Procrastination, Part 2 – A SusPro Case Study

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not productive. Not sustainable. Not fun.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Summer Status Update

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

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

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

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

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

Health and Fitness

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

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

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

Mental Well-being

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

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

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

Environmental Surroundings

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

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

Sustainable You Questions

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

Procrastination, part 1

This is part 1 of 2 exploring the why and the what next of not getting things done. 

It is no coincidence that writing about procrastination is harder than talking about it. 

Writing feels so much more permanent so I want it to be perfect. 

If you have not heard my issues with perfectionism, you can listen by clicking here or on the podcast logo below. It is a wild ride into Susan’s Brain. Take some popcorn, friends. 

Season 2, Episode 12 is all about Perfectionism

As I was drafting this column, I wanted to have a magic turn of phrase that will help you break out of procrastination, and when I could not find it I just didn’t write about it at all. But it kept nagging at me and rolling around in the back of my mind at inconvenient times – like 3:00 am.

How many of us are walking around in the world like this? Putting off taking action because we are frozen in time. Or fighting the wrong fight. Or fleeing from taking action by burying ourselves in busy.

I love this list from Emily Sanders (no relation) about why people may tell you they are ok – and I believe it also applies to procrastination. 

At least for me, it is a list of what I tell myself about whatever it is I am procrastinating on. Let me give you a few examples.

Why Example One

One of the goals I have for my 48th year of life is to draft a book proposal. It may be a big fat SFD that sits in a drawer. Or it might be acceptable but not submitted anywhere. Or it might be submitted and rejected by every publishing house in North America.

But these 365 days will pass (AGAIN) so why not draft the proposal during those days and see what a year brings. 

This was decided approximately 39 days ago and I have done exactly nothing to push this peanut forward. When I look at Emily’s list what jumps out to me is this:

THEY MAY BE SKEPTICAL THAT ANYONE ACTUALLY CARES.

I am not really sure what to do with these feelings besides sit with them. Which feels SUUUUUPER weird. It’s sort of like sharing a bench in silence with a stranger while you wait. Just awkward.

Why Example Two

I am sure I am not the first writer to feel like no one cares about what I write. Perhaps I could reach out to other authors to find out how they dealt with this. 

Seems like sound advice. Enter Emily’s list:

THEY DON’T BELIEVE THEIR PROBLEM SHOULD TAKE UP ANYONE’S TIME.

or 

CONCERN THAT IT’S NOT THAT BAD OR THEY WILL LOOK WEAK.

or

THEY DON’T THINK ANYONE CAN HELP THEM.

What Next

This is the part of the post where I tell you how to fix it. Or give an uplifting, humorous anecdote about resolving this quagmire. 

But this is not TV where we get resolution in 30 minutes minus the Applebees commercials. I am wrestling this 800 pound gorilla called procrastination right along side you. 

I do think that being aware of the gorilla at the dinner table is part of the battle though. By being aware of what could be causing the procrastination, we can truly excavate the infection instead of just slapping a bandage of time management over it and letting the actual wound fester. 

I am mixing my metaphors here, but I think you get it. There are reasons for procrastination, and none of them are because you are a worthless person.

Let’s digest this piece first before we dive into other side of the issue. This is just part 1 of 2 exploring the why and the what next of not getting things done. 

Sustainable You Questions 

Avoiding what is really going on is not going to get you the result you want and it is hardly sustainable. Ignoring these types of signals is what drives us to numb out and want to escape our lives. Here are a few questions you can use to dig a little deeper to get to the root cause of procrastination.

1 – What would happen if you set aside judgement and tried to work with that 800 pound gorilla instead of ignoring her. 

2 – What is keeping you from taking a good look at that wound, cutting out the infection and really working on keeping it clean? 

3 – What would happen if you were afraid and did it anyway?

By |2022-09-18T10:01:12-04:00August 2nd, 2022|Habit Change|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 |2022-09-18T10:03:58-04:00November 9th, 2021|Habit Change|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 |2022-09-18T10:05:40-04:00October 12th, 2021|Habit Change|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

Quit Again!

This week I am going back in the archives to bring you one of the posts I get the most comments on – QUITTING. If you were around for the “original airing” of this post, I would love to hear if your stance on quitting has changed in the last couple years. If this is new for you – let’s hear your words about quitting.

