The positive expression, unlimited optimism, and even the strict guidelines we give our toddlers and young kids can actually help us have a more productive
I had an epiphany this morning as I dropped my 3-year old off in the preschool carpool line. Every morning, as we approach the school and wait for him to be walked inside by a teacher, I start to “talk up” the day to my son.
“Are you ready for an AMAZING day today?”
“You’re going to have such a fantastic day! I wonder what you’ll do. Do you think you’ll paint? Play on the playground? Sing some songs?”
I talk it up to him with such enthusiasm that he often responds, “Yes! I AM going to have a great day!” “It’s gonna be awesome!”
This morning, when the door closed and I drove off, I thought, “Why don’t I say that exact thing to MYSELF every morning?”
Because some days start off rocky and some days I’m full-on inspired, but no matter how I’m feeling, every day I get my son excited about what’s ahead and what he’s going to do. He feels my energy and he responds to match it. He plays peekaboo with whoever unloads him from the car and he cheerfully tells me goodbye.
Words (and how we vocally express them) have power.
These things I do for my kids to influence how they feel, using my words and actions to help them enjoy their school day or relax for naptime — why can’t I do these FOR MYSELF? Why do I just surrender to a bad mood when it finds me?
This was my epiphany. I have control over my own narrative in the same exact way; I just haven’t been using this magical superpower.
So here are 4 ways you can treat yourself like a 3-year-old to engineer your own fantastic and more productive day.
1. EXAGGERATE the emotions you want to feel today.
You’re going to feel like a total nutjob doing this, but look in the mirror and say it out loud to yourself. Then say it to everyone in your household as you’re eating breakfast or to your partner as you’re getting out of bed for the day.
“I’m ready for the MOST AMAZING day I’ve ever had.”
Or “I’m going to be SO RELAXED today; nothing is going to bother me.”
Or “I can’t wait to be so productive today. I’m going to get SO MUCH done.”
You can even include your family: “Are we ready for the most EXCITING day ever?!” Really get those preschooler facial expressions going — big eyes, open smile, heavily arched eyebrows. Additionally, a higher pitch to your voice will really give you that toddler edge.
Positive self-talk makes a difference, as ridiculous as it sounds.
2. Give yourself SPECIFIC time limits.
We use theater talk in our house to communicate a change in activity. When we are about to transition from playtime to bath-time, we say, “Ten minutes to bath-time!” Then our 3-year-old responds with, “Thank you 10 minutes!” Then it’s 5 minutes, 3, 2, and 1. No lack of clarity around here. He *might* still want to complain about it, but he can’t say he didn’t know it was coming.
Even after all my years as a grown-up (I am a grown-up, right?) I still face challenges with being productive, especially while being my own boss. Recently I started to structure my day in very specific time blocks.
9:30 AM to 10:00 AM – Schedule social media posts for the week
10:00 AM to 11:00 AM – Record vocals for new song
11:00 AM – 11:45 AM – Work on marketing plan for August weekend retreat.
And so on.
Sometimes I go so far as to set a timer on my phone. Being ultra-specific leaves no room for confusion. It also allows me to hold myself accountable for my own daily goals.
3. Praise yourself for the LITTLE wins.
There’s a lot out there about not over-praising your kid too much (and also plenty from the other end of the spectrum), but hey, if my 3-year-old DOESN’T whack his little brother over the head when a toy is snatched from him, I’m going to say, “Way to go!”
You don’t necessarily need to treat yourself to a cookie because you put your shoes on all by yourself, but when you finish a project you committed yourself to or when you had a productive day where you checked everything off your list, own it. Be proud of yourself.
All the moms I know have a hard time doing this. Everything we do we measure up to an impossible standard of perfection, which itself seems to fluctuate all the time. I don’t even know what perfection is on a given day, so I just assume I’m falling short somehow.
So all that said, you know what? If you want to congratulate yourself for putting your shoes on, go right on ahead. Nice job mama.
4. Tell yourself to go OUTSIDE and PLAY.
I didn’t think I would ever have to convince my child to go outside. At 2, he wanted to live outside and would have been perfectly happy if I set up his crib in between the honeysuckle and the pine tree. At 3, he still loves the outdoors, but also is a little obsessed with some indoor options, like Magnatiles or Fisher-Price Little People.
So sometimes when things are getting to the stir-crazy phase, I have to urge everyone out the door. Putting on shoes is harder than threading a needle on a mechanical bull and sometimes I have to pick them up and carry them just to get them in the backyard.
But once they are there, a cosmic transformation takes place and sanity returns.
I love the outdoors, but when I’m in a working headspace, I tend to power through my to-do list even when my powering is just a struggle that is hardly creating a more productive day. Therefore it’s my husband that often tells me to go get outside for a bit, to go for a walk around the neighborhood, or just walk out onto the porch. I generally reject the idea; he pushes; I complain; he insists; I walk outside; I immediately feel a little lighter. Then resent him for being right. (Just kidding.) …. Or am I?
Making yourself go out and play is sometimes the best option for your mindset and therefore anything you do after it.
The Bottom Line for Having a More Productive Day
The bottom line is that, sure, there are challenges we face as adults that a 3-year-old doesn’t necessarily have to worry about. And the line right above that bottom one is that as adults, we also sometimes act like preschoolers. If we were as firm with ourselves as we are with our kids, we could be happier, more effective, and more at peace with the chaos. Then we could actually engineer a more productive day for ourselves. We get to choose.
Now do I need to count to 3, or are you going to go put these suggestions into action right now?
Tell us in the comments what strategies YOU use for being more productive!