Is improving your mood the best way to be more productive?
Don’t feel like doing what you have to do?
Stop trying to push through it. Don’t grit your teeth. You may want to cheer up.
I have long resisted this sort of attitude but the evidence mounts: productivity may be more about mood than you ever thought.
Why do you procrastinate?
You procrastinate the most when you’re in a bad mood and think you can improve it with something fun.
When you’re in a good mood or when you don’t think you can improve how you feel, you screw around a lot less.
So procrastination is a mood-management technique, albeit (like eating or taking drugs) a shortsighted one. But we’re most prone to it when we think it will actually help… Well, far and away the most procrastination occurred among the bad-mood students who believed their mood could be changed and who had access to fun distractions. This group spent nearly 14 of their 15 minutes of prep time goofing off! Students who believed their bad mood was frozen (those who were not given a supposedly mood-lifting candle) spent less than 6 minutes goofing off. (Even the good-mood students procrastinated slightly more if they believed their mood could be altered.)
If you can just get past that mood, you can do great things.
Writers who were literally forced to write were more productive and creative.
At least one study of blocked writers has found that they were more productive and more creative when they were essentially forced to write instead of scribbling only when the mood struck them.
They didn’t need inspiration or a muse, they just needed to do the work. But it was their mood that held them back.
Happiness increases productivity
If we’re really going to be motivated, we need to feel something. Having a rational goal in mind or thinking you want something isn’t enough.
Chip and Dan Heath say that the emotional mind is key in their book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard:
Focus on emotions. Knowing something isn’t enough to cause change. Make people (or yourself) feel something.
As Shawn Achor describes in his book The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:
…doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19 percent faster. Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56 percent. Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive.
So think a little less about managing the work and a little more about managing your moods.
What moves you? What inspires you? Try that. Don’t know what makes you feel better? Go here.
Because glib as it may sound, changing your mood might just change your mind.
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