Episode 48: Goal Setting 101

The close of one year and start of another often makes us reflective and in a goal setting frame of mind. Where did we spend our time, how do we feel about that, and where do we want to go. While dreaming is of course part of goal setting, it does not end there. Goal setting does not have to be a cold, remote robotic process. Learn what questions to ask to improve your chances to creating that life you really want.

Here is what you can expect to hear on the episode:

  1. Quarterly check in on Susan’s goals – including specific questions you can ask yourself about your progress
  2. Goal setting 101 – less about SMART goals and more about practical steps to get where you want to be
  3. Repeatable action steps that apply to any goal you can dream

Download a free guide at this link to follow along with the goal setting steps.

Listen at the link below or search for “Sustainable Productivity with Susan Sanders” everywhere podcasts are available.

Links to Learn More

Links mentioned in this episode of the Sustainable Productivity podcast:

We would love to hear from you. Send your feedback on the episode, suggestions for future show topics or guests, and anything else to Susan@SustainableSue.com or in a DM on Instagram.

By |2024-01-01T10:33:19-05:00January 1st, 2024|Show Notes|0 Comments

How to Get What You Want

Assuming you already know what you want, I want to tell you how to now get what you want. 

Ask for it.

Ask for what you want. It is unreasonable to be angry with someone for not doing something you did not tell them you expected them to do. Expectations are pre-meditated resentments. Here is an example from my life. I expected my kids to put their dishes in the dishwasher after dinner. I never asked them to do this – I just expected it. Every time we got up from dinner, they put their plates on the kitchen counter and I put my anger into slamming the kitchen cabinets. See, I had an expectation – an unvoiced request. Once I say my expectation, if they agree – then we have an agreement. If they agree to put their plate in the dishwasher and don’t, then we can have a discussion. But if you don’t ask for what you want, how can you expect people to give it to you?

Ask for it – that is how you get what you want. It is that easy. And yet.

Surface Level Example

I was recently felt like I wanted a little more attention from Bixby and requested a bouquet of flowers from him. Of course I did this in a very efficient, Enneagram 1 manner – I put it on the grocery list before he went to the store. I was very specific in my ask. Here is my verbatim entry on our grocery list app:

Bouquet of flowers for Susan – include sunflowers, but not just sunflowers. 

Lordy we are romantic, aren’t we? But check it out – it worked! It helped me to get what I want!  

<<flower pic>>

A Layer Deeper

I have a three strike rule. When something comes to my attention three times, I do it if at all humanly possible. 

  • After a movie or TV show comes to my awareness three times, I add it to the queue. 
  • If I needed a certain fabric or thread three times, I break down and buy it instead of looking for a different project. 
  • When I was on the fence about whether or not a Subaru was the right car for me, I saw it everywhere – way more than three times. 
  • If a book is discussed in something I am listening to or reading on three different occasions, I add it to my TBR. 

I think this is the way the universe says, OK, Sue, let me help you get what you want. 

This happened to a quote recently. The main character in a fiction book read the quote in his school textbook, then I saw it on social media, then it was the quote of the day in one of my daily devotionals. I give in! I accept this sign that action is needed to get what you want. 

Here is the quote:

And then the day came

when the risk to remain

tight in a bud was

more painful than the

risk to bloom.

Anais Nin  

 It takes courage to make the ask. But that ask is how you get what you want. Which leads me to my next ask. 

The Ask

I want to bloom. Specifically, I want to grow the Sustainable Sue business. I have been afraid to swing for the fences and I believe the universe has sent me this message so I can acknowledge that if I stay tight in this small space, it will keep being not what I want. So here I go:

I want to double my podcast listeners by August 1st and my email subscribers by September 1st. I need your help to do that. 

Will you share the Sustainable Productivity podcast and the Sustainable Sue weekly essay with a friend? Here are a couple ways this could look:

  1. Hey – you know how I was struggling with cleaning the kitchen? I heard this great episode of a podcast my friend hosts. Here is the link – maybe it will help with your garage project?!
    • Link: https://sustainablesue.com/14-2/
  2. A friend of mine is trying to grow her small business. Here is the link to her podcast and blog. Check it out and subscribe if you think it is helpful for you. 
    • Podcast link: https://sustainablesue.com/podcast/
    • Essay link: https://sustainablesue.com/blog/
  3. Maybe this bad thing in your life is actually an opportunity to take advantage of extra time to help recover from the burnout you have. Running on empty, burning the candle at both ends is not something you can continue long term. Check out my friend’s website – she has great messages and resources that can help you. 
    • Website link: https://sustainablesue.com

Thank you for being a supporter of the Sustainable Sue business. Now let’s go get what we want – a life we don’t need to escape!

