How to redefine your productivity and prioritize happiness

By Stephanie Newsham

Posted on 10-29-2020

There’s no denying that things are a bit more complicated these days as we work and learn from home. As we all try to gauge our happiness and do our best work, one thing is true – happiness really matters, especially when we’re trying to be productive.

There are many ways to make this happen. Creating to-do lists, having a defined at-home work space, and prioritizing time for yourself are just a few examples. No matter how you approach happiness, the positive results are real. A joint study conducted earlier this year by MIT, the University of Oxford, and Erasmus University Rotterdam found that workers are 13 percent more productive when happy.

My approach to happiness has certainly evolved this year, but the goal of being satisfied with life and work remains constant. Here are some of the tips I have used to help me along the way, both personally and professionally.

Tip 1: Happiness and productivity have changed

This year, we were forced to work and live in a whole new way. It’s been painful in a lot of ways, but it’s also taught us to slow down, and prioritize things that really matter. I’ve heard from so many friends that the complexities that this year brought really helped them simplify their lives in general. We’re no longer going 100 miles an hour, but are more aware of how we spend our time, who we spend it with, and what we miss and don’t miss.

I think the long-term effects of being forced to change so abruptly will be positive. It’s been a chance to hit the “reset” button and reshape how and where we live, what’s truly important, and evaluate what makes us happy. It’s also an opportunity to work smarter and more efficiently. I think we’ll be much more intentional with our time from now on.

Tip 2: Work satisfaction equals work happiness

To me, happiness at work is enjoying what I do, the people I work with, and producing results that add value to the business. Feeling like you’re a part of a winning team and being surrounded by people who are on the same mission – and know how to have fun doing it – is also part of how I define happiness. We spend so much of our lives working; it should be something that you find fulfillment and satisfaction in, and you’re proud of.

Being happy while working not only affects you, but those around you. Coming from a place of happiness versus a place of frustration sets the tone for your days. It increases your level of engagement, improves communication, and inspires others to follow suit. It also improves your health and well-being.

Tip 3: Pause and start with gratitude

Discovering happiness is entirely possible, but it does take some effort. On particularly tough days, my husband and I will make time, usually at the end of the day, to pause and verbally list what we’re grateful for. It usually starts out with something small and seemingly insignificant, but before you know it, we realize there’s so much to be grateful for. Just like that, my perspective is changed, my attitude is better, and I can move forward. Keeping a journal of these things is also helpful. When I lose perspective, it’s nice to have a list to look back at. The situation or challenge may still be there, but I’m recharged and feel more prepared to take it on. I have to remind myself that if I’m in an unhappy situation, it’s only temporary. Nothing stays the same forever.

Tip 4: Happiness is not a solo activity

You’re not on your own when it comes to happiness at work. Business leaders have a responsibility to create the space for trust and communication so happiness can flourish. Allowing and inviting employees to be their best selves by providing a safe environment to be honest, providing support for new and creative ideas — including resources and tools, and setting realistic expectations, boundaries, and limits that work for both parties is so important. I think maintaining and promoting a healthy work/life balance plays a major role in creating happy employees.

Tip 5: Find your happy (work) place

I’m expecting my first child soon, and the support that I’ve received from Adobe and my colleagues here has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s humbling, quite honestly. Navigating a major life event that’s supposed to be happy during a pandemic was not something I thought I’d ever have to do. But, being a part of a company and team that’s so supportive has turned what could’ve been an extremely stressful experience into a pretty pleasurable one.

My manager and coworkers not only created an environment where I could be open and honest and set expectations, they gave me the resources and tools I needed to do my job, prepare for the next chapter, and have kept the lines of communication open. It’s in the little things, too. From sharing their own experiences, offering tips and tricks, and showing an overall genuine excitement, they’ve made me feel extremely grateful to be part of this team and organization. It’s not something I’ll ever forget or take for granted. And, despite my newfound happiness at home, I’ll also be happy to return back to my work when the time’s right.

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