How to Get Unstuck

One of my physical therapist’s favorite phrases is this: Motion is lotion. When I was post surgery and thinking about bending my knee this advice made me want to punch him in the face. After my foot surgery and I could not raise up on my toes no matter how hard I tried, hearing “Motion is lotion!” was super unhelpful. 

And yet, he is right. 

The more I spend time writing these weekly essays, podcasting, and reworking my book proposal, the more I see this advice applying to all three dimensions of Sustainable Productivity. Let me show you how.

Health & Fitness

Our bodies want to be good to us, they want to move and support and flex. As we age and gravity seems to be working against us sometimes this feels painful. That pain can trick us into thinking we need to move less to hurt less. Then our muscles atrophy more, the joints dry up, and connective tissue gets more brittle. It is a downward spiral. 

But motion is lotion! Synovial fluid is the liquid in our joints and its purpose is to help the joints move easily. It also naturally decreases as we age. Arthritis is another condition that decreases synovial fluid. Anyone who tries to hop out of bed and bebop into the bathroom after age 40 knows this. But you know what increases synovial fluid – MOVEMENT! Physical activity and exercise increases the circulation, which includes bringing nutrients and synovial fluids to the joints.

Potential adjustments

  • Light stretches before getting out of bed
  • Non-weight bearing exercise like cycling or swimming
  • Lower impact strength training to maintain / increase strength in a way that is easier on joints
  • Increasing physical activity even if formal exercise is not accessible or desirable right now

Mental Well-being

Decision fatigue is real. Recent research suggests that we make 35,000 decisions each day. If you are like me, sometimes you get paralyzed by needing to make the PERFECT decision. Does this sound familiar: I don’t have time to do this, let alone REDO it. Let’s make sure it is right the first time. 

So, friend… How’s that working for you?

I often find that I am less decisive when I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired. The converse is true too – only when I am frozen with indecision do I realize I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired. The acronym for hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT) is used in recovery as well. Once I address my basic needs (eat, sleep, engage) decisions seem softer. 

But if I still am uncertain I have 2 choices – to act or not. While there is value in the pause ((link to article on when in doubt don’t), there is also truth to “motion is lotion” applying here. Action breeds clarity. Sitting around thinking about how to arrange a quilt top recently did nothing to getting the design done. I needed to putter around with the layout, run it by a quilting friend, make adjustments and repeat.

Potential adjustments

  • Remember rest is action – sit in a hammock, wait to get out of bed and just enjoy being cozy
  • Try smaller steps towards a decision – a trial membership, a small container of a new food, borrow equipment for a new hobby before buying
  • Use a notebook you already have before buying a fancy planner or journal
  • Track time before making any changes to your schedule – maybe time is being lost where you think it is

Environmental Surroundings

Our last kid moved to her new apartment last week. Although she is still in college and could boomerang back after graduation in May, this feels different than her moving to her dorm. More permanent. Probably because she took furniture with her this move. It certainly felt different on my body to move a full mattress and box spring up a flight of stairs than to unpack sheets and a comforter in a dorm. 

What it left us with is a literal empty nest. With her room empty Bixby and I had some decisions to make about where stuff went. He has lots of guitars, amps and cords for his band. I have lots of crafty treasures and need a space for podcasting. He was willing to do whatever I wanted, his only requirement was a dedicated space for his stuff that he could easily access. 

I have been thinking about the ideal ways to use the space and furniture we have. Nothing seemed like a hell yes. So it became a no. Which was not productive or sustainable because we shampooed carpets, unloading rooms as we went. PILES of stuff in hallways, on my work desk, on my bathroom sink. A cluttered environment leads to a cluttered mind. I just needed to make some movement – motion is lotion. 

We started with the obvious. We moved the bed from one room to the other. The trundle bed was moved from my office to the empty bedroom. 

I moved to the next obvious – craft projects in progress needed to get out of the way of the band equipment. Easy choice once the decision wheels were lubricated.

Each small step led to another obvious next step over several days. The hallways are clear and so it my desk. I don’t know that we will be done for awhile – there are still a couple  pieces of furniture that would be nice when the budget allows. But I have a peaceful environment again. 

Potential adjustments

  • Start with low hanging fruit – we knew we wanted beds in bedrooms (not in my office)
  • Accept that changing your mind does not mean you were wrong – you just found a solution that might be better. I have moved pillows between three rooms all week. Seeing it in the room is better for me that seeing it in my mind. 
  • Trust your instincts – including when to stop for now
  • Set a timer to give yourself a window that you will fuss with stuff. If you need more time, add it to your calendar. 
This empty room caused me WAY more stress than it needed to.