By |2023-05-16T10:09:14-04:00May 23rd, 2023|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Unresolved New Year’s Resolutions

I originally wrote this post as a New Year’s resolution hype speech. As we all know, January is the time of year where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a discussion about NEW YEAR NEW YOU! These messages are delivered by really enthusiastic people with oddly non-wrinkled skin who have teams of people supporting their every need. But here we are in March with many of our New Year’s resolutions left unresolved.

Sustainable Sue here to deliver a couple reality checks for us mere mortals as we consider the fresh clean page that 2023 has to offer us. I also want to introduce you to an alternate approach to these resolutions that might help you get more traction on habit change.

Reality Check #1: There is nothing magical about January 1

New Year’s resolutions can happy on days other than January first. Sometimes I set goals on my birthday in mid-June. When I flip my notebook to a fresh page I make decisions about what I will spend my time on that week. Today I made a resolution in the afternoon to get a third dog walk in after dinner.  

Don’t get sucked into thinking if you missed Jan 1 “magic” that you have to wait 364 more days to change your habits. 

Reality Check #2: Will power is a myth

Despite what you may have been taught by old school coaches (well meaning or not), your will power does not dictate your success. Motivation and determination are factors that can help you succeed with resolutions, but they are not the be all to end all. 

If you cannot muscle through that workout while you are running a fever – you are not lacking will power. If you did not get your kids’ homemade Halloween costumes sewn this year, it is not about will power. Quitting goals, leaving jobs undone, abandoning projects – this is not a referendum on your will power. 

It is a reflection of the approach to habit change that you picked. Not YOU for picking it, but just the wrong approach for the wrong time of life. 

An Alternate Approach to Resolutions

One of the basics to consider with habit change is that we act because the pain get to be too much. Let me give you a few examples from my own life.

  • After finding my clothes without elastic waists did not fit well anymore, I made the habit changes to lose the weight. 
  • When my knee pain became too great, I recommitted myself to my physical therapy regime. 
  • I started blogging and podcasting when I was lonely in a group of people and wanted a truer, sustainable connection. 
  • I quit drinking when alcohol became more of a problem than a solution. 

Let’s see how science can help you with your resolutions.

Physics 101

Inertia is Newton’s first law of motion. A body at rest will remain at rest until acted upon by an outside force. Our resistance to habit change is a LAW OF NATURE. This is not about your will power, this is how the universe works. 

But let’s talk about that “outside force” that can get a body at rest to change. This is motivation. Usually motivation is pain, although for some people it might be faux inspiration on Instagram or TikTok or the PTA meeting. Motivation can be summarized as a reason for acting or behaving. 

But the further we get from that pain, we need to shift our reliance to commitment more than motivation. Commitment is dedication to a cause – this is a slight, but important difference when it comes to habit change. 

Physics 201

Consider a fly wheel. As defined by Wikipedia, “a flywheel is a mechanical device which uses the conservation of angular momentum to store rotational energy; a form of kinetic energy proportional to the product of its moment of inertia and the square of its rotational speed.”

JK – this is Sustainable Sue, not Physics Corner. But I do want to consider the fly wheel. It takes effort to get the fly wheel to start turning. But once it is turning, a simple flick can keep it going.

See that long arm attached to the wheel, that body at rest needs to move in order to start the fly wheel turning. It takes a large amount of energy to make that happen. But once it gets going, physics takes over and it rolls on with little external effort needed. The fly wheel of habit change is similar. 

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flywheel

It takes a large amount of energy to start the wheel. You know what has a large amount of energy? Pain. Pain starts the fly wheel turning. It is hard, but motivation to not experience the pain anymore keeps you going. It takes effort to juggle the schedule to fit meal prep into the after work times. You forget that you meant to practice guitar because it is not part of your routine. You over did it at your first visit back to the gym and now need to skip a couple days so you can walk down the stairs. There is resistance at first. Starts and stops as this new you churns to life. 

But then habits and routines start to form and grease that fly wheel. You have a streak of 5 weeks in a row where you flossed your teeth more days than not. Three days in a row of journaling become three weeks in a row and you see the benefits peeking through. Saying no to something frees up space in your life that is much needed.

