Time Accountant

Do you ever feel like you have a Time Accountant that you have to report to? A (probably imaginary) person who whips out a small notebook, licks a pencil tip and makes notes about everything you are doing? Or not doing? Or could be doing better or faster?


Cool, me neither.

Apparently some people do. This essay is for them.

My first instinct is to kick that Time Accountant in the balls and make a run for it. But alas, a healthier and more Sustainably Productive step would be to reframe what you mean when you say, “I did nothing.”

No one says it better than Elsie Owens:

Now that you have a different way to describe it, maybe telling your Time Accountant that you spent 75 minutes recuperating instead of doing nothing will be easier. Maybe that Time Accountant is you and you need to give yourself permission to take a time out.

If you are feeling like you are running on am empty tank, it is time to recover. Consider this your permission slip.

Sustainable You Reflections

  1. Which of the 10 phrases in the above list seems to fit you the best?
  2. Look at your calendar for the next 2-4 weeks. Where can you fit in this recovery time.
  3. Block it off today.

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

By |2023-08-23T19:57:38-04:00September 5th, 2023|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Episode 31: Sustainable Sue Takes a Sabbatical

Recorded in segments over the course of her sabbatical, Susan explores the reason why sabbatical is important, what tends to derail good intentions, and talks about lessons learned during the two weeks she pretended she was retired.

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 |2023-09-04T17:05:35-04:00September 4th, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments

Episode 19: How to Get the Rest You Need

Rest is so important that it is a component of all three dimensions of Sustainable Productivity. In this episode Susan highlights the work from Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith in her book Sacred Rest and expands it to apply to Health and Fitness, Mental Well-being, and Environmental Surroundings.

Let’s be clear: rest is not sleep. Rest is an active or passive activity you participate in so you can recharge and restore. Consider this quote by an anonymous source:

“When I am resting because my body is weak, I need to remember that I’m not wasting the day doing nothing. I am doing exactly what I need to do. I’m recovering.”

Think of rest as more of a “timeout,” rather than a “go home.”

Here is what you can expect in today’s episode:

  1. Why rest is a component of each of the Sustainable Productivity dimensions.
  2. Signs and symptoms of a rest deficit.
  3. Suggestions for adjustments to reduce this deficit.

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 |2023-06-12T08:27:52-04:00June 12th, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments

How to Work Through Self-Sabotage

A draft of this essay sat in my drafts folder for over a year – talk about self-sabotage! I tinkered with it every few months, but could not get it over the finish line. Today I am giving myself the full time I need to work through this message. Here’s the thing – in the effort to get things done, sometimes I focus too much on productive at the expense of sustainable. I wonder if that might ring true for you too.

  • You focus on being the mother doing it all for your kids… at the expense of your relationship with your partner.
  • Time, energy, and finances are directed towards purchasing the house or planning a wedding… at the expense of the life you will be living for the next 50 years.
  • Your effort is used on everyone else… at the expense of not knowing what you really like.

Self-sabotage is usually not a conscious action. Often it creeps into our lives in phases. The actions that we eventually view as self-sabotage can even start out being helpful.

Phase One: It Works…

Before thoughts and behaviors sabotage us, they protect us. They work until they don’t.

Let’s say you are a new mom with a full time job out of the house. You must be a master at putting infant needs first, then compartmentalizing those needs while you are at work. When your baby goes to sleep at night you might start to crack open that compartment, but more likely you have a partner that might have a feeling or thought to run through with you. Or there are chores, errands or other minutiae to wade through.

It may seem like there is precious little time for you to have thoughts and feelings independent of others during this season.

Phase Two: …Until It Doesn’t

Then the season passes, your infant no longer relies on you for survival. However your lizard brain has not gotten the message and you are still in fight, flight or freeze all the time. You still feel uncomfortable having a feeling of your own.

Or more likely, you don’t realize it has been 5 years since you have considered your own thoughts and opinions. You have just piled on more. A raise at work, a side hustle, more activities for your kids (resulting in more logistics for you), returning to school, relocating, volunteering, etc.

All of these things can be good stress, but they are still create pressure and time constraints. They still take up time and space. Before you know it you have created a life you just want to hide from.

Phase Three: Sustainably Productive Adjustments

When I was little my mom taught us that if we were ever lost in a store, we should stand still and she would find us. At least this is what I remember – it might have been an after school special or a Box Car Children book. Regardless, the sentiment is the same. When you feel lost and overwhelmed in chaos, getting still is a good place to start. If you get still you might be able to see a way forward, maybe literal or proverbial sunshine will start to come through the cracks. In order to be able to move past this acute burnout, you need to create space to avoid self-sabotage. Reaction happens when you are butted up against the stressor. Response happens when you have space for discernment.

I want to share three ways making space might look for you, one in each dimension of Sustainable Productivity.

Health & Fitness Dimension – Sleep. I have written about sleep here and here as well as dedicated a podcast episode to it (you can listen here). Sleep is when our body physically and mentally takes out the trash in our bodies. It helps to reboot your systems. If you shortchange this process, you will struggle to make good decisions. For example, if you are committed to healthy eating, but you sleep only five hours a night, self-sabotage creeps in when you pass by Biscuitville. It isn’t willpower, chemical change in your body from being sleep deprived inspire these cravings.