This will get easier with time. The more practice you have noticing your pain points and identifying small movements forward, the less indecision you can potentially have. Motion is lotion in all aspects of life. 

Sustainable You Reflections

  1. Where do you feel stuck or have pain of movement?
  2. How can you refine what motion is in that component of a Sustainably Productive life?

Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that work for you. 

By |2023-07-26T12:11:57-04:00August 1st, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Independence from Burnout

The day this essay will first post is Independence Day in America (where I live). I don’t come from a military family, although I did go through the application process to play basketball at West Point. I say this because while I respect the intended purpose of the 4th of July observations in the US, I want to extrapolate this to a topic I know a little more about.

Yep – burnout.

Today is less about convincing you that you are suffering from burnout and why that is harmful. I want to offer ways that you could slowly work towards independence from burnout starting today. Yes, today. This week. Soon, not someday.

Sustainable Productivity is based on three pillars – Health and Fitness, Mental Well-being and Environmental Surroundings. I want to offer a few ways you could explore finding independence from burnout. It is less that these are THE BEST ways to heal from and prevent burnout. Instead consider these options that might get you thinking about what appeals to you.

Health & Fitness

  • Set a reminder on your phone to spend 2 minutes breathing deeply.
  • Walk or sit outside for 10 minutes – even if it is not great weather.
  • Visit a Farmer’s Market. Bonus points if you sample fruits and vegetables or purchase healthy foods.

Mental Well-being

  • Hug someone for 20 seconds.
  • Look at your work schedule for the coming week and move or cancel any appointments that overlap.
  • Explore something creative – color, listen to music, watch a cooking show, or putter around the garden.

Environmental Surroundings

  • Delete 5 pictures from your phone that you can easily say you don’t want (the blurry ones, duplicates, and 50 photos of your pre schoolers nostrils are good candidates).
  • Take the donations bags to the donation site.
  • Enjoy a decluttered space with no extra stimulation (TV, books, music, people).

If none of these ideas resonate with you, check out the No Burnout Bingo cards for more ideas. They are a free download that can help you find independence from burnout. Here is a sample. They also have blank cards that you can fill in ideas that are meaningful to you.

Sustainable You Reflections

I would love to hear or see what you put in your card or what small moves you can make today to free yourself from burnout. What better way to start the second half of 2023 than to take small action items to create a life you don’t need to numb out from!

Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that work for you. 

By |2023-06-27T08:40:05-04:00July 4th, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Pep Talk From (and For) Uncomfortable Sue

Time for a pep talk, gang – circle up. No one likes to be comfortable more than I do. I love my sweatpants. Crocs are my go to footwear right now. I have had the same hairstyle since I was 8. But this writing and podcasting thing sure has me stretching my comfort zone these days. 

I have been finding encouragement in weird places and wondered if some of these might help you too. Sometimes we need non-traditional methods to break into our stubborn brains. It is sort of like the unmotivational posters from Despair that remind us to take ourselves a little less seriously in the office. 

Slow Growth

I was watching some science thing and they made a comment that a variance in just one molecule changes the make up of something, technically rendering it a different species. This is a pep talk for Uncomfortable Sue (and maybe Uncomfortable Sue) who feels like she is making progress too slowly. I feel like I should have more readers and listeners by now. I want all the results to be successes, no failures. 

This is magical thinking at its best. But what this science inspirational nugget does is tell me that these small, incremental adjustments do matter – even when I cannot see the progress. You cannot see changes on a molecular level unless you have a microscope. I am sure there are microscopic ways the Sustainable Sue business is growing that I just am not aware of. 

I just need to be patient about the time it is taking. Which leads to the next pep talk for Uncomfortable Sue.

Painful Disconnect 

Glennon Doyle said something on her podcast that made me pull the car over and write it down. The pain is between the knowing and the action. This is why when our insides and outsides are not matching up, we feel uncomfortable and disconnected. Because we are – there is a disconnect between knowing something is wrong and doing something about it. 

The fun part (or “fun” – we are talking about pain after all) is that now that you are aware of this idea, it might even show up more for you. This concept has shown up in my life in big and small ways since I heard it months ago. 

