New You!

Turn the calendar and turn your life around!

As a productivity coach, this is my prime business time. Resolutions are ready to be made. Change is ready to be had.

And Yet

I had grand plans. Campaigns and free resources. Blog posts filled with humor and touching anecdotes. Connections and outreach to spread the word about Sustainable Productivity.

I was going to fill the slow weeks of Christmas and New Years with time blocked planning in a schedule that would cause the military to wilt. I was going to Get Shit Done.

I just hit the wall. It felt like my creativity dried up, my mojo and energy bottomed out. My get up and go got up and went.  There would be no taking January by storm. It was neither productive nor sustainable.

I limped through hours of my day job, then read fiction and watched garbage TV while crafting. Long time readers know I have been alternating reading the Harry Potter books and listening to the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text (HPST) podcast chapter by chapter.

In the book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, in what seems to be a throw away sentence in the almost 800 page book, Tonks says she is too tired to stand guard. She needs a break and asks for help. Instead of powering through and putting herself and Harry at risk, she leans on the Order to help her. The way Casper and Vanessa sum this up on the HPST podcast is succinct and spot on: Respite is viewed as a luxury, but it is a necessity. We need to lean on others to help carry the load.

Respite is viewed as a luxury, but it is a necessity.

I needed help for sure. Asking for help is not my strong suit either. I wonder if you might be able to relate? Let’s look at a few ways you might be able to lean on others so that you can get the respite you need.

Handling the Load

Leaning on others can look different depending on the load, the season, the person, the helper, and various other reasons. Here are a few examples of how you might ask for help carrying the load instead of powering through.

  1. Literally. It is asking your partner or kids to help bring in the groceries. Or going to the store to buy you cold medicine.
  2. Emotionally. This could look like unburdening your mind and heart into a journal or with a therapist.
  3. Oppositely. Sure you relax better in a tidy space, but what if your tank is empty at the end of the day? Would it be more restorative to sit down and read for 15 minutes or power through and clean out the closet just because it was on your to do list?

I tell you all this for a few reasons.

It is not too late for you.

It is not too late for you. Ever. Maybe looking back at the 2020 holiday season you realize you packed too much in and you are running on fumes now. It is not too late. Start again with today, right now when you are reading this. Put 10 minutes into your calendar to just sit down. Or take a walk down the block. Or hide in the closet with your book. Whatever might feel restorative to you.

Restorative – not numbing. Hide in the closet with your book, not a bottle. Walk down the block to notice nature and take it easy, not sprinting to see how far you can get in 10 minutes.

Good enough is both.

Good enough is both. Growing up I often heard that good enough is neither. But what if you flipped that around, “good enough is both”? Cleaning out one shelf is good enough for today. Doing the gentle yoga stretching class instead of power yoga is good enough.

Then you can check in with yourself tomorrow to see if there is more space to do more or if you need to continue to give yourself a respite. Maybe instead of taking January by storm, we take small, solid, comfortable steps that are consistent over time.

Before we wrap up, I want to share my 2021 theme with you. I take that end of year burnout seriously and am backing off. Instead of setting New Years Resolutions or picking a word, this year seems to be the year I need to back off a smidge. My 2021 theme is a paraphrasing of St Francis of Assisi:

Wear life as a loose garment.

I will refer back to this often in the hopes that it inspires you to do the same or to seek out a pace to life that matches the season you are in. In the meantime, remember that respite is viewed as a luxury, but it is a necessity. Resting helps create the space in our lives to mentally, physically, and emotionally have room to move.

What about you? Did you pick a 2021 word or phrase? Maybe you set some goals or resolutions. Let me know in the comments or Instagram.

By |2021-01-10T08:56:11-05:00January 12th, 2021|Habit Change, Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Goal Getting in the Grey

I won’t lie to you – it can be difficult to get excited about goal getting in the grey. Whether it is grey days of winter or grey areas of life. These can be a tough mountain to climb. 

I am not so good with grey areas of life – I trend towards bimodal thinking. My modus operandi has been that I am either hard charging through a training plan or sloth. You are either on my side or against me. I am learning a brand new skill or never taking a class again. Whirl winding through chores and errands or hoarders is setting up a visit to shovel out the piles.

It is EXHAUSTING.

The pressure is on in the new year to set resolutions and light the world on fire. Right after you made all the magic for your family at the holidays. Friend, you cannot light anything on fire with an empty tank.

It is EXHAUSTING.

Do you feel like this end of season amaryllis?

Listen to Your Mother

As we start a new year, I encourage you to consider the way Mother Nature works. Winter is a time of dormancy and hibernation. A short respite of 2 months before ramping up growth in March to bust onto the scene in April. 

