Rightsizing the Busyness Thunderdome

Welcome to September, otherwise known as the Busyness Thunderdome. There are approximately 1,269,348 things to do. Plus a fall festival. Which leads to today’s topic:

How to remain whole amidst distractions of life. Let’s rightsize the Busyness Thunderdome.

Current state

If you are like most women in the Sustainable Sue audience, the current state of life looks a little bit like this.

  • The school year is largely underway. At least enough that the newness has worn off and tears have been shed over homework. 
  • Halloween candy and costumes have been out for 2 months already.
  • Thanksgiving decorations and Christmas music are ready to bust through the door. 
  • There are even quiet whispers about New Years Eve plans and your 2024 word of the year

Resist the urge to throw up your hands and declare the year over mid-September. Take a deep breath. There are roughly 100 days left of the year – almost a third of the year left. 

This is not an essay about digging in and sprinting to the finish. It is about staying true to your desires to live a life you don’t need to escape when life gets chaotic and distracting. 

Life is made up of big and little things. The trick is to keep them the size you intend them to be. 

Don’t let the big things shrink and float off. 

Don’t let the little things swell into oversized monsters.

Here are 5 suggestions about adjustments you can make to rightsize your Busyness Thunderdome. 


You cannot do everything. And more importantly, your kids cannot do everything just because you want them to. Or you think they want to. If you can identify a pain point, I encourage you to start there – even if it means changing priorities. 

For example, you are a family that prioritizes honoring commitments. Yet Johnny cries every time he comes home from soccer games and practices. His coach yells at him for not doing things right, Johnny knows he is not good at soccer, and no one on his team talks to him because they all know each other from being on the team together last year. You have observed all of this to validate Johnny’s concern. Then you have the invisible load of Johnny’s stomach ache most of the day leading up to practice and games and his sadness for the half day after games and practice. You have choices. One of those choices is to reprioritize and let Johnny quit soccer. If your focus is exercise, maybe the deal is trading the soccer team for soccer in the park or back yard with the siblings. 

Removing one thing – even if it requires a priority shift – can help you rightsize the busyness. This is especially valuable when the busyness is not getting the intended result. 


I know, I hear it already, “I am living in a Busyness Thunderdome, and you want to ADD something?!” 

Stay with me, friends. 

This is not a big hairy exercise program or challenge. This is moving for 20 minutes. It could be a yoga channel on YouTube before anyone wakes up or a walk during that work Zoom where you only sit and listen anyway. What about riding the elliptical or stationary bike at the office gym during lunch. 

Low volume, lower intensity. This is not your exercise, this is moving for the sake of mental health. 

Be still.

Ah, the flip side to suggestion #2. If you though moving was hard, I bet you think being still is harder. I know I do. 

When a friend of mine was getting sober, she had such a hard time sitting still, her sponsor had her literally sit on her hands for 5 minutes. Monkey mind is a real thing. Our society rewards people – especially women – who are constantly in motion. 

It all serves you until it doesn’t. Rightsize the chaos by checking out for a few minutes each day. It does not have to be meditation, just be still. 

Delegate to the floor.

In the middle of a crazy busy season is not the time for the nice-to-have projects. The ceiling doesn’t HAVE to get painted the week leading up to the Fall Festival you are the chair person for. You don’t have to join the meal train during the week you are also volunteering at the church’s Brunswick stew sale. This is not the time to ask your spouse to pick up slack and delegate to her.  Its the time to cut it loose and delegate to the floor. If it is not a hell yes, it is a no.

Jot it down.

Sometimes there are no strategies that can help you in real time. You are blown, but just need to get through it. I have been there too so I know it feels terrible. My strategy for this is to have Today Burned Out Sue help create Future Sustainable Sue. We all have a time machine at our finger tips and it is your email. I will draft an email to myself to not sign up for an annual committee and schedule it to send around the time the email requesting volunteers goes out. I include ALL of my feelings (this is for my eyes only) so I can be reminded of how it feels to be this drained. 

Sustainable You Reflections

  1. How are you doing right now? No, like really – how are you?
  2. Look at your calendar for this week and next. List the things you are doing out of obligation (i.e., the things that are not a hell yes).
  3. Which of the above strategies might work for one of those obligations. 

If you are not ready to take action to rightsize yet, its ok. This exercise will help get you in the mindset to do it next time. 

