Podcast: Planning that does not suck your soul

A couple weeks ago I was planning for the June – July – August quarter. As usual I identified one thing in each dimension of Sustainable Productivity to focus on. That means one thing for Health and Fitness, one thing for Mental Well-being, and  one thing for Environmental Surroundings.

I broke it down into an action that I could do daily and wrote the goal to be able to say yes or no that it was done (all the better to check that box in the habit tracker. This was fine for the Mental Well-being and Environmental Surroundings dimensions.

Then I got to the Health and Fitness dimension.

I literally had 5 hours per day. FIVE.

Sure, it sounded fun today, but after a couple weeks it would certainly suck my soul.

I had to coach myself up a bit and return to the two Sustainable Productivity questions:

  1. Is this productive – am I getting the result I want?
  2. Is this sustainable – can I continue lifelong if I want?

The clear answer to both of these questions was no – a laughable no. Not a shaming laugh, but a, “Wow, do I slide back into old, bad habits quick?!” laugh.

In the podcast this week Genay and I talk about getting realistic about planning, which is of course the root of Sustainable Productivity. You can listen here or anywhere you get your podcasts.

As I wrap up this post, I want to ask if you would share the podcast or these posts with someone you think would relate. I often get people telling me to let them know how they can help me grow as a writer, speaker, and podcaster. Share, share, share. The most common way podcasts of our size grow is word of mouth. Recommending Sustainable Sue or Conscious Contact to someone would mean the world to me. Thank you!!

By |2022-06-07T09:48:48-04:00June 14th, 2022|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Boredom

This week Genay and I go toe to toe on whether boredom is good or bad. Debate between us is always interesting because both of us suck at the grey area. We have a tendency to see things as black and white, bimodal, with me or against me, etc.

We talked about being “bored” as kids and how that looks today. We also spend a bit of time breaking down the different components of the definition of boredom.

Boredom: state of being weary and restless through lack of interest.

Weary

Sometimes what I call boredom is actually a signal that it is time to move on. This might be weary in a relationship – trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I have had friendly and romantic relationships where I felt more lonely with that person than by myself. I grew weary of trying to make it be different.  I did not identify this as boredom at the time, but looking at it from a distance I can see how it can be stale boredom to do the same thing over and over when all you want is something else.

Photo by Sinitta Leunen on Unsplash

Lack of interest

The book I can only read a few pages of at a time. The craft project that I rush through just to be done. Skipping the last set of nerve glide exercises because I am sick to death of them.

All examples of how boredom shows up as lack of interest.

Restless

This is where I start to turn the corner on boredom – this restlessness can actually be considered a positive if it creates space to allow creativity in. Here are a couple ways this presents in my life these days:

  • Puttering through chores.

Some days I am just bored with the daily mundane work of being an adult. One trick Bixby and I use is to set a timer for 15 – 60 minutes, put on our favorite playlist to play throughout speakers all over the house, and divide and conquer on tasks. At the end of the timer, sometimes we quit on the spot, sometimes we wrap up the task, sometimes we continue to clean, etc.

But the opposite is also true – instead of jamming through a finite time slot, puttering around can be successful. I fill out a form and take it to the mailbox. While I am out there I see flowers to deadhead and get the scissors from inside. Dropping the deadheads in the compost bin, I decide to turn the compost. Then throw the ball for Lucille.

I go inside and take a stack of books upstairs and see a load of laundry needs to be put in. Sweeping the stairs leads to folding napkins. Turning over the laundry leads to matching odd socks.

It all leaves space to naturally lead to whatever the universe brings to my attention.

  • Sitting and not meditating. Not every second needs to be accounted for. Truly. Louder for the people in the back

NOT EVERY SECOND NEEDS TO BE ACCOUNTED FOR. 

Ok, if you need to account for it, call this “restless mind syndrome” and assign it a 5-minute time block. Literally sitting down with no agenda, no book, no TV or phone, and NOT trying to clear the mind. I keep a notebook and pencil for anything that flows in. I find that it takes a few minutes to start to trickle in. Then WHOOSH – floodgates.

