This week’s episode features my conversation with Australia native (but current Singapore resident) Susan Comiskey about how she makes time for speaking, teaching, and doctoral studies while making a life that matters with her husband and daughter.
Susan Comiskey structures her life around the things that matter to her
Susan Comiskey is an enthusiastic speaker and teacher. Together with her husband, she has pioneered and led churches all over the world. As a family, they’ve lived and ministered in Tonga, Uganda, East Timor, United Kingdom, and Singapore, where she currently lives with her husband and their young daughter, whom she calls a miracle of God after 22 years of infertility.
A typical day
Susan has two different types of typical day depending on whether her husband is in town or not (he travels about 50% of the time). When he is in town, he and Susan get up around 5 am. She does her devotions, has a cup of tea, reviews her day, makes lunches, and preps breakfast. At 6:30, they wake up their daughter and have breakfast together as a family. At 7, her husband takes their daughter to school.
From 7 am to 2 pm, Susan has a chunk of time to either work at her desk, to meet with people, or to teach. When she’s at her desk during that time, she’s either studying for her Doctoral degree in ministry or preparing for a speaking engagement or lecture, to meet people, or to teach. Woven through those hours, she thinks about what they’re going to eat for dinner and does household chores.
At 2 pm, she gets on the public transit to commute an hour to pick up her daughter and spends that time reading. She’ll turn around and make the same commute back home with her daughter and spends that time to bond with her.
They’ll get home around 4 pm. From then until 7:30 pm, they spend time getting homework done, eating dinner, and preparing for bedtime. Once their daughter is in bed at 7:30, Susan considers her day done. If she has a speaking engagement the next day, she’ll prepare for that. Otherwise, she’ll try to relax by reading. But by 9:30, she is done with her day.
If her husband is in town, they’ll make a cup of tea and sit down together to have couch-time and debrief one another of their day. They try to cool down from their day and sometimes listen to podcasts together.
When her husband is traveling, she has to be more organized because she is trying to do alone what usually takes two people to do, and that tends to be more fraught. Everything is a bit more compressed because she doesn’t have the luxury of tag-teaming with her husband. All the routines stay about the same, but she simply cannot fit as much into those days because she doesn’t have the time or emotional bandwidth to do all of it.
During these periods, she has the car, so taking her daughter to school and back is a bit faster, but she does try to build appointments near her school to reduce the to-and-fro. She’ll also exercise (swim) and study at a library near her daughter’s school rather than near home.
Intentionality is key not only when it comes to running her life but also to managing her daughter’s life and emotions as well when her husband is away. She’s learned to plan carefully and focus on things that matter. She also thinks about what sorts of things bring joy to both her husband and her, such as people they could spend time with, or people they could be helping.
She’s learned to be careful about the words she uses to describe her husband’s absence in front of her daughter and uses those opportunities to explain what her father does and how they could be praying for him and to teach her about the countries he happens to be in. She doesn’t try to be super-mom during these times. If they have to eat fast food a couple more times that week, it’s okay. She makes sure both she and her daughter get good, regular sleep so they are not emotionally strung-out.
She also makes a point of not promising her daughter that they could connect with her father at a certain time or day because that’s not always possible. Instead of creating an expectation that might lead to disappointment, she reminds her daughter that they’re thinking of him and he’s thinking of them. Then she directs their focus to the things they do have to do.
Susan says her biggest challenge is herself. She notices there are some aspects of her emotional state, health, and the way she works that she desires better mastery of. For example, she’s learned she’s a fantastic procrastinator (it’s great to know your talents!) and she does things that don’t need to be done in order to avoid the challenging things that have to be done. If she could just find a way to reign that in, she’s halfway there.
She and her husband share a Google calendar, which creates accountability between them. For example, if her husband sees she has a lecture coming up, he’ll offer to read over what she’s prepared, and that motivates her to get on it. Also, she allows her friends to know what she’s up to so they can ask how she’s doing on those fronts, which adds another layer of accountability.