  • Each spring I want to be a woman who grows her own herbs and vegetables, yet I don’t take action on making a plan to prepare the soil and remembering to water the plants.
  • In 2017 I knew something was wrong with the way I was drinking alcohol, but I lied to my counselor for years about it, refused to admit I had a problem, and blamed everyone else for my misery.
  • My digital clutter makes it hard to find files and costs money to store and back up. Although this drives my crazy, when the time block to do something about it pops up I have been dismissing it without taking action. 

The truth is when the pain gets great enough, that is when we will change our behavior. Sometimes it take a long, dang time. But I do believe that you become a truer version of yourself as you get older. We can shed the fears and other obstacles to really learn who you are. 

“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.”

David Mitchell

When you meet the true you, this is when your insides and outsides can start to align. You can become a fully integrated person and this is where the pain is relieved. 

Sustainable You Reflections

  • What do you think is taking too long to get the result you want?
  • What small (even microscopic) changes have you made to move from the knowing?

If this pep talk was helpful for you, I would be grateful if you shared it with a friend who might need some encouragement. 

Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that sustain YOU.

By |2023-04-14T08:50:59-04:00April 25th, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

The Evolution of the Sustainable Productivity Triangle, Part 2

This is part 2 of the Sustainable Productivity Triangle origin story. You can find part 1 at this link.

In last week’s essay I introduced the geometry concepts, and this week I want to show you how they apply to a Sustainably Productive life.

Concept 1: “Each side of the triangle relies on the other sides for strength.”

A triangle by definition has three sides and three angles – just two sides doesn’t make a shape. If you have parallel lines they may run next to each other, but that is not how life works. Life is less like sleek parallel lines and more like spaghetti. We need the reliance on all three sides of the Sustainable Productivity triangle in order to make sure that the life we create can be sustained long term. Missing a side or having a weakness can cause collapse of the triangle, which shows up as burnout in our lives. Let’s review a few examples. To keep the high school math analogy, let’s look at each as an equation.

Example 1 = (Health and Fitness + Environmental Surroundings) – Mental Well-being

Imagine a woman who is fit and strong, kills it at work and has a penthouse apartment with a great view. Now imagine she is lonely – you don’t have to try hard, I think this is pretty much Tully Hart in Firefly Lane, right? Not sustainable. Not productive.

Example 2 = (Mental Well-being + Health and Fitness) – Environmental Surroundings

For this scenario our woman has created good stress management habits with a variety of hobbies. She shares her joy with friends by gifting her fiber crafts and painted landscape masterpieces. But what if there is a significant amount physical clutter that she has collected for these hobbies that prevents her from truly enjoying her home? Or worse yet – her home is not safe for her to live in. Not sustainable. Not productive.

Example 3 = (Environmental Surroundings + Mental Well-being) – Health and Fitness

Consider the woman who always has a house full of people. Hers is the gathering place for her kids and neighbors and she loves having relationships where people feel welcome and a house to make that possible. What she is missing is caring for herself as she does everyone else – the results of her annual wellness visit are a disaster. Not sustainable. Not productive.

While this might be productive – or appear productive, these scenarios can rarely be sustained long term. Each side of the Sustainability Triangle relies on the others for strength. While a weakness can be accommodated in the short term, this is not a long term solution for a life you can be fully engaged in.

Concept 2: “If force is applied to a corner of a triangle, the shape of the triangle automatically shifts to the other sides to carry the load.”

Imagine a triangle where each side is a Sustainable Productivity dimension. Life is not static – there are always stressors that are applied to us by external forces. If you have a Sustainably Productive life that includes all three dimensions, then when the force is applied to that corner, the opposite side shifts to take the stress. Shifting to accommodate that stress is how we can prevent or heal from burnout. Here are a few examples, of course in the format of an equation.

Example 1 = Force x (Environmental Surroundings + Health and Fitness)

Perhaps you have been sleeping poorly because there is a significant amount of physical clutter in your bedroom. Your Sustainable Productivity triangle shifts so Mental Well-being can shoulder the load and offer a solution of Time Management. For example, time blocking 30 minutes per day to get the space cleared up could relieve the stress. 

Example 2 = Force x (Health and Fitness + Mental Well-being)

What if you want to exercise and eat healthy, but you just cannot seem to find the time to make it happen? If this example resonates with you, consider looking to Environmental Surroundings for your solution. Set up your refrigerator and pantry with healthy foods that make it easy to meal prep (meal kits and precut veggies are great for this). What if you spent less on a gym membership and more on equipment you could use at home? Or even a membership to an online exercise program that led you through workouts with what you already have on hand?

