How Your Emotions Impact Your Personal Productivity, and Vice VersaAUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
"Choose the non-emotional response to any given situation and see how much easier your life becomes." – Naval Ravikant
A couple of decades ago I made the worst financial decision of my life. I invested almost all of my savings in a company that went bankrupt a few months later. Although at the time it seemed like a fairly rational decision (although not without risk), the truth is that it wasn’t. I made that decision in a moment of euphoria, just after I had made a small amount of money with a similar investment shortly before.
Have you ever regretted a decision you made in a moment of anger? Or in a moment of panic? Or even in a moment of extreme happiness? It turns out that a very high percentage of the decisions that can be described as “bad” (not only financial decisions, but also decisions about such important things as our future, our career or our relationships) are made in an inappropriate emotional state, so to speak.
We are emotional beings, and emotions rule us in many situations. When an emotion dominates us, reason is eclipsed, we forget the rules, we overlook procedures, we stop being meticulous and we make mistakes. It is not surprising, therefore, that these situations result in disastrous outcomes.
In the practice of martial arts, mental preparation is as important as physical training. When it comes to fighting, you don’t just need your skill; you need to stay calm so that you can use that skill in the best possible way.
Studies show that if you regularly dedicate five minutes a day to concentrate solely on your breathing —feeling the air flowing in and out, in a situation of total calm— you will increase your ability to concentrate, reduce your stress level and it will be more difficult for things that are happening to drag you away from what makes you happy. This is the basis of mindfulness. When you pay attention to your senses, your brain eliminates the noise that distracts you (thoughts, emotions, etc.) and activates the circuits that allow you to think in wandering mode.
Breathing-based meditation is a technique widely used in the training of elite military forces to learn to control moments of panic and increase attention span. Other studies have shown that this technique also helps you to be more creative and productive, as well as happier.
According to Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence and Focus, the practice of mindfulness lays the foundation for meta-awareness, that is, the ability to observe our mental processes instead of being drawn into them.
In no way is it about being extremely rational or killing emotions. Emotions make life worth living; they make us human. It is about using them appropriately, letting them drive us when necessary, but not allowing them to hijack our behavior.
More and more companies are realizing that managing employee stress is critical to maintaining high standards of productivity and creativity, and although many executives are still reluctant to engage in such activities, they are gradually introducing their employees to meditation and other forms of wellness-seeking.
Because productivity and happiness are somehow interconnected. When people feel happy, they tend to be more motivated, focused and engaged, which leads to increased productivity. Likewise, when people are productive and accomplish tasks, they often experience a sense of satisfaction that contributes to their overall happiness.
Call it what you want —meditation, reflection, mindfulness, introspection, etc.— but spending time thinking about yourself and getting to know yourself better will help you not only to better manage your emotions and make better decisions, but also to be happier. Exploring your inner self more closely leads you to know your strengths and weaknesses, to understand and accept yourself.
Any tool or system that allows you to gain greater control of your emotions will be an invaluable aid in making better decisions in those moments when the waters are not calm.
If I had practiced GTD 20 years ago, I probably would have cooled down the decision to make that investment long enough to be able to approach it from a more rational perspective.