9 Business Lessons I Learned Watching a Baby for 4 Days

9 Business Lessons I Learned Watching a Baby for 4 Days

My brother has a 3 month old baby and I volunteered to help watch him for a few days.

This is a picture after I got both shoulders puked on by baby Atlas.

He’s a cute kid and I figured I could leave the kid in his crib while I did my work and activities throughout the day.

Shit…I was completely wrong.

I used to think (in my ignorance) that people with kids were too lazy to start their own business.

I used to say to them, “Just make more time.” or “You have to make it a priority!”

I apologize.

Fortunately, we always can learn from our mistakes.

Here are 9 things I learned about business from watching a baby for 4 days:

1. Time limitations increase productivity.

Baby Atlas did not care about my phone calls or my schedule. The 2 times a day he took naps were the only chances I got to work on my todos for the week. With that limited window, I made sure to list out my exact priorities for the day and reduced all distractions during that time. No Skype (sorry I can’t do a call or nope that article isn’t all that important). Basically, children are the ultimate lifehack. (Warning: I don't encourage having a child just to increase your productivity 🙂

2. Do more of what works.

Most days I was feeding Atlas just 2 ounces of baby formula. Then I realized after I fed him 4 ounces of food that he would fall asleep sooner so I could work. Then for all future feedings I did my best to give him more food so he would fall asleep. The key thing for your business is identify what things are working well and find ways to do more of that.

3. Most times you’re uncomfortable there’s a simple problem to solve it.

Poop, food, burp, move. Those are the 4 key things. The only way a child can communicate a problem is to scream or cry--they can’t spell it out for you. In your business you may be hearing a problem you are ignoring. When looking at the fundamentals that can satisfy the child, it was frankly pretty simple. Diaper clean, check (it’s overrated how hard it is to change them), fed, check, burped check or move the child around. All done. Go back to the basics when you are trying to solve
problems. Keep it simple. .

4. Reduce your judgments of other people.

I never realized how tiring it is to take care of a baby in the morning, go to work, come home, clean, take care of the kid and then try to find time to start your own business. A few months ago, I saw a mother when I was getting my pedicure (only judge me a little bit) who was yelling at her 3 kids. I was thinking to myself, what a terrible mother. Now I know a little bit more about what she was going through. When you are interviewing someone, talking with a customer or dealing with a
co-worker, reduce your natural tendency to pass judgment. You don’t know what it’s like for them.

5. Enable learning triggers.

I didn’t have as much time for the gym so I chose to walk the baby in the morning. It was too hard to do my daily reading so I started to listen to podcasts instead. If you are driving, can you listen to an audio book instead of zoning out. Or if the kid is sleeping in your arms then put on a YouTube video of Jay Abrahams talking about marketing.

6. Ignore non-critical activities and pay someone to handle them.

When the baby was crying for food, I completely ignored washing the dishes. And I ignored the yard, the laundry, and everything else. The highest priority was making baby Atlas happy again. You start recognizing the highest value activities. For your business, figure out which activities are really generating you more money and which ones can you pay someone else to handle.

7. Prioritize yourself.

You know how airlines always tell you to put on your oxygen mask before you put it on your child? That’s true for life. If you don’t take the time to take care of yourself, you won’t be at your best to take care of your child. My brother gets up at 5am so he can make time to meditate and exercise. He knows that gives him more energy and he feels better all day which translates to how he treats his child.

8. Adapt to your limitations.

I typed one-handed when I was feeding the kid. You are going to be constrained in your business, everyone is limited in some way. Figure out how you can work with that situation and still get work done, even if it’s at 50%. Maybe I could have use dictation software or done more phone calls during feeding.

9. Take baby selfies.

Take a lot of these. People love them. That's all. 🙂 Like a successful business, people only see the good times—not the hardwork that goes into them.

* * *

In the words of the great Ali G to all the parents starting or running their own businesses, "Respect!"

If you’re a parent and you run a business of any size, please leave a comment and share the lessons you’ve learned about business from raising your kids.


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116 responses to “9 Business Lessons I Learned Watching a Baby for 4 Days”

August 20, 2014 at 9:27 am

Wow, I never thought I'd see Noah Kagan write about a baby, and that too with so much humility and (*gasp*) with an apology to parents! You should babysit Atlas more often... this slightly different style of writing suits you 🙂

Wonderful lessons... love the one about being more productive. That's been my biggest lesson to learn!

