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Happiness Makes Us More Productiove... and vice-versa

Common experience is being confirmed by scientific research that when we are happy we are more productive. More surprising, perhaps, is that the inverse is also true: we are happier when we are more productive.

Research by Daniel Sgroi and others at the University of Warwick has shown that happiness can affect productivity up to 12% or more. That's a real difference. ( What's more, productivity - even in mundane tasks - produces seretonin and oxycotin, the "happiness hormones."

Once we are convinced that there is a causal connection between productivity and happiness (both ways), the real question is how do we make that happen more often? It isn't just magic or chance. We can actually induce this cycle of happiness-productivity, in virtually any task or work.

"Mindfulness" is a buzz word that really means "paying close attention to what is happening right now, what you are doing in the present." It is the key, it turns out, that unlocks happiness-productivity. Have you ever been so engrossed by an activity, so excited about it and so engaged, that you forgot about everything else for that time you were working on it? That's it.

Mindfulness is the opposite of multi-tasking. It is single-tasking. In our world of overstimulation and distraction, juggling multiple web browsers and email and files and calendars, we are everywhere and all the time virtually forced into distraction. In our minds we are often rehashing the past or worrying about the future - both scenarios we have virtually no control over and our fretting has no effect on. Most often, we are simply doing one thing and thinking about another. Studies have shown that multi-tasking actually diminishes productivity, rather than enhancing it.

If we can focus our attention on one task, one issue, one challenge at a time, we are much more productive and more satisfied with our selves.

"The Pomodoro Technique"

The Pomodoro technique is simply an organizational model that encourages single-tasking, developed by Francesco Cirillo. Specify a certain length of time - if single-tasking is new to you, try something short, on the order of 10 minutes or so. If you can concentrate longer, some studies show that an hour is about the maximum for human concentration/productivity/happiness and health. Set a soft alarm. Then remove all distractions: silence the phone and email alerts, close the door, put up a "do not disturb" sign, whatever.

Determine what you want to accomplish. Spend that time working on one task (at a time). Focus only on the task at hand. If your thoughts begin to wander, gently nudge them back to task, without judgment or guilt. Do not allow yourself to be distracted; just focus on the single task you have chosen, until your time is up.

Once your "pomodoro time" is up, take a short break: do some deep breathing, get a drink of water, briefly converse with a co-worker, watch one two-minute silly video online (be careful not to be sucked into the internet!). If you've been sitting, especially if you've been in front of a screen, stand up and move around... run a file upstairs or deliver a message by hand. Whatever - just relax from your focused time.

Then enter into another period of focused work. ("Pomodoro" means "tomato," so I sometimes call it "my tomato time" with my motto: "time to get saucy!")

It might be easier to try this at home first: doing the dishes, cleaning the house, folding laundry. No distractions - no watching tv or listening to the radio or having imaginary conversations with people who commented on your Facebook feed.

Or maybe you have a few tasks at work that could use your undivided attention.

But this is not about the work. It is about you.

Tomato time is about your happiness. If making you more productive at work or home is a benefit that goes hand-in-hand with your happiness, all the better. This isn't about making you a better drone. It is about self-care. Paying attention to what you are doing (and only what you are doing) can bring more happiness than a soak in a hot-tub or your favorite sit-com.

If productivity makes us more happy makes us more productive, then single-tasking is a simple and proven way to jumpstart that spiral of happiness.

For more information on the Pomodoro Technique, visit

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