Genay and I talk ourselves in circles and as usual the answer to if something good or bad, we came to the conclusion: yes.

You can listen to the whole episode here or wherever you get your podcasts. But I just need to summarize that this topic has lead back to something that I have been working a lot on – Making space.

Space to learn something new.

Meet new people.

Do something new.

React differently – or not at all.

Maybe listening to our thoughts on boredom will shake something loose for you. I would love to hear about it in the comments or email me at Susan@sustainablesue.com.

By |2022-05-22T15:37:39-04:00May 31st, 2022|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

I want to catch you up on the fun stuff that has been happening while on hiatus.

Remember how I said I wanted to get my Tupperware drawer in order? I did approximately zero minutes of that.

Live footage of the jumble of plastic containers.

But what I did do was become a co-host of a podcast.

A friend of mine started the Conscious Contact podcast earlier this year. Here is the description:

Do you hate small talk? Do you often think about how to live a meaningful life, and where we get our reference for what is important in life? Join your host, Genay Peavey, and special guests as they dive into how they reconnect with the present, pursue their bigger purpose (and how they found it), and put the phones down so they can actively participate in their lives.

Sounds like Sustainable Productivity, right?! I thought so too and was delighted when she asked me to be one of her first guests. You can listen to that episode here.

Things just naturally progressed and now I am onboard as cohost!

I am excited about the podcast medium. I did not think the speaking thing was going to be my jam, but Genay makes it super easy, and we both have the same intention with our creative efforts.

If you want to learn along with us, subscribe so you don’t miss an episode. We are on most podcast platforms. You can also follow us on Instagram at @consciouscontactpodcast

By |2022-05-11T08:03:54-04:00May 11th, 2022|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

When Home Changes

The definition of home can change over the years. It is hard to have to let go of “homes” that no longer serve you, represent you, or match your definition of home.

This could be shifting roles in family life, friend groups changing, additional job responsibilities or countless other ways your settled “homey” feelings are kicked off their axis.

It might not be as dramatic as your daily schedule proverbially burning down or moving to a new literal home. It might be a subtle nagging that time spent in a space or relationship is no longer the soft place to fall that you thought it was.

When we think about this through the Sustainable Productivity (SusPro) lens, it means to ask yourself two questions:

  • Is it productive for me: Am I getting the desired outcome?
  • Is it sustainable for me: Can I continue this lifelong if I want?

If the answer to either one of these SusPro questions is no, it is time for an adjustment.

3-Step Adjustment

Once you decide something is no longer Sustainably Productive for you, you can take action through these small, manageable steps. This is not the time to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Sweeping, dramatic changes are not SusPro and often lead to burnout and negative self-talk. Not to mention don’t solve the problem that brought the need for change in the first place.

1 – Name what is not working

This could look and feel a million different ways depending on the issue and your life circumstances. Don’t overthink it. It could be activities just not fitting into the schedule this season. Maybe it is feeling drained after drinks with friends instead of fulfilled. Never quite finding time to reading the selection for book club – for a whole year.

Don’t judge what you name – let it be what comes up. No matter how trivial, petty, or small it might be.

2 – Make small changes

Once you name what is not working, brainstorm ways to make small SusPro changes. Don’t quit book club altogether, let the group know you can only commit to every other month. Instead of always having drinks with that One Friend, maybe ask that mom you see at band pick up if she wants to grab coffee. Or go have coffee with yourself instead of someone who leaves you drained.

If you are not sure how to make a change to what is eating your lunch every day, keep an eye out for when you DO feel at home. Certain clothing, rooms in your home, smells, people, activities, etc. How can you add more of that? Maybe you don’t need to stop having drinks with that friend, but you try to add other people, change to dessert earlier in the night, or just wear different pants!

