Value in the “Circle Back”

Let’s take a moment this week to circle back on some topics we covered earlier this year. “Circle back” is one of those corporate buzz words that makes us cringe, roll our eyes or both. But there is some value in revisiting, closing the loop or general follow up. 

How many times do we hear the phrase “circle back” compared to how often we actually do it? I bet the result is not a ratio we would be really excited to publish. This is often a byproduct of busyness. 

Cultivating Relationships

We are going full throttle on the next thing, barely acknowledging or celebrating past accomplishments. We contribute to the meal train when someone has a death in their family, but do we come back the next month – when things get really quiet for them after the funeral rush is over? Or a lighter example, we recommend a book or TV show to a friend, but then don’t every ask if they liked it or not. 

A benefit of the circle back is to create connection with others. Relationships are a component of the Mental Well-being dimension of Sustainable Productivity. Who cares if we have a bright shiny life if we are disconnected from all the people in our lives? 

Some experts say that addiction is partly caused by disconnection and disengagement. Numbing out and escaping your life is also disconnection and disengagement. The antidote for this is connection – the circle back. 


I wonder if you are like me, making up stories when I don’t have all the details. 

  • Someone does not call me back so I assume they are mad at me (or dead in a car wreck if it is one of my kids). 
  • Silence after applying for a freelance opportunity means either my email is broken or they hate my writing. 
  • Delayed results from the doctor’s office means catastrophic news that they needed to run by another team before breaking to me.

While these are all pretty extreme examples, it demonstrates clearly that the open loops leave room for confusion and chaos at best. Getting in the habit of closing the loop with people can help manage that stress. Surrounding yourself with people who do that for you can help you feel more connected. 

It does not have to be a big hairy deal. Which is what I want to show today with a few follow ups of my own.

Podcast Set up

A few weeks ago I presented a case study on environmental productivity, which showed me podcasting from the floor. I looked on Facebook Marketplace and our local buy nothing group and made the decision to buy new from Target. The price was not going to be much more than what I saw on Marketplace, plus I got what I wanted instead of settling. 

Of course I kept the toy box. Now it is the on deck circle for the next couple craft projects in line. 

Word of the Year 

Next let’s circle back to the word of the year. Oh yeahhh!!!! Remember that? Mine is equanimity, and I have received several opportunities to practice this. Sometimes that has been literally, like the inversions workshop I took and the headstand/handstand practice sessions at home now. 

Sometimes this year equanimity has been more of a figurative approach. Sending our daughter to Italy for study abroad or adjusting to be a single income family were major adjustments that our family has had so far in 2023. I bet with about a quarter of the year left, there will be more um, “opportunities” to practice this mindset. 

Plastic storage containers

Back in February of this year, I was so pleased with myself for overhauling our plastic storage containers. It was such a beautiful results. Well, as we circle back on this one, cue the sad music.

Womp, wommmmmp.

It is again out of control in the drawer. The system for putting away as I unload the dishwasher was not sustainable. I will take a crack at it again this winter probably. But you know what DID work from that exercise? Separating out the to go containers. There have been several times when our young adult kids and their friends came for lunch or dinner. We were able to easily pack up leftovers for them. By re-using these take out containers, it is no big deal if they never make it back to our house (the containers, not the kids).

Those are a few of the circle back items I wanted to share with you today. There is value in revisiting hits and misses. Misses don’t mean the decision was wrong necessarily, just not quite a hit. It just gives us data on where else we might be able to make adjustments. But without that feedback loop that naturally happens with a circle back, we don’t get that data and we blindly stumble along. That is what can lead to frustration and the need to numb out of our lives. 

Sustainable You Reflections

  1. When is the last time you followed up or revisited a goal or decision?
  2. What was your word of the year? It is not too late to resurrect it. Or if it is no longer serving you, let it go.
  3. How can circling back on people, places, things, decisions serve you where you are in life right now?

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

By |2023-09-05T10:31:42-04:00October 3rd, 2023|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Purpose of Hobbies

Sometimes the purpose of hobbies is not the actual project. As fall 2022 hands off to the season of ALL HOLIDAY ALL THE TIME, I wanted to share a hobbies round up. As I started to write up the recap, I realized I was talking about more than the hobbies. I was talking about the purpose of the hobbies.

