Making Adjustments

It is ok to change your mind – that is what making adjustments is all about. Sometimes your well-crafted plan to live a Sustainably Productive life does not work. There could be several reasons for this.

  1. Schedules change
  2. Priorities change
  3. Minds change

Whatever the reason – making adjustments is OK. In fact, making adjustments is encouraged. That is part of the Continuous Improvement work that is in the Sustainable You coursework.

At the start of 2021, I set a goal to do 90 minutes of yoga each week. I applied Sustainable Productivity principles and broke it down to do a 30 minute YouTube video 3 times each week.

This was great for the first 3 months of the year. Once the weather started getting nicer, I wanted to be outside and on my bike more. Now that I am vaccinated, I want to join my regular in person hot yoga class (exercising in a 100 degree room with a mask on sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?!).

But what about the original goal I set for 90 minutes a week? If I do 1 class in studio each week that is only 60 minutes. 2 classes in studio does not fit my budget or schedule right now. The YouTube video is not as inviting since I would have to be inside.

Non-Sustainable Productivity solution: Throw out the whole plan.

Sustainable Productivity solution: Make adjustments using the Continuous Improvement steps.

Step 1 – Record the result

This is an easy one if you have been using the Sustainable You Habit Tracker. If I look back at the last 2 weeks, I have a big ZERO for yoga.

Step 2 – Why this result

This step can take some tough love. A tool that can help to get to the root cause of the result is the 5 Whys. Start with the high level question: Why did I skip yoga over the last 2 weeks.

  1. I wanted to garden and ride my bike instead. Then ask why again (2nd why): Why did I want to garden and bike instead?
  2. A desire to be outside. Then ask why again (3rd why): Why did I want to be outside?
  3. The weather has gotten so nice. Ask why again (4th why): Why did I want to be out in warmer weather?
  4. It is pretty this time of year, so much to look at and do. The last (5th) why: Why is this different from yoga?
  5. I am bored doing the same routine and need a change of scenery. 

Once you get to that 5th question, you usually have a root cause that you can use to make your adjustment.

Step 3 – Adjustment

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater in not sustainable nor productive. Not doing yoga is not a productive way to improve my mental well-being or physical fitness. But continuing to “require” the 30-minute YouTube video 3 times per week is just going to make me crabby, which is not sustainable.

Enter the beauty of making adjustments. Here are a few that I am making for this week:

  • 1 yoga class in studio
  • 2 bike rides
  • Garden on breaks from work

Next weekend I can repeat these Continuous Improvement steps and see if any more adjustments need to be made.

Permission Slip

I can hear you thinking (or perhaps yelling at me through your device screen): BUT YOU SET A GOAL FOR THE YEAR FOR 90 MINUTES!!!

That is true. And you know what else is true? It is ok to change your mind.

If you go to the core of your WHY, then you can be true to your intention of creating a life you don’t want to numb out and escape from. HOW you create that life can change as you make adjustments.

Consider this post a permission slip to change your mind.

I want to create a life I don’t need to escape by calming my monkey mind and being physically active to reduce physical aches and pains. I can do that through yoga or time in the garden or in the bike saddle – or a combination of all three!

Your Turn

What isn’t working with your habits? What small adjustments can you make? I encourage you to try the 5 Why’s exercise to try to get to the root of the issue. If you need help walking through this or the Continuous Improvement steps, I would love to talk it through with you.

By |2021-05-18T08:48:07-04:00April 20th, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

3 Steps to Nail Your Goals

A couple months into the new year and if you are like most of us, it is becoming harder to nail your goals. One of the goals I set for myself in 2021 is to do 90 minutes of yoga each week. When I sat down to look at my progress at the end of January, I had not hit that once. Each week I did 60 minutes. Zero weeks I did 90 minutes.

It was time to make some adjustments.

Step One: Define what isn’t working

First define what was not working. What is the pain point that prevents you from meeting your goal. For example, what was keeping me from doing that 3rd day of yoga?

Inertia. That’s it. I identified my January pattern. Yoga on Monday and Tuesday, then wander off for the rest of the week, never coming back to that third day.

Once you identify what isn’t working, you can identify potential adjustments to course correct in order to nail your goals.