3 – Evaluate

After a few rounds of your small changes, decide if it is working or not. This could be several months if you are backing off of book club, but it could be days if you are trying steel cut oats for breakfast instead of donuts. Take yourself full circle as ask the SusPro questions:

  • Is it productive for me: Am I getting the desired outcome?
  • Is it sustainable for me: Can I continue this lifelong if I want?

If the answer to either one of these SusPro questions is no, it is time for an adjustment.

Keep in mind the answer might be MAYBE. If you are not able to say no, keep going and see what develops. You might just be in the stage of habit change where you are resetting routines and neural pathways. Give it time to bake in before deciding.

Your Turn

Are you feeling comfortable in your literal and proverbial “home” these days? If so – identify why and what makes you feel at home. If not – what is not working and what small changes can you make?

By |2021-10-18T17:27:14-04:00October 19th, 2021|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

What SusPro is Not

Let’s pause for a moment in our personal growth to clarify what Sustainable Productivity is NOT.

Getting More Done

The Sustainably Productive (Sus Pro) life is not about getting more done.

I repeat – it is NOT about getting MORE done.

It is about getting the right things done in a way that you can maintain over time so that you don’t need to numb yourself to live your life.

It is right there in the name: Sustainable Productivity. SusPro for short.

Productive: Are you getting the intended result?

Sustainable: Can you continue this over time?

A Sustainably Productive life is one you don’t need to escape.

A Destination

A SusPro life is not a destination. It is something you can do now. Today. This moment. Start by asking yourself 2 questions:

  1. Is this working for me?
  2. Can I maintain it for life if I want to?

If the answer to either of these questions is no, then it is time to make adjustments. These adjustments are also part of the SusPro life. It is a path to walk, not a place to go. Start where you are.

Protection Against Bad Things Happening

The third thing SusPro is not is protection against bad things happening. Living a SusPro life is not about perfection – you will probably backslide into overcommitting or people pleasing. It does not mean you won’t sometimes feel prickly or judgy. But prickly and judgy is neither productive nor sustainable. Don’t stop here.

What I would like to suggest is that when bad things happen, when you feel prickly and judgy – that is a time to take stock in what you have and how far you have come. This is the time to rest on your laurels and find gratitude.

Your Turn

What is your version of prickly and judgy? How do you know when you need to pause and be grateful? What are you grateful for today, in this moment?

By |2021-09-19T08:44:30-04:00September 21st, 2021|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

I have Big Feelings about Simone Biles

I have put up a new post every week 73 times in a row.

Until last week.

See, I chickened out. I had been drafting a piece in my head, but could not get it down on paper screen. I procrastinated until it was 10 minutes before posting time on posting day and I chickened out.

Even as I sit here 5 days later I am procrastinating with these vague intro paragraphs while I take deep breaths to really be honest here…

https://media.giphy.com/media/3o6vXJZlfNfAYysryo/giphy.gif

I have big feelings about Simone Biles and the twisties.

Initial Reaction

When I first read the headline, I was disappointed in her. You train for FIVE YEARS, truly are one of the greatest athletes ever, and can’t pull out of your tail spin to compete for your teammates?

This is less about patriotism and more about TEAM.

I was raised in team sports, and it was drilled into my head that team was EVERYTHING. The people you “were in the trenches” with. Those you literally shed blood, sweat, and tears with. Cue all the training montages.

In college I had a season where I was pressing too hard and making blunders all over the court. Today I would absolutely say it was neither productive nor sustainable. I was pulled from the starting lineup and had a miraculous recovery of mind. It was nothing physical – all mental.

I talked to my coach about continuing to come off the bench. It worked wonders for my game, and I got more confidence over the next several weeks. Then I ended up back in the starting lineup. I asked to come off the bench instead and was summarily told that what I thought didn’t matter, to go play – this is what was best for the team. I never did play as well as I did off the bench and my confidence went back into the dumper.

This is just one of the NUMEROUS times I was told that what I thought and felt did not matter, I needed to shove it down and perform for the greater good. It was often suggested (although on occasions like this stated directly) that my mental and physical individual well-being did not matter if it was a detriment – or even just inconvenienced – the others around me.

