My journey from failure to success with mindful productivity

How I went from wanting to know everything — and failing miserably — to knowing what I needed to know, and knowing when I knew enough, through mindful productivity.

When I was five, I read the encyclopedia. The whole thing. It took me a little while because, hey, five, but with a dictionary at my side, I did it. I wanted to be able to do whatever I wanted in life, and I thought if I knew everything, I could do anything.


It was in the encyclopedia that I was first introduced to the concepts of anxiety and depression. I didn’t know they were noteworthy enough to be in the encyclopedia. When i read about what they were, I thought that was just how everybody’s brain worked.

A young girl laying over a large open book
“This is MY encyclopedia! Get your own!”

But when I thought that if it was how everybody’s brain worked, it made total sense for them to be in the encyclopedia, so folks could understand what was going on in their own minds. It certainly helped me make sense of mine. 


I never mentioned it to my parents, because I decided it meant my brain was so normal it was in the encyclopedia. And that their brains were like that too, because I was their child. So it became an unremarkable thing for me.


I was lucky that elementary school came so easy to me, because the depression and anxiety only grew. I developed OCD, with my main compulsion being to count things. I have counted the holes in people’s faces millions of times. (Two ears, two eyes, two nostrils, one mouth. Two ears, two eyes, two nostrils, one mouth. Over and over again.)

A collage of faces andling off endlessly into the distance
Here are some faces for you to practice on. Me, I’m averting my eyes.

I also developed skin picking disorder. I would pick at the cuticles of my fingers and toes, and at my heels, peeling off strips of skin, often to the point where they bled. It was soothing in a way I think akin to smokers or alcoholics, getting that next cigarette or next drink. It’s not strictly necessary, but it’s needful, and it goes down so smooth.


In 7th grade, I got my very first B. I don’t remember what subject it was in, only that it was a hard one for me. (That narrows it down to probably history or science.) I was immediately grounded for not living up to my potential. 


At the end of that 9 weeks, I had two B’s. Grounded again. Two B’s and a C. Grounded again. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I was working as hard as I knew how to work, and I still wasn’t meeting my parents’ expectations. 

The real beginning of my journey

So I started reading everything I could get my hands on about productivity. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. The Greatest Salesman in the World, by Og Mandino. The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale. Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. I Dare You, by William H. Danforth. Everything my small town library had on the subject.



Did my grades improve? Not to the level my parents wanted. Not until my second freshman year in college, where I got to decide for myself what classes to take — that’s when I got my 4.0 back. But I graduated high school with a 3.37 GPA when all was said and done.


When I was trying to hack my homework, I discovered a better way to live my life. I found the concept of “good enough is good enough.” And I learned that giving 100% of my efforts to 100% of the things that needed doing was 100% the road to burnout. I didn’t want to burn out; I was only a kid! So instead of aiming for the perfection my parents wanted from me, I started aiming for enough work to get the job done. This was my beginning in mindful productivity.

Then my brain changed

As I started getting older, I started experiencing anxiety all by itself. Then anxiety plus mania. And I needed a whole different skillset to be productive with that going on. 


My first full-bore manic episode had me dropping out of my small liberal arts college to move across the country and marry a man I met online:

  • Who was a convicted felon, on probation. 

  • And was making me his third wife. 

  • Making me the stepmother of three children older than me and one only 18 months younger.

  • Who was of a different religious faith than me. 

  • And who was 11 years older than my dad.


Then the physical health problems got going. I’d been dealing with knee pain from a sports injury, and hip and back pain from scoliosis, but this was a whole new level. Crushing fatigue, soul-sucking pain, gut-wrenching nausea, you name it. But I still had to be able to be productive, as I worked three jobs while carrying 20 credits a semester in community college.


When that marriage inevitably imploded, I dropped out of school and cut down to one full-time job to avoid that same burnout I’d been leery of as a kid. But I kept learning and growing in the world of personal development and self-improvement.

Putting it all together

So I’ve spent the last 38 years hacking life to find out how to be the most productive given any mental or physical circumstances. For example, as I’m sitting here, I’m counting the high hat hits in the song on Spotify, in a manic episode, with a migraine and a backache, and writing a blog post thanks to mindful productivity.


I run two successful businesses using mindful productivity: Kriss Judd Coaching, where you’re reading this fascinating story, and Kriss Writes, where I freelance in the fields of mental health, personal development, and self-improvement.


That’s what I want to impart to you: everybody has shit happening in their lives, and everybody’s shit has the potential to drown them. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The techniques I’ve developed for mindful productivity in the face of adverse circumstances can help you not only keep your head above water, but go for a nice, relaxing swim.


Come on in, the water’s fine! Book an achievement call with me to find out how I can help you swim toward your goals at

A rubber duckie wearing a facemask and snorkel floating in a swimming pool

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