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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

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 October 22, 2020

2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

Good things come in twos: Peanut butter and jelly, Day and night, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The same is true for what sparks our creative energy: our thoughts and actions.

Creativity is an inside job as much as it is about a conducive schedule, physical environment, and supportive behaviors. By establishing the right internal and external landscape, creativity can blossom from the abstract to the concrete and we can have fun along the way.

Sparking creativity is all about setting up the right conditions so a spark is ignited and sustained. The sparks don’t fizzle out. They are allowed to grow and ripen.

Think of a garden. Intention alone will not produce the delicious red tomato nor will the readiest seed. That seed needs attention at its nascent stage and as it grows a stalk and produces fruit. If we want to enjoy more than one fruit, we keep at it, cultivating the plant and reaping multiple harvests.

Creativity lives in each of us like seeds in the earth or encapsulated in a nut. Seeds of ideas, concepts, designs, stories, images, and even ways of communicating that surprise and delight await activation.

By sparking our creative energy, we activate these unique seeds. Like snowflakes, they are of a moment and always without a match. The smallest sparks encourage even the smallest, most dormant seeds to sprout.

The good news is that our creative energy wishes to be sparked—to be invited to play. It wants to be our regular playmate.

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1. Be Childlike in Your Thoughts, Attitudes, and Approach

Being childlike in our thoughts, attitudes, and approach is an easy way to internally have our thoughts be gracious prolific gardeners to our creative energy. If we want it to come out and play and hang around as our regular companion, then let’s return to our 5-year-old selves.

Our childhood selves are naturally curious. We still have that curiosity! All we have to do is remind ourselves to get curious. We can do that by simply observing and being with what is in front of us instead of making up a story about what won’t work or why something can’t be done. So, it’s about cultivating curiosity instead of jumping into judgment.

Move Your Inner Judge to the Sidelines

When we get curious, creativity percolates and, ultimately, takes its place in the world. To give a hand in choosing curiosity over judgment, we can move the judge that also lives inside us to the sidelines. The judge squashes our creative urges, even when they are as small as sharing a point of view. It’s that pesky voice that causes us to doubt ourselves or worry about what others will think.

The judge is also risk-averse. The judge likes things to stay the same. Change makes the judge nervous.

Creativity is all about risk and changing things up. It needs risk, even failure, to be its naturally innovative, dynamic, impactful self. The judge likes to convince us failure is something to be avoided at all costs.

To move the judge to the sidelines and let curiosity reign, we can pay attention to who we are in conversation with and who is calling the shots.

Is it the voice of fear, doubt, or anxiety (the inner-critic—the judge’s boss)? Or is it the voice of wisdom, courage, strength, and non-attachment, and of course curiosity (the inner-leader)?

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We can easily tell the difference by how each makes us feel. The inner-critic depletes and slows us down, putting roadblocks in the way. The inner-leader energizes and a natural rhythm develops.

It’s all about who we spend time with. If we wish to exercise, we will seek out our friends who go to the gym or hike. If we want to lose some weight, we will opt to eat dinner with someone who prefers a healthy spot over fast food.

After getting curious, we can honor what our curiosity prompts us to do. The spark can do its job and a fire starts to glow when commitment enters. Our childhood selves were fully committed to being creative. That level of commitment is still something we are very capable of exercising!!

Again, we need to let go of the judge. We can ask ourselves, what do we want to commit to—negativity that depletes our creative energy, depth, and output, or the understanding that our thoughts and attitudes matter and that right thoughts and attitudes are the sparks that really let our creativity come alive?

Learn to Recall Your Childhood Self

To get in touch with that unabashedly committed childhood self, recall your childhood self. If you have a picture, pull one out. Keep it around so you can remember to activate that innate creative nature that was prominent then and wants to be prominent now and always.

Soak in the essence of that being. Commit to their commitment to brave and dogged trial and error because it is yours as well. You are that person.

Remember how tenacious you were when you wanted to build that sandcastle. You kept at it as the waves came in. You built with fury or reconfigured the walls. Also, remember that there was a willingness to fail since you were as invested in the process as well as the outcome—but less with the outcome. You were willing to experiment and start again. There was vitality—the main lifeline of your creative energy—instead of a rigid attachment.

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When you notice you are in conversation with your inner-critic or being held back by it, simply acknowledge, name it, and then switch to your inner-leader by taking a few good deep belly breaths, rubbing two fingertips together, or listening to ambient sounds in the background.

Physical movements shift our negative thoughts over to the positive domain of the inner-leader. As our judge continues to sit on the sidelines, our ability to quiet the inner-critic becomes stronger. We taste freedom. A simple taste emboldens us to say no again to the judge and yes to what makes our hearts and spirits sing—our creativity.

We begin to spark creativity to the point it no longer needs to be invited to play. It becomes our regular playmate—the younger sibling or the kid next door ready to have some fun, maybe even make some mischief by shaking things up.

When we align with our inner-leader and think and act from its promptings, creativity flows up and out with ease, as it needs to!

Letting those initial sparks generate a creativity fire that keeps burning is something we can all do! That’s the inside job.

2. Listen to Your Inner Leaders of Creative Energy

If we listen, our inner-leaders will let us know just what we need to set-up and do in our physical world to maximize that gorgeous, hungry creativity we now have flowing freely in us.

The seed has been unlocked! So, now what?

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To enable our creative energy to take its form and place outside of us, there needs to be spaciousness! Spaciousness in our physical worlds impacts our internal one. It lets the voice of the inner-leader be heard. It lets creativity have room to be sparked and acted upon.

With a little discipline, we can easily create spaciousness in our daily lives—spaciousness that will spark our creativity and let it take shape.

So, no matter who you are and what conditions help your creativity thrive, check-out these easy-to-implement basic suggestions:

  • Reduce or eliminate multi-tasking.
  • Say yes to what matters and what aligns with your big values and goals.
  • Say no to all else.
  • Say no again.
  • Schedule time in your calendar as you do with other things in your life to just be, to ponder, to let ideas percolate, and to create.
  • Spend time doing the things that bring out your creative energy. It could be walking, singing, or simply looking out the window.
  • Meditate.
  • Breathe—long breaths in and long breaths out through the nose.
  • Invite your body and heart into your experiences so your mind is a part of you and not all of you.
  • Try a new thing to spark your creativity. If you spend time running, try a different route. If running feels stale, cruise around a museum, or go for a bike ride.
  • Play a game. Indoors out or outside. Think of what makes you happy that you haven’t done in a while. Is it a physical game like badminton or cards? Maybe it’s storytelling? Play is creative, and it sparks the creative energy, too.
  • Spend time in the places that bring out your creativity. What spot in your home could be your spot for entering into that mode? Do you need to get out? Maybe a park bench is the right spot, with a book of poetry, or even nothing at all.
  • Spend time in nature. Nature brings us to a place of calm and awe and through that our creativity is easily sparked.

Final Thoughts

These are all habits—habits of mind and habits of doing. Experiment with what works for you. Have fun. If you give even 50% to altering your thoughts and actions, then you will begin to spark your creativity. It takes a lot of curiosity and commitment, but it can definitely be done.

Our innate creative energy is a deep source of all that we seek—joy, connection, renewal. It deserves and looks forward to the changes you will make that will let sparks fly and ignite!

More Tips to Spark Your Creative Energy

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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