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

Analysis paralysis, decision fatigue, and toilet paper

There is a such things as too many choices. How can toilet paper help you learn to avoid analysis paralysis brought on my decision fatigue? What could these three things possibly have in common? They are all for shit. And it has nothing to do with COVID-19’s run on toilet paper. Let me explain.

I arrived at Target and was cruising down the list. Tossing items in my cart right and left. Crossing things off the list and feeling like I could take over the world. Until I got to toilet paper. Have you been to the toilet paper aisle recently? It is worse than the yogurt aisle. Worse than the Jelly Belly section of a candy store. It is a ridiculous amount of choices. It felt like That Moment in the movie when the hero has to decide whether to cut the black or the red wire. 

Photo by Asia Pix by way of KRFO Radio.

This toilet tissue issue has recently surfaced because of two reasons:

1 – We quit our Costco membership. With Costco there is no TP Gate. There are maybe 2 choices. But out in the real world there is a bench in the middle of the toilet paper aisle because the elderly were passing out before getting to the end of the aisle. People have to use a sports drink and energy gel just to get to the end of the aisle it takes so long. 

2 – Now that the kids are teenagers, choices made by one person don’t usually impact us all. 

  • Don’t like what I chose for us to have for dinner? Make your own.
  • Want make up? Buy your own – mine is off limits. 
  • The Boy and I do use the same brand of razor blades. I am too cheap to buy a new razor so I use Bixby’s cast off men’s razor to shave my legs. When The Boy started shaving he just picked the one Bixby had. But that’s only 2 of the 4 of us agreeing on 1 decision.

But this? THIS was a choice I needed to make on behalf of my whole family and critical because it affects our behinds! And let me tell you, My People spend A LOT of time in the bathroom. When we were on vacation in Seattle last summer, I had to go to the lobby in my pajamas to use the bathroom because The Girl was in our hotel room bathroom so long. That is the last time I will ever share a bathroom with the kids – on vacation or otherwise. But I digress.

So there I was in Target with the bum wipe aisle looming large with a zillion choices. I knew that it had to be septic safe since we are outside the city limits and use a septic system. I preferred rolls that were not individually wrapped to cut down on the number of trees that were killed. But what was softest? What was worth paying more per roll in order to not have to spend money on cream to soothe an arse chafed by cheap TP. How do I translate the cost per sheet to a cost per foot and how does that compare to cost per roll? 

Needless to say I had a meltdown and left without ANY toilet paper. It was decision fatigue at its best (worst?). This is where our story diverges into two levels. 

The Hidden Level

You know the meltdown is not really about the toilet paper, right? Decision fatigue is a real thing. When I am off my game, it slides quickly into analysis paralysis and collapses into meltdown. 

And Dear Reader, off my game is such an understatement for the last few months. Usually January and February I hibernate to recover from the Birthday-Christmas-Giving shenanigans of December. But 2020 decided to roundhouse kick me in the head in January and February. There was no hibernating for me, so if you saw an overtired, grumpy bear whose hibernation was cancelled lumbering through Target – chances are, that may have been me. 

There was nothing to be done about the change of plans the Universe had for me. Sometimes you have to bear the unbearable. We refer to this as survival mode. Survival mode is not a sustainable pace of life. What we can do when this season hits is

  • Focus on the bare minimum of what needs to be done
  • Give yourself grace to let go of the rest
  • Notice what you want to tuck away as “lessons learned”

I have a few things tucked away to share with you in the coming months. I also tucked away that survival mode sucks just as much as I remember. Zero stars. Do not recommend.

The Practical Level

No matter how shitty life is (pun absolutely intended there), I still need to buy the dang toilet paper. Laura Vanderkam had a recent Before Breakfast podcast episode where she coached her listeners to have a default choice (Feb 26). This means that there is no “what toilet paper should I buy today” decision to make because there is a default choice already set for me. My husband and I took it one step further when a friend of mine suggested we set it up to be delivered to our house at a regular cadence. 

I am lucky enough to have an Enneagram 5 husband who loves nothing better than to research the crap (PUN!) out of choices. He also just wants to be able to swoop in and fix things for me when he can. So when I came home almost in tears at the overwhelm of the TP aisle and begged him to set up a recurring delivery from an online service, he jumped into action. 

I had only one parameter – I could not be the decision maker. If you think the Target aisle is overwhelming, do an Amazon search for toilet paper. I wailed so loudly the dog hid in the bedroom closet. 

I don’t know how long it took him to figure it out, but he is cheaper and more concerned about the environment than I am. So if he is satisfied with the choice, then by God I am too. Now toilet paper shows up in a little grey van every month without me having to think about it. I don’t have to even go down that aisle at Target. And that frees up more time for me to peruse the Dollar Spot!

What do you need to automate? Have you made any default choices in your life? What about analysis paralysis – are there certain triggers that cause this for you?

By |2020-03-30T19:10:04-04:00March 29th, 2020|Mental Well-being|1 Comment
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