Here is an example of how that worked for me. 

Sustainable Sue Resolves to Show Up Consistently

I set up a habit tracker check list of sorts for different activities. One for Sustainable Sue work so I can show up consistently – writing, social media, podcasting, networking  and the like. I have another for physical therapy routines so I don’t forget any exercises. It seems trivial and inconsequential that I would need a checklist to remember to post to social media. But it is the consistency that I want for my business. In order to get people to know, like, and trust me I need to show up on social media. The book proposal isn’t going to write itself, I need to work on it regularly. But what happens over time – over several weeks of showing up for myself and these seemingly small actions – is that they are the small pushes that keep the fly wheel going. It is motivating to see the checkmarks accumulate. There is peer pressure to do the thing that I don’t feel like doing. Yesterday Sue got it done. Future Sue will want to see a streak in tact. Therefore Today Sue better do the work. The work doesn’t need to be liked, it needs to be done. 

But you have to start. Not by purchasing all the books on organizing to get your house in order. Not buying a yoga wardrobe before your first down dog. Start where you are with what you have. I recently pulled out old paints my daughter had stuffed in the back of her closet because I wanted to noodle around with painting. No need for an easel, a studio and classes yet. I might not even like it! 

Sustainable You Reflections

  1. If you set goals for 2023, what pain is driving the motivation to take these on? Identifying the why can help later when the fly wheel starts to slow.
  2. Do you really have the time and effort to take on this goal now? Will this be sustainable long term?
  3. List three things you can do to set yourself up for success? If you take on this new goal, how can it be productive for you?

I can’t wait to hear about your results. Send feedback or questions to Susan@SustainableSue.com or find me on Instagram or Facebook. 

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

By |2023-02-21T09:03:38-05:00March 7th, 2023|Habit Change|0 Comments

Year End Review

A year end review is weirdly fun for me as a project manager and productivity coach. There is a project management principle that what gets measured gets managed. I have been tracking habits on a plain old Excel file for five years now. It is interesting to see trends, think back to big milestones that impacted the totals, and consider where I need to make changes (or not!).

Here is a sneak peek into part of that review. 

Health & Fitness

Goal: My intention was to do more to improve my chances of being able to exercise in my 80s. 

Action plan: More physical therapy (PT) exercise, more yoga, improved eating habits


Walking: 446 miles (12% increase over 2021)

Biking: 1581 miles (123% increase over 2021)

Yoga: 33 hours (6% increase over 2021)


I did not track it in a way I can report here, but my eating habits improved greatly. I reduced by ice cream intake about 90% and with the magic smoothie you have heard about I was able to average about 5 servings of vegetables and fruits each day. These changes greatly continued to almost 30 pound weight loss in 2022. This in turn made it less painful to walk so the miles there got a bump.


I sort of cheated on this one and have started already. As the weather got colder I was cycling less so I decided to add a second day of hot yoga to my routine. I want to keep doing this even when I ramp my cycling mileage back up.

Mental Well-being

Goal: My intention was grow my connection with my higher power and show up consistently for my writing. 

Action plan: Writing most days of the week, increase time spent meditating, morning reading more days than not.


Meditation: 2986 minutes (98% increase from 2021)

On ramp: 202 days completed (33% increase from 2021)

Books: 221 started, 190 finished (~10% DNF rate) Note: a full book recap will be coming 

Joined Genay as cohost of the Conscious Contact Podcast

Started year four of Sustainable Sue

Began drafting a book proposal

Started a new volunteer gig at a book garage sponsored by a local church


This SusPro pillar sure grew a lot last year! I was very intentional about adding things because I wanted to honor the sustainability part of life. No sense taking on so many things that nothing is fulfilling anymore. Averaging an hour each week in the book garage is sustainable. Working on the book proposal 90 minutes once per week is sustainable. Breaking large goals into small, repeatable steps is the key.


Continue the above, plus add new goal of building a YouTube channel. Here is how I break down this big goal into small, repeatable steps:

Brain dump of all my initial thoughts around this task

Sorted brain dump into Trello

Scheduled time for weekly deep work dedicated to this goal one day a week

Environmental Surroundings

Goal: My intention was to be able to find what I need without hassle and be comfortable in my surroundings 

Action plan: Get rid of stuff I don’t use, need or love


Clear digital clutter: 2 sessions (89% LESS than 2021)


Womp, wommmmmp. I did not do well here at all. Even though I said this was important, I did not make time for it. I regularly cleared my photos off my phone and backed them up, but the amount of screen shots and random photos of things I want to do, read, or follow up on is out of control. The old system was not working for me at all. 