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

By |2023-09-05T08:12:49-04:00September 19th, 2023|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Episode 25: Sustainable Sue Talks Time Management

Does it seem to you like some people are just better at time management? Why is it some people seem to be able to accomplish so much more than others? Why do some days feel like you really nailed it and some days feel like time just got away from you?

Spoiler alert! It is not really about time.

Time is a fixed entity each day – we all have 168 hours in a week. How you approach time and the systems you set up around that times is what matters. This means that you need to decide what are the most important things in your day first and fill in the other tasks and activities around it or deflect them to another day, time or person. This episode will help you do that.

Here is what you can expect in this episode:

  1. Why time management matters.
  2. How to get real and honest about what you want to spend time on.
  3. Practical suggestions to make time work for you – all 168 hours per week.

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 |2023-09-11T17:12:26-04:00July 24th, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments

Shattered Plans

I was standing in line at a delicious taco joint in Asheville, NC and saw a photo on the wall of a beautiful pottery bowl. It looked like it had gold strands delicately painted in zig zag, meandering lines on the outside. It somehow shimmered in the sunlight coming through the window even though it was a photograph. 

There were words underneath it so of course I made Bixby place our dinner order and I got out of line to investigate. I thought it would be the origin story of the painter or the potter that created the piece. Maybe somehow connected to the restaurant? I am a sucker for a human interest story and had to know more. 

I am also a sucker for a story about serendipity, which leads me to tell you the story of this gold flecked pottery today. 

Shattered Plans

My carefully planned goals are not coming along as planned. I am not sure who is running my life, but she needs to be fired. Time is somehow bending and moving faster than I remember it does. Unless of course it is my body recovering from a long bike ride, then time drags. 

Time I block out to do a Sustainable Sue project is stepped on with a late meeting from my day job (which more often than not lately is turning into an evening and night job). I plan to swim on a Saturday and Sunday only to have lightning close the pool intermittently. Meal plans are torpedoed by the grocery store not having the ONE INGREDIENT we needed for BOTH recipes. 

Truly none of these is a big deal, it is just having to reshuffle a shattered plan repeatedly is tiring. Last weekend I just left the proverbially shattered plan on my desk and read three books. I’m not sorry about it. 

Which is where the serendipity comes back in. The taco stand’s photo of the gorgeous pottery with golden strands streaming through was kintsukuroi (Japanese for “golden repair”) or kintsugi (Japanese for “golden seams”. The technique of kintsukuroi has roots in the 15th century and is making a comeback in today’s world. An artist uses lacquer and gold pigment to repair a shattered piece – sometimes more beautifully than the original creation.

Once I saw that photo and description in Asheville, I saw kintsukuroi everywhere. Most recently on a mindless scroll this weekend after abandoning my shattered plan in my office. If I could play fast and loose with the metaphor here, I used the lacquer of naps and gold pigment of reading to repair a shattered plan into something much more peaceful. 

Instead of feeling wrung out and left with a racing mind on a Sunday night, I actually felt ready to take on a work week. 

Sustainable You Reflections

  1. Think back to a time where it felt like things were going against you. With the benefit of hindsight, was the shattered plan replaced with a better outcome?
  2. In the weeks ahead, when (not if) your plans fall apart, can you purposely hold space for a “golden repair” of your own? 

Let empty space on the calendar take the shape naturally instead of filling it. You might be surprised at the beautiful creation you end up with. 

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

By |2023-07-11T09:09:16-04:00July 18th, 2023|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Time Blocking Your Way to a SusPro Calendar

There must be something about spring that makes me fired up about time management. As I was drafting this weekly essay, I discovered I wrote about time blocking around this time a couple years ago. Is it the final thaw of winter? Maybe the blooming of all the flowers makes me want to do ALL THE THINGS! Whatever the reason, here we are again for a little spring cleaning of our calendars and to do lists. 

First, let’s ground this essay in the Sustainable Productivity framework. Time management is a component of Mental Well-being and one of my favorite time management tools is time blocking. Think of time blocking as assigning a job to specific units of time in your day. This is less about making every second of your day productive and more about paying attention to what you pay attention to. 


There is no special tool or magic product for time blocking. Cal Newport has a time blocking planner and links to videos where he teaches you how to use it. Some people swear by digital tools because their time blocks are managed by other people or change with greater regularity. The beauty is that there is not one best answer. The productive answer is whatever works for you. I keep my appointments in a digital calendar because it is shared with other people. Bixby can add things to my home calendar and my colleagues at my day job can add things to my Outlook calendar at work. But my time blocks go in a notebook. It is just a half-used notebook left behind by my son after he graduated from high school. I ripped out the Spanish conjugation and started blocking my days. 

