Mental health is just as important as physical fitness. There are two sides to mental health, and both are equally important: what weighs heavily on your mind and what puts wind in your sails.

Many of us share common mental stressors – time, money, work, emotions, and relationships. Ironically it can be too little or too much of each of these that causes stress. While we are never going to eliminate stress, we can address what do we do to manage it and its affect on our health.

As many humans as exist in the world, there exists as many combinations of answers to mental health concerns. For most diagnosis, medication and talk therapy has been proven to be the best practice. I am not trained as a mental health professional in any way. The information provided here is simply to be a resource for conversations about what has worked to help manage the stressors above to bring joy and lightness to my life and to hear what works for other. To make the daily grind something not just palatable, but something we can look forward too. Some of these ideas might be meditation, learning, or hobbies.

Reading Relapse

Remember how I said I was going to read less? I reduced my reading goal so I could free up time to create more of my own content?

Welp, you are only as sick as your secrets so I am here to tell you I relapsed this weekend. I finished three books I had going, and started and finished 3 more. Over a span of 4 days. It is a disease. I am powerless.

In my defense, this was not all my fault.

  1. I was traveling so I just had to do the Read and Return thing. It is not a flight without a R&R book.
  2. The reason for the trip was to help my dad and sister pack up my mother’s things, which I knew would be emotional so I wanted more books to comfort me instead of forcing productivity on the plane.
  3. When I arrived I saw my sister was finishing a book that I had requested from the library MONTHS ago. She finished it shortly after we arrived so I had an opportunity to snatch it and read before she flew home.
  4. We finished early and had time for about an hour at the pool on the last day. I can’t go to the pool without a book – I am not a monster!

But alas, I am here to come clean with a recap of what took me off the clean and narrow path.

Books I Finished

I had three books in progress that I knocked out over the weekend.

Keep Sharp by Sanjay Gupta

My dad bought this, and we are passing it around the family. It is a mix of neuroscience that bounced off my brain at times and practical advice that you can incorporate into your life. Much of his advice is part of the Sustainable You program as well!

The Janson Directive by Robert Ludlum

I really want to be a Robert Ludlum fan, but this is strike 2. And it took 650 pages to get to strike 2 (I cannot even remember what strike 1 was). His books are massive deep dives into foreign policy, weapons, overlapping timelines that don’t need to be there, and poorly written romance scenes. I can’t believe I carried this around the airport. I should have thrown it in the pool when I finished.

Three Girls from Bronzeville: A Uniquely American Memoir of Race, Fate, and Sisterhood by Dawn Turner

This was a book I read on my Kindle after getting an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from Netgalley. This was gut wrenching at times, eye opening all throughout. You cannot understand what privilege means unless you hear – and listen to – what others walk through to know their story.

Books I Started and Finished

Next there were three books that I started and finished over the course of the 4 days.

The Book of Lost Names by Kristen Harmel

While I will always pick up a book about World War II, I loved this point of view and combination of stories – forgers, book lovers, resisters. All from an airport Read and Return! What is not to like?

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Super quick read from multiple narrators. I called the twists but really enjoyed getting there. It was extra fun because my sister finished reading it the day before so I was commenting as I read and we were able to have our own little book club discussion during our visit.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson

OK, not the best choice for a trip spent cleaning out my late Mother’s things, but when the hold comes up at the library you roll with it, right?! This was a super fast read (only 137 pages), filled with frank, practical advice, encouragement, and anecdotes about getting rid of crap now. Between this book and the weekend spent purging 154 reusable shopping bags and 77 bath towels, I came home and scheduled an appointment with a local consignment store.

 

Your Turn

What are you reading right now?

Note: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

By |2021-06-22T08:03:34-04:00June 22nd, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

The Push – A Book About Motherhood…and SO MUCH MORE

I know not everyone is a book nerd like I am so I usually save my 5-star book announcements for Sustainable Sue Bookmobile  subscribers. But this book is so much more than a great read – I had to share it with everyone.