Example 3 = Force x (Mental Well-being + Environmental Surroundings)

Although it may seem like social media use creates connection, the connection is not the same as in person (phone/video chat falls somewhere between those two). This loneliness can find a solution in the Health and Fitness dimension. Connect with others over a walk or hike. Invite your mother in law to cooking classes. Go out to dinner or coffee with friends instead of texting. 

Thus, the Sustainable Productivity Triangle

Clearly we as humans are not machines or architectural structures. Human beings are always changing – our insides and our outsides.  But what we have in common is that all three – humans, machines, and buildings – experience outer forces of change. A machine needs to be engineered, or re-engineered, to keep up with advances in technology and humanity, and a person needs to adjust to the impact these advances have on our lives as well. Just as a sky scraper needs to bend and flex with the seasons of nature, we need to bend and flex with the seasons of our lives.

Habit change is not just about doing the thing that maximizes efficiency and effectiveness. Habit change needs to be about what you can maintain. Maintenance could be a season of life or just until you change your mind about what “working for you” means. This is where sustainable habit change enters. We need habit change that is productive and that we can maintain over the long haul. Habit change that can withstand the impact of outside forces acted upon it.  The Sustainable Productivity triangle shows you how.

This was the birth of Sustainable Productivity. Stressing the system – even if it is on behalf of positive change – can lead to burnout, which leads to illness, addiction, and disengagement.

You are here because you want another way forward. A way that helps lead you to your goals yet does not make you want to escape your life.

Sustainable You Reflections

  • Which of the above examples felt most like the life you are leading right now?
  • What small adjustment can you make to remove something that would cause an improvement in this area?
  • What small adjustment can you make to add something that would cause an improvement in this area?

If you are not sure what to add or remove, I am open to hearing the scenario to help you identify a potential shift. You can reach me at or send a DM on Instagram.

Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that sustain YOU.

By |2023-04-04T16:32:23-04:00April 11th, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

The Evolution of the Sustainable Productivity Triangle

As I draft the proposal for my book about Sustainable Productivity, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the evolution of the Sustainable Productivity Triangle. When I was in high school I dreaded going to Geometry class. I was terrible at it. Often tears would flow as I tried to wrap my brain around proofs and other geometric nonsense. Then there was my teacher. Mr O’Brien scared the crap out of me. He was really smart, really intense, and really did not understand my not understanding. It reminded me of how the Princess felt in War and Peace when Prince Andreyevich was teaching her geometry.

There was one lesson though. This lesson stuck out. Mr O’Brien showed slide after slide of triangles. Triangles in architecture. Triangles in nature. Triangles in construction. Triangles in anatomy. This man who loomed so large and scary waxed poetically for 50 minutes about the strength and beauty of triangles. 

I have a vague recollection of him talking about something to do with the compression, fixed angles, and tensions – honestly, I was just looking at pretty pictures and marveling that I actually related to this geometry lecture for the first time. It seemed like the more Mr O’Brien got warmed up, the more slides he clicked through, the more he changed into a real person.

I started connecting with the different concepts:

“Triangles are the strongest structure.”

“Each side of the triangle relies on the other sides for strength.”

“What nature creates and enhances on its own, man drafts and erects in order for his structure to sustain all kinds of weather and hardship.”

Thirty Years Later

I loved this lecture and it has stuck with me for over 30 years. I notice triangles in nature and buildings and bridges. Then my noticing expanded to other trios. Triangles and groups of three are often referenced in literature, religion, astronomy, and mathematics.  The triangle is a symbol in groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and the Free Masons. Consider these groupings of three:

  • Three Stooges
  • The Holy Trinity
  • Delta, the mathematical symbol of change
  • Three branches of American government
  • Roman Triumvirate
  • The Brady Bunch Boys and The Brady Bunch Girls

Sustainable Sue and Triangles

Then I noticed triplets in my own work. After years of coaching women on habit change, a few common threads started coming together into the Sustainable Productivity Triangle. The women I worked with expressed a consistent desire to change habits in three different areas of their lives:  

  • Health and Fitness
  • Mental Well-being
  • Environmental Surroundings

We worked on a variety of components in each of these pillars. Fitness, nutrition, rest, stress management, physical clutter, social media use and more. I began to wonder if the concepts of Mr O’Brien’s lecture could apply to habit change to address burnout. The overall theory is that triangles are the strongest structure. Not rectangles or squares – these can be shoved and you get a rhombus or parallelogram – no one likes a leaning structure. Circles are not the strongest – a slight breeze and your structure rolls away. Triangles are the strongest because of how the angles and sides rely on and take up for each other. 

