3 Unexpected Productivity Lessons from My Toddler


Toddler climbing a rope ladder with determination

Toddlers are not what you’d call efficient creatures. Their pace is slow. Their whining is frequent. And they wiggle endlessly. But I’ve observed that they are wise in ways I am not. Or at least, my toddler demonstrates qualities that I’d like to cultivate better in my work life. With gratitude to my toddler and as I reflect upon goals for the coming year, here are three lessons for increased productivity in the workplace.


Cultivate Curiosity

Toddlers have an enviable level of curiosity about the world. My kiddo asks “How does this work?” and “What can it do?” constantly. He explores his environment by picking up every item he encounters, turning it over in his hands, pushing all the buttons, and trying to figure out its role in his world.


As an adult, I’m guilty of slacking in the curiosity department because I’ve acquired enough skills to get by in daily life. I think this is a dangerous mentality though. There’s always more to learn. Especially with how rapidly technology changes and how the world of online learning keeps evolving, cultivating curiosity is essential. Constantly asking how new things work is a strategy for staying current and skilled in the workplace.


Take Pride in Mastering Skills

My toddler wants to practice each thing he is learning over and over. We practice tricky words aloud, and then he delights in using the word correctly a few days later. We practice jumping with two feet and then he enjoys seeing if he can jump farther or higher. And after we practiced holding a crayon, each colorful mark on the page brought great satisfaction. Each skill is like a building block, and he takes pride in adding to his collection.


Earlier this year, the Chalk & Tablet team adopted Articulate’s Storyline 360 as our default course authoring tool. As I shared recently in our company accomplishments, it’s a robust tool and not one that can be mastered overnight. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning the new tool but am also aware that I’ve only scratched the surface of its capabilities.


I admire my toddler’s willingness to persist in repeating a skill over and over, whereas I grow impatient when new skills take time to hone. I want to do a better job of putting in the time to master a skill so that I can enjoy the reward of doing something well.


Focus on One Thing at a Time

I envy my toddler’s ability to focus on one thing at a time. Sure, his attention span is often short and he’s free of adult distractions such as incoming text messages, but I give him credit for his intense focus on whatever is his current interest. When he’s rolling cars across the kitchen floor, he doesn’t want to stop for a meal. When he’s assembling a puzzle, he doesn’t want to be interrupted with a FaceTime call from a grandparent. And when he feels like dancing before bedtime, he doesn’t care about putting on pajamas or brushing teeth until the dancing is done. He keeps his focus on the present moment.


I think there’s a learning opportunity for me here. As adults we pride ourselves on our ability to multitask, but multitasking may cost as much as a 40% loss in productivity. Whoa.

I’ve been reflecting on how to stay focused on one task at a time. Are there tools I can use to minimize distractions? Are there strategies I can adopt to minimize the pull of competing priorities? I haven’t found a magical solution for this yet, but it’s something I’d like to improve upon in the coming year.


Wrap-Up

Curiosity, mastery, and focus. Three invaluable qualities, to be sure. Who knew toddlers have so much to teach us about productivity in the workplace!