There are profound lessons to be learned from our children, teens and young people in general. Today’s guest blogger is my 13-year-old son, Nicholas. He might be young, but he’s an old soul – and his leadership tips are spot on. 

My mum hasn’t been feeling well, so I decided to write her blog for her today.

I know what you are thinking – “what is a 13-year-old going to teach ME?” But, can you please just read on, ‘cos I’ve got some great ideas.

Before I give you my tips, I want to say this – willpower just isn’t enough. Studies suggest your willpower can be depleted. This is called ego depletion. So don’t just tell yourself to try harder or be more productive or to be more whatever for that matter – try these tips instead!

Tip One: Just start.

The first tip may sound silly, but one of the hardest barriers to overcome when facing a project is to actually start. This is because your mind is saying “there’s too much work to be done” and stuff like that. This is when you start procrastinating. Your brain sees the project as real tough work instead of fun – like playing with your friends (my procrastination problem is video games BTW).

But just make a start anyway. This kick-starts the Zeigarnik Effect which compels humans to finish something they have already started.

Tip Two: Conserve your energy.

Lots of musicians use this tip. Don’t work longer, but harder. What I mean by that is, have a work session and then a short break afterwards. That way, you don’t rely on willpower, but disciplined scheduling. Some of the most elite violinists in the world use this technique – they have planned relaxation and work sessions for optimum productivity. No wonder they’re so good. I could use this technique with my drum practice I reckon.

Tip Three: Reward yourself.

A special chemical in your body, dopamine, makes you feel happier. This tip will release this chemical. A good way to unlock it is, when you have done your work session, say to yourself, “well done, Nicholas!” – or whatever your name is. When you say this to yourself enough times after doing your little bit of work, you’ll end up craving the work like I crave ice cream. Or chocolate. Or video games.

Tip Four: Set yourself a deadline.

A deadline will nearly always make you finish your tasks, so mark it in your diary or calendar, so the Zeigarnik Effect kicks in. You could also make a journal of your progress, if you were a real nerd. Also jot down why you are doing the task – it will give you purpose.

Tip Five: Take a nap.

If you’re like me, sometimes you’re so tired, even though it’s only 11:30 am, so you wonder down to the nearest coffee shop and order the highest caffeine drink. The way to fix this is to go ahead and take little breaks but also use power naps. There are four stages of sleep. The first two are relatively light, the third takes up most of the night in deep sleep and the fourth is the dreaming sleep, which is where you also get ready for the day. With power naps you use stages one and two, which is about 10-20 minutes.  BUT, DON’T GO ANY FURTHER! Otherwise you will go into deep sleep and feel even more tired.

Tip Six: Don’t multi-task. 

Just don’t. It may seem smart on the surface, but studies show that multi-taskers are actually less productive. Focus on one thing at a  time and break down your time into chunks. While you are doing that, break large tasks into smaller bite-sized tasks.

Lastly, when I’m exhausted and need inspiration I go outside and breathe in the fresh air and just wait for inspiration to strike. And that’s what mum does too.

I would like to thank ASAP Science for giving me all this information and ideas. Watch their videos and subscribe to their channel – it’s awesome.

By Nicholas Paulin (13 years)