Next week’s essay will cover how each dimension of Sustainable Productivity acts as a buttress for the others in times of stress. Until then, your only homework is to look up and notice.

Sustainable Productivity Reflections

  • Where do you see triangles in nature, architecture, etc.?
  • What trios do you notice as you go about your day?
  • What three pain points keep appearing in your life?

Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that sustain YOU.

By |2023-03-28T07:52:55-04:00April 4th, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Key Learning From Behind the Scenes at the Sustainable Productivity Podcast

Learning from experiences is important to me. I come from a family of educators and married into a family of educators. Several friends are educators. Learning is highly valued in my social circles. One of my core values is curiosity. Yet it is hard to keep that beginner mind. As a recovering perfectionist and people pleaser, I want to knock it out of the park every time. 

Let’s find out how that is working by applying the Sustainable Productivity questions:

  • Is it Productive – Am I getting the result I want?
  • Is it Sustainable – Can I continue this as long as I want?

I was reminded of this as I launched the Sustainable Productivity podcast as a solo host. While I know for sure this was the right move for me at this time, there are challenges. Audio editing and all the technical stuff that goes with producing a podcast is a big challenge for me. Also working without another person to respond to sometimes feels like working without a net. All of this can trigger some imposter syndrome for sure.

Not every episode is a hit, but that helps to chip away at what is not the masterpiece. You might remember this concept  from a previous post – not every piece of art is a stunner. Nor should it be. Of the 44 statues Michelangelo sculpted, only 14 completed. 

If one of the greatest sculptors in history is working on a 32% completion rate, I feel good about my current rate of consistently posting an episode each week. Even if that means I have to re-record a couple weeks in a row because I deleted segments as I was editing. Things happen, move on. Learn from misses. They are not failures, and maybe not even mistakes. Just data points to move forward in a different way.

Pep Talk

So here is a pep talk for the next time you have one of those days where you think, “What in the world am I doing?!” 

I am right here with you learning, being curious, and striking out sometimes. I am next to you in the mud wrestling with ideas, technology, time, and my crabby inner voice that just needs a snack so she can speak nicer to me. 

Here are a few behind the scenes peeks and the making of the Sustainable Productivity podcast to let you see that it truly is as Thomas Hughes said in the mid 1800s:

Its not all beer and skittles. 

No fancy recording studio. Behind me is the ironing board and iron for pressing quilt squares. On the desk in front of me is the computer hardware that is my day job. We make do with what we have!
As prep work to interview guests on the podcast, I am learning how to pull audio out of a Zoom call. This is Bixby testing the set up. Super helpful.

Learning to Ask for Help

In lieu of the Sustainable You Reflections, I would humbly like to make a request as we wrap up this weekly essay. Subscribe to and give a 5-star rating to the Sustainable Productivity podcast. Here are some tips:

  • Go here for how to listen to and rate a podcast
  • When searching for the podcast in your app, type “Sustainable Productivity Susan Sanders” into the search
  • Bonus points for those of you who are willing to share the podcast with a friend.

I have 6-month and 12-month goals for podcast growth, and word of mouth is the single biggest way podcasts grow. If you have topics you would like to hear about, send an email to or DM me on Instagram

I am still learning.


Me too, Michelangelo. Me too. 

Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that sustain YOU.

By |2023-03-21T11:18:57-04:00March 28th, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

3 Sustainable Productivity Lessons From Life This Week

I want to share a few Sustainable Productivity lessons I learned from life this past week. As I general rule I try to keep life consistent, boring, and predictable – that is how I define Sustainable Productivity for me right now. But as we know from poet Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

The past several weeks have been a season of life on a banana peel. Maybe you can relate? I have really had to lean on the concept of Real Me vs Ideal Me to focus on the one thing in front of me or to regularly change the one thing in front of me.

I want to share a few of the Sustainable Productivity lessons that I’ve learned from the banana peel. They relate to different dimensions of Sustainable Productivity and have broader implications (as most life lessons do).

Health and Fitness Lesson

Lesson 1: Take Care of Your Health

As I write this we are in the middle of the 2023 NCAA basketball tournament. My bracket is busted after day 2 (I’m looking at you, Purdue) and my rear is tired from all the time on the couch watching games (sorry, not sorry). One of the biggest stories is that the Kansas coach, Bill Self, is not on the bench. He was having chest pains a couple weeks ago, got checked out, and had stents placed.