I revamped my digital clean up checklist and set a reminder on my phone to follow the checklist on Monday and Thursday evenings. So far into 2023 I am 100% compliant. Celebrate the small victories, friends!

Sustainable You Questions

Even if you did not formally track habits or progress, there is still value in conducting a year end review. Take time and ask yourself these questions:

  1. What worked and why? How can I get more of whatever made that work?
  2. What did not work and why? What needs to happen to minimize that in 2023?

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. 

Pace yourself, friends –

By |2023-01-10T07:26:06-05:00January 10th, 2023|Habit Change|0 Comments

What Road Trips Can Teach you About Goal Setting

Remember the days where we used maps to plan our road trips? In order to get to our destination, we had to know where we were starting from. How do you know what direction to travel if you are unsure of your starting point and end target?

Personal productivity is very similar.

Set Your Destination

Often we see the end result of where we want to go.

  • Moms in Target who has 2 kids walking alongside the cart, not grabbing things off the shelves and whining.
  • The woman at the gym who runs twice your speed on the treadmill.
  • Photos on social media of perfectly organized pantries.

First of all, I caution you against comparing your insides with someone else’s outsides. Seldom does the presentation reality match up with the truth. The end results in the above examples, could be rooted in reality like this:

  • Target Mom may run her household on fear and those kids “know better than to act out in public.”
  • Treadmill gazelle may have an exercise addiction driving her to run herself into injuries or worse.
  • Perfectly organized pantries are seldom found in homes where people feel at ease grabbing what they want (think teenagers having friends over).

All of that aside, you may have a vision of where you want to go. Destinations are great, but it is not productive to start on the path without knowing where you are starting from.

“On any journey, we must find out where we are before we can plan the first step.” Kathy Boevink

Determine Your Starting Point

If we return to the map of our road trip, determining your starting point seems easy. But looks can be deceiving. The more granular your starting point, the more accurate your route can be. This is true whether we are using maps or a GPS to plan our route.

Let’s say for example, I decide my starting point is the name of my town instead of the street I live on. This will lead to two very different routes to my sister’s house. One is 30 minutes faster than the other – and when I am going to visit my nieces, every second counts. Drilling down to truly understand where I am starting from helps me not waste time getting to where I want to go.

The same is true with habit change. The more defined vision of where you want to go combined with the more granular idea of where you are starting from can mean the difference between Sustainably Productive (SusPro) habit change and habit change that fizzles out by week’s end.

  • Fizzle Out Habit Change: I want to bike more.
  • SusPro Habit Change: I currently ride 50 miles a week with my longest ride being 30 miles on Sundays. I want to increase that to riding 50 miles on my birthday in June so this week I will ride 33 miles on Sunday and keep the weekday rides short to make sure I can fit them in during lunch.

Or maybe this example resonates with you:

  • Fizzle Out Habit Change: I want to chill out and stop being crabby.
  • SusPro Habit Change: I have zero time where I am still. This week I will sit in silence for at least 1 minute, but no more than 5 on Monday and Thursday. I won’t try to meditate – if I can just be still that will be a victory.

The SusPro method starts with a vision of where you want to go and a granular look at where you are starting from. Now let’s talk about how you can determine where you are starting from.

Getting Started

The Sustainable You Time Tracker is a free resource that can help you determine your starting point. Simply download the tracker and set a timer to go off every 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, write down what you have spent the last 30 minutes on.

Don’t wait for a “normal” week – there is no such thing. You can learn from any snapshot in time. At the end of the week, take a look at what trends you see. Maybe you are surprised to see you spend 2 hours each day waiting at various points of the day. This time tracker is just information – do not use it to shame or blame. Identify patterns that are not serving you and make small adjustments.

Your Turn

Take a stab at tracking your time and let me know how it goes. I love to talk productivity with people so if you want me to take a look at your tracker you can email it to me at Susan@SustainableSue.com.

By |2021-05-08T06:51:56-04:00May 11th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Making Adjustments

It is ok to change your mind – that is what making adjustments is all about. Sometimes your well-crafted plan to live a Sustainably Productive life does not work. There could be several reasons for this.

  1. Schedules change
  2. Priorities change
  3. Minds change

Whatever the reason – making adjustments is OK. In fact, making adjustments is encouraged. That is part of the Continuous Improvement work that is in the Sustainable You coursework.

