Why Happiness Boosts Your Productivity
For being highly productive at work throughout the day, it’s vital to sustain a high focus, as well as high mental energy and endurance. Psychological findings show that happiness is the best state of mind to meet those criteria. As logical as it may seem – it’s science-backed and has some profound reasons we shouldn’t ignore. This article shows why happiness is so important and how to reach a state of happiness while working.
In his book “Flow – The psychology of optimal experience”, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes the phenomenon of psychic entropy. Psychic entropy is kind of a counterpart to happiness. It’s a state of mind that robs mental energy and heavily slows people down in their work.
In such a state we experience feelings like pain, anxiety, fear, jealousy or rage. That means, when we’re in any kind of bad mood, we experience psychic entropy.
When our mind is in psychic entropy, we cannot deal effectively with external tasks, because a big part of our focus lies on our inner world. That’s because we constantly feel sorry for ourselves.
Since focus is undividable – as Gary Keller and Jay Papasan state in their book “The One Thing” – we can’t focus completely on a task if our focus is already used for something else.
Consequently, when psychic entropy uses up focus for feeling sorry for ourselves, there only remains a small bit of focus that we can use for getting stuff done.
Less focus makes us not only work slower, but it also makes us way more prone to any kind of distraction.
Distractions not only pull us away from our work we should be doing right now. They also use up a lot of mental energy and cost us more time than we’d think.
Every time our focus gets distracted and our attention shifts, our mind has to create context for the thing we’re looking at. This is because it wants to understand what that thing is about. This uses up a lot of mental energy – which exhausts our brain faster and makes us even less capable of getting anything done.
Additionally, it takes around 25 minutes every time we have to re-focus after a distraction – 25 minutes of poor focus and slow results. A few distractions added up over time can result in huge amounts of lost results.
In a nutshell, that means psychic entropy steals our focus, makes us prone to distraction and depletes our mental energy. A bunch of reasons why we’d better be happy when we work.
How to be happier when working
Of course, it’s hard to turn any personal circumstance or issue that causes bad mood into happiness. But it’s possible for everybody to reach a state of happiness while doing anything. That state is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “Flow”.
When we’re in a Flow activity, we experience the following things:
- Intense focus and concentration on the present moment,
- Merging of awareness and action,
- Loss of time-experience,
- Intrinsic reward of the activity,
- Loss of self-reflection,
- Sense of control over the activity (Czikszentmihalyi, 1990)
Additionally, Flow creates a strong feeling of joy and happiness in the current activity. It literally eliminates entropy of mind.
According to that, even and especially when we’re not overall happy, we should aim for reaching a state of Flow in our work in order to still be effective. Therefore, the activity has to meet some conditions:
How to reach Flow
There are four requirements for reaching Flow. The first requirement is a clear set of direction and goals (Czikszentmihalyi, 1990). So always set a goal for yourself and for the activity you’re doing. – that way you always know where to go.
A second condition is to get direct feedback (Czikszentmihalyi, 1990). Any action you take should give you feedback if the action leads to the desired outcome or goal. For example, if you play tennis, you’ll know more or less immediately if your last hit was good.
Therefore, it’s good to break down any process that leads to a goal into small and actionable steps. This can be for example breaking down a one-year goal into a weekly or daily plan.
If the process is broken down properly, you’ll know exactly which motions to go through. And thus, you’ll always know if you’re doing well or not – you’re getting immediate feedback.
The third requirement for Flow is that the level of challenge in the activity must match your abilities. If the task is too hard, you will be stressed out and anxious. If it’s too easy, you will experience boredom (Czikszentmihalyi, 1990). The task must represent a difficulty that still challenges you but perfectly matches your abilities.
This is also where breaking the bigger goal down helps. The desired outcome of a one-year goal might seem quite overwhelming, but broken down into accelerating weekly accomplishments, it’s not too hard to do and is very likely to match your abilities.
Finally, reaching Flow requires a distraction-free environment. Therefore, try to avoid any interruptions and turn any notifications on your phone or computer off. That ensures that you won’t be pulled out of your Flow state.
Summarized, no matter how your circumstances are: if you make sure you meet those criteria, you’ll be happy with the process of your work. You won’t be stopped by psychic entropy and you will finally get your things done fast and with full focus – not being drained by feeling sorry for yourself at all.
About the Author
Maurice Leibinn is the creator of Productive Energy Management – a method that helps people get a maximum amount of results in a minimum of time while sustaining their energy and avoiding any kind of overwhelm.
He is a productivity Coach serving serving overworked entrepreneurs and professionals. Read more...
Mihaly Csikszentmihályi (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row. ISBN 978-0-06-133920-2.