Generally I don’t multitask as I write, but banana peel living has put me behind on all my deadlines so here I am drafting this post while watching Kansas take on Arkansas.

Back to business as usual, right? NO. This is where the lesson comes in. He is taking his doctor’s recommendations seriously and letting his assistant’s coach right now. Although he is connect to the team in practice and such, he is not on the bench for games – during THE TOURNAMENT. This is a big damn deal in college coaching. I love this. In a time where athletes are called “warriors” who “do battle” and “go to war,” this puts sports in perspective.

Perspective that we could all stand a little dose of because without your health you don’t have anything else. Not money, a hot spouse, overachieving kids, a C-suite job. Nothing.

Mental Well-being Lesson

Lesson 2: We need to be more evolved than trees

This year I have started taking classes towards being a certified Master Gardener. Right now that means classroom lectures and textbook reading. Because of a long trip for my day job the week before, I was distracted, jet lagged, and feeling like I should be five other places. Then this slide came up.

They will always have that wound although the tree may grow around it. The tree can live and thrive if there is nothing infecting the area when the would closes up, but it will always have that wound.

I sat right up and took some notes. I love this so much – we need to be more evolved than trees. Heal your wounds, don’t just stuff them down. Look at those scars in the cross section of the trunk. If a lightning bolt cuts into this tree and exposes this wound, it puts the whole tree at risk.

The parable here is pretty clear. If you have a wound from your childhood, a previous relationship, or even a misunderstanding with your boss last week – don’t stuff that shit down. If you just compartmentalize and trudge along, the next storm will open you back up. The fallout could be exponential to the original wound. Whether it is therapy, a trusted friend, recovery, or a support group, find a way through your wound. You are not a tree.

Trees don’t heal, they compartmentalize.

NC Agriculture Extension

A better writer than me would have tied this all together with a lesson from the Environmental Surroundings dimension to nicely cover all three dimensions of Sustainable Productivity, but well… see previous banana peel. This one is critical. This is the lesson I want to leave you with: Ask for help.

Sustainable Productivity Lesson

Lesson 3: Ask for help

I usually am the person in our family that handles supply chain and logistics. I make sure there is a plan B, supplies to pivot to plan C, and humor for plan D. When I was traveling for my day job last week, I had slept about 4 hours each night, spent 12 -15 hours a day with people, and was on day 6 of my 7 day trip. I was so ready to be home. As I sat in a very loud room with 75 people (who had just come off an hour of an open bar whilst I drank my club soda) waiting for dinner, America Airlines cancelled my flight home. No rebooking, just a no thank you – do not board, do not collect $200.

I went to refill my club soda to take a time out. By the time I got back, American Airlines had rebooked me OUT OF ANOTHER AIRPORT THAT HERTZ WOULD NOT LET ME RETURN MY CAR TO.

I almost cried. Which would have been the go to for Stressed Out Sue.

But I am healing into Sustainable Sue! I went against my nature and asked for help. Bixby rebooked my flight and my boss suggested a co-worker to return my car. Boom solved. Dinner enjoyed.

I know many of you struggle asking for help. I see you and I am you.

And I am suggesting there is another way forward.

Sustainable You Reflections

  1. What can you do today to take care of your health?
  2. What can you do today to take care of your mental well-being?
  3. What small thing can you ask for help with today?

I would love to hear the responses to these reflections. If you need a safe space to process or just want an accountability buddy, you can reach me at or find me on Instagram or Facebook

Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that sustain YOU.

By |2023-03-18T20:33:54-04:00March 21st, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Equanimity in Setbacks

Equanimity is my word of the year for 2023 and I sure have had a chance to practice it lately. Quick refresher on the definition:

I have a visualization for equanimity that is a tall, solid tree in a fierce wind storm. The outside stress of the wind is bending the tops of the tree. The tree is visually swaying with and resisting the force of the wind. Yet it remains steadfast and grounded by its strong, deep roots in the earth. Roots that have been tended to in times of calm to prepare it to withstand the inevitable storm.

And boy did that storm come for me. 

The specific circumstances don’t matter, but generally life has not been smooth sailing lately. Nothing catastrophic, just those nagging things that life brings:

  • Schedule too full (even with good, fun things)
  • Learning curves
  • Challenging relationships
  • Rain (and other bad weather)
  • Work demands
  • Medical appointments

How these nagging things came together to create chaos for me will surely look different for you, but the resulting feelings are what might be more familiar.

