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

Spring clean your body

This seems like a really dumb time to talk about how to spring clean your body. As I sit here writing this in Feb 2021, we are only 5 days out from one ice storm and in the middle of another. We are wedged tightly in the middle of winter.

Crepe myrtle branches covered in ice.

But it won’t always be like this. Spring will come – I promise. And with it comes droves of headlines about getting “Beach Body Ready” and “Spring Clean Your Body!”

While you can reduce the amount of these messages that come at you (the Media Lesson in the Environmental Surroundings Course can help you with this), you won’t get rid of them all. You cannot control how the messages come at you, but you can control how you accept them and incorporate them into your life.

Let me show you how.

Identify What Isn’t Working

Being bombarded with message to “Spring Clean Your Body!” gives off a vibe that what you have needs an overhaul. I would like to suggest that maybe throwing out everything about the person you are is not a Sustainably Productive way to change your habits or think about your Health and Fitness. By identifying what isn’t working you can start to make small, gradual changes that help you create a life you don’t want to escape.

Identify what isn’t working: Maybe you are exhausted all day. That dragging fatigue leaves you less motivated to exercise or cook healthy meals. Which leads to poor food choices, which leads to poor sleep… leaving you exhausted the next day. Vicious cycle.

The root of what isn’t working in this scenario is sleep – the foundation of all healthy habits. If you ever find yourself unsure where to start, I recommend addressing sleep habits first.

Step 1: Identify what isn’t working. Answer: Sleep

Once you identify what isn’t working you can move on to make adjustments.

Make an Adjustment

An adjustment can come in many forms, but I want to offer 2 different buckets that adjustments might fall into.

  • Something you do.

Experts recommend 7-9 hours of sleep for adults, but if you are sitting at a solid 5 hours nightly, lying in bed for 9 hours is not a Sustainably Productive adjustment to make. Start small. Make the action step something that is productive for you – it has to work for you, not just be something the experts tell you that you SHOULD. I also encourage you to make it sustainable – it has to be something you can keep doing. It is ok it you don’t get to the “should.” Just make it something you can repeat.

Here is an example. If you got 5 hours of sleep last night, go to bed 15 minutes earlier tonight. That’s it. Even if you lay awake for that 15 minutes. Then do it again tomorrow night. And the night after.

There is another type of adjustment you can make besides an action step.

  • Something you think about what you do.

A mind shift, reconsideration, or full on paradigm shift. Stop thinking about sleep as being the last thing in your day. This is just leaving you in a cold sweaty pool of panic, “HOW CAN THE DAY BE OVER, MY LIST IS NOT DONE!” No one sleeps well in a sweaty pool of panic. What if you shifted your thinking about sleep to be the start of the new day? Instead of sleep being a futile exercise in restoring the damage a stressful day caused, you start to think about it as building up reserves for the next day?

Step 2: Make an adjustment.

Evaluate Progress

After a few days – a week at most – check in with yourself to see how this adjustment is serving you. This is a simple 3-step process.

  1. Put it on the calendar. It may seem dumb to have a 5 minute appointment to ask yourself if thinking about sleep differently is helping you avoid a cold sweaty pool of panic. But life gets busy and time flies by. I know so many moms that kept a calendar of the baby’s poop schedule. I daresay your sleep habits are as important as poop.
  2. Answer the check in questions. Download the worksheet to answer the questions to decide if an adjustment is working for you.
  3. Make adjustments. If what you did worked, do a little more of it – back up your bedtime 15 more minutes for next week. If your adjustment did not work, ask why. Maybe you forgot to consider sleep as the start of the day and monkey mind kept you up again. Perhaps a reminder on your phone would help. At 9:00 pm (or whenever you want to start your evening routine), a reminder pops up: Today is over, you did your best. It is time to start tomorrow with the sleep I am about to have. Maybe you have the mindset, but it is so hot in your room you cannot sleep. Now your adjustment becomes action, not mindset. Adjust the temp by 1 degree every few nights until you find what works.

Step 3: Evaluate your progress.

