Want to Be More Productive? Manage your… mood!

There are lots of factors that influence your productivity on a day to day basis: The weather, the kinds of foods you eat, how much and how well you’ve slept the night before, the importance of the task, how motivated you are, etc.

One underestimated and often overlooked factor is your mood, with several studies now showing the importance of emotions on your performance. This makes mood-management an important piece in the overall productivity puzzle.

In this article, I want to show you just how important your mood is when it comes to your productivity — and I’ll also show you six of my top mood management strategies.

Your Mood and It’s Key Role in Productivity

A new study suggests that your early day mood may be critical for having a productive day. The researchers specifically looked at the role of employee moods at the start of the workday. Here are their key findings:

Mood had a strong effect on the employees’ productivity. A good mood resulted in an improvement in both work quality and work quantity. A bad mood resulted in less work produced and lowered quality.

Another interesting finding was that employees’ moods when they clocked in tended to affect how they felt for the rest of the day. If you start your day in a great mood, chances are you’ll feel great all day long — and vice versa.

Even more interesting, the researchers found that turning a bad mood into a good mood is easier and happens more often than the opposite. In other words, turning a bad mood around is more likely than losing a good mood. (We’ll come back to this important piece of information later in this article.)

Another study found that happiness led to a 12% increase in productivity, while unhappy workers were shown to be 10% less productive. The researchers concluded:

“We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings.”

Other research points to a delicate interplay between mood and procrastination (which is of course heavily linked with productivity). Unsurprisingly, we procrastinate a lot more when we’re in a bad mood. Daniel Akst writes in his book Temptation: Finding Self-Control in an Age of Excess:

“Procrastination is a mood-management technique, albeit (like eating or taking drugs) a shortsighted one. But we’re most prone to it when we think it will actually help… Far and away the most procrastination occurred among the bad-mood students who believed their mood could be changed and who had access to fun distractions. This group spent nearly 14 of their 15 minutes of prep time goofing off! Students who believed their bad mood was frozen (those who were not given a supposedly mood-lifting candle) spent less than 6 minutes goofing off. (Even the good-mood students procrastinated slightly more if they believed their mood could be altered.)”

So, you procrastinate a lot less when you’re in a good mood (and when you think you can’t change your mood).

Clearly, mood has a big impact on your daily productivity. Which begs the question, what can we do to improve our mood?

Six Reliable Strategies to Improve Your Mood

Below are six proven strategies to improve your mood. I am convinced that you’ll notice an increase in your daily productivity if you use a couple of them, in which case I’ll take credit for all your future accomplishments.

#1 Prioritize Sleep

Not surprisingly, sleep has a major impact on your mood, with studies showing that sleep deprivation will make you more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. Lack of sleep will also lower your energy and willpower, which is detrimental for productivity.

Frankly, messing up your sleep is about the dumbest thing you can do from a productivity standpoint. Which is why I believe it’s crucial to prioritize sleep in our lives. That means getting enough sleep, keeping a regular sleep schedule, and doing everything you can to optimize your sleep so it’s as restorative as possible. The better your sleep, the higher your productivity.

Check out this article for a great overview of sleep optimization strategies.

#2 Create Morning Momentum: Be as disciplined and productive during the first few hours of the day as possible

This is probably the most important point, so listen up. Morning momentum simply means creating positive momentum in the first few hours of the day. It means getting up and getting as much done as possible. The key here is to make progress on meaningful goals.

Why is making progress on meaningful goals important? Because it’s a sure-fire way to boost your mood and motivation. It’s something called the Progress Principle. I’ll let Teresa Amabile, the woman who coined this term, explain:

“Through exhaustive analysis of diaries kept by knowledge workers, we discovered the progress principle: Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run. Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or simply produce a high-quality product or service, everyday progress — even a small win — can make all the difference in how they feel and perform.”

I’ll repeat: Making progress on meaningful goals is THE single most important strategy to boost your mood.

If you are able to make progress on your life goals during the first few hours of the day, your mood will be soaring all day long. (Remember, earlier research showed us that once we’re in a certain mood, we tend to stay in that mood. AND, going from a good mood to a bad mood is less likely than vice versa.)

