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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?