Block Projects

As with all Sustainably Productive adjustments, I encourage you to start small when you are learning to use time blocking for your time management. What is one task that you do weekly or 1 project you could schedule. This is not your appointments, this is working on what is important to you. This is not an appointment for your piano lesson, this is the time block for the piano practice ahead of the lesson. Determine when you will do the practice and add it to your calendar just like an appointment. 

Block Days

As you look at your calendar, (I hope) you have open times between appointments. If you do not, you may need to think about delegating – including delegating to the floor. More on that another time. Today I want to encourage you to think about what you want those empty blocks of time to do for you, what they could be dedicated to. 

Paperwork or errands. Batching items can be a more efficient use of your time. You can just put “errands” on a 2-hour time block for the day, then fill in later what those are. Knowing you have Wednesday afternoons for running errands could alleviate the repeat trips to the same strip mall across town. 

Catching up. What job do you want your commute time to have? It might be to just get you to work, but you also might want it to be when you catch up on podcasts (like the Sustainable Productivity podcast) or call a different friend each week to catch up (hands free phones of course!)

Rest. As mentioned earlier, the idea is not to cram 10 pounds of crap into a 5 pound bag by doing it efficiently. But if you can be efficient with your to do list for a couple hours, you may find yourself with an open hour or so most days. Or conversely, what if you scheduled rest, then built the other time blocks in your day around that? 

Sustainable You Reflections

  • What did you feel in your gut when you read that you can assign a time block to rest? Did it feel like you’d need to hide it from your people? Did you get nervous? Excited? Nervous belly?

There are lots of ways to time block. I would love to hear how it goes for you. 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 sustain YOU. 

By |2023-12-17T08:01:59-05:00May 5th, 2023|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Time Management – Weekdays vs. Weekends

While rest is a mandatory part of a SusPro life, a bit of structure around the weekend can make sure that the important things get done. Each of us will have a different idea of what those important things are. Likewise, we will all have a different tolerance for planning out a weekend. I also want to assure you moms that are in the thick of it that there are different seasons of life in your weekend planning also. You will not always be chained to the steering wheel for hours on end every weekend.

This week’s post will introduce you to time management principles to consider when creating a weekend plan and how weekend time management might differ from weekday time management. The intention is not to accomplish more, but to create a rhythm of life that you feel does not suck all of your energy. Its all about creating a life you don’t need to escape.

Let’s dive in.

Weekday Time Blocks

For a traditional work and school schedule, the weekdays (Monday through Friday) is where the action happens. Time management during these days tends to be more intense. There is more happening, involving more people, and deadlines are less flexible.

Most of our days are ruled by a digital calendar or paper day planner. Time blocks present themselves neatly around parts of your day. Here is how my schedule might break out:

Block 1 – before work: 5:30 am – 9:00 am

Block 2 – work day: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm

Block 3 – after work: 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

During block 1 I usually exercise, do a few house chores, maybe run an errand, and generally on ramp my day. Bock 2 is completely ruled by my Outlook calendar. Here is what that looks like in an average week.

This is open to everyone in my company so I often juggle my schedule based on what has been added to my calendar since I logged on last (note: this does not juggle my PRIORITIES, just the time where I can get priorities done. This is a topic for another day). Block 3 is dinner, crafting, and any socializing I might do (which is rare during the week).

I am relatively inflexible during the week. Although I may have an opportunity to do a quick bike ride during work hours if I skipped exercise that morning, it is not a sure thing that I can count on since work hours are dedicated to the office.

Weekends are a different story.

Weekend Time Blocks – What

My goal for most weekends is to recharge and restore. I cannot stress enough the reality that “recharge and restore” means something different to each person. The first thing is to determine what recharge and restore means to you.

  • Is it knocking out a chore or errand? Or designating an hour for each. Sometimes crossing things off my to do list early paves the way to relaxation. I know recharging is the right thing to do – as a recovering perfectionist, sometimes I need a little trickery.
  • Is it physical activity? Workdays often leave little time for exercise. The weekend can be an ideal time to make your physical fitness a priority.
  • Is it hobbies? Singing or dancing lessons. Time at the painting easel. Writing, reading, drive in the country. All of these activities can be the “big rocks” that you build your restoration time around.