Books can make you think and feel things you don’t want to or did not even know existed in your mind and heart. There are times that books make you reconsider what you thought, approved, and wished for. Sometimes books help soothe the rough edges on feelings that you did not even know were there. The Push by Ashley Audrain is that book and more.

The Premise

Here is the Goodreads description of this novel:

Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had. But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter–she doesn’t behave like most children do.

Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining things. The more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity, and the more we begin to question what Blythe is telling us about her life as well.

Then their son Sam is born–and with him, Blythe has the blissful connection she’d always imagined with her child. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth.

The Push is a tour de force you will read in a sitting, an utterly immersive novel that will challenge everything you think you know about motherhood, about what we owe our children, and what it feels like when women are not believed.

The Impact

This book made my insides shrivel up in a way that few books ever have.

I am a childless by choice step mom to 2 kids who had just turned 4 and 6 when I met them. My husband and I had some tough conversations in the first couple years of our relationship and marriage about whether we would have kids together. I had a several reasons against having a biological child. Here are a few of them.

  1. Post-partum depression runs in my family. I already lean on meds and therapy to keep the ship afloat. I have taken enough biology and human physiology classes to understand the hormonal chaos that pregnancy and early motherhood wreck on a woman’s body.
  2. I could not imagine how I would manage all of my big feelings while abstaining from caffeine, alcohol, vigorous exercise, and SSRIs for 9 months while incubating, then indefinitely after. I know zillions of women do this every day and have for millenia, but I am a research study with an N of 1. I knew my best coping strategies – healthy or unhealthy as they were.
  3. I loved our life. We had the kids 3-4 days each week, every week. We could do things like the zoo and practices, then drop the kids off at their mom’s house and spend whole days riding our bikes or touring through wineries near the mountains.

But I felt selfish and less than. It seems like I was bombarded with messages ranging from evolution to pop culture about how motherhood is a woman’s purpose in life.

So if I did not want to be a mother (a “real mother” as some women called it, separating out my step-mothering from what they did), what kind of woman was I?

This book explored all of these ideas and more from the perspective of Blythe and flashbacks to her mother ‘s and grandmother’s lives. For the first half of this book, I pretty much decided that I could not rate this book. I felt so strongly about it – loved and hated it, but I would never be able to explain the real truth behind why I loved and hated it so much. I did not want to try to explain all of these big feelings in a book review blurb.

But I decided that I was going to swing for the fences and be honest about the complicated feelings I had about motherhood. As much as I can do that today. As the layers of the onion are peeled, there may be more to share with you in the future.

This is the power of books – it is not just a story. It is how that story makes you think about your life. It can help heal, restore and reframe what we always thought was true.

“A library is a hospital for the mind.” Anonymous

Your Turn

I need people to talk to about this book. If you have read it and want to swoon together, comment below or come find me on social media. I have been pressing this book into everyone’s hands – and now yours. Go read it RIGHT NOW and come back to help me process this.

I know you will want more after you finish reading it. You can listen to an interview with the author here and hear a bookish podcasters talk about it here.

By |2021-05-18T08:47:01-04:00May 18th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

What Road Trips Can Teach you About Goal Setting

Remember the days where we used maps to plan our road trips? In order to get to our destination, we had to know where we were starting from. How do you know what direction to travel if you are unsure of your starting point and end target?

Personal productivity is very similar.

Set Your Destination

Often we see the end result of where we want to go.

  • Moms in Target who has 2 kids walking alongside the cart, not grabbing things off the shelves and whining.
  • The woman at the gym who runs twice your speed on the treadmill.
  • Photos on social media of perfectly organized pantries.