August 20, 2014 at 9:19 am

Takeaway for everyone without children - start and grow your businesses before you have kids! You will be happy you did later.

I don't have a child yet, but spending time around nieces and nephews taught me how hands-on and involved childcare is. It's also not just about children's needs - many parents WANT to spend as much time as possible with their kids and will choose it over work, making extra money, and various other activities they enjoyed in the past. So it becomes important to just do "all the things" before to hopefully minimize the guilt and feeling of sacrifice that comes with prioritizing between family time and work/business when the time comes.

Disclaimer: I don't have a child to care for yet, but I have grown my business to a point where it doesn't require constant attention and will do fine if I only have 5-10 hours a week for it - it took years of nights and weekends on top of day job and then 60-hour weeks to get here. I feel somewhat prepared to be a stay-at-home parent, at least from a financial and reaching personal goals point of view.

August 20, 2014 at 9:13 am

Great read. I wrote something similar when my first child was born. You can read it here http://epiphanies.smanumenon.com/page/7
Thanks for sharing your insights.

Scott Yewell
August 20, 2014 at 9:07 am

Hi Noah,

Great article, can totally relate to being double-puked on unfortunately. Speaking of the diaper changing, you really haven't lived until you've experienced a good projectile session... Anyway, I wanted to invite you to check out the podcast Bootstrapped with Kids, where Brecht Palombo and I talk about bootstrapping our businesses while we raise our families. Thanks for the great articles and teachings!

Cheri Flake
August 20, 2014 at 9:03 am

Love it!
I could write a book here...I'll spare you. I learn cool new tricks every day about how to run a business AND take good care of the little nuggets.
Much love and light to you, C

August 20, 2014 at 9:02 am

My wife and I both work from home running web based businesses. We have 5 kids with number 6 due in December.

We often wonder what people do with all of their 'me' time when they don't have children taking up most of their time. If we can start and build successful businesses - anyone can. Don't use lack of time or being too busy as an excuse. Or use running a business as an excuse to not have kids. In the end relationships and people matter more and will pay you back more than a business ever will.

August 20, 2014 at 8:47 am

This. It's so refreshing to read this. My wife and I have 3 kids, and I have a tough (but really fun) job with long hours. I also have a ton of ideas for side hustles, but very limited time to work on them. My kids come first - always.

I ruthlessly cut out activities that don't push my hustles forward and just work on the ones I think can be most successful. Some weeks I can get in perhaps 5 hours of work, but others maybe it's just one hour in a week. Whatever it is, I just try to push the ball up the field one yard at a time.

For parents there's an added stress as well - the mind games: am I spending enough time with the kids? Am I doing the right things to put them on a path to success? Am I pushing them too hard? It's not an easy balancing act.

Thanks for recognizing this post!

August 20, 2014 at 8:43 am

Hey Noah, I've been freelancing on the side for 16 years, but only in the past year have I decided to take the business more seriously and shoot for the goal of self-employment. Having a 2-year old and a family to care for made setting new time constraints a must and I think it's slowly paying off. It's a mystery how it works, but it works! 🙂

Denni Griffith
August 20, 2014 at 8:32 am

Noah - Never forget you can always "make more money", but you can never "get those moments back". #familylifeworkbalance

Sam Hudgins
August 20, 2014 at 8:23 am

Humility. How often do you see a child that is stuck up and entitled and how often do you just want to reach out and wring their neck? Then you see the quiet and more humble child that you feel you would do anything for if they just asked. How is that any different than how we are as adults or marketers asking for small favors or information or whatever we do. Take pride in your work but treat people so very humbly and I believe you will open doors that before might have been locked to you.

August 20, 2014 at 8:18 am

Thanks for finally recognizing OUR reality from all the parents who are up early, late and spend their lunch bolting across town to pick up someone from swimming lessons, Tae Kwon Do, or watching a little league game. We do our networking as we help coach flag football after supper. ( Hint for your future. Most 9 year olds do not make good business partners!) Enjoy your current freedom... but I wouldn't trade places with you, and neither would your brother! Dave

August 20, 2014 at 8:01 am

Ok, no biz tips. But a baby tip re: burping. If you're going to have a baby, make sure you steal everything not nailed down from the hospital room. In fact, bring an extra duffel bag to your wife's room. Sleep there overnight and fill that duffel bag.

