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10 Things Babies Teach Us About Productivity

10 Things Babies Teach Us About Productivity

Babies are adorable. Their big baby eyes and toothless grins can melt the stoniest of hearts. They are also highly efficient and can teach us a number of things about being productive. Follow the 10 productivity lessons below and the next time someone says you’re acting like a baby you can proudly say, “Thank you.”

1. They Sleep Like a…Well, Baby.

Sleep Like a Baby to Be Productive

    Babies, especially newborns, sleep like they are getting paid to do it. Although it may not appear to be the case, they sleep on average 10-18 hours a day, albeit in chunks and pieces. All this sleep helps babies grow and develop a healthy immune system. It also helps them remain alert and have happy moods. When they don’t get enough sleep they can become cranky, irritable, and are difficult to soothe or please.

    Sound familiar? We adults get the same way. Lack of sleep makes us grouchy, susceptible to illness, and negatively affects – among other things – our memory, reaction time, and alertness, things very important to our productivity level. We may not need 18 hours, but to be at our most productive, we do need to make getting enough sleep a priority, just like babies do.

    2. They Roll Over After Months of Practice.

    Baby Rolling Over

      Achieving this huge milestone doesn’t just happen overnight. It comes with months of practice and persistence. It starts with the lifting of the head, then the head and shoulders, followed by using the arms for mini push ups. The movements progress to include back arches, rocking, kicking and swimming motions. All of this builds muscles which months later, at the right time, culminate in the first successful roll over. When we practice and persist, regardless of what it is, we too build muscles and strengths that we are not even aware of.

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      Our new skill becomes automatic, seemingly happening without much thought or effort on our part. It just is. We rarely notice the progression, but if we take an extended break we immediately recognize the decline when we return. People who are most productive know the importance that practice and repetition play in accomplishing goals. Babies practice for months on end with no complaints. Our overall productivity could benefit from imitating their behavior.

      3. They Flourish When They Have a Routine.

      Baby Routine

        Weary parents can’t wait until their cute bundle of non-stop activity is on a regular sleeping, feeding and playing schedule. Turns out, babies love it too and are much happier. We grownups could learn a thing or two – or three – about the value of routine in our lives. For babies, a regular schedule decreases instances of being overtired, over hungry, or overwhelmed.

        The same is true for us, as we are more productive when our minds and bodies are adequately nourished. We are alert and can focus with a degree of sharpness impossible when basic needs aren’t met. Routine makes babies feel safe and secure which allows them to confidently explore their environment and achieve milestones. It should come as no surprise that the same is true for adults. As English novelist Anthony Trollope once said, “A small daily task, if it be daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules,” The simple act of doing, if done routinely, is one definition of productivity that will inevitably lead to results.

        4. They Let You Know When They are Done.

        Baby Pout

          Every parent has witnessed it. Their little one is over tired, over stimulated, or not digging new arms holding him, new hands pinching his cheeks, or the face to face cooing from visiting strangers, I mean family. Put a fork in the baby, he is done. You never knew babies had such lung capacity and when this happens, everything stops until calm is restored.

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          Moral of the story? Everyone has their limits. People who are productive understand this and know when to stop pushing. Simply taking a short break, stepping away, taking a walk, listening to music, engaging in conversation, anything that clears your head can replenish the creativity well and provide you with insights which were previously elusive.

          5. They Grab Your Hair (Earrings, Glasses, Tie) and Won’t Let Go.

          Baby Wearing GLasses

            The “if they see it, they will grab it,” stage of baby development is awesome, isn’t it? Who knew that babies had such strength? When they get ahold of your hair, they don’t just tug, they yank. Ouch! And the best part is, it seems as if nothing will distract them from their current object of affection. They are extremely focused.

            If only it were as easy for adults. We should learn to be like babies in this regard. There are a million things going on around them, but they are only interested in one. If we were this way consistently we would be so much more productive and might actually cross everything off of our to-do lists once in a while.

            6. They Smile and Laugh without Reservation.

            Smiling Baby

              If you’ve ever seen a baby smile or heard that sweet baby laugh, you know that it’s like the sun coming out from behind the clouds. It is soul warming, heart expanding, and tangible proof that the baby is feeling happy. And you want to see and hear it again. And again. Which is why we do silly things and make goofy faces for hours on end.