First of all, I caution you against comparing your insides with someone else’s outsides. Seldom does the presentation reality match up with the truth. The end results in the above examples, could be rooted in reality like this:

  • Target Mom may run her household on fear and those kids “know better than to act out in public.”
  • Treadmill gazelle may have an exercise addiction driving her to run herself into injuries or worse.
  • Perfectly organized pantries are seldom found in homes where people feel at ease grabbing what they want (think teenagers having friends over).

All of that aside, you may have a vision of where you want to go. Destinations are great, but it is not productive to start on the path without knowing where you are starting from.

“On any journey, we must find out where we are before we can plan the first step.” Kathy Boevink

Determine Your Starting Point

If we return to the map of our road trip, determining your starting point seems easy. But looks can be deceiving. The more granular your starting point, the more accurate your route can be. This is true whether we are using maps or a GPS to plan our route.

Let’s say for example, I decide my starting point is the name of my town instead of the street I live on. This will lead to two very different routes to my sister’s house. One is 30 minutes faster than the other – and when I am going to visit my nieces, every second counts. Drilling down to truly understand where I am starting from helps me not waste time getting to where I want to go.

The same is true with habit change. The more defined vision of where you want to go combined with the more granular idea of where you are starting from can mean the difference between Sustainably Productive (SusPro) habit change and habit change that fizzles out by week’s end.

  • Fizzle Out Habit Change: I want to bike more.
  • SusPro Habit Change: I currently ride 50 miles a week with my longest ride being 30 miles on Sundays. I want to increase that to riding 50 miles on my birthday in June so this week I will ride 33 miles on Sunday and keep the weekday rides short to make sure I can fit them in during lunch.

Or maybe this example resonates with you:

  • Fizzle Out Habit Change: I want to chill out and stop being crabby.
  • SusPro Habit Change: I have zero time where I am still. This week I will sit in silence for at least 1 minute, but no more than 5 on Monday and Thursday. I won’t try to meditate – if I can just be still that will be a victory.

The SusPro method starts with a vision of where you want to go and a granular look at where you are starting from. Now let’s talk about how you can determine where you are starting from.

Getting Started

The Sustainable You Time Tracker is a free resource that can help you determine your starting point. Simply download the tracker and set a timer to go off every 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, write down what you have spent the last 30 minutes on.

Don’t wait for a “normal” week – there is no such thing. You can learn from any snapshot in time. At the end of the week, take a look at what trends you see. Maybe you are surprised to see you spend 2 hours each day waiting at various points of the day. This time tracker is just information – do not use it to shame or blame. Identify patterns that are not serving you and make small adjustments.

Your Turn

Take a stab at tracking your time and let me know how it goes. I love to talk productivity with people so if you want me to take a look at your tracker you can email it to me at Susan@SustainableSue.com.

By |2021-05-08T06:51:56-04:00May 11th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Creativity and Relationships

Soooooo to say I have been in a bit of a creative slump in the last several weeks would be an understatement. I have tried applying my 2021 theme: Wear life like a loose garment.

I have maintained this weekly blog post and related social media content and let that be enough. It was fine, but I still have not broken out of the slump.

Now I want to try the other side of the coin and Laura Tremaine (an author and podcaster who I pretend is my friend in real life) has the perfect opportunity for me – a daily social media writing challenge.

Why It Works

Creativity and relationships are part of the Mental Well-being pillar of Sustainable Productivity. Research has shown that loneliness has a negative impact on mental AND physical health. Additionally, creativity (and hobbies in general) reduce stress hormones, blood pressure, and other markers of stress.

To say 2020 impeded our creativity and relationships would be an understatement. When those 2 components suffer, our Mental Well-being suffers which leads to an overall loss in productivity. This is not a sustainable model. This is burnout.

I am not saying you should put blinders on to the grief caused by 2020. I am saying it is important to grieve those things and give yourself a break. It is equally unhealthy to stuff negative feels so that you can power through your to do list.

But all crises end. Darkness turns to dawn. Maybe you are like me and are starting to see a sliver of light on the horizon.

It is time to reach toward that smidge of sunshine, grab on and crack open a new chapter.