Step Two: Make adjustments

When considering what adjustments to make, I encourage you to make Sustainably Productive adjustments. Here is what that means:

  1. Make it Productive. The adjustment has to address the pain point – it has to have potential to solve the problem. There are so many demands on your time, if you are going to take the time to make an adjustment, it has to work for you. Otherwise, it is wasted time. You may not know for sure it will work, but it have to have the potential to work. For example, in order to hit 90 minutes of yoga per week, I could do 90 minutes of yoga on Monday morning. Boom, done – on with the week. This is not productive for me because the reason I am doing yoga in the first place is to reduce pain by increasing my flexibility and strength. Skipping 6 days of yoga does not help keep this tin man moving! Not productive.
  2. Make it Sustainable. The adjustment has to be something you could continue. If the adjustment is going to add more stress or lead to burnout, it is not sustainable. Don’t take it on. Back to the potential adjustment of 90 minutes all in 1 day. This is not sustainable with my schedule. I don’t want to reduce my sleep in order to jam a long yoga session in. I don’t want to lose my writing time or be late to my day job either. Not sustainable.

The adjustment I chose to make was to leverage that idea of inertia. A body in motion will stay in motion, etc. etc. In February I decided to do yoga on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings.

How did that work out, you ask? Let’s move to step 3 – evaluate progress.

Step Three: Evaluate progress

Result? 100%. I hit 90 minutes all 4 weeks.

Using the Sustainable You Habit Tracker, I was able to look at each week and see progress. The last week of the month, I REALLY did not want to do yoga on Wednesday morning. But I saw all of those other weeks tallied up and knew if I skipped that day, it would ruin the streak. Classic peer pressure. But Sustainably Productive peer pressure – 30 minute a day for 3 days in a row is doable and it is working for me.

How can you use these steps to help you nail your goals?

By |2021-03-06T09:19:35-05:00March 9th, 2021|Habit Change|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

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

Kaizen Approach to Habit Change

Taking a page from the business world, I want to introduce you to the Kaizen approach to habit change.

Maybe you have tried to change habits before and it looked something like this.

On January 1st you threw out half the food in your pantry and bought a couple hundred dollars worth of exercise clothes, planning to exercise every day before work. The first week of your person New Year New You Revolution was uplifting as you imagined how you would look in 6 months.

The second week was less fun because your whole body hurt, and you were exhausted from getting up at 5:00 am to start your personal revolution. Not to mention damn hungry all the time.

The third week you threw out the healthy eating idea because the universe did not seem to understand the idea of a new you and still threw nonsense at you that drove you to the candy aisle.

By the end of the third week, you quit exercising because if you are going to emotionally eat so much candy, what use is the gym. Who needs a revolution anyway?

The Kaizen Approach

Many organizations in corporate America embrace the Kaizen approach to continuous improvement. Instead of throwing out everything they do today and implementing a new system, they make small adjustments on a regular basis – daily even. Kaizen is a Japanese term for continuous improvement and is a strategy used by most managers in Japan. It consists of five elements:

  • teamwork
  • personal discipline
  • improved morale
  • quality circles
  • suggestions for improvement

In Japanese companies, such as Toyota and Canon, a total of 60 to 70 suggestions per employee per year are written down, shared and implemented. In most cases these are not ideas for major changes. Kaizen is based on making little changes on a regular basis: always improving productivity, safety and effectiveness while reducing waste.

VSRD-IJBMR, Vol. 1 (3), 2011, 177-184
How can this approach help you with your personal habit change? Let’s apply the Kaizen approach to the New Year New You Revolution example from earlier.

Kaizen Habit Change

Many attempts at habit change fail because of taking on too much at once – as you saw in the previous example. A more Kaizen approach would be to make healthy substitutions or modifications instead of throwing out half of the food in the pantry.

  • Instead of a large latte, order a medium latte.
  • Swap ranch salad dressing for a vinaigrette.
  • Add a side salad to dinner once a week.

A more Kaizen approach to starting an exercise program would be to add small bouts of physical activity instead of buying a whole new workout wardrobe and planning for daily workouts. Some suggestions could include:

  • Adding a dog walk to your after dinner routine on Sundays.
  • Doing 1 set of pushups or other body weight exercises.
  • Instead of eating at your desk through lunch, spend 10-15 minutes of your lunch break walking. Even if it is the parking lot.

Once these small changes become part of your daily activities, you can start to build. Add a side salad to a second night per week.  Add another set of strength training exercises. Increase your lunch time walk to 20 minutes. But just pick one – you don’t have to overhaul overnight. Kaizen discourages this. And so does Sustainable Productivity.

Kaizen to a Sustainable You

I encourage you to consider if a habit change you are considering is Sustainable Productive. A habit can be sustainable and not productive. I am looking at you, Netflix binge. But it can also be productive and not sustainable. In the example that started this blog post, getting up at 5:00 am was not sustainable, although it seemed productive.

The sweet spot where these two overlap is Sustainable Productivity – activities where you can continue lifelong if you want to.

