If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present, then our brains work more successfully as we're able to work harder, faster and more intelligently. Shawn Achor, Positive Psychologist.
An #IBOT post.
Did you know that we work harder when we're happy?
It's true. A UK study last year confirmed that we are at least 12% more productive when we are happy. This makes sense when you spin it around and consider how hard it is to get things done when you are miserable. Often a flat, grouchy day comes hand in hand with that slow, leaden can't-get-anything-done unproductive feeling which in turn makes us even grumpier because the day has gone by and we haven't got anything done! It's a negative spiral into gloom, doom and negativity.
If we're feeling good, however, we can bounce from task to task, job to job and feel satisfied with our achievements. This boosts our mood further and we get more done. It's an upward spiral of happiness and productivity.
Psychology tells us that we are also more creative when we're happy. We will explore new things and novel ideas. We will experiment, test a skill and come up with fresh plans and initiatives. We will build on these and grow and develop personally and professionally. It's called the Broaden and Build Theory.
So if we're more productive and creative when we're happy, why, when we've got a lot to do, do we make ourselves unhappy? Think about it. If there's a lot to get done we automatically put our serious, 'I've got a lot to do today' face on. We write lists and then berate ourselves if we're not crossing things off the list fast enough. We hunker down at desks or dash about in vehicles, heads down, getting stuff done.
Managers hold meetings to tell us that there is a lot of important tasks to complete and we'd better hop to it and work hard. They might emphasise this by reminding us of all of the terrible consequences of not getting all of the important things done.
I've worked on team projects with large, looming deadlines and stressed out team leaders many times in my consulting life. We'd hole up in windowless offices for hours and hours, often for weeks and weeks, heads down, meals at our desks, getting together for progress meetings to raise communal anxiety levels and increase the pressure to meet milestones and delivery dates.
We only moved from desk to meeting room or occasionally as far as the kitchen to forage for coffee or snacks. We focused entirely on schedules and task lists and conversation was limited to what had to be done by whom and when. As professionals there was a certain satisfaction in working hard towards a goal but were we happy? No.
Busy might be socially desirable but busy is not always productive. Happy, on the other hand, can be both.
So here are three easy ways to be happier and get more done.
1. Get up, get out and move. You don't need to don Lycra and go for a lunch time run or gym session (unless that's what you do, and that's great). Just make the effort to leave your desk or other place of work a couple of times a day and take a walk. Walk to get your lunch, walk around the block. If you work at home, walk outside and hang the washing out or walk to a local cafe with your laptop or notebook and work there for an hour or so then walk back.
Physical activity has been linked to mental health, wellbeing and happiness in many, many studies. It has also been shown to improve productivity, attitudes to work, workplace collaboration and workplace relationships. I use a wearable activity tracker that prompts me to get up and move when I've been still for too long. It's very helpful and I feel pretty good when I've done my steps for the day.
2. Take mindful moments. As you may have noticed, meditation is BIG right now. This is partly because research into this ancient practice has exploded and we are beginning to understand just how it works and the benefits for everyday Western working life, including reduced stress, increased focus and attention and improved productivity. Big businesses like Google have meditation rooms in the office and UK MPs are engaging in regular workplace meditation. Insurance companies are now paying attention because they can see the benefits of using mindfulness to improve health - both physical and psychological.
If you're not into meditation, however, just a moment or two of mindfulness can make a difference. If you feel your attention or productivity lagging, sit or stand still for a moment, straighten your back, close your eyes, take a deep breath, check for areas of discomfort in your body, relax your muscles and just focus on two three breaths. That's a moment of rest and recharge to get you back up and going again.
3. Say thanks. Something as simple as saying 'thank you' has been shown to increase self-confidence and self-worth, improve trust, improve working relationships and generally just make the workplace a happier and more positive place. The flow on effect is a lot of buzzier, busier bees. For those of us who work from home or work alone, take time out to thank yourself or thank a colleague who helps you out. It's fast, it's free and it works.
So let's stop the heads-down, eat-at-our desks, glorification of the to-do list approach to getting stuff done. Look up, get out, be mindful and say thanks. Your heart, mind and productivity will improve. Promise.
Tell me, have you tried movement, mindfulness or gratitude to improve your productivity? Does it work for you? I'm keen to hear your experiences but it will have to wait a moment or two. I'm off to walk around for a bit, to meditate for a few minutes and then thank myself for getting this written and looking after my well being. There's still a lot of work to get done today.