Let me show you what I have in mind.

How It Works

For every day in May there is a prompt that I will write about and want to invite you to come along with me. You don’t have to be a writer or aspiring writer – just someone who wants to share a bit each day. Don’t let the fact that it’s a couple days into the month deter you from starting. Check out the themes below and jump in on themes that move you. The point of this exercise is not to be on social media more. It is about leveraging social media to use creativity and relationships to build a life we don’t need to escape.

If you choose to join the challenge, use the hashtags #OneDayMay and #SustainableSue so we can find each other in a search.

By |2021-05-02T08:58:17-04:00May 4th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Calming a Cluttered Mind

Suggestions for calming a cluttered mind can fit into all three dimensions of Sustainable Productivity. This may seem counterintuitive to suggestion action for an already overworked system.

However, Sustainably Productive habit change comes from replacing one behavior with another. When you stop doing something, there is a void. You have to replace that void with a different something.

Here are some suggestions for what that replacement could be.

Health and Fitness

Walking meditation as a way of calming a cluttered mind.

  • Engage your 5 senses. Notice your surroundings by identifying something you can see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. Therapists recommend a strategy called the 54321  Grounding Technique to overcome anxiety.
  • Cal Newport’s “Productive Meditation” is a sort of walking meditation as well. Although the name seems counterproductive, focusing on a single problem while moving – especially in nature – can unstuck the most stuck of us.

Mental Well-being

Traditional Meditation is another option for you to begin to settle a mind in overdrive. There are numerous apps, books, and classes that can teach you about or guide you through meditation.

What has worked for me is simply sitting with a 10-minute timer set and clearing my mind. If thoughts wander by, I imagine them as clouds floating through. On days where my mind wanders a smidge more aggressively, I imagine picking up that thought and depositing it in a filing cabinet.

You may never make it through the whole 10 minutes wander free, but noticing the wander and returning to intention to clear your mind will help with calming a cluttered mind.

“Nothing in the universe can stop you from letting go and starting over.” Guy Finley

Environmental Surroundings

Set up your surroundings to soothe you from the outside in. This requires you to pay attention to what you pay attention to when it is “one of those days“.

  • Get rid of what may set off monkey mind. Are the walls closing in on you in your home office because of the bags of donations that need to be dropped off? Do you get frustrated at the lack of counter space every time you meal prep? Address those areas instead of continuing to be annoyed.
  • Seek out what calms your mind. Here I want you to notice when soothes you. Maybe you feel the knots in your belly untie when you sit under a certain blanket. Do you imagine sinking into a corner of the sofa at the end of they day? Or is the seat at your kitchen table with the sun streaming in where you find you are best at calming a cluttered mind?

Just as with traditional meditation, part of the calming happens just by noticing.

Your Turn

I would love to hear your strategies for calming a cluttered mind. What has worked – or not worked? Let’s crowd source our ideas – a high tide raises all boats. The more we all can reduce that frantic pace of life, the more we will create a culture of Sustainable Productivity.

By |2021-04-27T04:48:15-04:00April 27th, 2021|Mental Well-being|2 Comments

Get the Right Things Done

Forget about getting more done, I want you to get the right things done. The topic I get the most questions about is time management. I want to share the principles behind time block planning that help me to be productive in a sustainable way.

Time block planning is certainly not something that I invented. On Laura Vanderkam’s June 4th episode of her “Before Breakfast” podcast, she talks about the value of time blocking. Cal Newport has a whole website and planner dedicated to time block planning.

Do not be afraid that this is going to be all about doing more with your day. Time block planning will allow you to make sure the RIGHT THINGS get done in a day. That is why it is a time management tool to get the right things done, not to get MORE done.

The Pain Point

Tell me if this scenario resonates with you:

You have ABC thing to do but you know you will need a good 40 minute chunk of time to do it. This might be sort out a billing error, write an email outlining results or a problem you have to look up dates to references, or finding something from your storage unit because you know it is probably in a box at the back.