Sometimes it is hard to determine what Sustainable Productivity is for yourself – you are just too close to it. I have heard from readers that they don’t know where to start or what the next right step is.

So I have created the Sustainable You course. It is a 5-part self-paced program that teaches you the pillars of Sustainable Productivity, including components of each. You will learn about how each component contributes to a Sustainable You and what potential adjustments could be. You also will learn about why habit change may not have worked for you in the past and what to do to make this time different. Hint: Kaizen – or small, sustainable changes – are a key component!

Start today to create a life you don’t need to escape!

By |2020-12-28T10:36:24-05:00November 24th, 2020|Habit Change|0 Comments

How Life Hacks are Keeping You From Reaching Your Goals

**Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org, and will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Life hacks are keeping you from reaching your goals, and it is time to approach habit change differently. It seems like every day you see another click bait article or listicle about life hacks that will immediately solve your problems. Ironically the history of the meaning of the word “hack” is an insult. It is time to stop searching for life hacks and create your own opportunity for change.

When Opportunity Knocks

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, Book 4, Chapter 20: The First Task is discussed from the theme of opportunity. One particular comment by Vanessa stuck out to me, “When you have agency over the choice – you have the control over what piece of it is accessible for you.”

Opportunities will come in all sizes, shapes, and intensities. Some are welcome, some are not. Sometimes you feel like you have control over the opportunity, sometimes you do not.

For example, a client I worked with once was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. At first Carol was devastated by this news because she thought this meant an end to love of cooking. She did not have control over this opportunity. It was a scary change that was dropped in her lap unexpectedly.

Together we focused on what piece was accessible to her. What was she in control of? Carol made a list of what she could do. She could not change the Type 2 diabetes diagnoses, but there were some opportunities that were in her control. Here are a few items from her list:

  • Talk to the dietician about required cooking habit changes.
  • Search online for substitutions to favorite recipes.
  • Follow new food blogs and social media accounts of chefs cooking healthier.
  • Talk to favorite vendors at the local farmers market about what to change about new recipes in order to make them taste less bland.

Carol did not tackle the entire list at once. Habit change needs to come in bits and pieces – right-sized chunks for what feels like you can sustain over time.

Right-Sizing Your Opportunity

Short cuts will eventually fail. This is my issue with “life hacks.” Habit change is an intentional practice to help you create a life you don’t need to escape. It is not a quick fix scheme to make it look to the world as if you solved a problem. Life hacks are keeping you from reaching your goals. I want to suggest a different way forward.
Break your opportunity down into smaller pieces. Right-sized pieces for what is sustainably productive in your life right now. Steps so small that they might seem ridiculous or a waste of time. Carol’s first item on her habit change list was “Talk to RD about required cooking habit changes.” This seemed like an overwhelming task when Carol thought about all the things she needed to learn. So we broke it down to right-sized steps.
Her first action step was to set up the appointments. This was done in a phone call – 4 sessions over 2 months on the books. If this step seems too big for you, a smaller step could be to put time on your calendar to make the call. Or a task on your to do list to get a referral from your doctor of RD’s to call.

Do away with life hacks

Creating our own opportunities and accomplishing their related tasks will make you feel more in control of the situation and reduce your stress. It will help give you momentum towards the next step in the process.
Once Carol had the appointments made, her next small step was to prepare for the appointment. It was unrealistic to do this all in one step. What was the right-sized opportunity for her was to get one of her son’s unused school notebooks from a drawer and put it in her purse. Whenever she thought of a question, she added it to the notebook. She even got creative and made sections of her notebook for food selection, cooking, and a dedicated area for desserts (her favorite).

Evaluate Your Progress

Small habit change is sustainable, but don’t fall into the trap of not continuing to build on these changes over time. When Carol realized a few days went by without her recording questions in her notebook, she set a reminder on her phone to update her questions list twice a day.

Make habit change an iterative process by evaluating what isn’t working and make adjustments. Set yourself up for success with reminders and scheduling. The small steps that may seem too silly to continue will add up over time if you are consistent with them and continually making adjustments when they no longer work for you.
Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.
James Clear, Author of Atomic Habits
Let’s meet up over on Facebook to talk more. What habit change you are currently working on? Is it going how you want it to – if so, what is working? If not, how can you break it down to make smaller opportunities for you to succeed?
By |2020-10-11T11:37:26-04:00October 13th, 2020|Habit Change|0 Comments

3 Ways to Differentiate Persistence from Insanity

Today’s culture rewards persistence, but how do you differentiate persistence from insanity – doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome? Perseverance is heralded in sports, literature, entrepreneurship, and more. And while there is virtue in persistence, when does it move from sustainable productivity to insanity. When do we need to quit something in order to make habit change something we can do lifelong?

