3 Things is a weekly series that highlights three things you can do to overcome a challenge, enhance your productivity, and improve other aspects of your work and life. Each of the things also offers an app or product recommendation that can help you take action and move forward. (And this week’s edition of 3 Things is a ‘tad’ late. Read on to find out why…)
I’m not only a writer and productivity specialist – I’m a husband and father of two children. In fact, since I work from home I am home with my kids a lot. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are actually known as “Daddy Duty Days” around my house, but over the past few days I’ve had nothing but those type of days because my wife has been out of town.
It’s been during those days that I’ve further realized what things you can learn being around children on an ongoing basis — things that are transferrable to many facets of your life. Here are just three of those things:
Patience is most definitely a virtue you need to have in your arsenal when dealing with children, especially young children. Kids are great at working on tasks because they don’t take into account the idea of time nearly as much as adults do, but when you try to get them ready to go somewhere that is time-sensitive (school, doctor’s appointment, etc.) then you need to be prepared to be patient. Getting a young child ready to go somewhere isn’t a matter of five minutes or so. You’d better tack on ten more minutes on top of that if you plan to make it to where you need to be on time. What I’ve done is taken that type of advance planning to the instances when I’m not bringing my children along. I “act” as if I go everywhere with my kids now so that I have the best chance to be on time for every appointment I have, except for those rare occasions when something out of my control keeps me from doing so.
App suggestion: As my podcasting partner and friend Michael Schechter says, “Due is like Reminders on steroids.” I used to use the standard iOS app to set alarms to get my children ready to go to school, making it a repeating alarm that I didn’t have to worry about remembering to set. But since I started using Sleep Cycle to monitor my sleeping habits, I started using Due for that purpose, as well as reminding me when to head out the door to pick up my son from daycare on the days that he goes there. The nagging reminder feature Due offers is great, and it’s a pretty feature-rich app that I use frequently. (iOS — $4.99)
2. Slow Down
When it comes to meticulous tasks, kids don’t exactly race through them. When you try to teach something to a young child, you need to take your time (read: be patient) so that they fully understand it. When you read them a story, it’s pretty much a guarantee that they will ask questions as you read so you can’t skim the book (nor should you). Children need more time to process things because they are soaking so much up like a sponge every day, and they are at a stage in their lives where quantity of information comes secondary to really understanding what they’re taking in. The only way anyone can do that — child or adult — is to slow things down. I’ve learned that there are certain things you can speed up so that you can slow the right things down — which is really what a lifehack should accomplish. By simply watching how my kids absorb information and engage with content, I’m getting better at keeping quality and quantity of what I do more balanced. That line of thinking puts effectiveness first and efficiency second, which is exactly what you want in your quest to stop doing productive and start being productive.
App suggestion: Some of the interactive games on the iPad have really helped my son Colton improve his comprehension of letters and numbers, and also entertains both of us in the process. Endless Reader, Endless Alphabet, and Endless Numbers are definitely worth adding to your iPad if you want to marvel at what your little one can do when presented learning materials in a way that fosters interest and growth, all while using the latest technology in the process. Big thanks to Merlin Mann for introducing me to Endless Alphabet, which got me hooked to all of the “Endless” apps. (iPad – Free; Also offers in-app purchases)
3. The Importance Of Routines
Children need routines. My son knows about going to bed through the bedtime routine we’ve established. My daughter is a slow starter in the morning (I wonder where she gets that from) but is still able to get off to school in time because she has a morning routine that she knows like the back of her hand. Without routines, anarchy would reign in our household. The routines we’ve put in place create flow and harmony, which is key to a well-functioning home. Routines are also crucial for well-functioning adults. They allow us to move quickly between areas of responsibility and help us get things done on a consistent basis. Routines require little bandwidth to maintain once we’ve followed them long enough, which allows our mids to do the work that they do best. I take a look at every routine we’ve established in our household and frame my day around them. I’ve also built my own routines to help me get on track as soon as I get up and stay on track throughout the day. As I indicated in my book The Front Nine newsletter, routines are what keep on the fairway as often as possible instead of winding up in the rough. They are an invaluable tool that work for children, adults, and organizations alike.
App suggestion: HabitClock is a fairly new app that allows you to build morning routines, and you can do those for both yourself or for your kids. I wouldn’t suggest you have your kids install this app on their iOS device (should they have one), but you can create a routine for them on your device and act as a coach for them as they work their way through their morning routine. I’ve found this app to be helpful to get my daughter going in the morning, as well as spur my son to action on those few days where he goes to daycare per week. (iOS – Free; Also offers in-app purchases)