Once you decide what you want to spend your time doing, let’s decide how to time block the days so you can accomplish what you intended.

Weekend Time Blocks – How

One of my favorite ways to organize the weekend is from Julie Morgenstern – breaking the weekend into 7 blocks.

Time tips

Here is what this might look like in a weekend filled with SusPro activities):

  • Fri evening – dinner out (Nutrition / Health & Fitness), family movie night (Media / Environmental Surroundings)
  • Sat morning – long run (Exercise / Health & Fitness), meal planning / grocery trip (Nutrition / Health & Fitness)
  • Sat afternoon – nap (Sleep / Health & Fitness), house cleaning (Physical Surroundings / Environmental Surroundings), and yard work (Hobbies / Mental Well-being)
  • Sat evening – date night (Relationships / Mental Well-being)
  • Sun morning – singing in choir (Hobbies / Mental Well-being), phone calls to family
  • (Relationships / Mental Well-being)
  • Sun afternoon – meal prep (Nutrition / Health & Fitness), hike (Exercise / Health & Fitness and Rest / Environmental Surroundings)
  • Sun evening – planning for the coming week (Time Management / Mental Well-being)

Your Turn

Time to plan your weekend! First figure out what your true priorities are. Then block your weekend into 7 parts and strategize how to fit your priorities into each segment. Tell me how it goes!

By |2023-12-14T09:14:01-05:00August 24th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Get the Right Things Done

Forget about getting more done, I want you to get the right things done. The topic I get the most questions about is time management. I want to share the principles behind time block planning that help me to be productive in a sustainable way.

Time block planning is certainly not something that I invented. On Laura Vanderkam’s June 4th episode of her “Before Breakfast” podcast, she talks about the value of time blocking. Cal Newport has a whole website and planner dedicated to time block planning.

Do not be afraid that this is going to be all about doing more with your day. Time block planning will allow you to make sure the RIGHT THINGS get done in a day. That is why it is a time management tool to get the right things done, not to get MORE done.

The Pain Point

Tell me if this scenario resonates with you:

You have ABC thing to do but you know you will need a good 40 minute chunk of time to do it. This might be sort out a billing error, write an email outlining results or a problem you have to look up dates to references, or finding something from your storage unit because you know it is probably in a box at the back.

So you wait to have time. You do stuff in the meantime, pretending to be productive, but you don’t get the right things done.

  • Putting off the billing error makes you miss out on a refund.
  • Not sending the email means your voice is not counted.
  • Avoiding the storage unit leads to the special Tooth Fairy pillow never being used.

Time does not appear. You do not make time. Time is waiting for you to assign it a job. Imagine time as an empty bin waiting to hold your thoughts and actions for you until you assign a time to tackle it.

As you probably know by now, when you are applying the Sustainable Productivity methods to your habits, once you identify the pain point, it is time to move to the adjustments. First I will give you a few examples of what to time block. This might give you some ideas of how you can make this work in your world. Then I will show you a few options of how to time block. so you can get the right things done.

Adjustment, Part 1

What to time block differs on the role. I use time block planning for two different types of tasks that I encounter in my personal and professional life.

Professional life – Tasks that need to be repeated

The tasks that I encounter in my professional life tend to be those that need to be repeated.

Some tasks happen on regular intervals because of time constraints.

  • Every week I prepare 6 slide decks for the following week.
  • Daily I prepare and send the agendas for the following day’s meetings.
  • For every project I need to prepare a monthly report to the steering committee.

Not all of the tasks are time bound. There are also tasks that are so large that I cannot tackle them to one sitting. For example I currently have a to do I call “Fix the billing SNAFU.” This comedy of errors dates back to the person who was in my role before me so it is taking a long time to untangle and set up a process from devolving again.

Personal life – Tasks that can be grouped

The to do list in my personal life appears very different. The items below are actually on my Brain Dump List on my phone. It seems like they separate out into three buckets.

  1. Errands – These are tasks I need to address outside the house. Grocery pick up, library books pick up / drop off, buy ant spray, and Target.
  2. Chores – These are tasks I can do / need to do at home. Pay bills, empty bathroom trash cans, rollover my retirement form former employment, and clean out the fish bowl.
  3. Non-work – These are things I considered not productive in another life. Today I know rest, fun, hobbies and relaxation are critical to living a Sustainably Productive life. Items in this bucket include: plant potatoes, buy sewing needle to use on denim, look up the address of the murals I want to photograph, and call about an activity for my nieces to do this summer when they visit.