At the start of 2021, I set a goal to do 90 minutes of yoga each week. I applied Sustainable Productivity principles and broke it down to do a 30 minute YouTube video 3 times each week.

This was great for the first 3 months of the year. Once the weather started getting nicer, I wanted to be outside and on my bike more. Now that I am vaccinated, I want to join my regular in person hot yoga class (exercising in a 100 degree room with a mask on sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?!).

But what about the original goal I set for 90 minutes a week? If I do 1 class in studio each week that is only 60 minutes. 2 classes in studio does not fit my budget or schedule right now. The YouTube video is not as inviting since I would have to be inside.

Non-Sustainable Productivity solution: Throw out the whole plan.

Sustainable Productivity solution: Make adjustments using the Continuous Improvement steps.

Step 1 – Record the result

This is an easy one if you have been using the Sustainable You Habit Tracker. If I look back at the last 2 weeks, I have a big ZERO for yoga.

Step 2 – Why this result

This step can take some tough love. A tool that can help to get to the root cause of the result is the 5 Whys. Start with the high level question: Why did I skip yoga over the last 2 weeks.

  1. I wanted to garden and ride my bike instead. Then ask why again (2nd why): Why did I want to garden and bike instead?
  2. A desire to be outside. Then ask why again (3rd why): Why did I want to be outside?
  3. The weather has gotten so nice. Ask why again (4th why): Why did I want to be out in warmer weather?
  4. It is pretty this time of year, so much to look at and do. The last (5th) why: Why is this different from yoga?
  5. I am bored doing the same routine and need a change of scenery. 

Once you get to that 5th question, you usually have a root cause that you can use to make your adjustment.

Step 3 – Adjustment

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater in not sustainable nor productive. Not doing yoga is not a productive way to improve my mental well-being or physical fitness. But continuing to “require” the 30-minute YouTube video 3 times per week is just going to make me crabby, which is not sustainable.

Enter the beauty of making adjustments. Here are a few that I am making for this week:

  • 1 yoga class in studio
  • 2 bike rides
  • Garden on breaks from work

Next weekend I can repeat these Continuous Improvement steps and see if any more adjustments need to be made.

Permission Slip

I can hear you thinking (or perhaps yelling at me through your device screen): BUT YOU SET A GOAL FOR THE YEAR FOR 90 MINUTES!!!

That is true. And you know what else is true? It is ok to change your mind.

If you go to the core of your WHY, then you can be true to your intention of creating a life you don’t want to numb out and escape from. HOW you create that life can change as you make adjustments.

Consider this post a permission slip to change your mind.

I want to create a life I don’t need to escape by calming my monkey mind and being physically active to reduce physical aches and pains. I can do that through yoga or time in the garden or in the bike saddle – or a combination of all three!

Your Turn

What isn’t working with your habits? What small adjustments can you make? I encourage you to try the 5 Why’s exercise to try to get to the root of the issue. If you need help walking through this or the Continuous Improvement steps, I would love to talk it through with you.

By |2021-05-18T08:48:07-04:00April 20th, 2021|Habit Change|2 Comments

4 Steps to Get Started

Eventually the winter will end and it will be time to get started. Last week we talked about NOT setting goals and I could feel the hard charging goal getters cringing while quickly deleting the post.

There was a time in my life where I was Goal Getter going balls to the wall while ignoring my empty tank of energy. My spirit was limping along. I am choosing to do things differently now by taking the winter to rest. Maybe you are too.

But eventually spring will come and you will be rested and ready to tackle a project, learn something new, or go after a new goal or two. I want to invite you to consider a softer, gentler approach to get started.

1 – Start Anywhere

If you suffer from analysis paralysis this tip is for you. There is no perfect way to begin. The only way to fail is if you never start at all. Begin somewhere – even if it is in the middle. Laura Vanderkam talks about this on her Before Breakfast podcast from July 29th. There are all kinds of starting points – just pick one, just get started.

2 – Start Smaller

Do you think you have to be an expert before you can take up a new activity? Let’s take yoga for example. I often hear people say, “I can’t do yoga, I am not flexible.” First of all, there is more to yoga that who is most bendy. That aside, flexibility is not a pre-requisite to yoga. You are there to improve your flexibility (among other benefits). Start smaller than pro level.

