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.