5 Tips for a Happier, More Productive Day

A happy you means happy results.

BY Bradley Van Aardt (MSc Engineering) CTO, Workpoints

1.  Have Goals:

Face it, you’re going to be at work. A lot. The best way to get through the tougher days and to achieve that sense of accomplishment is to set and work towards a few key goals. These can range from the simple “Do one blog post per week”, to the larger self-actualising goals such as “Getting a diploma or degree”.

Why is this important? Goals get you focussed on the bigger picture and help you to align your priorities during the day, instead of experiencing the ‘hamster on a wheel’ feeling.

2. Have Smoke Breaks (but don't smoke in them):

We all know that smoking is terrible for your health. But one part of the smoker culture is beneficial - frequent breaks, particularly those breaks that get you moving. According to this New York Times article taking regular breaks from work increases productivity – as the brain is not equipped to concentrate intensely all the time.

One technique, known as the Pomodoro Technique requires you to use a small physical timer (like a kitchen timer) to ensure you have periods of concentration and rest. It's been sworn to work by many a computer programmer.

3. Thank others at work (appreciate the small things):

Throughout your working life, you'll be with people that can help you or hinder you. You want more of the help type. So how do you turn average work relationships into mutually beneficial relationships? The key, according to the Harvard Business Review is to up your appreciation skills.

They say that “in high-performing teams, the expression of positive feedback outweighs that of negative feedback by a ratio of 5.6 to 1. By contrast, low-performing teams have a ratio of 0.36 to 1”. So it really does pay to see the bright side, and thank people sincerely for their help. The rule of thumb? Make sure you give way more positive than negative feedback. It can only help team morale and productivity.

4.   Learn to say "no" (and focus instead):

Ever been overwhelmed by tasks given to you by seemingly everyone and anyone? Which task do you tackle first? How do you even get started?

It happens to everyone at some point, even presidents. Former USA President Eisenhower is quoted as saying “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent”.

What it boils down to is understanding the difference between other people’s priorities that are not valuable to you (generally ‘urgent’ tasks) and tasks that are important to your goals and progress (or otherwise ‘important’ tasks). After you understand what category a task falls within, you can prioritise it, push back, delegate or just plan to drop it, i.e. the “No”.

A method to help with this is known as the Eisehower Urgent/Important Matrix.

There are only 4 categories:

  1. Urgent and important: Do these first - they are generally super critical and a road block to any other activity.
  2. Not urgent, but important: This is where you want to spend most of your time - these are tasks that align to your goals.
  3. Urgent, but not important: These are generally other people’s deadlines. Here you want to exercise your push back or delegation skills. Minimise time spent here.
  4. Not urgent and not important: These are the “why bother?” tasks - tasks that you should just drop.

Someone who took this to the extreme was NASA engineer Richard T. Whitcomb, the father of modern aeronautical design. Through his designs and experiments the aviation industry saved billions each year on fuel costs. According to his biographers “The best idea any of his supervisors came up with was to leave him alone except to help him through those administrative duties distracting him from what he really wanted to be doing”.

5.   Don't skip meals:

Sometimes old school advice is the best. Don’t skip breakfast or other meals. While we skip lunch to try make up time, all that generally happens is that we pig out on bad foods later on. Fitday gives some reasons as to how it affects energy and ability.

It is painfully obvious to everyone that skipping meals can make the best of us tired, un-focused, or at the worst, the dreaded Hangry! Any of these things is obviously not good for productivity or helpful to co-workers.

A better option is to setting up lunch runs with colleagues. According the workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman, sharing lunch with co-workers is an easy productivity booster. It helps by building relationships, and having good relations at work increases wellbeing and a sense of support. You can also informally catch-up on shared tasks or plans.

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