Next I ask you to consider how you are defining “done.” You don’t have to do an hour of yoga each day to have a yoga practice. Start with 10 minutes once a week. Start with one pose each day. Think about what you want to do and cut that in half. You can build over time if what you are doing is working for you. Get started – small.

3 – Track Progress

What gets measured gets managed. While some of you may not love this tip (I am looking at you, Rebel Tendencies), tracking your progress can help you gain momentum when starting a new habit. If you have taken the Sustainable You course, you might use that tracker. You might have a tracker in your planner or as an app on your phone. It could be a tick mark on the back of the envelope your phone bill came in.

4 –  Be a Beginner

Have you ever watched a child experience something new for the first time? They are in awe of everything they experience with their senses, what their body can do, what the result of each action is. When do we become so fearful of being a beginner?

I was recently working on an embroidery project that I found in my mom’s sewing box after she died. It was a Family Circle pattern from the 70’s still in the envelope it was mailed in. There were some instructions that I just could not figure out – I skipped around in the pattern until I could not put it off any longer. I reached out to a craft group I am in on Facebook, and they didn’t know either. Paralyzed with not knowing the perfect next step, I decided to just embrace being a beginner with this step of the project and take a leap.

I think this flower turned out pretty great!

My perfectly imperfect first attempt at this stitch and interpreting crazy instructions from the 1970s.

Plus, this is art that did not exist in the world before I did it – imagine that! I could not be happier with the outcome. This might not be what the instructions intended, but it is my interpretation on it.
“The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang best.”
Henry Van Dyke
What are you holding back on? Is it fear of perfection keeping you from getting started? Pick somewhere to start – even if it is in the middle. If that still feels wrong, make the step smaller. Consider tracking your progress. Embrace being a beginner – we are all beginners at some point. What a gift to continue to be able to begin again.
By |2021-02-09T09:45:43-05:00February 9th, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

January is Terrible for Goal Setting

Except for the fact that it is the start of the calendar year, January is terrible for goal setting.

Consider how Mother Nature treats winter.

  • Plants are dormant.
  • Animals hibernate.
  • Sunrise is later and sunset is sooner.

      This is 6th grade Susan. I cannot tell you how shellacked those bangs are. I never did really get the hang of a curling iron. Some might say puberty is a type of winter.

Why, in the middle of this dormancy, would we insist on setting Big Hairy Goals and setting up schedules and requirements to fulfill them? It literally goes against nature to do so.

Winter is a time for rest and recuperation. Go back to the example of plants – that dormancy does not mean the plant is doing nothing. Deep in the ground the roots are growing stronger and extending their reach to support the growth that will happen in the spring and summer.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” Anne Bradstreet

In all of the Little House on the Prairie books, Laura talked about the cold winter days in Minnesota where nightfall came early. Sure they did what chores were required to survive, but in the winter, they hunkered down together reading, sewing or listening to Pa and Mr Edwards fiddle while they danced in front of the fireplace. They connected.

What if you also took that time to rest and recharge during winter in preparation for an active spring and productive summer and fall? Rest is so important that it is a component of each of the 3 pillars of Sustainable Productivity and is covered in each lesson in the Sustainable You course.

Here are a few ideas on how you can spend your winter differently since January is a terrible time for goal setting.

Health and Fitness

  1. Rest. This is not sleep, this is rest. Sitting without sleeping or distractions. Maybe all you can stand is 5 minutes. That is a good place to begin.
  2. Take breaks in your day. Because I work from home, I take a slow walk around the garden sometimes as a rest from work. My dad and I talked about this once when he was trying to quit smoking when he was still working as a school superintendent. He said he needed the timeout that smoking gave him. If he were to just go stand outside, people would look at him funny. But if he were standing there smoking, it was more socially acceptable. Let’s think about that – taking a moment to smoke is more socially acceptable that taking a moment to rest. Of course, some of that is our own perception, which is where my walk around the garden comes in. To someone else it might look like I am just surveying my plants, but I am not making my list of garden chores, I am just walking slowly in nature.

Mental Well-being

  1. Silence. When is the last time you sat in silence so quiet your ears almost hurt. The phrase deafening silence exists for a reason. I am not talking about meditation. Just sitting and listening to the quiet. Silence can satisfy a need for social, emotional, spiritual and creative rest.
  2. Rage. Imagine a mosh pit for one. This may feel counter intuitive to rest, but consider how heavy pent up anger is. Anger acts similar to stress. Having that rager can help your body physically process the cortisol and associated glucose so it doesn’t sit in your body.

