Productivity Lessons from a Nine Year Old

It’s a weekend ritual. My nine-year-old daughter mopes about in a room stocked with activities, games, arts and crafts, and yes, even a TV set. Yet, despite the seemingly engaging nature of her surroundings the complaint is always the same:

“I don’t know what to do.”

This must be the 2010 version of “I’m bored,” but I’ll take it because there’s hope. She recognizes that there are in fact things to do, she just doesn’t know what to do right now. This moment should be a productivity coach’s dream, but my response to her is typically parental.

“What do you mean? There’s tons of stuff to do around here.”

I missed the mark. The reality is, this is life for all of us both kids and adults. Our days are filled with tons of stuff to do. Tasks, to-dos, activities, appointments, meetings, commitments, etc. The solution lies in knowing what to do. Let’s consider the three paths my daughter takes:

1)   She chooses what she likes to do, what’s important to her. She values being creative, she wants to make a car for her doll, and she likes to spend time with her brother and me.

2)   She does what she has to do. Mostly because I tell her, but there are certain tasks and chores I expect of her. She knows she will ultimately do them or risk the scorn of Daddy.

3)   She has activies she does for instant gratification. Cartwheels in the living room; teasing her little brother; begging me for a treat. It’s not the best use of her time, especially when bedtime approaches and there are still activies she wants to get done today.

Wrapped up in her behavior is the truth about productivity. It’s about knowing what is your correct activity, right now, above all else.

How should you know what to do?

–  Goals/Values: Select the items that are important first above all. Time sensitive items go first. Even the less pleasant tasks, such as paying your bills, have value to you if you consider having financial wellness a priority.

–  Prioritization: Fill your day with important tasks and activities. Not all of these items have to be painful work tasks or household chores. Remember to balance-in high priorities such as family time and personal fitness.

–  Discipline: Don’t fall into the pit of instant gratification. Time can easily get sucked into non-important activities. You must stick to your guns when it comes to doing what matters most to you. Sometimes reading online and watching tv can be an educational, productive, or stress-relieving experience. The key is to prioritize for the proper time and place.

–  Action: Follow-through on the items you’ve made choices to do. How can a goal or value be of true importance if you don’t feature it prominently in your life?

What are your keys to knowing what to do on a daily basis? Please share with us in our comment section.

Day-Timer Spokesperson Jeff Doubek can be reached at

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[Photo by Julie Campbell]