My mental and physical individual well-being did not matter if it was a detriment or even just inconvenienced the others around me.

As athletes we are to perform, not think. To achieve, not feel. If I could do that as a mid-major collegian, shouldn’t Simone Biles have to do that as an Olympian? This just did not sit right with me. I did not know enough about rules of Olympic gymnastics to know if she could have pulled out sooner and given a teammate a chance to compete. I just had a bitter feeling about all of it.

And yet.

Second Thoughts

Then came the abuse Biles received in the media. She is not a true American because she would not compete? Then of course comes the racist, sexist hate speech. All of that is totally out of line no matter what. Additionally, it was completely out of proportion to the “infraction” of not competing in a sport.

I had bitter feelings about this too. All of these strangers out there completely disconnected from Biles and her sport were making these sweeping, drastic judgements and dragging this young woman’s name and character over the coals. It was painful to me and they weren’t even talking about me.

But it felt like they were.

It felt like they were talking about me. Simone Biles had the courage to do what I was never able to do. She stood up for her own mental and physical safety even when it was not popular. Even when it probably went against every natural fiber of what has been drilled into her brain for the last 3 Olympiads – or longer. Even when there is no path of how to navigate, no lesson plan to follow.

She just knew that competing with the mental state she was in was not productive. Literally – she could not produce the skills she normally could. Calling it “the twisties” sure makes it seem trivial and silly – we need a name that truly reflects its  seriousness. Continuing to try to “push through” was not sustainable, potentially literally unsustainable. The stories of gymnasts critically injured by pushing through are horrifying.

Because it really is just a sport. Sport is not life – no matter what we are told or what Dani Rojas declares in “Ted Lasso.” In all of my years as an athlete, I only had 1 coach tell me that my performance was separate from worth. Coach Ken Witt, my high school track coach, told me once in a midst of a total meltdown, “Your worth as a person is not dependent on how far you throw a lead ball.”

What If

Which leads me back to my original bitterness about Biles pulling out of competition. What if I would have listened more to Coach Witt and less to other coaches who told me to suck it up and get out there, to not let the team down. What if I had admitted more about mental and physical struggles I was having to trainers who were there to advocate for me and other athletes.

I think this is why I had my original negative response to Simone Biles – she stood up for herself when I didn’t. Although I am not sure what the emotion is, I know that I had a visceral feeling of, “I pushed through so why can’t you?”

But here I am today trying to undo those feelings because shoving it all down and pushing through is neither productive nor sustainable. This avoiding and pretending and putting your worth into things outside of you is what causes the need to numb out in life.

Admitting you are human and have feelings and limitations is how you can define your worth as a person.

Being proud of how you respond and not how you perform is how you can define your worth as a person.

I hope that Simone Biles will be more proud of the example she has set for others by stepping off the competition floor than what she ever could have on the medal podium.

By |2021-08-08T10:13:33-04:00August 10th, 2021|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Beginners and Dabblers

There is a danger in comparing someone else’s outsides to your insides. You most likely will not like what you find – often because you are not comparing your proverbial apples to their proverbial oranges.

There is value in being a beginner, a dabbler.

The Beginner

Let’s say for example you work in a fast paced office in corporate America. You are wildly successful and everyone hangs on your every word, waiting to rush off and carry out your requests.

What would it be like to do a slow paced activity like Tai Chi or Qigong in the evenings. You only have to listen to you and the purpose is to move as slow as possible.

Spoiler – it may feel weird. Like really awkward. You may <gasp> not even be good at it.

Congratulations, you are a beginner.

The Dabbler

Or what about this – you know you need something different, something more. You are seeking out that change of pace so you borrow cook books and the special baking pans from the library. Then you join a Couch to 5k group the following fall. January comes around and you gather 4 teacher friends to start a book club.

All of these things are enjoyable and you want to keep poking around to see what else interesting might be out there.

Congratulations, you are a dabbler.