If Nature has survived – even thrived – with these hours of operations for millennia, who are we to say our schedule should be different?

Reframe Your Goals

This is not to say that you should throw out any goal setting. This is where we redefine goal getting in the grey. Instead, you can reframe those goals for the first 8-12 weeks of the year. Maybe finding gentler, softer activities that support the end result you are looking for.

  • Instead of running through snow and ice or pounding away on the treadmill, spend a month or two exploring yoga to increase your strength and flexibility while maybe even healing that nagging hamstring injury.
  • Avoid struggling to restrict calories to continue your weight loss. Focus on mindful eating and creative meal planning during a time when fresh fruits and veggies are less abundant. 

Another approach could be to use the dark, cold weeks of shorter days to slowly ramp up your new goal to really hit the ground running in the spring. 

  • Spend time to declutter that spare room and set up your painting easel. Research upcoming classes and save up to buy supplies.
  • Curl up on the couch with your phone and liberally unsubscribe, unfollow, block, and delete. Get rid of everything that does not contribute to a life you don’t want to escape.
  • Explore the Sustainable You course and reveal a new way to approach habit change that sticks. 

It may not feel like you are making progress towards your goals, but you are. Planning to plan. Setting up your environment for success. Considering a new way of doing things. This means change is happening within you.

Change that will eventually bloom into the success that you desire.

amaryllis

Amaryllis in all of its glory after it has rested all winter.

By |2020-12-26T08:12:17-05:00January 5th, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

2 Tips to Manage Time Better in 2021

Organization and productivity are always a top New Years Resolutions so this week I want to give you 2 tips to manage time better in 2021.

With a new year on the horizon, you might be getting melancholy about what could have been  (2020, am I right?). You might be getting amped up to do ALL THE THINGS and become a NEW YOU IN THE NEW YEAR.

I would like to invite you to look at time management through a new lens.

Time Management Paradigm Shift

Instead of fitting more into the time you have available, maybe you could determine if something needs to get your time in the first place. By tracking your time, you can see what is occupying your days and especially the productive hours of those days.

“If you frequently fall victim to procrastination, study yourself for a couple of weeks, by keeping a log.”
Julie Morgenstern, Author of Never Check Email in the Morning

Let’s take a look at each of the two tips to manage time better in 2021.

Tip One – Doing the Right Things

It does not matter how great time management system is if you are not working on the right things. Sure we all get those monkeys thrown at us throughout the day. But what are you starting with? How do you select the three big rocks to build your day around?

When we talk about relationships in the Sustainable You course, we are talking about 2 different kinds – internal and external. Doing the right things starts with that internal relationship.

One of the most important – some would argue THE most important – relationship we have in our lives is the one we have with our spiritual center. Some people call this God, some people call this Higher Power, some people refer to it as the Universe or Mother Earth. What they all have in common is that our connection to this relationship is usually described the same way.

A calm, settled feeling when you know something is right. You know YOU are alright. Like everything is dropping into place – even if problems are not solved. It is where you find your center in the middle of an unsettling situation.

Adjustment

Planning your day is an active task. It is not passively accepting appointments and requests from everyone else. Even if the job you get paid to do is filled with that type of activity, your time outside of work is not.

Be intentional about sitting quietly to plan your day. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • What activities would really move the needle in a Sustainably Productive way?
  • How much time would that take?
  • Is there a way to break that down further to make it a realistic task for tomorrow?

As you answer these questions, check in with your inner self. Pray, meditate, or just notice if making this plan for tomorrow is causing anxious feelings in your gut or feels calm and focused.

Now onto the second tip to manage time better.

Tip Two – Doing Things Right

Many planners have a section to plan out your days. I reversed this and used that section of my Renew Planner to track my time. This truly gave life to the Stephen Cover phrase, “Begin with the end in mind.” By changing my schedule and habits before really finding out where my time was going seemed like jumping off a diving board without finding out if it was indeed a pool that I would be landing in.

What I found was that I was handing my most productive time of my day over to social media. I am sharpest in the morning, plus have less competing priorities before breakfast. It is unlikely that my day job will schedule a meeting at 6:30am or that my teenagers will all of a sudden want to acknowledge my existence at that time.

Bonus finding is that I was draining my positive mood with that social media scroll. Seeing arguments on Facebook or unattainable perfection on Pinterest was an energy vampire. I felt defeated and grumpy before my feet even hit the floor.

