Gratefulness and productivity - How being grateful has helped me be more productive

Gratefulness and productivity don't immediately seem like two things that go together. Gratefulness is about being thankful for what you have-- no matter what it is. Productivity is about getting things done and working on things you (hopefully) care about, and achieving goals that matter to you.

For the past two years, I have been doing a simple exercise at the end of every day. I write down at least 3 positive experiences from the day, and I write 1 thing I am grateful for. That's it. Right before I sleep, I scan back through the day in my mind, and find all the little things that made smile or happy in that day-- no matter how big or small they might be. Then I write down one thing I'm grateful for that day--again, no matter how big or small. Some days it's something personal, like being grateful for a friend or family member. Other days, it's more general, like being grateful for having clean water, or being able to take hot showers when it's freezing outside. 

This daily reminder of positive experiences and gratefulness has two profound effects on my productivity. For one, it teaches my brain through time to look for positive outcomes and opportunities in the day. The world has plenty of negative things happening, and it's easy to focus on that...but the net effect is that you end up thinking the world is only negative and dark and awful. When you feel that bad about things, why would you want to work on anything at all? Things begin to feel a bit pointless and hopeless, and you're less likely to want to work on anything. Challenges begin to look like crises, and become roadblocks.  Instead, by learning to look for positive things in the world, I'm training my brain to find or create that positive outcome out of anything. If something negative happens, rather than wallow in it, I think about how I can use that event to grow or do something in response, and/or take action to fix it. 

Second, by being more grateful for all the things in my life, I'm training my mind to realize just how much opportunity there is to do great things. When we focus on our strengths and what we have, we begin to see just how many tools we have at our disposal to do something truly amazing, no matter what it is. If we instead focus on all the things we don't have, we tend to shut down to the world, and become jealous, envious, and resentful. We don't create because we think we can't.

We end up think we need to wait for some moment to arrive to do something great. We sit around thinking things like "well if I had more money" or "if I had more time" or "if I knew someone in that business." Those moments will never happen, and instead we're left sitting around wasting our time. But if we have a positive/growth mindset, then we create those opportunities right now. "If I had more money" becomes: "Well, how can I do this without a lot of money? Or with no money at all? What steps could I take to make this happen?". "If I had more time" becomes: "If I stopped watching Netflix for 1 hour a day, what could I do with that 1 hour?". "If I knew someone in that business" becomes "I'll search on LinkedIn for someone in that business, and reach out to them with a message about what I'm trying to do". We begin to create our own opportunity and it's because we have this positive mindset-- we are grateful for all the things we have, and we use that as an opportunity to do even more.

I write all of this to say that productivity and gratefulness should go together. When I am more grateful, I am far more productive. My work gains a sense of purpose. When I am grateful for what I have, I realize just how much I have, and how much I can do with it. I don't focus on what I'm missing. Sure, it would be easier to build a business with a huge advertising budget, but what can I accomplish without that budget? Yes it's harder, but when we really earn the things we want, it's far more rewarding. 

Try it out for yourself. For just 7 days, write down 3 positive experiences in your day, and 1 thing you're grateful for. Here are some examples to get you started:

Positive Experiences Example:

  • Someone held the door for me today when they could have easily walked through
  • Someone complimented my new haircut
  • I got an amazing email from a customer who likes my app

Things to be grateful for example:

  • Grateful for having a home and warm bed to sleep in
  • Grateful for a family that loves me and supports me
  • Grateful for shoes!
  • Grateful for having a computer that lets me work anywhere

And so on. You find that as you do it, it gets easier to list the things you're grateful for. Your brain gets better at realizing just how amazing your life is, and as a result, you are likely to do even bigger and better things with it!

Good luck!