Most people don’t think of babies as being productivity experts… except when it comes to filling their diapers. (Everyone knows they’re highly effective on that score.) But because productivity has a lot to do with simplifying tasks and maximizing efficiency, there are lessons to be learned from observing the littlest ones in your entourage.
Here are four of the most important ones:
Sleeping (and napping!) are as vital as food and air.
Babies can sleep up to 18 hours a day (although, to brand-new parents, it can seem like they never sleep). All this sleep helps them grow and develop a healthy immune system. When they don’t get enough sleep they can become cranky, irritable, and are difficult to soothe or please.
It’s the same for adults. Lack of sleep makes us cranky, lowers our immune system, and negatively affects our memory, reaction time, and alertness, all of which are important to our productivity. Yet many of us sacrifice sleep for work and other responsibilities. Science has proven that sleep is necessary for our brains and our bodies to function optimally. Moreover, napping like a baby can make you more productive: A study in the research journal Sleep showed that a 10-minute nap produced reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance. A study at NASA found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100% in military pilots and astronauts!
Their minds are always open to learning new things.
Not surprisingly, babies have zero experience when it comes to life. They’re simply constantly amazed. Lamps turn on and off! People come into the room! People disappear! Where did they go? Everything is astounding to a baby. They spend every minute of their waking hours on a voyage of discovery, and every single day is a major adventure.
Naturally, maintaining this level of constant amazement is impossible. (Also, we eventually figure out where people go when they leave the room.) But when we do become adults, it’s important to remain open to learning new things. Sometimes we can become too self-satisfied and imagine that we’ve got all the knowledge and experience we need to carry out tasks and get things done. But assuming we know everything about something and saying we can do it better than anyone else is the ultimate closed-minded, stubborn way to limiting our own productivity potential.
The babies are right about this one: we should always stay open to learning, all our lives.
They don’t worry about what other people think.
Every adult wants people to like them. But babies literally could not care less about how the world perceives them. Of course, they want the people around them to love them, but they don’t worry about how they look: have you ever seen a baby just after she’s eaten her first jar of pureed spinach? Yep, appearances just don’t matter to babies.
Babies throw tantrums in public places and don’t care if there’s food in their hair when Papa’s boss comes to dinner. But adults! As adults, we hold onto a fear of making a fool of ourselves and being judged by our peers. We’ll often go to the opposite extreme and because of our desire to impress and win the approval of other people, end up showing them a superficial vision of ourselves, rather than displaying our personalities, our skills and our talents. If we think we have to put up a false front in order to please other people, then we need to reevaluate our priorities, because faking things is always counterproductive.
They get where they’re going – eventually.
When it’s time to roll over, babies roll over. When it’s time to sit up, they sit up. When it’s time to crawl, they crawl. Babies don’t skip over the milestones, nor do they achieve them by chance. They get where they’re going through practice and persistence. Sure, they may get frustrated when they reach a plateau. But they continue on, patiently, absorbed in the journey.
Productive people have similar characteristics. When we practice and persist, no matter what our objective, we too build muscles and strengths we’re not even aware of. And our new skill becomes automatic, seemingly happening without much thought or effort on our part. It suddenly just exists. We hardly 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. It’s one more area where our overall productivity could benefit from acting more like a baby.