One of your targets needs to be the cloths you see the nurses throw over their shoulders to burp the kid before or if you can handle it yourself. They are better suited to the purpose than anything you can find in the baby section of your local dept. store. The stuff in the store only covers a small portion of the front of your shirt. You'll soon find the baby is capable of getting stuff over your shoulder onto your back. The hospital cloths are large enough cover the upper back too. Think about it; they have to deal with way more babies than you'll ever have. They know what they are doing.

When you stay overnight make sure you ask the nurses for something and then accompany them to the storage room. Note its location. It probably won't be locked. At night go back there and steal, steal and steal. Burping cloths, diapers, blankets, formula, you name it. If you can, fill up that duffel bag, go home and empty it and then come back for more.

The real goal here is to make the first month and especially the first 2 weeks as easy as you can. You have no idea how tired you are going to be. Extraneous movements must be eliminated. A trip to the store for *anything* becomes a major chore.

You think that baby shower got you prepped? Think again kemo sabe.

Larry Mai
August 20, 2014 at 8:00 am

It's the greatest and worst feelings in the world. Now imagine there isn't a light at the end of the tunnel where you can "return" Atlas. I always say, I would not wish this on my worst enemy. hahaha.

But you have to do what you love. I start on my side projects after my 3 kids go down.
About a month ago, I was coding from 10pm to 2am just to get out my MVP.

Thanks for sharing!

Chris Bird
August 20, 2014 at 7:54 am

Always love your unconventional approach Noah...but this may have been the first post that I could understand from a very personal perspective. As a single dad with 2 amazeball kids, it's tough. But once I learned that everyone has it 'tough' in their own way - you get on to making s**t happen. When the kids get older - mine are 7 and 10 - it's more awesome but certainly more challenging. But, again, you deal with it.
There really is something to the old saying "before you judge a man, walk in their shoes". Great advice for everyone. You can never have too much empathy.

Joao Reis
August 20, 2014 at 7:53 am

Hooorray ! Welcome to my world ! Now my kids are all grown, but was nice to hear what you experienced and that you understand us parents a little bit more. Cheers !

Rimantas Petrauskas
August 20, 2014 at 7:47 am

Completely agree on #4. Also, no judgement about pedicure, see number #6 😉

August 20, 2014 at 7:35 am

Hi Noah,
I'm a father of two (6y&5m), became a freelancer 5 years ago and now build an app (www.guessbinary.com). I learned that it's important to clearly set expectations and communicate very explicitly. That's important with your partner, the child as well as in business. Of course you also learn to stay up really early 😉

Best regards - Thomas

Ps.: "Atlas" reminds me of "Atlas shrugged" (Ayn Rand)...

Steve Hodgdon (@SteveHodgdon)
August 20, 2014 at 7:33 am

Invest in the kid now. Like training employees it has exponential payback. Model behavior you wish you did all the time. Give then full attention, not half while you work your phone. My kids are 25 and 21.

Ahmad Hamad
August 20, 2014 at 7:23 am

I liked the article.

August 20, 2014 at 7:12 am

Excellent read. Whenever my smile grows the further down an article I get, I know the writer has hit on something.

Judit Herman
August 20, 2014 at 7:09 am

Yeah, my baby is 5 months old, and I am working on a new website on breaking writer's block. Difficult. Normally it takes me a week to do what is now over a month. The biggest problem is making the videos for Youtube for which I need to look at least moderately rested, AND find the time between feedings, AND have a babysitter for me AND be ready in makeup and nice clothes. Phew... Of course a mother can find some time for business but not easily and not without sacrifice: "time" means "whatever little free time you would have", which one would normally spend on herself, bathroom, resting, exercise, etc. So big respect to all mothers doing that - and fathers who fully support them. Anyway, breastfeeding time...

August 20, 2014 at 7:01 am

What a RIOT! I love your posts, but I think this one is my favorite!!

