Fullest Expression or Sustainably Productive Expression?

“Fullest expression” is a phrase that they use a lot in my yoga classes. “Should” is not a word permitted in the studio. Instead of blahblah-asana being a pose where you should have your arms wrapped around your legs while balancing on your head, the instructor coaches us that pretzel is the fullest expression and we can also just do arms or incorporate the head stand part if it feels right today. 

Which is a relief because there is one thing this old bod is not doing these days and it is fullest expression of anything upside down. 

Full expression and well, my expression. If this doesn’t clarify the difference, I am not sure what else to do.

I have been thinking a lot about the idea of fullest expression lately as things are getting shuffled around in my life. Nothing major just projects that require a some small adjustments to logistics. 

Fullest Expression Off the Mat

A few balls have gotten dropped, and I am definitely out of my routines. Which often leads me to less than Sustainably Productive thinking. Here is what that might sound like:

  • What is wrong with me – normally I have my writing done by now.
  • I should be able to do all three things. 
  • Other people manage a lot more than this, why can’t I?

I feel my attention being fractured as I spend several hours each day continually bouncing around. The context shifting is exhausting. By the end of the day my fullest expression is the fetal position under a blanket clutching the remote. I know my habits and routines bring relief to this pinging around, but I feel like there is not enough time or I should be doing something else. If I can’t do the whole routine, I do nothing. 

For example, I recently got up later than usual and skipped morning reading and journaling before going to exercise. I felt like I had been shot out of a cannon all day. It was like I was living on 1.5 speed instead of the normal pace of life. Everything felt out of synch. 

I wonder if you might have days like this too? 

Real Life Look In

What if we do a small part of each bits of our routine? If we cannot do the whole enchilada, maybe we can have small bites of it. Here is what it might look like as it relates to my morning on ramp:

Fullest Expression

Journaling: 15 minutes

Personal Development, Daily Devotional Reading: 20 minutes

Meditation: 20 minutes

Stretch: 6 minutes

Sustainable Productivity Expression

Journaling: 5 minutes

Reading: 5 minutes

Meditation: 1 minute

Doing a truncated version of the routine is better than chucking the whole thing and shoulding on myself all day. This is different than a routine not working. This is for a day the alarm didn’t go off. Or you have to catch a flight. Or a kid woke up sick. 

Showing up for yourself consistently – even if it is not the fullest expression – can continue to keep that fly wheel of habit change turning.  

Sustainable You Questions

  1. Do you have a day in the next week where you know you need an abbreviated version of your routine?
  2. How can you plan now for what that shortened window can be used in a Sustainably Productive way?

It can be hard to reframe fullest expression to Sustainable Productivity Expression. If you need help find me on social media or send me a message to Susan@SustainableSue.com. I would be glad to help you work on it!

Until next time –

By |2023-02-03T19:38:24-05:00February 7th, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Values and Routines

This time of year everyone jumps on the routines bandwagon. Newspapers, magazines, social media, TV, school pick up lines – everyone is talking about creating fall routines to fix our lives. 

Fixing our lives is an inside job and applying someone else’s routine is not the Sustainably Productive way forward. You don’t fix internal bleeding with a bandaid. You fix it by getting inside to the root of the issue and stopping the bleeding. This is how Desmond Tutu describes it:

“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

Around here we go back to the core of who we are – our values. 

Values are defined as, “judgement of what is important in life.” I would like to build on what Webster has to say here: important in each of our lives today.

Let’s talk more about each part.

…Each of our lives…

What is important to me may not be important to you. On the podcast (Episode 19: Routines and Values, which you can listen to here), Genay made a statement that had me sitting straight up in my chair: I do not want to live out of fear.

This is a stake in the ground that she can bounce all ideas off of. A few of my core values are integrity, curiosity, sustainability. These are the benchmarks that I make decisions from. We covered several examples of this on the podcast.

I want to elaborate here the importance of letting your values lead your systems. Let’s say for example that you and I were both invited to a party on Friday. For the sake of the discussion, consider that sustainability is a value for me, and a value of yours is friendship. 

Knowing that I will be completely drained on Friday evening after a full week of work and life, it does not feel sustainable to me to get myself out the door to interact with a room full of strangers. Now consider that you might be an introvert as well and have had a long, intense week just like me. But your value is friendship so you go to the party to support your friend knowing that supporting her will be fulfilling.

Both scenarios are ok. Neither is good or bad or better than another. This is why values should be considered for each person. 

Let’s look at the other addition to the definition. 


What is important to you today may change. 

It may change once your kids are out of the house. Or when you retire. Or when you go from being single to being married (or vice versa). Or just because you having life experiences and change your mind about your values. 

All of that is ok. Again – neither is good or bad or better than another. 

Now that we have a better definition of values, let’s look at a couple other constructs around routines and values.

Schedules vs Routines

There is a difference between schedules and routines. A schedule indicates that you have committed to do a certain thing at a certain time. But a routine is a group of activities that can serve as a transition to or from a certain part of your day. Here is an example.

My morning routine serves as an on ramp from being in bed to being at my day job. I have several activities like dog walk, breakfast, play Jeopardy via Alexa with Bixby, specific readings, meditation, and my stretches. 