Repeat As Needed

This process is a never ending loop. Today’s “Spring Clean Your Body” challenge might be sleep, but if you keep applying the Sustainable Productivity process and tools to it you eventually will create sleep habits that work for you. At that point you will ask the question, “What isn’t working,” and another answer will come up.

If you are getting another answer besides sleep today, let me know what it is. Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

By |2021-02-21T09:09:41-05:00March 2nd, 2021|Health & Fitness|0 Comments

This is Sustainable Productivity

Sustainable Productivity is the backbone of the work you are doing to create a life you don’t need to escape. As you are deciding if the adjustment is the right next step for you, ask yourself this question: “Can I continue to do this lifelong?” Not that you must continue forever, but could you if you wanted to. It is ok to change your mind and of course, life changes around you. It is natural that internal and external factors impact our habits. Sometimes the answer to the Sustainable Productivity question (“Can I continue to do this lifelong?”) is no.

To gain more control over habit changes and adjustments, you can break down the Sustainable Productivity question (“Can I continue to do this lifelong?”) into 2 separate parts. This blog post will walk you through that.

Is this sustainable?

The beauty of the Sustainable Productivity questions is that they can apply to all aspects of life.

  • Habit change – is this change sustainable?
  • Time management – is this schedule sustainable?
  • Clothing – is this pinching waistline sustainable?
  • Chores – is this pace of mulch spreading sustainable?

What “sustainable” looks like will change as you make adjustments to your activities and as life changes around you. What feels manageable today? Is this something you can maintain lifelong? Not that you HAVE TO, but CAN YOU if you want to?

A habit can be sustainable but not productive. Anyone who has ever binged Netflix knows this. While it may sound fun in the beginning, eventually you find yourself wanting more. Wanting to contribute in a better way.

Which leads to the second Sustainable Productivity question.

Is this productive?

There are so many things that need your attention these days. If you are going to do take an action, that action needs to work for you. It needs to positively contribute toward your life, your goals, your purpose, your values.

In our world we have plenty of examples of non-productivity. We tend to relabel it as laziness or wasting time. I encourage you to define “productive” differently. According to Dictionary.com, productive is defined as achieving or producing a significant amount or result.

What if you redefined “productive” and what “counted” as a significant result in your life? Here are a few ideas:

  • Sleeping 7-9 hours each night is productive.
  • Blocking travel time into your day to create a realistic schedule is productive – even if that means you get less done.
  • Saying no to something that is not a HELL YES is productive.
  • Saying yes to an activity that puts wind in your sails is productive – even if that means you leave a chore undone.

You may need to stop and take a deep breath here. Are you uncomfortable just reading that list? Do you have a knot in your belly thinking about missing 1 bedtime tuck-in each month so you can take a pottery class? That is a sign that you are in the right place?

Keep reading.

Sustainable Productivity

The place where these Sustainable You questions intersect is your sweet spot.

But you have to be able to answer yes to BOTH questions.

A habit can be productive, but not sustainable. For example, getting up at 5:00 am to watch a MasterClass lecture is productivehobbies and learning are part of a sustainably productive life. But if you are not getting enough sleep and starting to resent that early alarm and hating your hobby, that is not sustainable. Therefore, this habit is not Sustainably Productive.

That sweet spot where sustainable overlaps productive is where Sustainable Productivity lives. This is where you can continue something lifelong if you want to.

You are allowed to change your mind when something is no longer Sustainably Productive for you. In the Sustainable You course you can learn about how to know something isn’t working and which change to make. You can also get dozens of suggestions for  adjustments in multiple aspects of life.

As you go through your daily activities and appointments in the upcoming weeks, ask yourself the Sustainable Productivity questions.

Is this sustainable?

Is this productive?

You don’t need to take action at this point, just observe what your intuition is telling you. If you have any reactions or aha moments, comment below. I would love to hear from you!

By |2021-01-18T09:01:56-05:00January 19th, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

3 Reasons to Let Go

As we develop sustainably productive habits, there is a need to flip the coin over to look at what we need to stop doing. To let go of what is not serving us physically, mentally, and environmentally means we make room for what we want to build in our lives. 