So you wait to have time. You do stuff in the meantime, pretending to be productive, but you don’t get the right things done.

  • Putting off the billing error makes you miss out on a refund.
  • Not sending the email means your voice is not counted.
  • Avoiding the storage unit leads to the special Tooth Fairy pillow never being used.

Time does not appear. You do not make time. Time is waiting for you to assign it a job. Imagine time as an empty bin waiting to hold your thoughts and actions for you until you assign a time to tackle it.

As you probably know by now, when you are applying the Sustainable Productivity methods to your habits, once you identify the pain point, it is time to move to the adjustments. First I will give you a few examples of what to time block. This might give you some ideas of how you can make this work in your world. Then I will show you a few options of how to time block. so you can get the right things done.

Adjustment, Part 1

What to time block differs on the role. I use time block planning for two different types of tasks that I encounter in my personal and professional life.

Professional life – Tasks that need to be repeated

The tasks that I encounter in my professional life tend to be those that need to be repeated.

Some tasks happen on regular intervals because of time constraints.

  • Every week I prepare 6 slide decks for the following week.
  • Daily I prepare and send the agendas for the following day’s meetings.
  • For every project I need to prepare a monthly report to the steering committee.

Not all of the tasks are time bound. There are also tasks that are so large that I cannot tackle them to one sitting. For example I currently have a to do I call “Fix the billing SNAFU.” This comedy of errors dates back to the person who was in my role before me so it is taking a long time to untangle and set up a process from devolving again.

Personal life – Tasks that can be grouped

The to do list in my personal life appears very different. The items below are actually on my Brain Dump List on my phone. It seems like they separate out into three buckets.

  1. Errands – These are tasks I need to address outside the house. Grocery pick up, library books pick up / drop off, buy ant spray, and Target.
  2. Chores – These are tasks I can do / need to do at home. Pay bills, empty bathroom trash cans, rollover my retirement form former employment, and clean out the fish bowl.
  3. Non-work – These are things I considered not productive in another life. Today I know rest, fun, hobbies and relaxation are critical to living a Sustainably Productive life. Items in this bucket include: plant potatoes, buy sewing needle to use on denim, look up the address of the murals I want to photograph, and call about an activity for my nieces to do this summer when they visit.

These types of things I time block differently, which we will cover in the next section, Adjustment, Part 2.

Photo by Zan on Unsplash

Adjustment, Part 2

How I set my time blocks to get the right things done differs depending on whether it is for my professional life or my personal life.

Professional life – Tasks that need to be repeated

Let’s return to the example I introduced you to in part 1. I blocked an hour each week dedicated to Project SNAFU. If I wait until I have time to tackle it, that will never come. I won’t solve it in an hour, but I can make progress each week by following up and asking questions related to it.

Similarly, I have a 45 minute block daily on my calendar to prep for tomorrow’s meetings and send agendas. Same for a block to draft Power Point slides each week and Steering Committee status each month.

If you wait until you have time to tackle a large project, it will never happen.

Personal life – Tasks that can be grouped

In my personal life I find that the list often overruns the time I have available. I may only have an hour to run errands during my lunch hour so I need to prioritize – what really need to get done today and what could be put off. Then I plan for driving time. We often overlook driving time – we race around and cannot figure out why we ended up late to our afternoon appointments. Until we can figure out how to apparate like in Harry Potter, factor in that travel time.

On my calendar I will block an hour (or 30 minutes – whatever the day allows) for chores and non-work as well. This gives me flexibility to prioritize (or cherry pick fun) chores I want to do in that time allotment. Your task grow to fill the time you give it so learn from Julie Morgensten about giving your time borders to contain it.

One more thing about that non-work time. I know many of you are out there saying you will do The Fun Thing after the work is done. Then another day rolls by and you are (rightfully so) exhausted at the end of the day and just collapse in front of Netflix. Building The Fun Thing into your day with a time block gives you a better chance that it will indeed happen.

