This past year I wanted to work more hours and I couldn’t find these hours anywhere. So, there was only one solution left: find a way to work more within the same amount of time.
This thought may have crossed your mind too, at one point or another.
First, I learned how others have done it and applied the same strategies to my own life:
· Work for uninterrupted chunks of time (45-50 min). No email, no phone, just work in these chunks of time. No interruption of any sort. Then, take a short break after each chunk of time.
· Create a morning ritual and stick to it.
· Exercise as often as possible
· Set goals & sub-goals
They worked well for me and I hope they will work well for you as well.
But I felt like something was missing…
…almost as if all these tactics were the condiments or add-ons in a recipe, but not the main ingredient itself.
One day I was gazing at my son playing. He was running back and forth, from one activity to another, never getting tired.
His productivity was way higher than that of any adult I’d ever met or read about. Probably even higher than Peter Drucker’s, and Peter Drucker was a very productive man.
So I wanted to find out…. was there something our kids can teach us about being more productive?
I found two differences between children and adults, two factors that increase a toddler’s productivity and decrease an adult’s productivity. Add these two to any list of tips and tactics, and you’ll probably get a lot more done.
1) Toddlers never ask themselves “why”. They just follow their heart and do what it dictates.
My son is very clear about his mission, even when he changes missions every 20 minutes. As soon he feels he should do something, he goes for it.
Whether it is to completely dismantle the train track, run around in a circle until he gets dizzy, or play “cars”, he’s always certain about what he’s working towards and never questions whether it’s the right thing to do.
If I ask him “why do you want to do that?”, he looks at me as if I’m speaking a different language.
He doesn’t understand the meaning of “why”. All he knows is the “what”, the mission he’s trying to accomplish.
Adults are different. We constantly deviate from our mission, probably because we’re not as good anymore at listening to our heart.
Somewhere along the way in our lives, we forget to just do what our heart guides us to do. As a result, we start asking ourselves an infinite number of “why” questions, which slow us down.
“Why” is the new movement of the 21st century. It’s not a bad question to ask when we feel we’re on the wrong track. But we’d never have to ask it in the first place if we never deviated.
The only reason why the “why” question has any value attached to it, is because it makes us rediscover our mission, a mission which we could have worked towards from the beginning if we simply followed our heart.
Kids are different. Their heart and actions are completely aligned.
When we’re very clear about our “what”, which is always dictated by the heart, the “why” won’t even matter.
Getting clear about what your mission is, and then constantly grounding yourself in it, will give you more energy.
Your mind will effortlessly look for things you can do to bring yourself one step closer to fulfilling your mission. You will find goals that support your mission.
Of course, our missions as adults are different than a child’s. Our mission won’t be to build a huge lego tower, but it might be to help other people, grow personally, or learn as much as possible about a topic.
2) Toddlers don’t have negative thoughts that tire them.
Toddlers never think: “I hope my behind won’t look too fat when I lean over to pick up that ball”, “I wonder if my mom was as impressed as I was with my scooter ride”, or “That boy’s haircut looks better than mine.”
Thoughts like these would certainly make them less productive.
I like the spiritual school of thought that teaches that there is no such thing as a neutral thought. A thought is either positive or negative. If it doesn’t uplift you, it’s negative.
"If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought." (Peace Pilgrim)
Many people think they hardly have any negative thoughts, but when they start paying attention, they’re surprised to see how many of their thoughts are negative. Most of them, actually.
I mentioned this to somebody the other day, and he said “I don’t have any negative thoughts!” But I pointed three things to him that he had said to me in our conversation that were negative. He was surprised, like most of us are when we first start examining our thoughts.
Adults live this way without even knowing it.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the secret weapon to help us get rid of these thoughts. But I do know that it’s possible to get better by paying attention. Then, we can make the conscious choice and the effort to eliminate the thought that doesn’t uplift, and keep the one that does.
I do believe that by definition human beings will always have negative thoughts (even Dalai Lama has them, I’m sure!), but I also believe that we always have the ability to throw away some of them.
And as we do that, we create more space in our minds, and become more productive.
Cover image credit: Viktor Jakovlev