14 Things to Make You Happier and More Productive in 2014

We wanted to give you something that would help make your life a little better next year.   Keep these things in mind when you are crafting your New Year’s Resolutions.image 14


  1. Give something away.  It makes you happier than buying something for yourself.  College students were given money to either give away or spend on themselves.  Guess which group was happier.  When we buy stuff, we always think it will make us happier, for a longer period of time, than it actually does.  Think – what did you give for the holidays versus what did you get?
  2. Give an experience.  If you are going to give something away, research shows that giving someone an experience versus a thing you can hold, makes people happier.  It also makes people happier to be with others (even if you are an introvert).  For example I gave my husband a trip around a racetrack for his birthday one year.  He’s still talking about it.
  3. Stop watching the news.  It’s depressing.  There is a ratio of 27:1 negative to positive news.  So no wonder you’re depressed watching it or reading about it.  You’ll find out about the important things eventually.  And with all that free time you could do something that actually makes you happier.
  4. Spice Up That Date Night.  Don’t do the thing you always do – dinner and a movie.  Do something new.  Do something active.  Research shows that couples are happier when they do something novel together.
  5. Fight Your Confirmation Bias.  What is that, you ask?  It’s your tendency to always confirm your own beliefs and ignore facts that don’t fit your beliefs.  For example, I will get an email and KNOW someone is upset with something.  When I consult my husband he invariably asks, “What did the email actually say?”  And he’s usually right.  Play the ‘devil’s advocate’ when there is a situation in which the facts are a bit fuzzy.
  6. Manage Up.  It’s gotta be done so don’t wimp out on that conversation.  But be saavy.  Learn what makes your boss tick before you do.  Is there a way this person likes to communicate?  Phone/email/instant message?  What are this person’s strengths?  And what is the specific thing you are asking for (within reason)?  Then start with asking their perspective.  Because it’s not a conversation until you ask a question.
  7. Sleep More.  This is a ‘duh’ research finding.  But Tom Rath encapsulates loads of research in his book Eat Sleep Move that you are warding off depression, processing things you’ve learned, performing better at work and at home with just a few extra Z’s.
  8. Move more.  Like the above, we all know we should get more movement in our day, but did you know you can actually fight off cancer by vigorously exercising 30 minutes/day?  Not to mention people who exercise do better on academic tests.  (Read:  You’re smarter than a couch potato.)  Better than a pill, that exercising thing.
  9. Plan Your Meetings Ahead of Time.  A lot of your day is spent in meetings.  We get it.  You barely have time to breathe, nonetheless have time to Google the person you are meeting with.  But in order to make your life more productive, you’ll need to plan ahead.  What topics are you going to cover?  How much time will they take?  Who is speaking to them?  Who is taking notes? Facilitating? Keeping time?  (Hint:  These last three should not all be the same person.)
  10. Create a “Grati-do” list – I get stressed out just looking at all the of the things that I need to get done.  Even crossing them off doesn’t make me feel better.  I just replace that item with something else.  So in my phone, I’ve created a list that I add to with all the things I’m grateful for.  And looking back on the list when I open it makes me happy all over again.  Oh, yes, I remember when my daughter first said ‘Mama’.  It’s one list that you can add to forever.  And it helps you know what makes you happy, so you can do more of those things (i.e. being in nature, being with family, etc.)
  11. Create your “To NOT do” list – I am very good at putting things on my list.  But not very good at taking them off.  And the more I add, the most stressed I get.  As the old adage goes, “Less is more.”  So go through your list and see (as Julie Morgenstern says) what you can ‘Delete, Delay, Delegate, or Diminsh.’  You’ll never be happier underachieving.
  12. Vision Your Future.   Imagine yourself 5 years from now and everything is going just as you wanted it to.  Even better, actually, at work and at home.  What does it look like?  Who is with you?  Take 15 minutes to write that down and be as specific as possible.
  13. Ask yourself provocative questions.  Before crafting your New Years Resolutions, try asking yourself this:  What is the smallest change you could make to your life next year (work or home) that would have the biggest impact?
  14. If there is one thing you do next year to make yourself happier and more productive, it is MEDITATE.  I spoke with meditation expert Sharon Salzberg and she said the latest neuroscience research shows that all you need to change your brain is 30 minutes/week and it doesn’t have to be all at once.  “Short moments, many times.”  And check out her new book called Real Happiness at Work.2014


There are many lists for the new year….take a look at the ones on this list that resonate with you.  Choose one or two.  And commit to them.  Change takes about 21 days.  So try them out and let us know how it goes.

This entry was posted in #workwell, Cognitive Bias, Emotional Intelligence, Goals, Positive Psychology, Shannon Polly by Shannon Polly, MAPP. Bookmark the permalink.

About Shannon Polly, MAPP

Shannon M. Polly is a corporate communications trainer, facilitator and speaker and founder of Shannon Polly & Associates, a leadership development company in downtown D.C. Shannon works with executives, managers and employees of Fortune 500 companies in two areas: executive presence/presentation skills (based on over a decade of experience as a professional actor/singer in New York) and positive psychology. Shannon is one the first 100 people in the world who have received her Master in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) degree from the University of Pennsylvania under Dr. Martin Seligman. She also holds a graduate degree from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in classical acting and a B.A. with honors from Yale University. She also holds a coaching certificate from the Georgetown Leadership Coaching Program.

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