Clint Salter
August 20, 2014 at 6:59 am

Killer post Noah. Went to visit my cousin and her 1.5year old last month. I was exhausted after two hours. Up and down, playing, singing, dancing, building blocks, sharing food... Huge respect for stay at home parents. And I thought running a business was challenging.

P.S. Atlas is a rocking name!

August 20, 2014 at 6:50 am

This is so true. I thought staying at home watching my son would be a great time to get stuff done. As you found out that's not how it works. You're lucky to feed yourself much less get meaningful work done.

I found that Parkinson's law is very accurate and I now get just as much, if not more, done after his bed time than I did when I had the whole night to myself. Plus, coming home from work to a 10 month old that's ready to play is way more fun 🙂

August 20, 2014 at 6:45 am

Atlas!!! I like that name!!! Good insight for those of us that dont have kids. I like your comments about not judging. I think it applies actually all the time, but especially in this situation and especially if you have never experienced babies before (like me)! Thanks Noah. Great post

August 20, 2014 at 6:40 am

You'll never make Vogue covered in vomit, Noah, but babies look cute even when they are offenders. The only thing I can contribute is that when I looked after my baby sister who was 19 years younger than me, she was the dominant one of the partnership. She had to be. Her existence depended upon manipulating me to supply what she needed if I was being too dim to supply it. Quite literally, supply and demand or rather demand and supply. Like you, I would never have predicted such a situation before experiencing it. I grew up as fast as she did.

August 20, 2014 at 6:38 am

Well said, and in fact, so we'll done that I will prioritize your marketing class that has not received proper attention this summer! I have 3 kids still at home. Balancing their homeschooling, extracurriculars, and keeping the home running while working part time from home has made me a very organized person....and a bit neurotic about schedules!

Lukas Rohr
August 20, 2014 at 6:37 am

You had me at "I used to think (in my ignorance) that people with kids were too lazy to start their own business."

As others have mentioned... this is an under served niche topic.

I'm a parent and I'm doing it. I have a 1 and a 4 year old. My wife and I both work part time. I'm running my own business and the kids def. eat into my time and schedule. Things simply move slower when you have a family.

Depending on your kids, even scheduling time for your self, regardless of how early you get up is a challenge. I'm an early morning person and usually get by very well on 6h of sleep, but if you have bad sleepers and you haven't had a good night of sleep (i.e. at least 4h in a row) then getting up at 5am on that one day when you actually could sleep a bit more isn't in the cards. It's not just a issue of laziness, but also a health one. I got sick a lot more when i wasn't getting a good nights rest.

My experience has also been that trying to "multitask" with the kids ends up being a loss for everyone. I can't concentrate and don't do good work and the kids lose because they do in fact realize that you are "there" but not really "with them". They know this even at 1yr old. So I would recommend not doing #8.

I do listen to pod casts while I go jogging. My activity that falls under #7.

Ignoring non-critical activities or paying someone else to handle them is good advice. House cleaning = money we are happy to spend.

Thanks for the post. It was refreshing!

Jason Dea
August 20, 2014 at 6:30 am

I just wanted to say thanks! As a father of a toddler I find that when I go to certain startup meetups and other such networking events, some people there just don't understand why I'm so tired, or why I don't have 15,000% focus on my startup alone. Family and kids especially change your perspective on things. On one hand they give you extra motivation to succeed (and provide for them) on the other they give you a really better understanding of priorities and what isn't really that important.

I think that's really the biggest lesson in your blog post. Kids force you to prioritize in a different way.

August 20, 2014 at 6:09 am

This note just rang true, and finally someone putting it on paper! Being a mom of two and starting a business, is a challenge a welcome challenge on my part but it's nice that someone else understands why the dishes and laundry aren't done yet!! Haha...

Andre Oentoro
August 20, 2014 at 6:06 am

I'm a parent, and I own a business. But, I think I won't encourage anyone to give their kids (nor their brother's) twice of the usual so he can go to sleep sooner. Hahaha, Noah, that leads to obesity!
My 2-years old like to do selfies too!