Bonus

Later this week I will be posting video of how I use time blocking planning as part of a larger project plan. For my day job, I have a 500+ line project plan for a 6 month, multimillion dollar project. I will show you how I apply time block planning to that project plan to get the work done (i.e. is productive) in a way that is methodical and repeatable (i.e. sustainable).

By |2021-05-18T08:49:09-04:00April 13th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Who Is Cheering You On These Days?

Even though I was raised in team sports, it was not until much later in life that I truly valued the tribe of women in my corner. Where in my teenage years to late 30s I had a few women who I truly believed had my best interest at heart, in my 40s that circle is widening – even as I am becoming more discerning.

Source: https://www.instagram.com/leaninorg/

Healthy relationships are part of the Mental Well-being pillar of Sustainable Productivity. I want to share a few women who have been cheering on my writing by sharing with their tribe. I want you to think about those in your circle. Who has taken time to brag about you, share your victories, and asked – and really wanted to know – how you are doing lately?

Here are a few of mine.

Learning new things always includes a learning curve. But social media for this middle aged introvert? Get outta here. So when Brooke Turbyfill asked me to test out Instagram Live interviews?

But alas, I swung for the fences and had fun – and learned something along the way! You can check it out here.

Then I had an opportunity to guest post on Sarah Butterfield “Out of Place” series. You can find my piece on “Ditching Perfection to Find Belonging” on Sarah’s website.

I hope that this inspires you to life someone else up and to look around you to see if you need to be more particular about your relationships. If you can’t find a cheerleader, come find me – I am rooting for you.

By |2021-04-06T13:17:26-04:00April 6th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Ways to Improve Physical and Mental Health

Spring forward and the vernal equinox sure help me improve mental and physical health! It’s that time of year when we start to come out of hibernation. I have a bit more energy to tackle, well – anything. If you have been around here for a minute, you know how much I love books and gardening. These are a couple of my favorite hobbies. I want to share with you why they also improve mental and physical health in hopes you will be inspired to add a hobby to your life. 

Benefits of Books

While self-improvement and memoir are in my top favorites to read, fiction is what is my favorite for escape, relaxation and general enjoyment. Research proves this is not just in my head. Reading fiction can

  • Reduce stress by 68% – demonstrated by lowered heart rate and muscle tension
  • Enhance “Theory of Mind” which is the ability to understand other’s mental states and show increased empathy. 
  • Increase your life span. According to Social Science and Medicine, those who read 3.5 hours per week had a 17|% lower risk of dying in the next 12 years. Reading MORE than 3.5 hours per week lower their risk by 23%. 

Source: Dr Caroline Leaf

Benefits of Gardening

Gardening can be equally healthy – both mentally and physically. You don’t have to have an elaborate or expansive property, even a simple container garden on the balcony of an apartment can bring you benefits. 

Benefits of Hobbies in General

While books and gardening might not be your jam, I cannot encourage you enough to find your jam. Hobbies give you a respite from the grind. You are more than the sum of your work hours. Whether that work is something that gets a W2 or not you need a hobby. 

  • Stay at home moms need time to give to themselves just as generously as they give to all of their people ALL DAY (and sometimes night) LONG.
  • CEOs need to take off the high heels and put up their feet to just be, not to solve all the problems. 
  • And where are my teachers? Sheesh, you are the CEO, mothers, tech support, and educators that the rest of us can’t even pretend to keep up with. 

It is more important to find some kind of hobby that to find the perfect hobby. No matter what you try, the simple pursuit of a hobby is what will reduce your need to escape your life. 

Extra Credit

Hobbies are just as important as laughter. If you want bonus points towards creating a life you don’t need to escape, check out this “No’s of Hobbies” podcast episode. 

By |2021-03-21T12:11:15-04:00March 23rd, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

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

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