Take Breaks

September 5th, 2008
This is #5 out of 25 Tips to Become More Productive and Happy at Work.

Take Breaks. It’s a fact that taking breaks will increase productivity. It’s been proven in studies. If you need to, find someone to help ensure you take a morning and afternoon break.

My favorite way to take a break is through a short nap, followed by a rich cup of coffee (although some researchers recommend that you drink coffee prior to napping, so that the caffeine will act as a natural alarm clock when it kicks in 20 minutes later).  In Japan, where workdays often  last 12 hours, naps are becoming a common tactic to maintain mental agility throughout the day.  Read more about their innovative nap salons here and here. I wish every public space has a safe, clean place to take naps.  Can you imagine how well rested and cheerful we would all be?

Another effective way to take a break at work is through “desk yoga.”  I always feel better at work, physically and mentally, when I take a few moments every now then to stretch out my cramped legs, strained back, and typing-weary fingers.

If you’re a guy, and you’re about to skip reading this section of the article because you think of yoga as a predominately female activity, wait just a second.  Read through these simple yoga-inspired stretches and seriously consider giving them a shot.  They are designed to increase alertness and release stress, and most people find that they really do work.  Read instructions for desk yoga here and here.

What kind of breaks do you take to stay contented and alert on the job?

-MJ

Don’t Check Email First Thing

September 4th, 2008
This is #4 out of 25 Tips to Become More Productive and Happy at Work.

Don’t Check Email First Thing. Unless this is required in your job, then let it go until after you’ve completed your top priority of the day. And then process email in batches, say two or three times a day.

This makes sense.  I would feel very happy if I could knock out my day’s top priority before checking email.  Unfortunately, I often feel like I have about 10 things to do in a day that are all labeled “Top Priority.” By working at them all a little at the time throughout the day, I generally finish enough of them to feel satisfied.

How do you manage your email? Do you really feel like wading through email each day decreases your contentment or productivity?  Do you have any suggestions for alternatives?

-MJ

Turn off Your Computer

September 3rd, 2008
This is #3 out of 25 Tips to Become More Productive and Happy at Work.

Turn off Your Computer. “What?!” you say. “Everything is done on my computer!” Well is it really? What percentage truly is? Plan to have your computer on only for that amount of time each day. Plan out blocks of time for different computer tasks and work from a checklist to keep you focused. Giving your eyes a rest from the screen will give you more energy for creating. Even if you just close your eyes as you think of a response to an email can help too.

A friend of mine once lived through two months without an internet connection at her apartment.  That sounds like torture, right?  Actually, she told me that after initial withdrawal pains, she thoroughly enjoyed the absence of the potentially distracting web.  She told me that without the ability to spend hours aimlessly following links around the internet and double-checking her email, she was far more productive and had so much more free time.

To limit the amount of time I spend on the computer, I sometimes deliberately unplug my laptop, so that I will have to complete all my work within the time that I still have battery power. Doing this can make you feel like you have a deadline, which can help you stay focused and avoid aimless web exploration.

In the past, such exploration has kept me awake hours beyond my bedtime.  Since I’ve instituted my battery-power time-limiting system, I’ve completed more work in shorter periods of time, and have added a few hours of sleep to most of my nights. This has definitely made me happier.

-MJ

Accept That You’ll Never Finish Your Task List

September 2nd, 2008
This is #2 out of 25 Tips to Become More Productive and Happy at Work.

Today we’ll look at this this suggestion:

Accept That You’ll Never Finish Your Task List. For perfectionists and overachievers this is as frustrating as a greyhound forever chasing the mechanical bunny around the track. Get off that track. Just make sure you work on your most important stuff first. Let the fluff slide, not your priorities.

If you didn’t waste valuable time going down little roads to nowhere, pursuing activities that just don’t really matter, you would have more free time.  Then you would be able to say what ButterBeeHappy user mrsdonnad says in her happy thoughts: I’m enjoying “me” time.  Maybe like garyk, you would feel “gratefuller for waking up feeling calm,” because you’d accomplish your greatest priorities without allowing insignificant details to gnaw away at your mind.

Don’t forget to click on the picture above to read the cute story about that to-do list!

-MJ

The Power Question

September 1st, 2008

I found an article called “25 Tips to Become More Productive and Happy at Work” and decided to go through the tips one by one to see if they work for me.

Throughout the month of September I will chronicle this experiment right here, in this blog.   Are you ready for the first tip?  Here it is:

Power Question. Keep a question like this at your desk to help you stay focused: “Am I making the most of my time right now?” or “Is this the most productive use of my time?”

I have to ask myself questions like that all the time, because I tend to multitask too much and lose track of what’s most important.  But would spending .5 seconds every 5 minutes or so re-reading such a question actually make me more productive, and therefore, more happy?

What if you had to complete a task that, in your opinion, was a total waste of time?  Wouldn’t asking yourself that question frustrate you?

I’ll tell you what would make me feel good: instead of a power question at my desk, I would place a sign reading, “What you do is important.”  Feeling important and believing that we matter to the people around us is vital to our happiness and mental health (Dale Carnegie expresses this in his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People“), and may have a more positive direct impact on our emotional well-being than constantly questioning each of our jobs and tasks.

-MJ

Achieving Happiness: Ability to connect to others established in childhood

August 29th, 2008

 

 Love is a key ingredient of happiness. Having people in your life that care about you provides a deep feeling of security. Being in a relationship in which you and your partner are meeting one another’s needs is tremendously satisfying. However, there are several varieties of love – only one of which makes people happy.