Beginners and dabblers can be found in components and pillars of Sustainable Productivity. Let’s break down each pillar to see how being beginners and dabblers can help us create a life we don’t need to escape.

Health and Fitness

Ever since junior high school, I had a goal of earning a full ride basketball scholarship to college. It was like a mantra: tuition, room, board, books, and fees.

There was little room for dabbling. I quit the golf team when it interfered with pre season conditioning for basketball. Track was tolerated because I lifted weights heavily (I was a thrower), which was good preparation for playing in the post come basketball season.

I accomplished that goal and let me tell you how much basketball I play now: ZERO. I don’t want to play. Not even H-O-R-S-E. Especially not H-O-R-S-E.

Today dabbling is playing well below average tennis with my husband on a Sunday morning. Or flubbing a drive into the woods with my in-laws (I swear I will be free one of these Fridays!). Swim races across the cove, bike rides, or hikes in the woods – none of which are at anything nearing what normal people call “fast.”

All of this is a pace I can sustain lifelong if I want to.

Mental Well-being

On the May 20th, the Edit Your Life podcast talked about editing stress out of hobbies (one of the components of the Mental Well-being pillar of Sustainable Productivity). One way to do that is to let go of perfection and embrace being a beginner. This means all the uncertainty and messiness of being a beginner. This is very evident in fabric crafts.

Let me paraphrase the comparison idea from the start of this message – don’t compare your backside to someone else’s front side. In embroidery, there is a reason that the back is often finished so you cannot see it. There is a hot mess going on behind the curtain. FOR EVERYONE.

Looks like nice, tight and even stitches, right? Don’t turn it over!!!!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I will save you from having to hear all of the times I had to rip out stitches or miscounted. Some of those errors are still in my embroidery. The list of rookie mistakes I have made in the name of hobbies is enormous:

  • Typos in every single one of my yearly family photo albums
  • Dead plants
  • Seams ironed the wrong way

You get the idea. But that is all part of the game.

Environmental Surroundings

Beginners and dabblers can make impacts to the Environmental Surroundings pillar of Sustainable Productivity as well.

My daughter is an artist and aspiring interior designer so we set her loose in her room with paints of all colors a few years ago over Christmas break. Some parts she knocked out of the park, some pieces did not get started.

My sister participates in a 365 day declutter challenge each year. Some items in the challenge she might tear through (junk drawer), while others are harder (storage bins with keepsakes).

It is in the trying that we create a life we don’t need to escape. Like we mentioned last week, it is chipping away at what isn’t David – even if you created the non-David that needs to be chipped away. Try something and see if it brings more satisfaction and ease to your environment.

Even if it is not perfect or perfectly executed.

Your Turn

Is there something you have been wanting to try or get back to? What small step could you take today to become a beginner or dabbler? Which interests you more – being a beginner or dabbler?

By |2021-05-31T16:31:27-04:00June 1st, 2021|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Compromise That Actually Works

Although I am an adult who understands life is not fair, I am desperate for compromise that actually works. In general I feel the way Larry David does in Curb Your Enthusiasm, “A good compromise is when both parties are dissatisfied.”

I often field questions about how Sustainable Productivity can work in real life. I will bring you examples from real life – mine and my clients – in order to show how you can use the 3-step Sustainable Productivity model to create a life you don’t need to escape. I started wondering if I could find compromise that actually worked by using Sustainable Productivity in relationships.

The Background

When Bixby and I first started sharing a toothpaste tube, we had 2 adults, 2 kids, 4 Labs and 2 cats sharing 1100 square feet of house. We adapted the best we could – except for Bluesy, the cat. He moved out and adopted the neighbors after all 4 dogs had him cornered in the living room one day. To be fair, Bluesy generally started it.

But the rest of us did the best with what we had. The kids decided to sleep in one room and have the other as a playroom. Bixby and I purged mercilessly to bring two full households into one. This was Sustainable Productivity at its best – decide where the pain points are and make small, sustainable changes over time.

