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9 Important Productivity Habits My Parents Taught Me When I Was Small

9 Important Productivity Habits My Parents Taught Me When I Was Small
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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.

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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 (hopefullyuse 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.

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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.

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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.

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What productivity habits did your parents teach you as a child? Please share in the comments!

Featured photo credit: Leonid Mamchenkov via flickr.com

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Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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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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