If you have a start-up or small business you could probably do with a few extra hours in your day – could you imagine what an extra hour would do to that email inbox that seems to constantly replenish itself? Or how much further you could push your business on social media working on new strategies with your Facebook ads agency!
Let’s not kid ourselves – a couple of extra hours in bed wouldn’t go amiss either!
Well, economists at the University of Warwick have good news, they say you’re sat an extra 2 or 4 hours a day – depending on your current frame of mind. We’ll explain where those hours are hidden – and how you can unlock them…
Where are you on the happiness scale?
The research that’s been done looks primarily at happiness levels in business owners and employees – and has produced 2 interesting figures. The first is 12% – that’s the amount of extra productivity shown in workers who are operating from a position of general ‘happiness’ when at work. The second figure is 10% – this is the amount of lost productivity when staff are working with less than average levels of happiness.
What does that mean in real terms?
12%, 10% – they’re all pretty abstract terms when you’re sitting at your desk with a pile of work to get through. So, let’s look at what that really means.
Say you work a 10-hour day – not at all uncommon for someone starting a business or pushing to get ahead. Your general mood is less than happy, meaning you’re one of those people operating 10% behind others in terms of productivity. Working at less than your potential probably means you’re not getting through as much as you’d like, you’re having to put in some sleepless nights to hit deadlines or you’re not selling as much as you’d like to.
If you could magic yourself happy, you’d be looking at being able to do 12-hours-worth of work in 10 hours. You’d deliver an extra sale for every 4 you currently do. You’d generate 60 new customer leads for every 50 you currently create. You’d produce 6 new business quotes instead of 5.
Or, if you’ve still got your eye on those extra couple of hours in bed – you’d get through your current 10-hour day in 8 hours – that’s around 12 extra presses of ‘snooze’ for those who need to recharge their batteries.
The 4 happiness hacks
Sadly, there’s no quick or magic route to happiness – but being aware of the influencing factors on your happiness is the absolute best place to begin if you want to unlock that extra time feeling good could offer you. They are:
Serotonin and dopamine are two of the major ‘feel good’ hormones in our system. People who experience depression are often found to be lacking in either the hormone itself, or have an issue that prevents their body being influenced by its production.
- Light – Make sure you get some expose to UV rays through your day. That doesn’t mean you have to be on a Thai beach – instead just being outdoors, even if that’s just a couple of short walks, means you’re kick starting your hormone production.
- Exercise – There are very few things that inspire the creation of feel good hormones like exercise – and don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you have to join a gym right away. Walking, running, dancing, fitness classes, some light weight training – the list is huge and all inspire consistently increased levels of dopamine and serotonin.
You might think fatigue is something that occurs only because of prolonged physical exertion – actually you’re far more likely to experience the symptoms of psychological fatigue. Irritable? Can’t find inspiration? Easily distracted? These are all signs that you’re mentally worn-out.
- Rest – Working long hours can be a vicious cycle, the more you work, the more tired you become – meaning you get less done and you have to work longer to achieve anything. Sometimes you just need to pull the plug for a few days. Sleep (but not excessively), watch some mindless movies, don’t take any work calls – letting your mind cool down means it’s more equipped for work when it matters.
- Do something you love – There’s nothing like spending time doing something you enjoy to give you a kick in the right direction. Got a favourite place you like to visit? Family you enjoy spending time with? A neglected hobby you’d like to revive? Schedule time to do it fairly frequently – and you’ll feel energised.
If you’ve got good intentions but you can’t seem to get started you might want to consider if lethargy is holding you back. Where fatigue is the feeling that you’ll crash if you keep going, lethargy is feeling like you just can’t get out of the starting blocks…
- Eat well – managing your diet is the biggest key to maintaining a good energy level. Quite simply, if you eat sugary and processed foods you’re tying up your brain and body with the processing of this food. There are great resources out there on healthy eating – but as a quick fix, tip the balance of your diet toward ‘whole’ foods – they’re the ones that don’t need an ingredients list to tell you what’s in them!
Low or bad moods
Human moods are affected by a huge host of variables – way way too many to ever keep tabs on or control. Therefore, if your mood dictates your productivity or relationships you’re effectively rolling the dice and only being happy if it’s a double-6.
Talk to someone – it can be very very difficult to get a handle on your moods, there’s just so much that can be out of your immediate consciousness that’s having an impact. Talking to someone can be the key to working out what’s getting the better of your brain. Have a look for a counsellor – either privately or through your GP – it’s a bit like having a good brain-storming session, but with your mood and productivity at the centre of the picture.
Take time to observe yourself – The key to handling low or bad moods can sometimes just be understanding that it’s influencing you – but not owning you. Sit quietly and think about what’s happening – when you realise that your mood is more like a cloud above your head rather than an unchangeable attitude you’ll realise you can shake it off, instead of being slave to it.
“I don’t have time for all this!”
We know! No one has time – until you understand that these things buy you time. Would you swap 30 minutes of exercise for an extra 2 hours of work? Understand that if you’re not maximising your mood then you’re letting your time trickle away. You wouldn’t throw away £10 notes – so start doing these things to make sure you’re not throwing away your time – it’s an even more precious resource…