This is a routine because none of it is time bound. It just happens between when I put my feet on the floor and when I log into my day job. Of course it needs to be reasonable so I don’t get fired, but if I walk the dog at 5:45 am or 6:30 am, it doesn’t matter. It is not a schedule. 

This provides me with freedom on days I want to do yoga. Class is at 6:00 am. If I had a morning schedule that the dog had to be walked at 6:00 am, I would never be able to do yoga. That is not productive nor sustainable. Instead I just rearrange the activities in my routine into a different order on mornings I want to get to yoga. 

Think of time as bumpers, not electrified rails. You have a window of time to get activities done vs. electrocution if you divert any small amount.

The third rail is not a fun and inviting place to be. Source: Photo by Rémi Bertogliati on Unsplash

Returning to my morning routine example, I know I have between 5:30 am – 9:00 am to complete my routine. Some days I can knock it all out by 7:00 am. Some days I may or may not be stretching while my work computer fires up because it took longer to get my feet on the floor or spent longer on the dog walk. But if I viewed this as a schedule, and 5:40 am – 6:15 am was dog walk window and I did not get started until 5:45 am…

ZAP. Into the electric third rail. These are the things that lead us to ditch habits, feel like a failure, and want to escape our lives. 

One more thought on setting yourself up to pair your values and routines. 

Ideal Me or Real Me

Honor the Real You that you are today, not the Ideal You of shoulds and dreams. When building routines start where you are, not where the ideal version of you is. 

And please, I beg of you – if you only get this one thing as a takeaway from this weekly essay – do not do this with shame. There is no shame in what is the Real You today. Shame and judgement will derail every attempt to link your routines and values. 

Maybe the Ideal You has her digital files sorted and organized, photos up to date and backed up, only a few things on her laptop main screen. That is all well and good, but Real You is in the weeds with school aged kids and a full time job where there is management transition. Look at how you can combine values and routines to suit Real You.

  • That might be deleting 5 old files per week. 
  • Maybe it is spending 15 minutes of each kids’ practice time (while you are waiting anyway) deleting old photos you know you don’t want to back up. 
  • Real You might be able to just hire someone to handle it for you. 

Nowhere in this bulleted list does it say to shame yourself for not being able to keep up with digital clutter. That is not productive, nor sustainable. 

Sustainable You Questions

1) What couple activities could you reframe as routine instead of schedule?

2) Are there certain times of day that you feel a transition would help – morning, bed time for kids, bed time for you – these are popular places people address first.

3) Is what you consider “Ideal You” matching up to your values or is that what someone else told you the standard was?

By |2022-09-23T12:45:11-04:00October 4th, 2022|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Survival Mode – Three Things to Know

I am in survival mode. I know many of you are also.

Parents stuck with no good back to school option are in survival mode. Workers being required to return to an office they are not really sure is a safe option are in survival mode.

I am in survival mode as I am hundreds of miles from home taking care of a family medical emergency, while I am job hunting and getting ready to take my oldest to college in the middle of a pandemic.

No one’s survival mode is better or worse. I describe survival mode as the season where you do just enough to get by – there is no threshold to pass to get into or out of it. You want to just hide under the covers, but someone has to run the asylum. But when that someone is you, there are three things you can do to streamline the basics to keep the ship afloat without completely debilitating yourself. This idea is based on the “Three D’s” that are presented in the Sorta Awesome podcast 253. I have modified my tool from “3 D’s” to MAD. The acronym cracks me up because when I am in survival mode, I tend to feel a little mad. Mad like manic. OK, sometimes mad like angry too. Survival mode is tough. Maybe this tool can help soften those edges for you too.


This first part of the tool for survival mode is M for meals. If I have a loose meal plan and know the groceries are on hand, I do not need to think about it and can move on to something more important. The converse of this is when it has been a rough day already and when it comes time to make the baked spaghetti and there IS NO SPAGHETTI IN THE HOUSE. Tears have been shed at times like these.

Having a meal plan removes a lot of uncertainty. Keep it broad and easy – sandwiches, pasta, pizzas on the grill, etc. Simple, quick, and bonus points for meals that allow for leftovers you can heat up for lunch.

Survival Mode


Next is A for acknowledgement. Don’t pretend this is business as usual. Denying this is a survival mode season will blow up in your face. Call it what it is and try to roll with the chaos. What this looks like for me is that while I am away from home, I have let go of 90% of my exercise routine. Yes, it is an important part of my life, but in survival mode while I cannot leave the house on my own schedule (or sometimes at all), it has fallen by the wayside. Instead of beating myself up over it, I acknowledge it is survival mode season and move on.


The third part is D for dishes, specifically the dishwasher. As part of my normal time nightly routine, I clean the kitchen. I know Tomorrow Susan feels more serene starting her day with clean counters. The minimum viable product of a clean kitchen is clean dishes so during survival mode I just make sure I run the dishwasher before bed. If we have a doctor appointment to get to, there might not be time in the morning to clean up the kitchen.  If something goes wrong in the night and we don’t get a lot of sleep, it is easier to continue with the day if cleaning the dishes out of the way.

Survival Mode

This is not my kitchen, but it is the clean surface look I love to close the day with.

If you are in survival mode and still trying to do it all, I invite you to download the Sustainability Checklist. It will walk you through some suggestions about what you might need to drop off the list for now – or for always!

By |2020-08-10T20:28:41-04:00August 11th, 2020|Mental Well-being|0 Comments
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