My mother taught me more about productivity, the power of consistency, and making a positive impact in the world than any other person in my life. Someday, I hope I can be half the person she is. To honor the lessons she and my father introduced to me, I compiled these nine important productivity habits my parents taught me. Enjoy!
1. Stop trusting yourself to remember stuff.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: you go to the store and tell yourself, “I don’t need a grocery shopping list! I’ll remember everything I need”, but then within mere moments of getting home, you realize you forgot something so important that you have to go back to the store again (like the toilet paper you just ran out of, or the olive oil you need for dinner preparation). Those return trips to the store can add up, taking time away from the important things, so write it down.
Or, maybe you’re at work and it’s a slow day so you say, “I don’t need a To-Do List! I’ve got plenty of time finish everything I need to do”, but then as soon as you get home, you remember that customer you were supposed to call, or that really important report you told your manager you would complete (but failed to start). Your home should be a place that is free from work-related stress, so write down your top three priorities every day and make sure they get done.
2. Put things back where they belong.
There are few things more stressful than losing your keys when you’re already running late for work, scrambling to find a misplaced pacifier for your screaming baby or being unable to locate a bottle opener to pop open that delicious craft beer you’re certain will impress the gorgeous lady or handsome gentleman seated on your sofa after a first date that was smooth-sailing until now. I know it’s easy to become absent-minded and put an essential item in a strange place (one time I couldn’t find a box of cereal and ended up finally locating it in my refrigerator; no, I have no idea what I was thinking), but make a conscious effort to keep your phone/keys/purse/wallet/medicine in a single place, because it’s easy to get stressed out when things aren’t where they belong.
3. Get ready for big trips the night before.
Do you really trust yourself to pack for a week(s)-long trip during a single chaotic morning? If you’re going somewhere amazing like Disney, you’re going to be too excited to sleep anyway, so you might as well pack your stuff the night before. Go ahead and get everything ready minus the toothbrush and deodorant that you will (hopefully) use one more time before you go on your trip. Then all you have to do is perform a final scan to make sure you’re not forgetting something (make sure you have a phone charger, bikini or swim trunks, water bottle, sunscreen if applicable and a few toys to distract your child while you travel!).
Please Note: You could also use this productivity habit to get fit and healthy by packing your gym clothes every night before you go to bed, making it much less likely you’ll “wake up too late” and skip your workouts. For bonus points, lay your gym shoes and socks right next to your bed to make your life super-easy. If you’d like to check out more healthy habits that will save you money, click here.
4. Expect the unexpected.
Believe it or not, you can’t control every event in your life. Traffic jams, flat tires, wrong turns and car accidents do happen. If you are going to an interview for your dream job, a plane flight to a tropical destination or (insert your major life event here), then you better leave with so much time to spare that nothing is left to chance. Just pack a book for your journey, because if everything goes as planned and you arrive really early, you won’t have to just sit and twiddle your thumbs, but rather can escape into another world and unwind.
5. The only dumb question is the unasked one.
It is absurd to be afraid of asking a “dumb question”. No manager or supervisor or partner worth having will look down on you for asking questions that will help you perform better. Would you rather be humble enough to ask for help if you need clarification; or be arrogant enough to risk doing something incorrectly, which will just waste your time (since you’ll probably have to do it over again), and make you look like you’re unable to deliver as instructed?
6. Sometimes you just need to go outside and play.
Have you ever tried to force yourself to write an essay or prepare a report while you were so exhausted that you couldn’t think straight? If so, you surely know that it takes a lot longer to complete a task when your brain isn’t operating anywhere near its full capacity. This isn’t an excuse to put off something you need to do, because there is no denying that an all-nighter is sometimes a necessary evil when you just have to push through, but you are not the Energizer Bunny. No matter how busy you might be, sometimes you just need to walk away, because life can quickly become a miserable thing without fun and play.
7. No matter how busy you might be, never forget about the people you care about.
What is the point of achieving success if you don’t celebrate afterwards with the people you care about? Time alone is necessary for your mental health, but we all have social needs, so don’t forget about the people who play the lead roles in the story of your life. Time with them will refresh and energize you, making it easier for you to keep moving forward.
8. If you keep taking small steps to your goal, you will reach your destination.
My mother and I have traveled to most of the fifty states in the U.S. Am I spoiled? Guilty as charged (what can I say, it’s good to be an only child!). But a lot of folks assume this also means I come from a rich family, which is hilarious to me, because it’s just not a part of my reality. We could afford to do these things, because my mom was forward-thinking (and generous) enough to save money for a very long time. A few dollars saved from a single paycheck might not look like a lot, but that same few dollars could turn into a Disney vacation within a year or two if you stick with your savings plan consistently. Would you rather cut out those Starbucks trips and soft drink purchases now, or travel the world later? I don’t know about you, but I’m 100% choosing the latter.
9. All people should be treated with courtesy and respect.
These productivity habits are a great way to boost your efficiency at work, but all of the productivity in the world can’t save you if you are lacking in emotional intelligence. If you can’t respect the people you work with, don’t expect your career to go very far, because success is reserved for team-players only.
What productivity habits did your parents teach you as a child? Please share in the comments!
Featured photo credit: Leonid Mamchenkov via flickr.com