For those of you new here – or a refresher for Sustainable Productivity veterans – hobbies are a component of the Mental Well-being dimension of Sustainable Productivity. If you never unplug, your mental, physical, and emotional batteries drain until you don’t have energy to give yourself and your people. 

Hobbies help us recharge. You can read more about hobbies and Sustainable Productivity here and here

Side note: One of my favorite hobbies is reading. Today’s round up does not touch on reading. To see more about what I am reading you can go here and here

In order to help keep myself accountable, I share regularly about what I have in progress. Hobbies are not just something to pass the time. They each have a purpose or lesson or maybe even job to do for me. During this literal and proverbial season in my life, hobbies fall into a few categories that I wanted to share with you. Maybe you have not related to the hobby itself, but you can relate to what I am getting from the hobbies.


“Art is to console those who are broken by life.” Vincent Van Gogh 

I am a card carrying member of the sandwich generation. We parent two young adults, and although my dad is 700 miles away, I am involved almost daily in his life as his health is declining. This is a hard spot to be in. I see mistakes I made with my own kids – wishing it could be different and trying to accept what is. I see my dad not being the robust, sharp man he used to be – wishing it could be different and trying to accept what is. 

It is enough to break me some days. But art gives me solace. This particular project I’m working on now uses my dad’s old ties. When we cleared out his closet prepping for a big move last year, I pulled them out of the donations box when he wasn’t looking. This was a purely sentimental, selfish move. And I am not sorry about it. I am creating Christmas gifts for the girls in our family from his ties and will have plenty left over for a quilt project in the coming years. 

Immersing myself in the art of this hobby is a way to wrap myself in whatever feelings I have. Acknowledge them, feel them, sometimes process them. But sometimes I want to do the opposite and ignore them. Which is where the next purpose of hobbies comes in.


Learning a new technique, hobby, or skill requires me to pay attention to what I am doing. No multitasking with Netflix or audiobooks. I can’t field text conversations about Medicare donut holes while I am in a class with other hobbyists. 

This is what I love about learning – a reprieve. Also a chance to fire up a different part of my brain. Here is a photo of a pillow top that I recently made in a class at my local quilt shop. There were dozens of small pieces that came together to make the pillow top – easy to mix up. The pattern was complex – a show stopper to mix up all those small pieces. Plus I learned to make a pillow or to recover the pillows I already have or find in a shop that might need a new life. 

The benefit of learning through a hobby is a super focused distraction. But sometimes I don’t want to be focused or emotional. I just want an escape from the daily grind. Which is the third purpose of hobbies. 


Sometimes I just want to check out and follow instructions for a hobby or just connect with others about the common interest we have.

This summer Bixby, Daughter and I attended a glass blowing demo where the artist led us through how to do it ourselves. I was not learning it, just doing what George Anne told me to do. The result was beautiful hummingbird feeders. 

I have returned to making sweet potato bread more weekends than not. Now that I have the pan and oven situation sorted, it is back to being a fun hobby. I am following the instructions, puttering around the kitchen – often while Bixby is making dinner, and connecting with what I eat (vs. opening a package).

As I write this I am seeing that all three of these categories are feeding into a fourth purpose of hobbies that might potentially be the most important.


“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato

Connection with others is an untended purpose of hobbies for me. I love to anyone who will listen how much I don’t need other people.

And yet.

Authentic connection with others is what helps me – and I would suggest all of us – create a life that we don’t want to numb out and escape from. 

If we look at the first three categories of purpose of hobbies – solace, learning, escapism – there is a thread of connection. 

  • Solace – I am feeling my feelings about my kids and dad. Connection comes through art projects for the kids from my dad’s ties.
  • Learning – Connecting with others who share my interests.
  • Escapism – Sure sometimes I might make the bread alone in the kitchen. But what makes a stronger impression is when I share the space with Bixby or have a recipient in mind for the bread. 

Sustainable You Questions

  1. What hobbies do you keep coming back to time and again?
  2. Look beyond the surface – what are you getting out of these hobbies? What is the purpose of the hobbies?
  3. How can you increase or extend this in other areas of your life?

      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. I am ever grateful.