I wanted to just crawl in bed and pull up the covers. I felt like a failure because I could not get everything (or anything) done that I had planned. It felt like everything I had been working on would suffer from this setback. 

Have you ever felt this way? Are you feeling this way right now? It was like complete overstimulation on life. It was neither sustainable nor productive, which is the signal for me that adjustments needed to be made. 

These adjustments took on two different views. This was not a case where I needed to work on habit change so that in six months I would feel less pressure. I needed immediate relief too. Luckily I have this snazzy word of the year to lean on. 

Short Term Adjustments

The first thing I did was triage and made adjustments to the plans for that weekend. Basically I cleared the decks. Cancelled two activities and modified a third to not have to leave the house. The only chores I got done were the truly necessary ones. 

I want to acknowledge that I am really privileged to be able to do this. I did not have work on these days, and I did not have kids depending on me. The lesson that we might be able expand on though is that if we as adults are feeling this burnout, I wonder if our kids are too? If we are feeling overwhelmed at work, maybe our co workers would appreciate a softer foot on the gas pedal too?

This short term fix helped restore some equanimity but I still needed to do more work. 

Mid Term Adjustments

A major part of my spin out was being overcommitted. The adjustment I needed to make was not a fun one. I had to reschedule somethings, cancel others, and not take on some really fun things that I wanted to. Inevitably, I disappointed people, which of course made me feel badly. I am working on reframing this – I would rather disappoint you than make myself sick with overcommitment. People who really care about me will understand.

I sure want to be the person who can fit ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag and skip happily though life but I am not. Living life in reality vs. fantasy is what will make my choices sustainable. 

Dance with the one that brung ya, am I right?!

Life will continue to keep coming and while I am through this particular patch of overwhelm, it will happen again. This is what life is made of. There is a such thing as good stress. Science calls it eustress. Having a baby is a good kind of stress. Getting married is eustress. We don’t want to live a bland life without any stimulation. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist spiritual leader, has said (and had a book with this title, “No mud, no lotus.” Without suffering through the mud, you cannot find the happiness of the lotus. Without grit, there is no pearl.

I want the pearl and the lotus. And I know that to do that – and be able to enjoy it when I have it – I need to feed my roots to create a life that is Sustainably Productive. To go back to my equanimity visualization, I need to accept where I am and feed the roots to be able to withstand the future storms.

Sustainable You Reflections

  1. Write down the last time or two where you wished for a snow day to cancel plans or that you could just hide from your schedule. How would it have felt to have a chunk of time freed up for you?
  2. Looking at your calendar for the next week or month, what 1-2 things can you cancel or reschedule to create that space?
  3. Take a 30-day reprieve from taking on new things. No new classes, dinner dates, travel, etc. 

Let’s check in. How are you doing? No, like really – how are you? You can reach me at or find me on Instagram or Facebook

Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that sustain YOU.

By |2023-02-28T08:14:29-05:00March 14th, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Fullest Expression or Sustainably Productive Expression?

“Fullest expression” is a phrase that they use a lot in my yoga classes. “Should” is not a word permitted in the studio. Instead of blahblah-asana being a pose where you should have your arms wrapped around your legs while balancing on your head, the instructor coaches us that pretzel is the fullest expression and we can also just do arms or incorporate the head stand part if it feels right today. 

Which is a relief because there is one thing this old bod is not doing these days and it is fullest expression of anything upside down. 

Full expression and well, my expression. If this doesn’t clarify the difference, I am not sure what else to do.

I have been thinking a lot about the idea of fullest expression lately as things are getting shuffled around in my life. Nothing major just projects that require a some small adjustments to logistics. 

Fullest Expression Off the Mat

A few balls have gotten dropped, and I am definitely out of my routines. Which often leads me to less than Sustainably Productive thinking. Here is what that might sound like:

  • What is wrong with me – normally I have my writing done by now.
  • I should be able to do all three things. 
  • Other people manage a lot more than this, why can’t I?

I feel my attention being fractured as I spend several hours each day continually bouncing around. The context shifting is exhausting. By the end of the day my fullest expression is the fetal position under a blanket clutching the remote. I know my habits and routines bring relief to this pinging around, but I feel like there is not enough time or I should be doing something else. If I can’t do the whole routine, I do nothing. 

For example, I recently got up later than usual and skipped morning reading and journaling before going to exercise. I felt like I had been shot out of a cannon all day. It was like I was living on 1.5 speed instead of the normal pace of life. Everything felt out of synch. 