 


 

I often have people talk to me about abandoning books. I have no shame in my DNF (Did Not Finish) game. I am not afraid to abandon a book and encourage you to look at why you would not stop doing something that was not lighting you up. Life is too short to read books that do not put wind in your sails just as life is too short to stay friends with energy vampires and life is too short to wear jeans that are too tight.

Quit Abandoned Books

It is not that it is a bad book. Despite what James Joyce said, I do not believe there are bad books. I can appreciate how hard an author works on a book and to call it bad just seems like a big kick in the pants. I hope anyone reading what I write will give me grace when something I write doesn’t land with them.

It is hard to abandon books that critics and the public RAVE about. Sometimes I think it is the chapter of life I am in vs. where the author was when he was writing. More often I just decide I am different than everyone else and move onto the next book in the stack.

Let’s talk numbers though. I do believe in skipping the rating if I have not finished a book. I would not want to bring down the average rating for an author if I have not finished a book. I have a specific shelf in Goodreads for DNF books so that I can make sure they do not count in my annual book statistics.

Tell me all your thoughts and opinions about DNFing!

By |2021-08-03T07:58:36-04:00August 3rd, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

Burnout of Busyness

Are you drowning under the weight of your to do list? When people ask how you have been, is your default response, “Busy!”

Have you stopped to ask yourself why you are filling every nook and cranny of your days – of your kids’ days?

I hear your defensive exclamations: “There is no time in the schedule for asking nonsense questions like that?!”

Let me float another one by you – how does it feel to be so on the run that you cannot check in with yourself.

Or is it the inverse – you stay so busy on purpose so you don’t have to consider those feelings.

To consider the voice in your head nudging you to slow down…

..to wait…

..to breathe.

By |2022-09-18T10:06:24-04:00July 20th, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

Edit or Eliminate?

It is OK to change your mind.

For several years I have had a calendar entry on the 1st of each month reminding me to send photos from my phone to Lightroom. But as life has changed, this calendar entry inevitably was closed instead of snoozed, or popped up when I thought I would have time so I dismissed it too early.

Edit or Eliminate?

The result was not productive – I still had photos on my phone that needed to be transferred.

This is not to say that if you leave photos on your phone in perpetuity you are not leading a Sustainably Productive (SusPro) life. Only you can decide that. I had decided what was SusPro for me was moving the photos on a monthly basis. The challenge was that my methods of reminder were no longer working.

Actual footage of my photos situation. This is about the max I can deal with and maintain Sustainable Productivity.

It was time for an edit.

Not time for elimination. See – I still needed the photos off of my phone. If I have thousands of images on my phone, I get overwhelmed (unsustainable), and I can’t find what I need (unproductive). I might take a screen shot of a book I want to add to my TBR or a recipe posted on a Facebook group. If I cannot retrieve it when needed, it is not useful for me.

Eliminating photos from my phone is not the SusPro way forward for me. Enter – the edit.

This one was simple for me. I made it a reminder on my phone instead of a calendar entry. Most phones have a native app for reminders. My iPhone allows me to make it recurring each month with no end time. Plus I can set the time for it to fire (i.e., not while I am working and have no time to move photos). Bonus points for being able to snooze it for certain windows of time (1 hour, until this evening or tomorrow).

Practical Application

Sometimes it is hard to figure out what edit to make. You know you cannot eliminate something, but the current practice is not working. Here are some real life examples from clients, divided into each Sustainable Productivity pillar.

Health & Fitness

Challenge: Changes in weather disrupts your exercise routine.

Potential Edits: Have a plan B in your pocket. If it is too hot to run outside, head to the treadmill. Take advantage of summer pool season by lap swimming and letting pilates slide for a few months.

Mental Well-being

Challenge: Summer camp drop off for the kids conflicts with a work meeting.

Potential Edits: Carpool and offer to do the afternoon pick up. Poll your colleagues to see if they could meet at another time.  Take the call from a nearby coffee shop or park after dropping off kids at camp.

Environmental Surroundings

Challenge: Your college student is home for the summer and clutter is taking over your house.

Potential Edits: Let her keep her room in the disastrous state, but close the door. Have a talk with her about how the clutter makes you feel and agree on boundaries (i.e., dishes go from her room into the dishwasher, not on the counter “for later”).

Your Turn

Sometimes when you are too close to the situation, it is hard to see the edits. Or you have lived with the challenge so long you get too frustrated to edit and you just eliminate. Let’s crowd source this on social media to see what edits you could make. Come over to Facebook and share challenges so we can all create the life we don’t need to escape.

By |2021-06-27T09:54:39-04:00June 28th, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

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