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How To Be Happy And Productive

If, like me, you are chronically online, there are probably a few memes that live in your head rent-free (your Roman Empire, to use another bit of internet culture).

The ‘How Do You Do Fellow Kids’ meme of Steve Buscemi undercover in a school in 30 Rock floats into my head most days. The Spiderman pointing at Spiderman meme is a regular occurrence in my thoughts. And the ‘This Is Fine’ dog is practically wallpapered on the inside of my brain.

But the meme I think of most is probably this one (which the internet misattributes to the author James Baldwin, but seems to have originated from a 2019 tweet by @thetrudz).

A possum looking down from a perch with text around it: "Dream job? Sorry I don't dream of labour"

But, alas, we all exist in late-stage Capitalism, so labour we must.

However, being productive doesn’t have to mean being miserable.

Can I Be Happy and Productive?

The average person spends a third of their life at work, so it makes sense that if we want to prioritise a happy life, we should ensure our work days are happy, too.

But with grim idioms like “blood, sweat and tears” and “nose to the grindstone” being used to describe working hard, it can feel like getting sh*t done has to be a bleak affair. So much of modern entrepreneurial culture and productivity advice is based on hustling, grinding and squeezing every drop of energy out of your day. Not very joyful, eh?

It almost feels like being happy and productive are mutually exclusive…

However, according to research from the University of Warwick, happiness makes people around 12% more productive (theskillsnetwork.com). And a similar study at a British telecommunications firm, run by Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, found a similar link between happiness and increased productivity levels (forbes.com).

So being happy at work isn’t just good for your soul, it actually helps you get more done. And even though your productivity level is not a measure of your worth, getting things done does feel pretty nice.

 

A young white woman with glasses drinking a coffee whilst working on a laptop, looking happy and productive

Tips For Being Happy and Productive

Gamify Your Day

Games are fun, right? So why not try making your day more like a video game? Gamification makes your to-do list more exciting, so you feel like you’re completing a quest or earning points while working on your daily tasks and long-term goals.

Gamifying your day could look like…

  • Using the Pomodoro Technique to generate motivation. Set a 25-minute timer and aim to complete one task; take a 5-minute break, rinse, and repeat. This strategy helps you focus and creates a low-stakes sense of urgency. Pomofocus is a lovely free tool for this.
  • Breaking your big tasks into small achievable goals/mini quests, to make completing them feel less overwhelming, and give you the sense of accomplishment that comes with getting stuff done.
  • Racing against yourself to see if you can complete essential tasks in quicker and quicker times. Don’t do this for everything though, or you’ll burn yourself out.
  • Using a daily habit and productivity app like Habitica to reframe your to-do list as an actual game.
  • Giving yourself a little treat when you complete one of your daily goals.

And whilst you’re at it, listen to video game soundtracks — they’re created specifically to keep you focused and add a sense of fun. You might like the motivating energy of Mario or the peaceful routine of Stardew Valley, or for some pure meta nostalgia, put The Sims 1 soundtrack on, pretend you’re a Sim and get building that Logic skill.

Take Proper Breaks

If you don’t take proper breaks, you’ll have no energy for joy or productivity. And if you’re thinking, “Holly, I’m resting right now… I was scrolling through Instagram and saw this post…” Sorry, scrolling on your phone isn’t really resting. Your brain is still processing vast amounts of data, even if you’re not consciously “seeing” it.

Here are some break activities that actually allow your brain to rest.

  • Looking at nature (even photos) and listening to nature sounds have been scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Shift out of fight-or-flight mode with a Yoga Nidra meditation. You can find lots of free options on YouTube.
  • Do some breathwork. Breathing in certain ways, like box breathing or the physiological sigh, tells your body to calm down by removing CO2 and slowing your heart rate.
  • Go for a walk. Self-generated forward movement helps quiet the amygdala, the part of your brain that perceives threat.
  • Read a book or listen to an audiobook. Great for mentally stimulating your brain without overwhelming it with data or adding to your screen time.

Ways to Be More Happy And Productive As A Business Owner

Be The Best Boss

Being badly managed can be hugely detrimental to your happiness at work. Research from The Frontline Leadership Project found that 57% of people quit because of their boss (forbes.com).

If you’ve already made the leap to freelancing or running you’re own business, you might think that you’re immune from this cause of unhappiness. But if you’re your own boss, ensure you’re a nice one!

Give yourself a proper lunch break. Take that walk in the middle of the day. Schedule time off (and actually stick to it).

And don’t put up with things that would make you quit a salaried job (especially if they’re not bringing you closer to your bigger-picture goals). For example, you might not be able to dump a bad client, but can you adjust how you work with them? It’s so important to recognise problems and make changes when you’re the one in charge.

Mug with the 'Best Boss Ever' written on it

Make Connections

In addition to the joy of stopping for a cup of coffee whenever you like and wearing your comfiest clothes all day, working from home has scientifically proven benefits for health and happiness. In a review funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research Health Protection Research Unit in Emergency Preparedness and Response (fun title), researchers found that folks who work from home eat more healthily, feel less stressed, and have lower blood pressure (The Guardian).

However, one thing that can be lacking in a home-working environment is, well… other people. If you’re a freelancer or solopreneur, remote work with no colleagues can feel lonely. Thankfully, there are lots of ways to make business pals and get the social connection of an office (with none of the drama).

Online coworking

Freelancer Magazine offers free virtual co-working three days per week. There are women-focused, UK-based groups like Wild Coworking. Flow Club is international and has different lengths and types of coworking sessions 24 hours a day.

In-person coworking

Most cities have official co-working spaces that offer day passes or free trials. There are also apps like Swurf that connect remote workers with cafes and restaurants, or Happy Freelancers run co-working and social events

Accountability buddies

Are any of your pals business owners? Regular meetings in coffee shops with self-employed friends to can give you a real boost to get a bunch of tasks done. You can also find virtual accountability buddies at Focusmate.

More Ways To Run A Happy and Productive Business

If you’ve found this blog helpful, we’ve written a whole eBook filled with tried-and-tested tips on filling your work days with joy: The Good Egg Guide to Building a Feel Good Business. Perfect for freelancers, solopreneurs, side hustlers or small business owner who would love to build a happy and productive business. Download it for free here.

Want tips on how to build a feel-good business?

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