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              Turns out that smiling and laughing is great for folks of all ages. It helps us manage stress, builds the immune system, makes us appear more likable and trustworthy, and assists us in seeing the bigger picture. In essence, the acts of smiling and laughing, both positive behaviors, can have an equally positive impact on productivity levels. So go ahead and let a good belly laugh loose.

              7. They Make a Stink and Move On.

              Prouctive Babies Make a Stink

                Gotta go, gotta go, right? Babies do just that. Without hesitation, without fear, without embarrassment, without wondering if the time is right, and not worrying about who is around. It’s simply a part of life. They poop. It stinks. We change them. All is good in the world. It’s brilliant, really. If only we adults could be so unfettered, we’d get so much more done. There will be many times in our lives when we poop out. We’ll make mistakes, choose the wrong strategy, or just totally miss the mark. How we handle these challenges determines how long these misfires will stink.

                Will we get stuck or will we move on? Do we keep working on it because we’ve already invested a lot of time and effort, or can we be confident in temporary defeat and try a different path? Do we engage in negative self-talk which is sure to sabotage future efforts, or do we recognize it as a learning experience which will bring us closer to success? The truth is, poop happens. When it does, productive people clean up and move on.

                8. They Immediately Let You Know What They Want.

                Baby Crying

                  Wet diaper? There’s a cry for that. Empty tummy? There’s a cry for that too. Upset tummy? Tired? Need Burping? There’s a…well you get the picture. When babies want or need something, they let you know. It may sound like “just” a cry to others, but mom and dad quickly come to know the nuances and respond accordingly. Here’s the thing. They let you know immediately. They don’t (as much as we would love it) wait until they are sure that the time is convenient. They don’t wonder if it’s okay to let us know. They just do.

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                  Now, no one is suggesting we turn into rude, thoughtless creatures who only think of ourselves, but there’s a productivity lesson in there for us non-babies. You have to let others know what you want. Productive people take the initiative. Even when it is scary, they take action because they know the only way to achieve results is to take chances and move forward.

                  9. They Don’t Rush Things.

                  Baby Crawling

                    When it’s time to roll over, they do. When it’s time to sit up, they sit up. When it’s time to crawl, they do. Babies don’t skip over the milestones, nor do they achieve them by happenstance. Sure they may get frustrated when their current level of mobility keeps their goal just out of reach. However, not one yet has figured out how to magically skip a stage to get to the next, so they continue on, persistent in their practice, absorbed in the journey.

                    People who are productive have similar characteristics. They don’t waste time trying to find short cuts or use tricks to get to the desired end. To reach the ultimate goal, they break things down into many, sometimes mini, goals along the way, enabling them to enjoy the journey, and not pine for the destination.

                    10. They are Happy with Simple Pleasures.

                    Mom and Baby Playing

                      Ah, the life of a baby. Feed me, burp me, change me, hug me, play with me, love me and protect me and I’m happy. I don’t need the fancy diapers. While I’m tiny, I don’t need a big flavor variety. Your breast milk – or formula – will do. I don’t need an assortment of the fluffiest blankets in every color to be wrapped in. Your arms are perfect. I don’t need a collection of the latest electronic learning gadgets. The sound of your voice talking to me, playing with me and showing me things is helping me learn. I don’t need frills to be happy. Nor do we adults. Having more means more distractions greater opportunity for discontent.

                      You know, “Let me just check one more e-mail, Facebook post, tweet, Instagram, and take one more phone call, and then I can work on this project.” By the time you’ve done all of that, an hour has passed and/or you’re too fatigued to work on what you intended. Or, “If I just had this _____________ (fill in the blank with a consumer gadget), I could get a lot more done. Sometimes, in order to be productive, we have to pare down and scale back. Turn it all off, get quiet and get going. Hugs are always welcome, though. What other productivity lessons can be learned from observing babies?

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                      Last Updated on April 19, 2021

                      The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

                      The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

                      Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

                      The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

                      Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

                      In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

                      When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

                      Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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                      1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

                      When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

                      As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

                      That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

                      The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

                      What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

                      Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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                      There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

                      So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

                      2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

                      When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

                      No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

                      3. Move Your Body

                      A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

                      It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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                      So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

                      4. Connect With Another Person

                      Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

                      One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

                      Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

                      5. Use Your Imagination

                      When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

                      That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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                      And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

                      Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

                      Final Thoughts

                      Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

                      Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

                      More on the Importance of Taking a Break

                      Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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