August 20, 2014 at 6:00 am

Haha Noah, was fun reading, just know 1 is EASY. I got 2 + wife (they request their share of attention too) and still started a business on side of my day job, waking up daily at 4:30 am to phone Australian business owners. Respect dude 🙂

Adriana Zoder
August 20, 2014 at 5:52 am

Thank you for sharing. It was gratifying to see that another non-parent acknowledges that kids are the ultimate life hack. I have been swimming through molasses since I became a mom when it comes to my career. But I could not imagine my life without them. And I think they make me a better person because my priorities have changed, like "forget world domination, I have to figure out a way to make this baby sleep..." 🙂

soji fagade
August 20, 2014 at 5:51 am


I think you rock. This is the classic example of using real life examples in teaching us about every conceivable area of life (sorry I don't mean to be patronising by stating the obvious - but it's got to be said and acknowledged) You do a great job. Keep up the good work. Tacos? Not converted yet. but we'll see!

August 20, 2014 at 5:50 am

Oh wow. So amused...and now terrified to have children! Thanks for the reminder about judgement and making me realise I have no excuse to not be super productive right now!

August 20, 2014 at 8:57 am

This is a great takeaway Helen - no excuse to not be super productive for the childless folks!

August 20, 2014 at 5:44 am

Happy to hear you've learnt a couple of lessons there. I've got 3 boys ranging from 8 months to 8 years. They are wonderful, but sometimes demanding 🙂

I wouldn't want it any other way!

Mark E Greene
August 20, 2014 at 5:41 am

Hey Noah, I have twins 😉

Jeff B.
August 19, 2014 at 2:33 pm

It's good to do more of what works; just be careful. If you feed that baby too much, he's going to get fat.

Katie Mayberry
August 18, 2014 at 10:14 pm

Amazingly you covered everything about being a parent of an infant who is trying to start a business at the same time. And you learned it in four days! This is my life with a 10 month old son and a 4 month old business. I'd just add some additional tools that kept me going in the earliest days: buffer, feedly, flipboard and hootsuite. One-handed social media operation especially useful in the late night hours!

August 18, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Between 3:00 and 3:30AM: Get up. 10-minute Tabata circuit or jog.
3:45AM-5:45AM: Work on business.
5:45AM-6:00AM: Get ready for work.
6:00AM-7:00AM: Morning commute.
7:00AM-3:15PM: Day job.
3:15PM-4:15PM: Evening commute.
4:15PM-8:00PM: Take care of 3-year old daughter while wife (7 months pregnant) gets some rest
8:00PM-9:30PM: Work on business, or relax a little
~9:30PM: Bedtime.

Food is mixed in there sporadically.

Weekends are more relaxed, though I try to get up early and get as much work done as I can.

Having a day job, plus side business, plus pre-schooler and another baby on the way...I've become an expert at #1 and #8. Learning #2, and trying to find time for #7.

Thanks for this post.

August 18, 2014 at 6:06 am

That's the only way I can get things done with 3 kids under 5 and another on the way. I would listen to marketers (who don't curse) while the kids are around because OMG they are parrots! Once the kids go to bed I listen to whatever without fear of having to explain my child's outburst to random strangers. Parrots I tell you. Parrots.

Jeremy Reeves
August 17, 2014 at 8:22 am

Haha, and you only had him for 2 days 😉 I think you're absolutely spot-on with the things you figured out in those 2 days. I have 2 kids. One is 3, with autism. The other is 1. It's a hell of a challenge.

My wife is home everyday to watch them so that helps A LOT, but for the first few years she couldn't drive (she has Epilepsy) and I was running my business plus doing all the errands.

I learned pretty much every lesson you put in here. Audiobooks/education via audio is CRUCIAL to continual learning. I would say the #1 biggest factor is getting up early. And just being extremely harsh about your time with the time-vampires who try to steal it away. Learning to say "no" is insanely important.

Great post!

December 30, 2014 at 1:38 am

You are a freaking hero.

Berry Schwartz
August 16, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Hell yes I am and its harder than you think! Try 2 babies on for size 😉

Tom Demers
August 15, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Cool post! I was thinking recently it feels like parents running businesses / working higher stress longer hour jobs is kind of an under-served niche content-wise.