The Pain Point

Until one day when Bixby lost it. Over the toothpaste tube. He decided this was not something that could continue lifelong.

You see, in every couple, there is one who squeezes the toothpaste from the bottom and one who squeezes from the middle. There is a hilarious Instagram thread where my favorite couple Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach battle this issue.

My name is Susan S., and I am a middle squeezer.

Admitting my problem was truly only the first step.

I tried to change to squeeze from the bottom. It was not sustainable – I would forget or be tired at night and not care. I would be petty and grumpy and squeeze from the middle on purpose.

He tried to change and ignore my egregious behavior. It was not productive. You can only stuff your feelings down so many times before there is a blow up.

The Adjustment

They say marriages break up over dumb things. That seemed like a drastic adjustment to make for a toothpaste tube problem, but we could not continue with this pebble in the shoe of our marriage. The pain point was the tube. If we could make an adjustment about the tube, we would solve the problem before it grew into a bigger issue like, “You never listen to me” or “You know what bothers me and do it on purpose.”

So we bought a 2nd tube. Bixby kept his neat, tidy squeezed-from-the-bottom tube in his gross, messy drawer. I kept my blurt-from-the-middle tube in my Marie Kondo-eque box organized drawer.

Evaluate Progress

And we lived happily ever after. After meeting on Match.com 14 years ago and being quarantined together for 12 months, we are still each other’s weirdos.

By |2021-03-13T15:36:07-05:00March 16th, 2021|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Willpower is a Myth

Willpower is a myth. I will say it louder for the people in the back – WILLPOWER IS A MYTH. There is no such thing as willpower.

In the August 3rd episode of her podcast “Before Breakfast,” Laura Vanderkam walked through why willpower is over-rated.  She reviews several ways to control your environment so you don’t have to rely on willpower. In today’s post, you can learn how to set yourself up for success by addressing what is in your control in each of the three dimensions of Sustainable Productivity.

Health & Fitness

I know that I should not eat a whole sleeve of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies. There is no way that 16 cookies of any type are part of a healthy, well balanced diet. Yet, here we are – my “willpower” does not exist once the the package is open. Therefore, I need to set myself up for success and not rely on willpower to resist Thin Mints.

Source: Simple Pin Media

For me what Sustainably Productivity looks like is not buying Thin Mints except for when my nieces call me to place my annual order. I can’t keep them in the house. Laura’s podcast talks about other options for portion size, but those are not sustainable choices for me.

Mental Well-being

I have been trying to establish a morning routine as part of my Mental Well-being. This is not a new struggle – I have talked to you a little bit about this before. This has been particularly challenging because there has been very little continuity in my days this summer. Here is what runs through my head, “I have more free time than usual so I SHOULD be able to keep a consistent morning routine.”

Ugh, “should.” The ugly step-mother to willpower. Hear me when I say this again: There is no such thing as willpower. There are moods, poor planning, wrong choices, or bad timing. None of this is related to your ability to accomplish your goals.

Therefore, I take each day as its own and try again with the morning routine based on that day’s schedule. If it is raining and I cannot swim, I use my Plan B for the exercise part of my morning routine. If I have an interview and I cannot complete the whole routine in 1 block of time, I relax about the scheduling of it and do what I can, when I can.

Physical Environment

Is my house the only place where paper is hard to wrangle? From what I hear in talking to people, I think probably not. We needed a system to manage all the paperwork coming into the house. Again – willpower was not the solution. Would we really postpone starting family dinner so I could sort the junkman that came today? Does it make sense to prioritize bills just because I think I need to prove I have willpower?

Not. Sustainable.

So we set up a system to drop the mail in a cute bin from Target that sits on our kitchen counter. Then I deal with the mail when it works for me, not just when I think I “should.”

How can you create systems to solve problems you have been relying on willpower to address? Is there a nagging issue that you berate yourself for every time you skip it on your list or avoid on your calendar? I’d love to hear what you think about the idea that willpower is a myth.

By |2020-09-04T18:14:39-04:00September 8th, 2020|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

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