Why You Should Focus on Happiness, Not Productivity

For the first 20 years of our lives, we were taught and trained productivity. If we could finish the work we're supposed to finish, then we could play. If we are productive, then we're more likely to do well at school and get applauded.
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This post originally appeared on BrandMentalist.com.

We grew up learning the art of productivity -- from getting up early to go to school, attending all the classes, to finishing homework, going to bed early and getting up the next morning just to do it all over again. We learned to embrace productivity from when we first attended kindergarten all the way through to college.

For the first 20 years of our lives, we were taught and trained productivity. If we could finish the work we're supposed to finish, then we could play. If we are productive, then we're more likely to do well at school and get applauded. Why do we place so much emphasis on productivity? Why do we care so much about success at a very young age?

Then the next thing you know, you graduate and start working, you realize that time is money. No matter where you go, no matter who it is, they seem to place the emphasis on the value of time vs money. Is there something missing from the equation here? Why is everyone either chasing time or money? Is that really the meaning of life? Is that what everyone wants at the end of the day?

Below are the reasons on what is wrong with productivity.

1. Productivity and Success & Wealth

Our obsession with productivity is heavily tied to the American dream. We work hard so that we can buy the things we want, live comfortably, and hopefully, have the freedom to enjoy life later on in life. Writing about this actually reminds me of one thing my Dad said to me since I was little,

"There's no such thing as complete freedom. If you want to have financial freedom, then you lose your physical freedom. If you want to have physical freedom, then you lose financial freedom. But remember to never tie your happiness to success and vice versa."

Most people fall into this trap. They work so hard that they don't have time to enjoy life. They become stressed and sometimes depressed because they have such a high expectation of themselves. They work so hard in their 30s that they either burn out by their 40s or they get very sick that being alive becomes a huge blessing -- let alone trying to enjoy life and have fun. They spent most of their professional life gathering wealth only to end up using it to pay for hospital bills.

"The most dangerous risk of all -- the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later."

-- Randy Komisar, Monk and the Riddle: The Education of a Silicon Valley Entrepreneur


2. Productivity and Effectiveness

We all seem to be confused productivity with effectiveness. Being busy doesn't mean you are being effective. Finishing all of the tasks on your to-do list doesn't mean you've done all of them well.

Have you ever been in a situation where you have to work on different projects at once? I have and I absolutely hated it. I'd rather focus on one task at a time, get into the zone, make sure I do it well, and then move onto the next. But sometimes you can't help but have to work on multiple projects at once.

What I've realized after years of multitasking is that we have to learn to say no. Don't take all the work you can because of the opportunities or money. Opportunities will always come around. Your mental health won't. You have to take your health as priority. It's not worth feeling stressed and overwhelmed when you can slow down, have more time to think more clearly, and do better work as a result.

"People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things."

-- Steve Jobs


3. Productivity and Happiness

When you're happy and healthy, everything you do is a reflection of that. When you wake up fresh, inspired and happy, your brain runs at full speed. You become more productive and do better work as a result.

"I think when people say they dread going into work on Monday morning, it's because they know they are leaving a piece of themselves at home. Why not see what happens when you challenge your employees to bring all of their talents to their job and reward them not for doing it just like everyone else, but for pushing the envelope, being adventurous, creative, and open-minded, and trying new things?"

-- Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

This is why a lot of new companies are focusing on having a culture that embraces employees' happiness. Look at Zappos, Google, and Johnson & Johnson -- companies with big purposes and grand visions. They realize that employees' health and wellbeing are the most important things and that they are crucial factors that attract people to their companies. Moreover, they know the importance of play -- not only does it help employees recharge themselves and bond with their co-workers, it also fuels their creativity.


At the end of the day, no matter what we do, no matter what we try to achieve in life, we want to feel joy and be happy. Success means nothing without those you love around you. Wealth means nothing without good health. Cherish those and make the most of your life. Remember - never get too busy with life that you forget to live.


Mo is the founder of The Happiness Planner, a stationery line that focuses on happiness, positive thinking, mindfulness, and personal development. She also has a blog called BrandMentalist where she writes about modern life wisdoms, happiness, self-improvement, and entrepreneurship.