These types of things I time block differently, which we will cover in the next section, Adjustment, Part 2.

Photo by Zan on Unsplash

Adjustment, Part 2

How I set my time blocks to get the right things done differs depending on whether it is for my professional life or my personal life.

Professional life – Tasks that need to be repeated

Let’s return to the example I introduced you to in part 1. I blocked an hour each week dedicated to Project SNAFU. If I wait until I have time to tackle it, that will never come. I won’t solve it in an hour, but I can make progress each week by following up and asking questions related to it.

Similarly, I have a 45 minute block daily on my calendar to prep for tomorrow’s meetings and send agendas. Same for a block to draft Power Point slides each week and Steering Committee status each month.

If you wait until you have time to tackle a large project, it will never happen.

Personal life – Tasks that can be grouped

In my personal life I find that the list often overruns the time I have available. I may only have an hour to run errands during my lunch hour so I need to prioritize – what really need to get done today and what could be put off. Then I plan for driving time. We often overlook driving time – we race around and cannot figure out why we ended up late to our afternoon appointments. Until we can figure out how to apparate like in Harry Potter, factor in that travel time.

On my calendar I will block an hour (or 30 minutes – whatever the day allows) for chores and non-work as well. This gives me flexibility to prioritize (or cherry pick fun) chores I want to do in that time allotment. Your task grow to fill the time you give it so learn from Julie Morgensten about giving your time borders to contain it.

One more thing about that non-work time. I know many of you are out there saying you will do The Fun Thing after the work is done. Then another day rolls by and you are (rightfully so) exhausted at the end of the day and just collapse in front of Netflix. Building The Fun Thing into your day with a time block gives you a better chance that it will indeed happen.


Later this week I will be posting video of how I use time blocking planning as part of a larger project plan. For my day job, I have a 500+ line project plan for a 6 month, multimillion dollar project. I will show you how I apply time block planning to that project plan to get the work done (i.e. is productive) in a way that is methodical and repeatable (i.e. sustainable).

By |2021-05-18T08:49:09-04:00April 13th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

3 Ways to Divide Labor and Save Time

Today I want to teach you about Sustainably Productive ways to divide labor and save time. Some time management methods say partner should own the whole process and if that works for you and your partner – great! I have not found this to be a solution in our house. If I were to own the whole “feeding the people” task, it would implode quickly. My feelings would be hurt when noses were turned up, I didn’t understand a recipe, or it generally did not turn out as planned. This would not be something I could maintain lifelong.

The other way division of labor is not Sustainably Productive is when the ball is dropped because you thought someone else was taking care of it or if you end up duplicating efforts and wasting time. It looks a lot like Lucille and her friend, Rupp trying to both play with the same stick.

Here are three things to consider as you divide labor in your life.

Do the tasks only you can do

I mean this in the most literal sense of the word. There are some things that only one person can do. Your partner might find a way around it to accomplish a finish, but it would be cost and time prohibitive to do so. Here are a few examples:

  • Only a nursing mom can breastfeed the baby. Sure dad can get a bottle or use formula, but for some people this is not within their parenting strategy or budget to bottle feed.
  • At work, maybe there are certain tasks only a person with a certain certification is permitted to do. A nurse for example.
  • In our house only Bixby can fix the servers when there are issues. I know how to get on the server, but setup, back up, blah blah blah – that is something only he can do. Sure I could learn or hire out – but that becomes cost and time prohibitive.

How this plays into time management is that these types of tasks – the ones that only you can do – need to be the big boulders that go in the time management container first. This Stephen Covey analogy is something you can learn more about in the Sustainable You Course. By making sure you cover the big boulders first, the rest of the little things can fill in around it.

Here is how this might play out in my house. The original plan was for Bixby to mow the lawn and clean the house during my writing time before we had company later that day. But the gas can is empty so the lawn can’t get mowed and the server goes down so I cannot access my book manuscript during my designated writing time. The big boulder goes first – only Bixby can bring the server up.

That has to go first and I shift to cover some of his tasks. By the time I go to fill the gas can and clean the bathrooms, the server is back up. We high five and tag back to our assigned tasks – me to writing and him to mowing and cleaning.

Time management adjustment: Divide labor by first assigning tasks that only you can do.