      By |2022-11-08T10:07:19-05:00November 15th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

      Inconvenience as Sustainable Productivity

      People often think that as a productivity coach I offer hacks, tips, and tricks to get more done. 

      Nope. I truly cannot stand the term, “hack.” 

      I would rather help you find out how to do more of what matters and delegate the rest to the floor.  The message that I want you to hear is about SUSTAINABLE productivity, not just productivity. Sometimes sustainability is not convenient. Sometimes sustainability is not pleasing to other people. But this is your life. To paraphrase poet Mary Oliver, “What will you do with your wild and precious life?”


      I would like to suggest you consider being / doing / consuming less convenience. Recently on the Conscious Contact Podcast, Genay and I talk about fast food – the convenience of it and how it encourages this “hurry up” type of life. Please hear this – convenience encouraging a “hurry up” life extends beyond fast food that does not satiate.

      Here are a few non-food examples:

      1 – One night stands don’t satiate the need for connection with others. 

      2 – Over exercising doesn’t satiate the need for connection with our bodies. 

      This lack of feeling satiated or satisfied leads to disconnection. That disconnection leads to feelings of needing to numb out or escape your life. You deserve to have more than this with your one wild, precious life. 

      “Joy is a state of appreciation that allows us to fully participate in life.” Pema Chodron


      One way to inch toward creating more connection is to make small adjustments over time. This can be done in each dimension of Sustainable Productivity – health, happiness, and habitat. 

      Health – Nutrition

      In the podcast we go into depth about ways to move away from convenience food. But maybe smaller steps are needed to make the sustainable forward progress. Today maybe you eat fast food biscuits twice a week. What if one week you made the tube biscuits that pop on one day and had fast food biscuits one day. Try that for a few weeks, then you might have poppable biscuits at home both days. 

      If that feels Sustainably Productive for you, experiment with biscuit recipes and move away from the tube biscuits. Connect with the process of cooking. Bank the money you save for a special reward – clothes, a movie, books are my favorite, of course. Include your people in the process to make the connection even more special.

      Bixby and my niece making homemade ravioli over the summer.
      The time Bixby taught my niece how to use a kitchen torch. It went deliciously well!

      Happiness – Career

      If you are feeling disconnected from your career, instead of quitting, consider what is not working for you. One of the most life changing things I learned about burnout came from Jim Loehr in the book The Power of Full Engagement, “If you never fully disconnect, you can never really connect.”

      Do you sneak looks at your work email after dinner on your phone while watching TV with your kids? Do you work on that one report “real quick” on Sunday morning instead of going to church with your spouse because you are golfing later? How often do you lose sleep because you are replaying work conversations in your head?

      Not productive. Not sustainable. 

      What are small ways you can work on disconnecting in order to make connection that much more special? Here are a few things that worked for me when I was at a particularly burned out point in my career:

      I took lunch away from my desk with no coworkers. Even if it was just 15 minutes to eat my brown bag lunch on a bench or in my car, the break was impactful.

      Put limits on weekend work. I had to ween myself off weekend work. Only Sundays for awhile, then only Sunday afternoon, then only what I could bring home, then only an hour. Until I stopped weekend work completely. Cold turkey is hard – use a step down approach when needed.

      Double the time you think it will take to do ANYTHING. If you block 30 minutes to work on that performance review, expand it to an hour. We have a tendency to overestimate ourselves and underestimate the task. 

      Habitat – Physical clutter

      If your home is feeling cluttered, instead of doing a trash bag shovel out disconnecting with ALL the stuff, consider what specifically is not working. 

      Do you have a cabinet that has stuff fall out every time you open it? Is your sock drawer so stuffed you cannot open it? If you need to start smaller, take 10 minutes to wander around your home with a piece of paper and pen. Open cabinets and drawers, look at the memorabilia on shelves and photos on walls. Does your environment give you the vibe you are going for? If not, what is 1 area that you know you cannot accept lifelong – start there. 

      Sustainable You Questions

      1 – Do you seek out convenience so that you can jam more activities into less time? Why do you think that is?

      2 – How is that working for you? How does that feel in your body at the moment you are jamming things into less time? 

      If you like what you read, you might like what you hear. Subscribe to the Conscious Contact podcast on Apple podcast, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. 

      By |2022-09-05T14:30:42-04:00September 6th, 2022|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments
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