The Relationship Between Productivity and Happiness
Photo courtesy of "ankakay".

The Relationship Between Productivity and Happiness

Written by Emilie

Topics: Productivity

Over the last five weeks, I’ve been teaching a course called “Productivity for Multipotentialites” with Michelle Nickolaisen. Teaching this class been tremendously rewarding for me. I’ve really enjoyed discussing these concepts that I find so valuable and use constantly in my life.

We’re going to be releasing the “self-study” version of the video course next Wednesday. It will include video and audio recordings of the four classes, plus all the workbooks, a few bonuses, and access to the private Facebook group.

Today I thought I would reflect on the word “productivity,” and how my relationship with productivity has changed over the years.


Productivity is not a sexy word.

The word used to evoke a lot of employment, industrial, slave-like connotations in my mind. Productivity felt like the sort of thing that “management” would be concerned with. I could imagine a leaflet from the 1920s entitled “How to Make Your Workers more Productive.”

In the mainstream world, the word productivity is largely synonymous with efficiency: How much work can you churn out? How many items can you knock off your list? Like I said, very unsexy.

Productivity to a Multipotentialite

To a multipotentialite however, productivity has an entirely different meaning. Depending on whether you’ve found a system that works with your scanner nature, productivity can either be a source of great joy, or one of the most painful terms in the world.

So many of us have a terrible time reigning in all of their interests, making them work together, and shifting our focus between many projects. We struggle with dividing our time between our long term priority projects, and the more fleeting interests (and knowing how to tell the difference between them). We have families and responsibilities, and embracing all our passions seems impossible in the face of such real world obligations. We feel stuck, distracted, constantly switching from one passion to the next, and endlessly spinning our wheels.

We become ashamed about our apparent inability to “finish” anything, and sometimes only tentatively pursue new interests, afraid of what our friends and family members will think if we switch direction yet again.

To a multipotentialite, the word productivity is not some black-and-white, abstract concept from the industrial age. To a multipotentialite, the word productivity is incredibly loaded.

What Productivity Should be About

Since piecing together my own productivity system, one that works with my multipotentialite nature, my relationship with productivity has change radically. The word no longer brings about pain and frustration. It now evokes happiness and a deep sense of purpose inside.

Learning to be productive is not about “Getting Things Done.” It’s about knowing how to open yourself up, so that you can channel the creative spirits and receive more “AHA” moments.

Productivity should be about sitting down each day and being able to induce a deep flow state, where it’s just you and your work. The rest of the world dissolves, and time expands. You create, free of fear, and free of limitations. When you’re in a flow state, you feel pure and happy.

This is the true power of productivity: it can transport you to an almost trance-like state, where your many projects can be nourished, a space where you can innovate, create, and be the biggest multipotentialite in the world.

Productivity is happiness.

What does productivity mean to you?


The “Productivity for Multipotentialites” video course will be available here on Puttylike on Wednesday, March 14. We will also be offering an early-bird discount to the puttypeep who are subscribed to the Puttylike newsletter. If you’d like to jump in on that, just fill out your details in the green box below.


  1. Great topic Emilie. This is fresh in my head because I’ve been talking with Michelle lately and she’s a whiz on the concept.

    Productivity to me is taken very literally. When I’m productive I’m producing an outcome or output but it rarely has to do with starting or ending.

    I might need to produce an outline for a series of blog posts I’m writing in the coming weeks. Or I might need to produce a speech for the Toastmasters group I belong to. Productivity to me is not about moving to the end state of getting “stuff” done. It’s about how I use the freedom I’ve created for myself to make an impact, most frequently on someone other than myself.

    • Emilie says:

      Beautifully expressed, Joel. It’s about maintaining that feeling that you’re contributing to the world on a regular basis. I love it. :)

  2. Adam Lasky says:

    Great post Emilie!
    I really resonated with the shame involved in not following through. I don’t tell my parents about any of my projects anymore because they’ve seen me stop and fail to finish so many times.