Do tasks in your wheelhouse

Another way to divide labor is to identify what your wheelhouse tasks are and tackle those – and only those. I am defining wheelhouse here as the things that light you up and put wind in your sails. Tasks that are your jam. You have things that you are good at and enjoy. Don’t compare your contribution to anyone else’s. Embrace what you are good at.

Source: Buddhist Boot Camp

Meals are a great example of this in our house. I do not enjoy cooking or any of its associated tasks – chopping, translating recipes (WTF is blanching anyway?), being patient while things cook, etc. Luckily, all of that is in Bixby’s wheelhouse. He finds it RELAXING to do all of this after a stressful day at work. Before we got married we were talking about division of labor and he said he would take on preparing all dinners as long as when he said he wanted to go out to eat, I would agree.

Ummmmm, ok?

Sounds like a dream, but let me brag about my contribution – I choose the recipes, plan which night we will have what, order the groceries online, pick them up, and clean up the kitchen after dinner. Wheelhouse. My role in the family is Supply Chain and Logistics and everything that happens before dinner falls squarely in that bucket.

Time management adjustment: Divide labor by assigning tasks that you love to do or are good at.

Do what matters to you

There is something about having a clean kitchen when I go to bed that makes me feel like the day is complete. When I was growing up, my sister and I would clean the kitchen after dinner before we started our homework.

[Let me burst your bubble if you have Walton family visions here – I have distinct memories of my dad sitting at the table drinking coffee and making me rewipe the table repeatedly because I did a terrible job. The teeth sucking and eye rolling coming from me would make you think he was asking me to wipe the color brown off of the wood. Kids are the worst.]

But when the kitchen was clean, the kitchen was closed. We moved to the dining room where the homework was done. My mom was a teacher so she was always doing school work at the same time as Sister and me. My dad would sit in the adjacent living room and read the paper. He was the designated quizzer when it came time to prove we were ready for upcoming tests.

Clearly I have strong memories of a clean kitchen signaling a transition and closing ritual. This carries over today.

Bixby could not care less. He appreciates a clean kitchen, but it is not his hill to die on. So I take it on as my task.

Time management adjustment: Divide labor by volunteering for tasks that matter to you.

Take these as considerations – not hard fast rules. They guidelines you can start to make adjustments with as you divide labor.  The idea is to make the tasks work for you instead of the other way around. This is a time management principle that you can use to create a life you don’t need to escape.

Your Turn

Let me know how this is working for you. If you get stuck, come find me on Instagram to we can work together to find adjustments you can make

By |2021-02-21T08:06:37-05:00February 23rd, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

The Posture of Creating

I am a failed Artist’s Way student. I had been faithfully doing my Morning Pages and Artist’s Dates for the 90 days as part of a book study earlier in 2019. I continued my stream-of-consciousness writing for a few months more while the Artist’s Dates fell by the wayside. Then the Universe threw a giant wrench into my Day Job wheel. Work days got long and complicated. I quit Morning Pages because I “did not have time.” And I did feel like a failure. I felt like I was letting down the creative me that had been on a huge winning streak this spring.

But alas, the theme this summer was Survival Mode. Intense schedule in my Day Job and family travel shoved my creativity aside like the dead grandmother in the Vacation movie. I still puttered around with quilting but even that was about finishing projects I started rather than immersing myself in creativity. Nothing was getting traction.

Around Labor Day my Day Job shifted into a different season. I moved out of Survival Mode and noodled with the idea of recommitting to Creative Me. The Creative Me that the universe intends me to be.

Recommitting to Creative Me

While I did recommit, I took careful consideration to learn from my earlier mistakes. I did not jump headfirst back in for a couple reasons.

1 – Learn from Young Susan

I spent my teens (and 20’s if I am honest) hoping my love interest would notice me and want to spend time with me. Pining away and waiting. Making myself available “just in case.” My heart hurts for Young Susan, and I am working my ass off with a therapist to heal her.

So the last thing I want is treat my Creative Me like careless crushees treated Young Susan by only visiting when it was convenient. I want to carve out time for my creativity, not make it live in the cracks. I want to feed my creativity, not fuel it with cast off crumbs. Which leads us to the second hesitation I had about recommitting without being mindful.