She’s taken to planning diligently, especially planning in margins, allowing for her procrastination, her 8-year-old’s life, sickness, and life in general, rather than trying to set up an impossible schedule and then getting frustrated.
Another tactic Susan employs to be productive is to put “maintain my kit” on her notes. That includes making sure her computer is working, the washing machine gets fixed, the house is clean to a certain level of functionality, etc. It’s not fun when the computer crashes right when you need it most.
Tools Susan recommends
The calendar is king in Susan’s household. She and her husband have a weekly planning meeting, and also a three-month plan-out once a month. They continue to fine-tune it until they’re happy with it. Especially with her husband’s travel schedule and Susan’s speaking engagements as well as their daughter’s schedule, the calendar has been instrumental.
Furthermore, the calendar has taken a lot of the stress out of their marriage by encouraging better communication and expectation management, especially after having a child.
Another element that motivated them to structure their lives better is their desire to help other people through the work they do.
Realizing their lives must’ve taken on greater complexities with living in various countries, I asked her to share some life lessons she’s learned from living in different countries. Here are her answers:
- Life is a journey. You don’t know everything, and you never will. Stop trying to get it right on day 1.
- Any weak points in your life will be a greater weakness in a new culture until you learn to adapt.
- Different isn’t necessarily wrong.
- It takes time for people to invite you into their world, so don’t be offended if they don’t invite you in right away.
- The world is an amazing place.
What happens on a day when everything gets away from you?
Susan is a bit of a perfectionist and tends to set high expectations for herself. She tells herself she will do a multitude of things each day and gets irritated with herself if she only gets around to getting 98% of them done. So she tries not to set the bar so high, and to take a step back.
When she is really stressed out and overwhelmed, she falls back on prayer and sleep. When she’s at her wit’s end, she simply lifts it up to God and says, “I leave it in your hands. I don’t know what else to do. Now I’m going to sleep.”
Growing herself is really what helps her get back on track. She says 80% of her stress and feeling overwhelmed comes from her own inadequacies and failure to grow in an area. So when she takes the time to reflect on what didn’t work, then she can get back on track.
Other times, life happens. Friends pass away, or you suffer an injustice. That’s where prayer comes in. Recognize that there’s nothing else you can do and that you haven’t failed.
What’s on the horizon for Susan?
Susan is in her second year of working towards her doctoral degree in ministry. She’s also doing some lectures for a research lab in Singapore, which she finds is stretching her a bit.
For the summer, she and her family are traveling to Africa for some teaching and church work as well as show their daughter another part of the world. Toward the latter part of the year, she’ll be traveling back to Australia to visit her parents.
Last thoughts on making a life that matters
Just start something. Just keep moving. If you keep making good decisions and little steps forward, it does gain momentum. Also, don’t compare yourself to other people. It’s a deadly trap. None of us look like our Instagram account. You are who you are. Your journey is your journey. What you do no one else can do. The role you have, the children you are raising, the business you are running, the wisdom you are imparting, that’s your thing. We need you to do what you do. So don’t look other what other people are doing.
What do you think?
Connect with Susan
More about Susan
Together with her husband, Susan Comiskey has pioneered and led churches literally all over the world. Being involved in world missions is her great passion. As a family, they have lived and ministered in Tonga, Uganda, East Timor, United Kingdom, and Singapore. She is privileged to travel and teach in nations all over the globe.
Currently residing in Singapore with her family, she has conducted numerous parenting/marriage workshops in schools and the private sector throughout the Republic of Singapore. Workshops, lectures, discussions groups etc. have been a part of her life as she interacts with the local grassroots community. Susan is a well-received public speaker. She has a Masters Degree in Pastoral Leadership and is halfway through a Doctor of Ministry degree.
When she is not speaking or teaching (or simply just talking!), Susan is a busy mother to her young daughter Anna, a miracle of God after 22 years of infertility.
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