Will happiness boost my productivity? Outlook good.

March 14, 2011 § 4 Comments

Today is the first day of Spring Break. To me, as with all graduate students at any stage in their programs, the term “break” does not mean “time off to lounge around and do absolutely nothing.” It typically means, as my friend Tawnysha describes it, “catch-up week.” Historically during Spring “Break,” I would go home to see my parents and then work on whatever needed working on. These days, I just stay here in town and work as much as I possibly can. Last night I went to sleep feeling pretty depressed about this coming week. I wish I could lounge around and do absolutely nothing for seven days straight. But I know that doing so would be academic suicide.

And then I woke up pretty bummed out that it was here: the non-break “spring break.” I continued to feel low…until I read Tori’s post from Friday, “‘Can you hear that? That’s me smiling, y’all’.” That’s when I realized the fatal flaw in my plan to work through my break. Although I created a work syllabus for myself (complete with due dates and completion goals), I failed to make any plans about my attitude while I worked. But, once again, I’m inspired by Tori’s very conscious decision to face current life obstacles and challenges with unflinching gleefulness.

And I do believe that Leo Babauta of zenhabits is on to something when he offers a rather lengthy list on how to achieve happiness while also being productive In addition to a few pieces of advice that might not be particularly applicable to my dissertation-productivity (like, say, #41: be romantic [not sure how to romance a dissertation…maybe I’m just not trying hard enough] and #13: simplify your finances [well…money sure would be a little bit easier to come by if I could get one of the fellowships….]), Babauta actually offers a number of useful pointers to infuse one’s productivity with a little peace of mind, a little zen. One pointer proves particularly helpful for my current stage:

40. Focus on benefits, not difficulties. If you find yourself struggling to do something, or procrastinating, stop thinking about how hard something is, or why you don’t want to do it. Focus instead on what benefits it will have for you, what opportunities it will create — the good things about it. By changing the way you see things, you can change how you feel about them and make it easier to get things done.

Okay. I do not want to get to work today. I really don’t. I want to lay around and watch trash TV and just completely veg out. But, this is obviously not productive. I have a chapter to write and submit to my dissertation director by Tuesday (the 22nd). So, step one in being furiously happy just for the spite of it? I am going to focus on the benefits of completing this chapter on time.


  • It will be a load off my mind. Pages are pages are pages. More pages written equals fewer pages left to write.
  • My dissertation director, who is already supportive, will have no doubt in her mind that I will finish on time, according to the plan.
  • I will graduate on time! Having confidence in my own ability to graduate on time is key for my productivity.
  • If I don’t have confidence in myself, then I will not be productive…and then I’ll definitely not be happy.

    So, here is my commitment to myself and to my readers: I absolutely will approach this week of mandatory productivity with a good mood and positive energy. I will produce pages, and I will submit a draft to my professor on time. And knowing that those things will happen makes me extraordinarily happy!

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    § 4 Responses to Will happiness boost my productivity? Outlook good.

    • Committing to be happy is so powerful, and it does greatly increase one’s energy and productive output. Happiness is a choice. Of course, I, personally, sometimes choose to be something other than happy. But even when I do that, I am aware it is my choice.

    • Tori Nelson says:

      Furiously happy, miss. I like it. You are doing The Bloggess proud, I’m sure 🙂

    • Lisa Kramer says:

      I love your choice to be furiously happy and thus productive, but I also recommend that you be kind to yourself. Give yourself a decadent break every day, because you are earning. Drink a cup of tea and watch a half hour of tv. Read a book in the bathtub. Breaks can help you focus, so don’t be such a cruel task master that you kill yourself. Okay?

    • You are such an inspiration with all your hard work on this dissertation! I know you’ll finish in time and what a relief that will be! Dr. A. Hab! Woohoo!

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