I wonder if you might have days like this too? 

Real Life Look In

What if we do a small part of each bits of our routine? If we cannot do the whole enchilada, maybe we can have small bites of it. Here is what it might look like as it relates to my morning on ramp:

Fullest Expression

Journaling: 15 minutes

Personal Development, Daily Devotional Reading: 20 minutes

Meditation: 20 minutes

Stretch: 6 minutes

Sustainable Productivity Expression

Journaling: 5 minutes

Reading: 5 minutes

Meditation: 1 minute

Doing a truncated version of the routine is better than chucking the whole thing and shoulding on myself all day. This is different than a routine not working. This is for a day the alarm didn’t go off. Or you have to catch a flight. Or a kid woke up sick. 

Showing up for yourself consistently – even if it is not the fullest expression – can continue to keep that fly wheel of habit change turning.  

Sustainable You Questions

  1. Do you have a day in the next week where you know you need an abbreviated version of your routine?
  2. How can you plan now for what that shortened window can be used in a Sustainably Productive way?

It can be hard to reframe fullest expression to Sustainable Productivity Expression. If you need help find me on social media or send me a message to I would be glad to help you work on it!

Until next time –

By |2023-02-03T19:38:24-05:00February 7th, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

My Mom Was Right

There is nothing an adult woman hates to admit more than this – my mom was right. 

Perhaps I can only admit this now that she died, which was almost three years to the day that this weekly essay is going out. Needless to say she has been on my mind a lot in the last few weeks. 

One of the things my mom always told us was, “When in doubt… Don’t.”

  • Iffy about that skirt I was trying on during back to school shopping?
    • When in doubt… Don’t.
  • Unsure about accepting the invitation to the party?
    • When in doubt… Don’t.
  • Afraid of crossing that empty parking lot in the dark?
    • When in doubt… Don’t.

What makes so much sense now drove me bat shit crazy when I was a teenager. No one wanted clothes to fit her more than 6 foot tall 15-year old Sue. Pants were too short, all sleeves were jersey length, shoes for my boat-sized feet might as well have come from Dorothy Zbornak‘s closet. 

I knew I was not comfortable in these clothes, but I wanted to fit in so badly. Then came The Phrase: When in doubt… don’t. 

I knew those Guess jeans were going back on the rack for a shorter girl to buy later. 

But Today Sue has been in my mom’s shoes (proverbially, I could not fit in her stylish shoes either). I know what regret can do. I know my mom was right when she encouraged a moment of pause before making a bad decision. 

The Pause

There is so much power in that pause. 

The pause can be a moment. For example, the moment in an argument when it goes off the rails. You know, when “you did not put your plate in the dishwasher” becomes “I do everything around here!”

The pause can be silence after no thank you. As in a response to that weird feeling when a stranger at a bar hands you a drink you didn’t ask for. Or something that seems more benign like an invitation to join a committee or volunteer program.

Stop talking. Pause. Because see, no is a complete sentence. That pause is where you used to fill in nonsense syllables because you felt like you had to fill the air. 

The pause can be more final than that – a decision of no when it is not a HELL YES. 

I know it will feel weird. But weird is just another feeling.

The Weird

Whenever you start to do something different, it will feel weird.

  • Learning to shoot with my left hand felt weird when I was 10. 
  • Lessons behind the manual transmission car felt weird when I was 16.
  • Becoming a step mother at 34 was a step beyond weird (I still often look for the parent in the room before realizing it is me).
  • Learning to live without alcohol when I was 43 – definitely weird. 
  • Saying no thank you <<PAUSE FOR SILENCE>> now that I am 48 is weird. 

If you can get through the weird, you will find that it fades pretty quickly. Science tells us that emotions that go uninterrupted by thoughts will fade after about 90 seconds. 

Ninety seconds. Maybe we could amend what my mom said to this:

When in doubt don’t. Then count to 90. 

You might just be amazed at what comes your way when you stop chasing what you give a doubtful yes. 

Sustainable You Questions

  1. Reflect on last week or notice this week if you give doubtful yes answer. 
  2. Where did the doubt come from? 
  3. Why did you feel you could not say no?

If this weekly essay resonated with you, please share it with a friend. I am trying to grow Sustainable Sue and spread the ideas of Sustainable Productivity. The best way to do that is for you to share with someone you know. 

Until next time –

By |2023-01-31T07:14:26-05:00January 31st, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments
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