    I think that productivity is creating. That could mean churning out a blog post or brainstorming a project or taking a walk. Side note: walks are awesome to get my productivity juices flowing.

    So when I frame productivity like this, it removes the stigma of “effective time management” and allows time for writing an idea down in a notebook for later or designing something for your site or collaborating with others or learning something (creating knowledge).

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Adam,

      It’s really a shame that you feel like you can’t tell your parents about your projects (but I guess that’s why we’re here, huh? :). I think it’s a really common problem for multipods though. Other people simply don’t understand how we create and learn. And they especially don’t understand that there’s a very good reason for us to be “quitters.”

      And you’re right, productivity is creating. Maybe that’s why I associate it with happiness. Never am I happier than when I’m creating. Thanks Adam!

  3. Patty Tanji says:

    What a useful post Emilie. Productivity for me, is about the creative process that you address. And, when I’m in a flow state…I can do anything…it usually happens from 7 a.m. – 10 a.m. after I’ve gotten the morning chores out of the way…and I sit down with some amazing devotional materials. It comes when I’m journalling or running. Unfortunately I want that state to last the entire day. But the dredge work of reality set in. Moving forward. Your fellow multipotentialite, Patty.

    • Emilie says:

      I know exactly what you mean, Patty. My flow state tends to come in the morning too. I have experimented with trying to induce more of them throughout the day. Sometimes I can get there, but it’s always harder later in the day.

      Now I try not to worry about it too much, and I just try to get the most out of my mornings. One solid flow state per day is pretty amazing! But I literally can’t wait to fall asleep some nights, because I love my mornings so much.

  4. Kim says:

    Love this post and I can very much relate! I feel like ever since I decided to focus all my energy on my very new, small business, I’m having a hard time staying focused and…productive. Loved what you said about…”Learning to be productive is not about “Getting Things Done.” It’s about knowing how to open yourself up….” Great insights!

    • Emilie says:

      Thanks Kim. Yeah, often it’s not about sustaining productivity all day long, but getting into that flow state for a short sprint– just long enough to create. Small windows of highly productive time = best feeling in the world.

      Good luck with your business! Have you launched yet or are you still in the creation phase?

      • Kim says:

        Thanks! I’ve had my web page/blog up and running for a little while now ( and I’ve been handing out business cards. I’ve photographed a few sessions up to this point, but other than that, I’m very much just starting up! I still haven’t done my LLC yet, so yeah, I’m a newbie :)

  5. Brandy says:

    I have a blossoming blog and a six-month-old baby so productivity looks very different to me than it did a year ago. I’d planned to get back to writing two months after he was born. But, to my horror, was completely and utterly unable to reach my flow state – you can’t concentrate when a tiny human being depends on you for his very sustenance. I tried meltdowns, freak outs, squeezingwritingintonaptime, placenta pills. Nothing worked.

    UNTIL. We (my husband and I) developed a fabulawesome plan! Now every week night and Saturday, I go to a coffee shop and give myself over to my flow state. During the day, I play and giggle and cuddle with the beeb. It’s exhausting, but blissful. A productive day means loving and cherishing all my roles. It means declaring to myself at the end of the day that I did well and am satisfied with what I’ve accomplished. It means appreciating the time I have and making it count.

  6. Tiana Star says:

    I LOVE this article. I LOVE the word productivity!!! My favorite line from this, and one that I want to post by my desk is “You create, free of fear, and free of limitations. When you’re in a flow state, you feel pure and happy.” What a great way to think of productivity and work/life! Productivity to me means creating the things you dream, the life you want with heart and focus- and doing all the things that takes to make it happen. What a great word and wonderful article. I look forward to reading more and sharing with my clients/friends! –

  7. Cherilyn says:

    LOVE this redefinition and reclaiming of productivity. I’m doing the same with exercise, and it’s SO liberating! The sky opens up and there’s so mych more possibility. Thank you!!

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