Is Focus The Key To Your Happiness?


I’m often reminded of how wonderful it is to be working now. Not only do I get to work with the greatest technology ever known, but I am paid to interact with it on a daily basis. I get to wear pretty much anything I want to the office, and that’s not even the greatest perk I have when I head in. When I sit down with my boss for a one-on-one talk about how things are going, I am frequently asked about my happiness.

Never do I remember being asked this question early on in my career. Despite my young age, I remember being repeatedly told that my paycheck was the only “thank you” I deserved. My how times have changed.

Happiness is something discussed in human relations circles, as well as industry leaders. As pointed out by agile grand poo-bah Jeff Sutherland, ensuring the happiness of your company can produce 50 times the productivity. When he’s not busy passing on his wisdom of Scrum, he’s teaching many of us on how important it is that we are happy at work.

Since then, many have tried to take the idea down a pegor two. While important to acknowledge the limitations of any measurement in the workplace, there have been numerous studies that have backed up Mr. Sutherland.

The basics are simple: everyone is anonymously asked how happy they have been recently and then follow up with open-ended questions about how things could improve for you. Individually, a nameless survey on this information is useless, but when grouped together it can signal good or bad times coming for your company. Imagine the possibilities this information could open up.

The best part is when you take this one step further. If happy people produce better work, enjoy coming in, and gladly sacrifice for the greater good…is there one specific thing you could do to improve happiness?

Matt Killingsworth, as part of his doctoral research at Harvard, created a survey where people were asked at various points in the day how happy they were. You can still sign up, I highly encourage it. Amongst the metrics measured were if the subject wanted to be doing what they were currently in the middle of, what exactly it was, and if they were thinking about something else. The most telling stat was the focus of the subject.

In his TED talk about the subject, Killingsworth said respondents were overwhelmingly happier when they stayed in the moment of whatever they were doing. As ridiculous as it sounds, thinking about your commute while you are in the middle of it produces a higher happiness rating than the music trying to distract you.

Peter Saddington addressed the idea of multitasking and how study after study shows it to be a myth in his Agile 2013 presentation “The Science of High Performance Teams”. Not only are we incapable of putting 100 percent behind two things at the same time, it actually diminishes the results of all tasks conducted.

So, if happy employees produce better work, and focused people are generally happier, wouldn’t it make sense to find any way possible to train yourself to focus at work?

Many roles make this tough, I know mine does. Problem is, sitting in a meeting while responding to emails means you aren’t writing your best while not retaining anything from the meeting concurrently. Will this kind of shift mean radical changes in how we work? Absolutely, but the results of batching work into a series of Pomodoro Techniques can make all the difference in your happiness.

Read more "Is Focus The Key To Your Happiness?"

Blog Post: What Do You Mean By ‘Happy’?

With all due respect to my paternal grandfather, who died nearly a decade ago, he would be shaking his head at this discussion. He would question why we, as a society, are putting so much effort and care into the notion of happiness. Not only does the phrase Gross National Happiness exist in today’s lexicon, countries are rated and ranked based upon it.

The link for today’s posting came from The Atlantic, one of my favorite publications. It the article, the base argument against happiness is we learn and grow more from struggle and defeat. The writer even references a Nazi concentration camp survivor. That is a struggle I will (hopefully) never know. While that story provides a powerful support to the thesis, and makes for better reading, it is not really valid for today’s work culture.

This is not an argument for doing whatever makes you happy in life. Common sense must, at some point, enter the conversation. We cannot quit a job because it doesn’t “make us happy”. Studies surrounding the divorce rate show we aren’t really any happier because of the casual approach to nuptial vows.

I believe the term “happiness” needs a bit of a makeover.

When product development gurus like Seth Godin and Jeff Sutherland reference happiness, there are really referring to engagement. We must regularly talk to each other in the work place to find out how happy we are with how things are going. Creating a “safe” environment for sharing of constructive comments on productivity, culture and direction of the company result in a bevy of positive results. Tops amongst them are a more engaged and productive work force. A quick view of many in the list of top places to work tell me some realize the power in their people. Is your business one of them?

Make sense? Sure. Adoption is a different story. Next time the question of how happy you are enters your gray matter, stop and rephrase:

“How engaged am I in my life?”

Engaging in the passions of your family’s life helps insert you more into the rearing of your children and the development of your marriage. Engaging in the core values of your company results in new products being development, business processes evolving and growth of engagement by your co-workers (maybe even your boss). I could keep going, but you get the drift. 

One thing I happily agree with the writer of this article is on purpose. We must have a purpose that focuses not on ourselves, but those around us. Give yourself the purpose of engagement instead of disconnection and you will see the world change beneath your feet.

Blog Post: What Do You Mean By ‘Happy’?

Read more "Blog Post: What Do You Mean By ‘Happy’?"

Your own personal champion

I’m going to venture a little vulnerability for a minute in regards to my own personal psyche in the workplace. While it manifests itself in all parts of my life, I think we can all identify with the concept of having someone in your corner. We have them at first, someone had to hire you […]

Read more "Your own personal champion"

How is it possible for people to be so happy when it’s so cold?

An interesting study published by the good folks at MIT shows the top 40 countries ranked in terms of happiness. The more information is released on the study of happiness in culture, the more I am convinced that engaging members of your society is where something truly great is made.

There is certainly some room for politicizing of this data, because the top 7 have somewhat different systems than the US. Instead of going there, I suggest doing a little deeper of a dive into what makes these cultures so engaging. Once we inspect that, bring it home to yours. When I say “home”, I don’t mean your city, state of country (although that is a viable application). I’m referring to the house you live, the place you work, the people you interact with on a daily basis. 

Find out how to involve others in the daily culture around you. Ask them what fulfills them in their work, families and communities. Once that happens, you will find people are happier with what they spend their time doing. There is a mountain of data suggesting the happier someone is with their situation in life, truly great things come from them. Imagine if you had an entire team, division or company invested in finding that harmony. 

It’s a place I would want to work for sure!

How is it possible for people to be so happy when it’s so cold?

Read more "How is it possible for people to be so happy when it’s so cold?"