Let’s be clear – letting go is hard. But we can do hard things. I am inspired by what Louise Smith has to say about it.

“You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are full of junk.”

Louise Smith

Today’s post will apply this idea to each of the three dimensions of sustainably productivity. 

Physical 

For many years I considered myself an endurance athlete. I raced in dozens of triathlons, half marathons and marathons. I am turtle slow, but they gave me a race bib so I call what I did racing. All the miles eventually caught up with me and running became unsustainable for my body. I had a few orthopedic surgeries. Then the doctor said if I wanted to be able to hike and walk the dog in my 80s I needed to stop running now in my 40s. 

I cried right there in the office. I did not want to let go of running. Which is so ironic considering 

1 – I am not good at it. See Team Turtle comment above.

2 – For years playing basketball, running was punishment.

3 – Running hurt.

But alas, love hurts, right? All the songs tell us that. But Tina Turner reminds us: What’s Love Got to Do With It? 

Lucky for me I was in a place in life where I was making changes towards sustainable productivity. I knew that continuing to run was not something that would be productive for me long term. That surgeon knew exactly what button to push with me.

Yes – I do want to be able to get out in nature in my 80s (and beyond!). If I needed to leave my ego and my running shoes behind to do that, I was open to it. 

Mental

Speaking of Tina Turner, have you ever been in a relationship you knew had run its course. You knew it was not good for you, but you just did not seem to leave it? We may not have an extreme version like Ike in our lives. But I bet we all have Ike-light relationships we are hanging on to because it’s hard to let go. 

Do any of these sound familiar to you:

  • A friend who is always bashing her spouse and encourages stories about frustrations with your partner. 
  • A coworker you go to lunch with regularly who has to “one up” everything you say.
  • A book club where you are the only one who actually reads the book and didn’t just come to drink wine. 

Relationships can weigh heavily on our minds, drag down our spirits, and even negatively impact our physical health. After following 10,000 subjects for 12 years, a study found that compared to subjects in healthy relationships, those in negative relationships were at a greater risk for developing cardiac issues – including fatal heart attacks.

We need to let go of relationships that do not support who we are or who we want to be. This will make space for relationships that are sustainably productive. Maybe that relationship is with yourself. 

What would happen if you ate lunch alone instead of with your needy colleague? You might read, listen to music or podcasts, or just sit and eat with no distractions. What if this is the break you needed to take your afternoons by storm. Could you finally make headway on that project that has been stalled? 

What if you surround yourself with other women who cherish their partner? Sure they still have conflict in their relationships. But they have encouraging stories about how they worked through it because they had a partner who was worth it. 

Without letting go of the relationships that are not working for you, you can’t make way for the ones that will serve you and sustain you. 

Let go

Environmental

Decluttering is always popular and it seems like this quote applies most intuitively here. If you are hanging on to your literal junk, you cannot reach for anything new. 

I have a section of my closet dedicated to my business suits. I no longer wear business suits. If I am honest, I probably no longer fit into said business suits, but am unsure because it’s been 15 pounds 10 years since I tried. 

But alas I cannot let go of these suits. As I have been cleaning out closets in our home, these suits have loomed large in my conscience. They seem to be waving at me (or flipping me the bird) when I go into my closet. I seem to be given them lots of power. 

Instead of just fabric, for me they represent moments in my career where I felt strong and in flow:

  • Job interviews
  • TV segments
  • VIP presentations 
  • Community lectures

I finally took down one suit over the weekend and channeled my inner Marie Kondo. As I took it off the hanger, I thought of all these moments of flow with fondness. I had a moment of Wizard of Oz type of clarity that the suit did not give me strength and flow to deliver on these occasions. It was in me all along. I am still here, the business suit was just a witness to it. And now it is time to allow it to witness for someone else. It is time for me to reach for something new. In order to do that I need to let go of these suits. 

Now to be clear, I was still a little sad and still have about 10 more suits in the closet. But a start was made. That is all we need to do today is start. 

What do you need to break off a little piece and let go of? Is there something in your life that you are holding tight that you might need to release? What if you just loosen the grip?

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

Title

Go to Top