As a father of two young kids who owns a small business and had worked a lot of hours before having kids 1 and 7 have been really important (if sort of hard fought) lessons for me. I definitely agree with your larger point on #8 but for me the better way to implement that has been to acknowledge that my “limitation” is that there are blocks of times I have to go to zero in terms of work and just be all-in with my kids – any time I’ve tried to type with one hand (literally or figuratively) it’s been a bit of a disaster from a work and kid perspective (particularly as kids get a little older than your nephew - mine are 4 and 5 - and can see / sense that you’re only half paying attention to them).

I heard Louis CK in interviews and in his stand up talking about how much better of a parent he is since he got divorced because it forced him to be totally present and “on” when he had the kids because there was no other parent to share responsibility with (I think he’s said he actually works like 3 12 hour days and then doesn’t work at all 2 days a week and does stand up when he doesn’t have the kids, etc.) which was kind of a revelation for me when I heard him talk about it, and has really been pretty powerful for me. A good trick I’ve taken to is just taking Email alerts for my primary Email off my phone entirely. As a parent you can’t really totally turn your phone off if you're not with your kids because you want to be able to get a call if anything happens, but people don’t alert you about real emergencies via Email, and generally whatever the Email is you’re probably not going to do anything meaningful about it until you’re in front of a computer or at least have time to really engage with it (which you might have if you just check it manually) anyway, so all the alert is doing is making you anxious and worse at whatever you’re doing that second. This was a pretty poignant post along the same lines that resonated for me too:


In terms of the business application it’s sort of the same idea as what Tim Ferris and other folks talk about in terms of letting small bad things happen to make sure you’re working on / taking care of the big things.


Nikhil Waghdhare
August 15, 2014 at 11:18 am

Hey Noah,
These are some great lesson you learn from babysitting. These lessons are great and baby looks cute........ 😉

Amanda Martin
August 15, 2014 at 10:32 am

Great post Noah. Being a working Mom I can relate to the craziness. However, when they get to my daughter's age (almost 11) it becomes a completely different ball game. Finding the balance between your schedule and your kid's schedule is a balancing act all in it's own. Between homework, school projects, soccer practices, games, and sleep overs with my work, work events, networking events, trying to stay active, and make sure my friends don't think I'm ignoring them it's quiet a busy life. I guess my one take away is being busy makes time go by faster. Taking time to do things that make you happy is a HUGE take away and to not sweat/stress about the little things pop up. Roll with the punches. Which is a great way to look at business.

Alan Barnes
August 14, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Ha ha I love the way you can make a business post out of almost anything

Ryan Biddulph
August 14, 2014 at 9:22 pm

Hi Noah,

I love this dude. I found you after Kim Roach mentioned you in a tweet...and I recalled my friend Adam Connell mentioning you....not sure if it was his problogger guest post, or a gem on his blog. In either case, i'm a fan 🙂

I dig the parallel. Being a guy who blogs from paradise for the past 40 months me and my fiancee have taken the child free route. We have a super healthy respect for folks with families because the amount of time and energy it took to watch my niece - when she was a bit older than your nephew - was quite epic.

I'd rather fly for 39 hours - time changes, and layovers included - between Delhi and NYC, anyday, then to have to take care of a newborn. Of course, many parents of little ones say they'd take their life over some of the insane stuff I've done during my world travels.

It's always fun to see life from a different perspective. That's why I love it. It's a bit enlightening here and there, and as you said, you're less likely to judge when you fully understand what someone's experiencing on a daily basis when you walk a few meters in their shoes.

Doing the globe trotting bit is in some ways like taking care of a baby, both from the uber tight sked with like no time to get things done angle, and from the judgment angle. If folks saw me up at 4 AM, trying to get my post written and published after taking 4 flights from Bangkok to Savusavu, Fiji, they'd see a little less glamour in what I do.

Much respect to you, and to all the wonderful parents out there who are doing an awesome job.

Tweeting this in a bit...thanks so much for sharing Noah.

Have a fun weekend 🙂


Tiffany @CircusofHumaniT
August 14, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Yay for audio learning and podcasts. It makes the elliptical machine bearable. And, as a frequent babysitter in the past, it is amazing how busy kids keep you and how closely you have to watch them before they teleport to another room or ride their bike into the pool. I like your thought about prioritizing and filling the small gaps of free time with only critical items.

ben hoffman
August 14, 2014 at 5:28 pm

great read thanks. Atlas?