2 – Learn from Overcommitting

Time management is my jam, Bending time to fit the will of my to do list is my super power. Until a round house wallop of reality kryptonite knocks me on my arse. Around here we call it, “Ten Pounds of Shit in a Five Pound Bag.” I don’t want to rise at 4:30 am to write / meditate / journal / create only to be a uselessly exhausted zombie by lunch and tearing my people’s heads off by dinner. I want a morning routine like it seems everyone does these days, but none of my days look the same.

  • Some days the kids are at our house, some days they are at their mom’s.
  • I have meetings and deliverables jam packing some days; I have days filled with giant, wide open swaths of time.
  • Some days I work from my home office, some days I work onsite at various office locations. Some days I do both in one day.

3 – Learn from Past Success

Turns out there is a part of my own brain that is manufacturing the kryptonite that is kicking my ass. Its like the call is coming from inside the house. My kryptonite is rigidity. I strongly believe that anything can be broken down into small, repeatable tasks. It is the consistent repetition of these tasks that makes for success. For example, years ago I had a Day Job where I managed vendor relationships. These vendors were (naturally) super upset about outstanding invoices over a year old. I spent a week or so getting my arms around the problem. Then I set up systems where on a regular basis I would check on each stage of the process:

  • 1 hour Mondays to see if projects completed last week and invoices were released in the system.
  • 1 hour Tuesdays to add new issues to research or close out resolved issues. This also gave the vendor a cue to send me the list by end of day Monday.
  • 1 hour Thursdays to confirm checks went out as expected.
  • 1 hour Friday to submit report to my manager about the progress.

I generally scheduled these sorts of tasks for unpopular meeting times – like 8:00 am or 4:00 pm. Unpopular time means it is unlikely to be scheduled over. The key is to actually DO the task when it pops up on the calendar. PS – yes, I know I skipped Wednesdays. Once the list of 200+ issues was wrangled into repeatable tasks, it was easy to maintain in 4 hours/week. Often it did not even require the whole hour on that dedicated day. And I want a morning routine that is similarly time boxed to the Nth degree.

4 – Learn from Failure

My rigidity was killing that plan. Let’s use an example where I had to be in the office at 7:00 am and the location for the day was an hour away. There was no margin for the time box of “Morning Page – 6:00 to 6:30 am.” Or another day where I set my writing window between 7:00 am – 8:30 am but it was a day the kids were at our house. It’s a non-starter to try to write while there is chaos of them getting out the door to school. Yes, they’re old enough to take care of themselves, but there is the bickering, loud music, and last minute panic when homework won’t print that can interrupt the writing flow.

My rigidity was telling me a morning routine was impossible for me. Creativity just wasn’t in the cards for me right now. So I threw the baby out with the bathwater. {really, where did that phrase come from?!}

5 – Learn to Adapt and Adjust

I was contemplating my rigidity over about 6 weeks this fall. During that time, I was carrying on with the rest of life, which includes a weekly hot yoga class. The instructor mentions the “intention of the posture.” I always appreciate this because seriously, I cannot imagine a world where my body actually lifts off the ground or bends like that in some of these postures. But in my mind’s eye it does. And to my mind it matters! Then in my writers group, someone mentioned the posture of a “real writer” because we are a group filled with writers who have imposter syndrome. It is not really “fake it til you make it”, but more like: If you want to be something, act like it.

And the number one thing you have to act on if you want to be a writer… WRITING. The number one thing you have to act on if you want to be creative… CREATE. At the risk of filling this post with pithy sayings to stitch on a pillow:

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Or if you prefer its casual country cousin: Don’t trip over a dollar trying to get to a nickel.

What Commitment Looks Like

So I began again. I got up when the alarm went off instead of falling back to sleep for 30 minutes. I left my phone alone instead of scrolling social media for 30 minutes. I got up and went to my office and did Morning Pages, meditated, and my PT stretches. And Bixby and I still made it out the door for the dog walk at our usual time. I was feeling proud of myself for sure. Then I did my daily reading. I felt the Universe was proud of me too when I read this at the end of the passage:

The direction of the mind is more important than its progress.

Joseph Joubert

It was like the Universe shed light on the path to confirm that I was going in the right direction. And I find the more often I tap into creativity, the more often these rays of light show through the dark.

Are you wrestling with a question or decision? Could you be resisting the faint light that you see on the path just because it’s not a flood light illuminating the dark, scary corners? Use the comments below to acknowledge it and shed some light on it.

By |2019-10-30T07:04:05-04:00November 7th, 2019|Mental Well-being|0 Comments
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