How Your Happiness is Essential to Elevated Productivity and Focus


 When it comes to productivity, I’m willing to try just about anything. I’ve tried waking up at 5.30 am to write in the quiet of the early morning. When the deadline for my book was looming, I wrote in cafes, libraries, parks, and public transport to shake up my environment and find the best place for productivity.

I’ve developed routines and reward systems. I’ve even used psychological concepts to my advantage, like the Premack Principle and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies.

But, there was one key thing missing from my list of productivity boosters. Happiness. And as it turns out, happiness is way more important than I realized. According to a study published in 2019, workers in a call center were more productive, stuck closer to their workflow schedule, and converted more sales when they were happier.

Not only did happiness significantly boost workers’ productivity, but it also improved the quality of their work. An analysis of happiness in the workplace also supported these findings. In general, happiness increased productivity, creativity and innovation, and improved performance in the workplace.

So, if productivity is important to you, then it might be time to start prioritizing happiness at work. How? Well, here are four places to begin.

Focus On Being Kind

Various research has found that kind deeds boost happiness. One study found that after ten days of completing acts of kindness, participants experienced an increase in life satisfaction. Another study discovered that a higher number of kind acts led to even more happiness.

So, how could you boost kindness in the workplace?

Feel free to experiment with kindness yourself, and find unique ways to express compassion, understanding, and support for other people at work. If you’re stuck for ideas, here are some you can try:

  • Be a good listener and express support for others.
  • Do small “good deeds,” like picking up a coffee for a colleague or buying an indoor plant for the workspace.
  • Share helpful resources.
  • Send a kind message or email to a colleague to brighten their day.
  • Show concern for colleagues when they’re having a tough time. When I worked in my office job, my aunt passed away. The day after the funeral, I found a bunch of flowers on my desk from my colleagues. It made me feel incredibly supported and grateful for my team.

Know Your Strengths and Use Them to Your Advantage

According to the VIA Character Strengths Survey, my top strengths include love, love of learning, judgment, prudence, and kindness.

At work, I try to embrace my strengths by helping people and making a positive difference. I’m not too fond of repetitive tasks that don’t challenge me — I need to be learning and growing. And, with judgment and prudence in my top strengths, I prefer having time to think things through, and I don’t particularly enjoy taking significant risks.

My love of learning is one strength that I regularly use to my advantage. As an author, podcaster, and course creator, I’m often reading books and research, experimenting with new ideas, listening to podcasts, and soaking up as much information as I can. I integrate my knowledge with my personal experiences and share the lessons with my community.

Being familiar with your strengths allows you to work in advantageous ways and discover what you need at work to feel more fulfilled and happy.

Take Fun or Meaningful Breaks

When I was working at my office job a few years ago, I quickly fell into the habit of checking my phone during work breaks. When I was waiting for my morning coffee, I scrolled through Instagram. I read emails while I ate my lunch. If I felt overwhelmed and needed a mental break, I logged onto Facebook.

My days started feeling like one long blur of switching from my computer screen to my phone screen, and back again.

And, I won’t lie — it was surprisingly difficult to break that habit. Reaching for my phone during work breaks was so easy. Intentionally taking fun or meaningful breaks was harder (at first), but infinitely more rewarding.

Here are some of the breaks I now incorporate into my working days:

  • A 20-minute workout
  • Mini-meditations
  • Drinking a cup of tea mindfully
  • Reading a personal growth book for ten minutes
  • Sending an uplifting voice message to a friend
  • Writing in a journal and tracking my habits
  • Yoga on the lounge-room floor

I don’t necessarily do every one of these activities in one day. When I have time for a break, I often ask myself what would help me feel happy, energized, or clear-minded.

Not only do these breaks often help me feel happier, but they create more balance in my working days and fuel my energy for my next work session.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment with an attitude of curiosity and open-mindedness. Rather than being caught up in thoughts about the past or future, you’re paying attention to your current experiences in a non-judgemental way.

In his TED Talk, Matt Killingsworth described his research and some interesting results. Frequent “mind-wandering” was associated with decreased happiness amongst individuals. Even when participants were engaged in pleasant mind-wandering, they were still less happy than participants who felt “in the now.”

Whenever you notice yourself unnecessarily ruminating over the past or day-dreaming about the future, try to re-focus on the task at hand. You can also try different mindfulness techniques, like mindful breathing or a body scan.

Final Thoughts

Productivity routines are great, and they can definitely have their benefits. But, if you’ve been feeling stuck and you can’t find the “right” productivity routine, try increasing your happiness at work, instead.

You might just find yourself feeling more productive, innovative, and creative. And your performance might improve, too.