Happiness and productivity: 12 quick tips for boosting your happiness and productivity at work.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: 12 quick tips for boosting your happiness and productivity at work.

Of course, being happy at work depends mostly on how much you like your job. But there are also smaller steps that can boost your happiness, as well. Some of these steps are VERY small, but the fact that you’re taking steps to improve your situation itself boosts happiness.

1. Check for eyestrain by putting your hand to your forehead in a salute. If your eyes feel relieved, your work space is too bright.

2. Sit up straight with your shoulders down — every time I adjust my sitting position, I instantly feel more energetic and cheerier.

3. Get a phone headset. I resisted for a long time, because it looks so preposterous, but it’s really much more comfortable. Also, it lets me pace while I talk on the phone, which also looks preposterous, but is energizing.

4. Don’t keep candy on your desk. Studies show that people are much more likely to snack when a treat is within easy reach, and a handful of M&Ms each day could mean a weight gain of five pounds by year’s end.

5. Never say “yes” on the phone; instead, say, “I’ll get back to you.” When you’re actually speaking to someone, the desire to be accommodating is very strong, and can lead you to say “yes” without enough consideration. Along the same lines…

6. When deciding whether to say “yes,” imagine that you’re accepting a job that you’ll have to do next week. Don’t agree to something just because it seems so far off that it doesn’t seem onerous.

7. Don’t let yourself get too hungry. The Big Man goes without eating for hours and hours at a time, so once, trying to be helpful, I bought him a big bag of granola to keep in his desk. He ate the whole bag in one day and ended up sick as a dog. Lesson: eat regularly.

8. Take care of difficult calls, tasks, or emails as quickly as possible. Procrastinating makes them harder; getting them done gives a big boost of relieved energy.

9. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, think hard about how you spend your time. Be honest. How much time do you spend surfing the internet, looking for things you’ve misplaced, or doing a task that’s really someone else’s job? Also…

10. Let yourself stay ignorant of things you don’t need to know.

11. Go outside at least once a day, and if possible, take a walk. The sunlight and activity is good for your focus, mood, and retention of information.

12. Say “Good morning” to everyone. Social contact is cheering, and if you feel that you’re on good terms with all the people in your office, you’ll be happier each day. Also, it’s polite.

Interested in starting your own Happiness Project? If you’d like to take a look at my Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. No need to write anything more than “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Over the years, I have been mildly successful at adopting some of the tips above. In particular, sitting up straight, not keeping candy or other “bad” snacks on my desk, and taking care of difficult tasks early. However, the one that I have not considered doing, “Let yourself stay ignorant”, is a great tip. I think too many times too many people feel they need to know everything and it not only causes increased stress levels, but also leads to poorer performance overall (at least speaking from my experience).

  • I am now sitting up straight and ready to tackle some of the more difficult items on my to-do list! I manage to do most of these items, but I often fall into the trap of doing the easiest items first and procrastinating on the harder stuff. This of course just leads to more stress when I start running out of time and must do the harder things. Thanks!

  • MJ

    Take a quick walk away from your desk if you find yourself saying something like “OH F___ YOU!” to your email program and fantasizing about tossing your computer out of the window. Especially if this happens before 9 am.

  • I especially like the tips about saying ‘Yes’. It’s so easy to agree to something and then regret it later. Being assertive is something we could teach our children more. And ourselves, of course.

  • A sign that I need this post: my first thought when I read the title was, “Wait-it’s Wednesday???”

  • EscapeVelocity

    @Trish–me, too.
    When I’m being really, really organized, I package my snacks for the week (pecans and raisins) in little containers, one for each day, on Sunday. I keep them in a drawer so I can’t see them.

  • Cara

    #10. Yes, yes, YES!!

  • I used to keep chocolates at my desk, which worked okay because I’m not a big fan of chocolates — but I just wanted to leave all my cubicle visitors with a little treat if they visited. =)

  • Thank you, I just sat up much straighter. 🙂

  • Thank you for these tips. Not only are they marvelous, they’re actually do-able!

  • Love #12. Manners these days have really gone by the wayside, in driving, in business interactions. Everyday manners go far in keeping personal interactions comfortable, easy, and pleasant! So why not? (Thank-you!)

  • Paige

    LOVE, LOVE these tips, Gretchen! I especially love #7. I snack through out the day at my desk. If I’m hungry, I run out of fuel and I am not as productive and “on” as I could be.

  • Michelle

    Best tips ever. Thanks Gretchen.

  • MiniExec

    Hmmmm….love most of the tips, but just not sure about the staying ignorant one. I think that really depends on what you are looking for out of your job. Sometimes, one of the best way to get yourself to the next level, it to make yourself aware of as much as possible.

  • beth nc

    10 is interesting. On the one hand, as an earlier poster said, it can be good to make yourself aware of as much as possible.
    Yet, my first thought on that point is – gossip and office politics can take a whole lot of time and energy without making you better at work or happier.

  • These are fantastic tips, Gretchen.
    Thanks for pulling them together.
    Numbers 2,3, 5, and 8 are perhaps my favorites.
    As for the discussion on #10, I’d say that there are times to be knowledgeable, and times where it’s best to be ignorant.
    The latter certainly applies when it comes to any which involves the promotion of negative energy.
    Anne Holmes

  • Having a laptop and a small apartment with no office, I’m so bad with my posture. Thanks for the reminder on that one! The other tips are all pretty awesome too.

  • I just received your newsletter and I love this entry – I especially resonate with #5, #10 and #12. But I don’t work in an office so I am just looking at it from a ‘life in general’ sort of vantage point. Setting boundaries has never been my long suit, but not too long ago it finally dawned on me that I don’t have to reply instantly to someone’s request. I owe it to myself and to them to think on it a bit. To myself because I don’t want to agree to doing something that might not ring true for me, and for them because you never want agree to something and then end up resenting the person who made the request just because you didn’t have the gumption to say no. As far as #12 goes, this always sets a nice tone, but it frequently amazes me that some people will just walk right on by you without saying a word – just have to keep putting it out there though.
    Thanks for sharing these with us.

  • cja

    Any tips for those who work from home? I’m a telecommuter and tend to sit all day at the computer (with brief bathroom and lunch breaks). I get an amazing amount of work done – in fact, I get way more done than I ever do when I’m in the office – but I miss having people to talk to, a printer to walk to, etc.

  • Jason

    Tip #12 is great. It is actually one of the reasons I am moving on to another job; nobody here says “Good morning!” or “Good-bye” or “Hey, how are things?”. Not even my boss. I can go 2 weeks without him saying anything to me, even though he sees me and walks by my desk 10x every day. I think it is a result of the company growing nearly 200% in the course of 6 months…all the original people talk amongst one another but they seem to forget that they have another 40 colleagues that would like to feel welcomed.