Adjustment

The adjustment I made was to save my scroll for after breakfast. When the alarm goes off, I check to see if there were emergencies overnight. But this is very limited. I scan any texts or email (not replying yet). I see if any calls came in – it would have to be an emergency for someone to use a phone to place an actual call to me, right?! Then I check Timehop to see all the fun stuff that happened in my world in previous years at this time. Then my feet hit the ground.

By doing things in the right order, I maximize my productive time. I get more of the right things done.

I invite you to try these tips to manage time better as we move into a fresh new year. Your planner might have a space for this or you can download the free Sustainable You Time Tracker. Find out where your time is going, then start to make adjustments to choosing the right things to do, then doing them right!

By |2020-12-20T10:40:48-05:00December 29th, 2020|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

3 Step Plan to Decluttering

The end of the year is a time we all need a 3 step plan to decluttering. Holidays often have an influx of STUFF. Especially if you have kids. Christmas and Hanukkah means gifts galore from friends, family, school, and houses of worship.

In cold weather months we can find ourselves spending more time inside, which means we see more of the clutter.

Getting organized is one of the top 5 resolutions that Americans make each year. I want to give you a 3 step plan to decluttering that is Sustainably Productive.

Start Where You Are

If you have clutter in only one area of your home, congratulations – you know exactly where to start. That is not most people though. Where to start can cause analysis paralysis for many.

 

I encourage you to start where you are. This might be literally or emotionally.

  • Literally – Where do you spend the most time? Since I work at home, for me this is my home office. Specifically this is the desk in my home office.
  • Emotionally – Where do you feel the most negative emotions? Although my desk is a hot mess and that is where I spend the majority of my awake hours, I can power through the piles and focus on the computer screen. I feel negative emotions when the kitchen is cluttered. Not the cabinets and such, but the surfaces.

Which space is it for you? It does not have to be a room. It could be your nightstand. What about that drawer that sticks every time you try to open it because it is too jammed with stuff? A closet or box in the corner perhaps?

Once you identify where you need to start, you can move towards a plan to tackle it in a Sustainably Productive manner.

Identify Small Steps

This is the part of the plan where you make it productive. If you don’t see progress, you will lose interest in the work. Let’s say your nightstand is piled with stuff and the drawers cannot hold one more thing. You know it is where you need to start because it is an energy drain to look at first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

Old Method

Let me know if these steps sounds familiar to you. This is the old way of getting things done.

  1. Add “Organize Nightstand” to your to do list.
  2. Get overwhelmed and avoid it.
  3. Berate yourself for being lazy and a quitter.

Sustainably Productive Method

To make decluttering your nightstand Sustainably Productive, break the job into small steps. Then make them even smaller. Ridiculously small. Nope – smaller than that. Let me give you a suggestion on a small step to start with.

  • Take the dirty dishes off your nightstand, put them in dishwasher.

Boom. Done for the day on Project Nightstand. You can cross that off today’s to do list. What feels more productive than that? Productivity is accomplishing a task towards a goal. you just nailed it.

Feeling like you might be able to do some more? Try one of these:

  • Throw away obvious trash (ex: dirty tissues, crumpled paper) on the surface.
  • Recycle anything obvious on the surface (am I the only one with a Diet Coke can on her nightstand?).

Notice the keyword there is obvious. This does not mean to go through the drawers and find trash. I did not even suggest you open any drawers. Yet.

Which leads us to the sustainable portion of Sustainable Productivity.

Continuous Improvement

This is the part of the plan where you make it sustainable. Plan to continue the progress in a way that you can maintain. This could look different for each person.

I encourage you to find the MVP – the Minimum Viable Product of the project you are working on. Back to the Project Nightstand example. Maybe the most you can dedicate to this project each day is 15 minutes. Great – add that to your calendar during a time you generally feel motivated. This might be mornings before you start your Pandemic-Home-Schooling-While-Working-Full-Time-Remotely job. If you are a night owl, this might be after everyone else goes to bed.

Literally add a time block to your calendar, “Project Nightstand.” If you use a digital calendar, you might want to add a reminder to pop up. Another option is to do a reminder on your phone. You can now make these recurring reminders so you can actually “Complete” the reminder and still have it fire the next day.

When the reminder goes off, pick a small task and knock it out.

Now you have a 3 step plan for decluttering!

  1. Start where you are.
  2. Identify small steps.
  3. Continuous improvement.

If you are stuck on how to break down your decluttering project or getting motivated to start decluttering at all, check out the Environmental Surroundings lesson of the Sustainable You program.

Reply to this message or comment below to let me know what project you decide to tackle. Join me on social media so I can celebrate each small step you accomplish!

By |2020-12-24T10:20:18-05:00December 22nd, 2020|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

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