Environmental Surroundings

  1. Create a restful space. I recently earned of the “Japandi” decorating trend and I am pinning and following it like crazy. This is the type of restful space I would love to have. I don’t have it now, but I can dream. Find what feels restful for you.
  2. Rest from screens. More than just turning screens off, help your eyes rest from those screens. Lower the brightness on your computer and mobile devices or experiment with blue-light-filter glasses to limit the blue light beaming from your screen.

Some of these suggestions might spur other ideas that resonate more with you. Maybe you need to make a list of how to rest. Get creative with your ideas and make them yours. Maybe your mosh pit is in your car. Maybe you sit in silence in your closet because it is more soundproof. Consider this a different type of goal setting – recharging and setting yourself up to tackle those Big Hairy Goals with a full tank.

I would love to hear how you rest. Comment below or send me a message on social media. In the meantime, rest up!

By |2021-01-29T08:49:19-05:00February 2nd, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

Goal Getting in the Grey

I won’t lie to you – it can be difficult to get excited about goal getting in the grey. Whether it is grey days of winter or grey areas of life. These can be a tough mountain to climb. 

I am not so good with grey areas of life – I trend towards bimodal thinking. My modus operandi has been that I am either hard charging through a training plan or sloth. You are either on my side or against me. I am learning a brand new skill or never taking a class again. Whirl winding through chores and errands or hoarders is setting up a visit to shovel out the piles.


The pressure is on in the new year to set resolutions and light the world on fire. Right after you made all the magic for your family at the holidays. Friend, you cannot light anything on fire with an empty tank.


Do you feel like this end of season amaryllis?

Listen to Your Mother

As we start a new year, I encourage you to consider the way Mother Nature works. Winter is a time of dormancy and hibernation. A short respite of 2 months before ramping up growth in March to bust onto the scene in April. 

If Nature has survived – even thrived – with these hours of operations for millennia, who are we to say our schedule should be different?

Reframe Your Goals

This is not to say that you should throw out any goal setting. This is where we redefine goal getting in the grey. Instead, you can reframe those goals for the first 8-12 weeks of the year. Maybe finding gentler, softer activities that support the end result you are looking for.

  • Instead of running through snow and ice or pounding away on the treadmill, spend a month or two exploring yoga to increase your strength and flexibility while maybe even healing that nagging hamstring injury.
  • Avoid struggling to restrict calories to continue your weight loss. Focus on mindful eating and creative meal planning during a time when fresh fruits and veggies are less abundant. 

Another approach could be to use the dark, cold weeks of shorter days to slowly ramp up your new goal to really hit the ground running in the spring. 

  • Spend time to declutter that spare room and set up your painting easel. Research upcoming classes and save up to buy supplies.
  • Curl up on the couch with your phone and liberally unsubscribe, unfollow, block, and delete. Get rid of everything that does not contribute to a life you don’t want to escape.
  • Explore the Sustainable You course and reveal a new way to approach habit change that sticks. 

It may not feel like you are making progress towards your goals, but you are. Planning to plan. Setting up your environment for success. Considering a new way of doing things. This means change is happening within you.

Change that will eventually bloom into the success that you desire.


Amaryllis in all of its glory after it has rested all winter.

By |2020-12-26T08:12:17-05:00January 5th, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

Habit Change in 3 steps – In a Sustainably Productive Way

As part of their morning routine, Lucille and Bixby have a super fun game that we like to call Staircase Catch. She stands at the top of the stairs and drops her ball, which plunks down each step like a slinky. Bixby catches it at the bottom and tosses it back up to her. She catches it in her mouth, then repeats the process again. For hours if we let her. 

One morning the two of them played a bit, Bixby and I had coffee, then we all started our day as usual. Later that morning, I took a break from work to go downstairs and get a Diet Coke. This is the view. 

tennis ball on staircase

Now, to Lucille, this looks like so much fun. To me, this looks like a trip to the emergency room. The same scene can be interpreted different ways. The decision to leave the ball on the stairs can have significantly different outcomes. 

The same can be said about choices in our own lives. I agonize over decisions so that I can make the best choice because there could be so many different outcomes. I consider the pros and the cons, the return vs. the investment. “Analysis paralysis” is the pithy saying used to describe this. Ironically, often there is not a “best choice” when it comes to the decisions about our habits and routines. As long as we take any action at all – that is what matters. 

Let’s take a look at three ways to get moving on habit change.

