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10 Things Babies Teach Us About Productivity

10 Things Babies Teach Us About Productivity
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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.

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                      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 July 21, 2021

                      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

                      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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                      No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

                      Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

                      Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

                      A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

                      Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

                      In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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                      From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

                      A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

                      For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

                      This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

                      The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

                      That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

                      Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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                      The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

                      Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

                      But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

                      The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

                      The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

                      A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

                      For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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                      But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

                      If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

                      For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

                      These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

                      For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

                      How to Make a Reminder Works for You

                      Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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                      Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

                      Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

                      My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

                      Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

                      I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

                      More on Building Habits

                      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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                      Reference

                      [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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