That means you want to start your day on fire. You want to crush your morning routine and then get as much work done as possible. As I said, you want to be super disciplined and productive in those early hours.

#3 Exercise First Thing in The Morning

You’ve probably heard of the mood-boosting and happy-chemicals-releasing effects of exercise before. And it’s of course true: Exercise is one of the most reliable strategies to increase your mood. Period.

Now, what I would specifically recommend to you is that you do some form of exercise first thing in the morning. Why do I emphasize the first thing in the morning part? Because it will boost your mood for almost the entire rest of the day, as explained by Tom Rath in his book Eat Move Sleep:

“When a team of researchers assigned a group of college students to exercise, then tracked their mood the next day, they made a surprising discovery. After just 20 minutes of a moderate-intensity workout, the students were in a much better mood compared with a control group of students who did not exercise. The researchers expected this result based on previous findings. What surprised them was the durability of this increase in mood. Students in the group who exercised continued to feel better throughout the day. They were in a better mood 2, 4, 8, and even 12 hours later.”

#4 Record and Celebrate Your Small Victories

We learned earlier that making progress is a great way to enhance our mood and motivation. The problem is, our brain isn’t built to detect progress, but to detect anything that could threaten our lives (which makes sense from a survival standpoint).

This is called the brain’s negativity bias — the brain’s mechanism of fading out all the positive stuff and just showing us the negative. You could do 99 out of 100 things right, and your brain would still focus on the one thing you did wrong.

That’s a bit of a problem from a mood perspective, because we tend to overlook the progress we’re making and instead focus on the setbacks — which will lower our mood and make us think we’re total losers.

Thankfully, there’s a way to mitigate the effects of our brain’s negativity bias by making a list of our small daily accomplishments. Every time you catch yourself doing something right, you register it and celebrate it as making progress. This keeps you focused on the positive and gives your mood and productivity a steady boost.

#5 Get Some Nature and Some Sunlight

I’ve written about the benefits of nature on productivity before. As far as mood is concerned, one study compared two groups of people: The first group took a 90-minute walk in nature and the second group did the same walk in a city.

The city walkers didn’t report a lot of changes, but the nature walkers reported significant mood boosts and having fewer negative thoughts about themselves after the walk than before the walk.

Even more interesting, fMRI brain scans showed less activity in a brain region responsible for mood regulation and patterns of negative thoughts in the nature walkers. The city walkers showed no such brain changes.

And if 90 minutes scare you, check out this study who found that 5 minutes of “green exercise” — gardening, farming, walking, cycling, running, fishing, or sailing — is enough to raise your mood and self-esteem.

If you can catch some sunlight during your nature time, even better. If you can do it in the morning, better again.

How about early morning exercise in nature while getting sunlight? How’s that for an all-day mood booster?

#6 Label Negative Emotions

Let’s say you’ve used all the above strategies, but anger, irritation, fear, anxiety, or boredom still creep up from time to time. What can you do to mitigate these negative feelings?

Neuroscience suggests that simply labeling emotions goes a long way to reduce their power over us. David Rock writes in Your Brain At Work:

“To reduce arousal, you need to use just a few words to describe an emotion, and ideally use symbolic language, which means using indirect metaphors, metrics, and simplifications of your experience. This requires you to activate your prefrontal cortex, which reduces the arousal in the limbic system. Here’s the bottom line: describe an emotion in just a word or two, and it helps reduce the emotion.”

Throughout your day, just be mindful of the inner workings of your mind, and keep labeling any negative emotions that come up: “Angry.” “Irritated.” “Exhausted.” “Hungry.” “Agitated.” “Confused.”

Sum Up

The two most important pieces of information in this article: 1) The better your mood, the more productive you are. 2) Once you’re in a good or bad mood, you will likely stay in that mood all day long.

This information makes mood management a key skill for productivity. I believe it’s especially important to do everything you can to put yourself in a great mood early in the day. Because that will set you up for a happy and highly productive day.

Want more?

Want additional strategies to become more productive? Then download some of my top productivity hacks by clicking the link below:

My Top 7 Productivity Hacks to Get More Done (free PDF)