Recently, researchers have provided an understanding of how an unhealthy pattern of parent-child love adversely affects an adult relationship. The attachment between a parent and child has been well researched. But it has only been in the last few years that researchers have found a way to help adults with a history of dysfunctional relationships have a healthy loving connection.

The research has revealed three patterns of parent-child attachment. Children have two basic drives – exploration and safety – that govern their behavior. Kids need to explore and their playful pursuits help them gain the skills they need for mastering their environment. But children also need to stay safe in order to survive.

Click here for the full article.

I have an idea that might make the world a happier place.

Try to smile at every child, even tiny babies, whenever they make eye contact with you.  Maybe that child will grow to feel like the world is a welcoming, optimistic place.  Maybe it will help that child grow up to be a happier person than he or she would otherwise.

-MJ

Against all the odds, the world is becoming a happier place

August 28th, 2008

Despite deepening economic gloom and impending climatic destruction the world is becoming a happier place, according to an analysis of quarter of a century of data on wellbeing from 45 countries around the globe. The finding goes against the received wisdom that a country’s economic advances do not translate into increased wellbeing among its citizens.

The researchers who compiled the data believe increasing levels of happiness were not picked up until now because studies have tended to focus on rich countries where increases in wealth make little difference to their citizens’ satisfaction with life.

“The classic view, which we are not disputing, is that there are diminishing marginal returns to economic development,” said Roberto Foa at Harvard University. “So for initial levels of economic development people are escaping subsistence poverty and people’s subjective levels of happiness will increase.”

Click here for the full article.

If you’re ever having trouble coming up with one more happy thought to complete your five happy thoughts per day, just remember that the world is becoming a happier place.  That’s bound to make you smile.

-MJ

Socializing boosts health, happiness

August 27th, 2008

As students’ summer classes and work schedules fill their days to the brim, many may feel that the time crunch requires them to neglect their social life.

But not spending enough time with family and friends can compromise human health, UCLA researchers have found.

“(Social contact with others) has effects on the body that are more powerful than cigarette smoking and your cholesterol level,” said Shelley Taylor, a distinguished professor of psychology. “The magnitude is very strong.”

Click here for the full article.

Do you hear that, all you fellow college students who take too many hours of classes and participate in too many extracurriculars and run around being busy busy busy OMG SO BUSY?

You (and I) need a break.

Grab some friends, sit down (prefereably outside in the bright Indian summer sunshine) and relax.  Talk.  Play around, even.

You’ll be glad you did – much more glad, in the long run, than you would be if you stayed in and studied.  I assure you, with few exceptions, your grades are not that important, in the grand scheme of things.

Australia: Women aren’t as upbeat as men

August 26th, 2008

 

Women’s sense of wellbeing has fallen to its lowest level in seven years as inflation erodes the family budget and creates concerns about future economic security, a new study shows.

The findings, from the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index study, show a precipitous decline in women’s sense of wellbeing, but men’s wellbeing has stabilised at record-high levels.

The latest survey, based on a sample of 2000 people, was taken in April and May. For the first time in the history of the survey, which has charted the nation’s mood on 19 occasions since 2001, the wellbeing of males was higher than females.

Click here for the full article.

I don’t mean to whine or insult my male readers, but could the fact that women generally bear the most responsibility and worries of child-rearing be contributing their lower levels of happiness?

Such worries would be compounded in single-mother households.  Add the possibly lower salary that women receive (there is still a gender gap in salaries in the US, and I’m just assuming there may be one in Australia also) to the mix, and you have the perfect equation for a lot of stress and strain and unhappiness.

-MJ

Money Makes Way For Happiness, But Happiness Still Can’t Be Bought

August 25th, 2008

http://www.worldchanging.com/2051810786_938f3d3167.jpg

Imagine a ladder with 10 rungs. Now, imagine that the lowest rung (0) is the worst possible life that you could have and the highest rung (10) is the best. Where would you fall on that ladder?

If you’re like almost half (49 percent) of Americans, you’re “thriving” on rung seven through 10, according to the most recent Gallup World poll. Another 47 percent of us are “struggling” on rungs five through six, and four percent are “suffering” below rung four.

Looking into the backstory behind the overall estimates of “thriving” vs. “suffering,” we learn that the vast majority of Americans surveyed (84 percent) experienced enjoyment the day before participating. In comparison, only 38 percent experienced stress, 30 percent were worried, and 23 percent felt physical pain. A large percent (67 percent) ate healthy food the day before, 60 percent did something interesting, while only 33 percent worried about money. It’s these factors—not feeling pain, not worrying about money, and having options to do and eat what we enjoy—that are associated with happiness.

As we learn just what makes us happy and how reliable our happiness polling can be, researchers and policy makers are trying to decide just how much our happiness can and should affect policy and vice versa. First, the ultimate question: does money bring happiness?

Click here for the full article.

In my opinion, the problem with questions like, “Does money bring happiness?”  is that they all focus on just one factor of a person’s overall well-being.  No one thing, like money, family, freedom, or anything else, will make or break your happiness.  Happiness is determined by a combination of internal and external factors.

For example, having money might help you have a good education, but it will not necessarily give you the intellect to utilize that opportunity or the personality to appreciate it.  Under these circumstances, the education purchased with that money fails to make you happy, and therefore that money has ultimately failed to make you happy.  You had an external factor of happiness, but lacked a corresponding internal factor of happiness.

I do believe that it is easier for people with a certain amount of available capital to be happy.  People at a particular income level can afford better healthcare, safer shelter, and warmer clothing, and they therefore should have fewer worries.

What do you think?

-MJ