Taming Your Inner Two-Year-Old: A Step-by-Step Guide

Meet Your Inner Two Year Old

Who is your inner two-year-old? Your inner two-year-old is the one that calls the shots when your adult brain is slacking. If you’re not careful, it can end up ruling large portions of your day without you noticing. The best way to combat your inner two-year-old is to first acknowledge its existence and approach it the same way a parent would.

1. Child-proof your productivity

Child-proof gates keep real toddlers from doing things like covering their baby brother in peanut butter. Similarly, you need “parenting” tools for preventing your inner two-year-old from running rampant with your time and productivity. Freedom is a great example of a one such tool. By blocking your most distracting websites during work time, you’re maintaining a digital guardrail between the office and the playroom.

2. Practice creative “parenting”

Unfortunately there’s not an app for blocking Ben and Jerry’s at 2am (million dollar idea). That means you’re going to have to get creative “parenting” your inner two-year-old:

  • I used to spend way too much time on my phone in bed. I relocated my phone charger outside my bedroom to neutralize the temptation of late-night email.

  • To avoid bailing on a morning run, some folks sleep in their gym clothes for a little more momentum getting up and out.

  • My co-founder Naz loves chocolate so much she’s commanded that I safeguard her favorite bars until the weekend when she’s allowed to eat them.

  • And of course Emile was made to combat the part of my inner two-year-old that never wants to go to bed on time.

Don’t be deterred if your parenting schemes raise an eyebrow or two. When questioned about my latest lifehack, I usually just grin, “Kinda weird, but it works.”

3. Observe your two-year old from a safe distance

You don’t always need to invent the perfect lifehack to exercise more control over your inner two-year-old. Enter mindfulness meditation. Meditation boosts your ability to observe how your thoughts inform unwelcome cravings and desires. Over time, meditation can empower you to reign in these thoughts not just when you’re sitting for meditation but when your inner two-year-old rears its head in everyday life.

4. Navigate tantrums

Don’t forget that two-year olds are prone to mood swings. On your worst days, it’s going to take an extra effort to placate the little imp bent on derailing your productivity. Environmental factors can play a huge role. For example, if I’m coming off bad sleep, I’ve need to set up extra defenses against my inner two-year-old if I want to salvage my productivity. On the flipside, recognizing that a wonderday just isn’t in the cards can go a long way toward setting realistic goals for the day and avoiding a vortex of frustrated procrastination. Sometimes the best you can do is weather the tantrum and get to bed on time to set yourself up for a better day tomorrow.

5. Don’t forget to be the fun parent sometimes

Life’s too short to feel guilty about enjoying yourself. That means being as deliberate about your leisure time as you are about your productivity. Paradoxically, quality leisure time can actually make you more productive. When I step away from work for an evening of pickup soccer, I find it actually rejuvenates my week. Instead of guiltily emerging from a Netflix rabbit hole, I’m ready to bounce back into work after a well-earned break. Just make sure you don’t indulge your inner two-year-old too readily. Nobody wants to be that fun parent.

Sure, pretending there’s a toddler in your brain isn’t the most obvious strategy for greater self-awareness, but I can personally attest that recognizing my shortcomings has enabled me to more practically redesign my life for success. Kinda weird, but it works

Further Reading

Other frameworks

  • Through a number of studies and anecdotes Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational illustrates the irrationality of the human mind.

  • Dan Kahneman’s framework in Thinking Fast and Slow distinguishes between the adult and two-year-old brain as “Systems I and II”. Employing a science-backed approach, he demonstrates how the inner two-year-old controls more of your daily decision making than you might think.

Meditation Tools

  • Headspace: Guided meditation. Great for seasoned meditators and those just starting out.

  • Insight timer: Top free meditation app. Emile users seem to be a big fan of this app.

Sleep Stuff

charlie molthrop