Start Small

It is hard to completely revamp habits all in one go. Start small. Instead of setting a goal to go to the gym every day, go once a week. Instead of writing 2,000 words every weekday, if you have more time on the weekend, do your 2,000 words on Saturdays and Sundays. 

Sure it will take you longer to get to your end goal, but this is where we apply the idea of sustainability. We are not talking about fad diets and get rich quick schemes. I want to you to create sustainably productive habits. If you cannot stomach the idea of getting up at 5:00 am to go to yoga every morning – don’t do it! 

But you do need to do something. Make it small. 

Nope – smaller than that. It is hard, I understand. Sometimes it is hard to break it down smaller. How do I eat healthy smaller? If you would like to see a few examples, you can download what small sample changes I have been working on lately. I really do mean SMALL changes. But these are going to be sustainable changes for me.  

Once you decide on what, set your cadence. How many times a week do you want to do it? Great, start with half that amount of days. SMALL CHANGES. You can adjust later. 

Speaking of later – we need to pick a start date and an evaluation date. Not start and end dates – a start date and an evaluation date. 

Set Deadline

Let’s say your goal is to paint 3 days a week after work. You have made the goal smaller and picked 2 days to paint once you get home. Well done, you. Now set an evaluation date for 30 days from now. 

Go ahead – add it to your calendar, “Evaluate painting schedule.”

Then let fly your inner Picasso. For 30 days. No judgement, no changes. Paint for 2 days a week for 30 days – you have 8 opportunities!

After 30 days it is time to ask some questions. Keep this informal and short. Sit down for 5-10 minutes and ask yourself these simple questions

  • Of the 8 times I planned to paint, how many did I complete? 
  • What worked about this plan?
  • What did not work about this plan? 

Don’t expect magic unicorns to shit rainbows. You may not have knocked it out of the park this month. Creating and changing habits – that’s hard work. You will probably need to make adjustments. Maybe during your evaluation, you identified that you only painted for 3 of the potential 8 days. Asking what worked and what didn’t will help modify your plan. 

Do not automatically declare that your goal was wrong or you are a failure. Stay flexible, make modifications based on what you learned. 

Stay Flexible

This is where folks will give up or water down their dream instead of staying flexible to meet the overall intention of what they were trying to do. Remember sustainable productivity is about finding what puts wind in your sails and doing it in a way that fits into your life today. In a way that you can repeat for the foreseeable future. You may need to make some changes in order to meet that sustainable productivity goal. 

Here are some ways to do that:


Once you have identified what tweaks to make in your process, decide what change you want to start. Just one – keep is small and sustainable. Maybe you planned to paint for 1 hour after work 2 days per week. After 30 days you have identified what is not working about this plan is that you spend 25 minutes of your precious 60 minutes setting up your supplies and work space. 

What you may choose to start is to set up in the morning of painting day. Then all you have to do when you come home is paint – which is the whole goal. 


Perhaps during your evaluation you found that by the time you came home, fed the dog, checked the mail, and changed clothes you lost your painting mojo. What you may choose to stop doing is checking the mail and changing clothes. Stopping those 2 things will streamline the process – feed the dog and paint. You can get an apron or old button down shirt to put over your clothes to protect them if needed. Maybe you change into painting clothes before you even leave the office!


This is often a hard one for people. We have to admit that maybe we are doing some things right. If you cannot identify one single thing you are doing right and need to continue, I will offer you a gimme. Continue the schedule. Until you hit the goal 100% for 3 cycles (90 days), continue your cadence. In this example that means painting 1 hour a day for 8 days will be the target for cycle 2. Set your next evaluation date for 30 days from now. 

Don’t automatically declare that you are lazy and have no willpower because Netflix lured you to the couch on 5 of your 8 painting days. Maybe you sat down to check the mail and inertia just took over. It happens. You may need to alter your surroundings or order of operations to fit this new lifestyle you have. This Start – Stop – Continue exercise will help you identify and make those alterations.

Now, I hear what some of you are thinking: That’s all well and good if you know what you want to do! I get it. You might be feeling like you are living in black and white and an overall feeling of blah, but don’t know what is causing it. If this is you, I would like to invite you to use the Sustainability Checklist for a few days to help identify what is and is not working for you. 

Let me know how these tools are working for you. Were you able to identify your start, stop and continue? What surprises did you find when you used the Sustainability Checklist for a few days? 

By |2020-06-19T16:54:21-04:00January 6th, 2020|Mental Well-being|0 Comments
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