Friday, October 5, 2012

Happiness and productivity

In his blog post 6 things I do to be constantly happy, Joel Gascoigne, the founder of Buffer, shares six habits he maintains to sustain his happiness and productivity. I want to share some books, articles, and apps related to each point.
  1. Wake up early. While Joel's first point sounds like a focus on when he wakes up, he actually emphasizes getting enough sleep. T.S. Wiley's book Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival discusses the effects on our health of inadequate amounts of sleep and of extending our day with artificial light.

  2. Exercise daily. Set realistic goals to develop a maintainable exercise routine. Joel wisely points out that achieving your exercise goals helps you gain confidence in tackling challenges in other aspects of your life. Routines vary from person to person depending on physical ability and motivation. Figure out what works for you. In The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet, Robb Wolf advocates regular moderate activity for optimal health. Not only are extreme routines difficult to keep up with for a long period of time, but Wolf explains that they often can have adverse effects on your health by throwing off your body's cortisol balance.

  3. Have a habit of disengagement. The New York Times article You’re Bored, but Your Brain Is Tuned In discusses research showing that occasional boredom is an important part of how we learn, solve problems, and develop new ideas. The author describes boredom as the state your brain is in once it has decided there is nothing further to absorb from its current setting. Neuroscientists have used brain-imaging technology to show that the brain is still very active in this bored, or disengaged, state.

  4. Regularly help others. In their journal article Volunteer Work and Well-Being, Peggy Thoits and Lyndi Hewitt discuss the results from their study, which show that volunteer work improves six elements of well-being: happiness, life satisfaction, self- esteem, sense of control over life, physical health, and depression. (Journal of Health and Social Behavior 2001, Vol 42, (June): 115-131.)

  5. Learn new skills. Recent research shows that the human brain is able to reshape itself to process information more quickly and more efficiently and does so when confronted with new challenges. Lumosity, an online brain training program I subscribe to, bases their program on this research. Their games are designed to improve core cognitive skills, such as attention, memory, fluid intelligence, and math to "help people do better in school, perform more effectively at work, and live a more productive life." (The Science Behind Lumosity)

  6. Have multiple ways to "win" each day. It is easy to get excited over significant accomplishments (e.g., doing well on a big exam, getting a job, etc.), but learn to consciously give yourself credit for seemingly unimpressive tasks. For instance, break up a long project into short daily tasks. I told my sister that I would fold 1,000 cranes for her wedding. I set a goal of folding at least ten cranes a day, which means I will be finished a few months before the wedding. In addition, I feel really great about checking if off my to do list each day. Joe's Goals is a really simple online habit tracking tool, and Wunderlist is my favorite task management app.

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