 

Lucille loves to fetch a tennis ball. She could go for HOURS. Our throwing arms – not her stamina – are usually the limiting factors to how long she can fetch.

Differentiate persistence from insanity
To see the entire video of Lucille in action click here.

What Frustration Teaches You

Many life lessons can be gained by responding to frustrations. Here is a quick list of just a few.

  • You can gain grit. Grit is a characteristic gained when we persevere. According to the American Psychological Association, determination of your potential for achievement is more correlated with your grit, than your intelligence.

“Grit may be particularly important to accomplishing an especially complex task when there is a strong temptation to give up altogether.”

American Psychological Association

  • Frustration can interrupt your routine. While this may not sound like a good thing on the surface, changes in routine can help you discover improvements you might not have considered without that interruption. When your expectation is different from your reality, you can ask why and decide if that is a factor you want to fold into the routine going forward.
  • Embracing the “grit to quit.” This was discussed on the Sorta Awesome podcast episode 251  – when to stop. Knowing that you are valuing your own boundaries vs. stubbornly persisting is a lesson in maturity, not failure.
So clearly frustration is not all bad, you can learn from frustration. But that does not mean you have to continually be frustrated in order to create a sustainably productive life. You can take it too far.

When You Cannot Differentiate Persistence from Insanity

But while there are lessons we can learn from frustrating situations, there can come a time when you cannot differentiate persistence from insanity. Let’s go back to the example of Lucille and her fetching. We have found if she runs for hours like she wants to, the next day she is a  slow going down the stairs. Does this happen to you too – persisting too long causing you pain? How can you evaluate when a habit is no longer serving you? When do you know when you have persisted too long and are entering the insanity side of the spectrum?

Here are three ways to differentiate persistence from insanity.

1 – Repetition or Iteration

As mentioned before, insanity has been described as repeating the experience and expecting different results. Call this repetition. But there is also something to be said for learning from your mistakes and trying again with the new data. This is iteration. Trying again with a slightly different plan.

Let’s say that you are trying to establish a plan to eat healthy dinners during the work week. You made this a small, specific goal by choosing to add a side salad to dinner each night. Iteration could look something like this:

Week One – failure on Wednesday because the vegetables you bought Sunday went bad after a couple days.

Adjustment: Plan to grocery shop Wednesday on your way home to get salad ingredients for Wednesday – Friday.

Week Two – failure on Wednesday because you are exhausted mid-week. No WAY are you grocery shopping after work.

Adjustment: Place an online shopping order for pick up at the grocery store on the way home.

Week Three – Success! Side salad consumed with dinner on 4/5 nights. Continue on with this plan.

2 – Value Alignment

I can appreciate hard work. It is certainly as important part of my work ethic. If I am working hard and balancing all of my priorities, then I know it is the right next step for me to continue onward.

This was not the case after I tore my meniscus for the second time. After the first tear, I worked my ass off to rehabilitate it and get back to running. I managed a couple years more of running and did not shy away from the effort of the persistence. Warm ups, cool downs, stretching, strength training all added time I was not running, working or being with my family. It did not alleviate the pain altogether, either. Just managed to make me able to lace up again.

So when I felt the same shredding of the connective tissue later, I had a very frank conversation with my Physical Therapist. If I wanted to walk and hike in my 80’s, I needed to stop running and get the knee fixed surgically. Although hard work is a priority, rehabbing to return to running no longer aligned with my core values – to be physically active throughout my lifetime.

To continue to run would have been insanity, not persistence.

3 – Know Your Why

In order to know your why, you need to have a frank discussion with yourself. Are you persisting for the right reason? This is important with habit change because you need to be making changes for yourself, not for other people. Habit change is more likely to stick if it comes from intrinsic motivation – motivation from within. Here are the worst two answers to why you are persisting.

Continuing out of fear. Do you continue going to work in a stressful job you hate because you fear what might happen if you don’t have your fancy title and office? Are you fearful what your partner would say if you announced you want to start martial arts classes?

People pleasing. Are you only losing weight because your mother still makes comments 10 years after you had your first baby? Maybe you don’t really want to go to happy hour every Thursday with your friends, but you don’t want them to not like you. Let me ask you this: If you are so busy pleasing people, where are all the pleased people?

Answering yes to fear and people pleasing being your why is a red flag. Dig deeper. If you cannot find an answer that serves you, maybe it is time to consider a change.

By |2020-10-04T09:14:39-04:00October 6th, 2020|Habit Change|0 Comments

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