Mental Well-being Dimension – Schedule buffer. In a recent essay I talked about time blocking. I cannot overemphasize the need for buffer time in your schedule. I used to work for a woman who would accept a meeting scheduled to end across town at 9:45 am, then book a meeting with me for 10:00 am. It was physically impossible for her to do both. If you are feeling burned out, schedule buffers can help build in rest. Literally blocking an hour as “Rest” or giving yourself twice the amount of time needed for a task or adding time at the end of a meeting to do your notes and follow ups. Buffers could be as simple as giving yourself realistic time to drive from one place to another.

Environmental Surroundings – Manage screen time. Stay with me on this, it is not eliminating screen time. Sustainable Productivity is about small adjustments you can maintain over time. Overhauling your screen time is not a small adjustment. But what if you put down screens 10 minutes earlier than you do today. Or started 10 minutes later. Maybe you see how much screen time you rack up today, then for the next week, try to average 10 minutes less? You will know intuitively what feels easiest or most important to you. Trust your instincts. Give your eyes, hands, and mind a rest from devices.

These are just a few suggestions on how rest can help you avoid self-sabotage. When you feel rested and centered, you can start to see other small changes you need to make and where you are ruining your chances for success. This is another area where there is no finish line. But that is good news – you can make these adjustments as small as you need to in order to have success.

Sustainable You Reflections

  1. Where does self-sabotage appear in your life?
  2. Which, if any, of the three suggestions resonate with you? How could you adapt them to fit your life?

There are infinite number of ways to rest. I would love to hear what you choose. You can reach me at Susan@SustainableSue.com or via DM on Instagram

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

By |2023-05-13T17:44:48-04:00May 16th, 2023|Mental Well-being|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

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

Restoration in Progress

I recently traveled back to NC after spending a month-ish in Indiana for a family medical emergency. During a pandemic. While my oldest was going to college for the first time. And I was job hunting. Plus creating new features and programs to release to you this fall.  

Friends, I am tired. I am going to practice what I preach and take a rest. Please enjoy the beautiful photo above from a backpacking trip through Grayson Highlands several years ago. 

One of the books I read in July is life changing – Sacred Rest. I promise to talk about it more, but for now I just want to leave you with this snippet:

“You have to decide to turn your energy back toward restoration (or to keep it simple, back toward rest).”

Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith

By |2020-08-31T18:53:31-04:00September 1st, 2020|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Eye of the Storm: A Time to Rest

The world is exhausting for me right now. How about you? I am tired. I need to rest. And it is only Tuesday…

Last Friday after reading the headlines and a short scroll through Facebook, it was just overwhelming. No matter what the topic, it was seething with hate from both sides:

  • Racism
  • Pandemic
  • Politics
  • Economy
  • Unemployment

The fact that it had rained for 10 of the last 13 days did not help.

So I went to back to bed after breakfast. It was too much. I had to start my day over again after staring at the wall for quite some time.

It helped, but that is not a sustainable plan. As a general rule, I cannot just throw out my calendar and go to bed. One of the interesting things is that “doing nothing” can be incredibly exhausting. There is a lot of science behind this that we will get into later, but here is a great summary. It can be crazy making, but don’t gaslight yourself if you are doing less and feeling it more.

Let’s keep it simple. Back to the basics!

Sustainable Productivity suggests the basics are split into three categories:

  • Health and Fitness
  • Mental Well-being
  • Physical Surroundings

In case you have been on the struggle bus along with me, I thought I would share a few tips that I found helpful. This weekend here are a few things I did this weekend to manage my heebie-jeebies.

Health and Fitness

1 – Get outside

Anytime spent in nature is therapeutic for me. What this looked like this weekend was reading on the porch, crafting on the porch, eating meals on the porch… See a theme?

2 – Sweat equity

Getting my sweat on clears my head and calms me down. These days that looks mostly like time on my road bike.

Mental Well-being

1 – Meditation

NO! KEEP READING! This is sitting quietly and trying to clear my brain. I have no special clothes and I don’t sit cross legged on the floor. I don’t have music or incense. I fight monkey mind and breathe. For 12 minutes.

2 – Hobbies

I am mainly focusing on reading and crafting right now for my hobbies. I had a hard time reading at the start of quarantine, but have found some great reads lately. Also, by using the supplies that I already had around the house for crafting, I have been able to tackle some projects that have been on my to do list for quite some time.

Physical Environment

1 – Clutter

This weekend I put away some glasses that we love and represent fond memories, but we don’t use on a daily basis. I have been putting off dusting because I am SO TIRED of moving these glasses. When I packed them up, it created empty space that brought so much more joy that I had expected!

2 – Digital garbage

Google has been flashing a warning at me for MONTHS to clear out files or buy more storage. I finally sat down and did some clean up. I deleted almost 15 GB of digital clutter from Gmail and Google Drive. Not only did it free up time, but saved me money!

Your turn – where can you make some changes to create a more sustainable life? You might have 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. 

You can also join me on Facebook to chat more in a group. You are not alone. We can do hard things!

By |2020-06-19T16:50:12-04:00June 2nd, 2020|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Take a Break

This poor Gerber daisy. I potted it, then killed it.

It rebloomed. Then I killed it again.

And now look at it! It is trying so hard. Just like you and me, friend. Sometimes when life is hard and our energy is dried out, we need to rest. When the intensity of life is hotter than the sun facing our back porch at 4pm, we need to rest.

Then when we have gathered the energy we need we can also rebloom.

red gerber daisy blooming
Take a rest; a field that has rested gives a beautiful crop.
– Ovid –
By |2019-11-30T16:27:39-05:00August 18th, 2019|Mental Well-being|0 Comments
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