Does understanding your emotions help with productivity?

There may be times in life when, no matter how hard we try, there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to get to all of the things on our “to do” lists. People often feel like there are not enough hours in the day to complete all of the tasks that we would like to and we often have to prioritize to try to figure out what has to be done today versus what can be done tomorrow. However, there are ways that we may be able to help ourselves be more productive, which can include knowing how best to manage our emotions.

Dr. Boyes suggests that people can be their most productive selves when they incorporate knowledge about their personal strengths and preferences. Using someone else’s strategies may be helpful, but may not be the best for you depending on your own unique characteristics. Sometimes it can be good to use someone else’s strategy to get you started, but you can modify or adjust it as you go along. For example, if starting an office recycling program was important to you, you might put a small recycling bin in the break room to encourage recycling. Maybe you find you do not spend much time in the break room, so you have trouble remembering to drop off your recycling there. If you were to add a small recycling bin to your office, it might help increase the likelihood that you would be able to participate in the office recycling program.

Another way might be to value your time and energy in the same way you would value your financial investments. Work to find ways to maximize your investment by focusing on the ongoing return, like creating a written set of instructions for training a colleague as opposed to having to verbally explain the same information multiple times. Adjusting the rules that we put in place for ourselves might also help us make better use of our time. Humans are generally creatures of habit, but that does not mean that we cannot adjust our routine if we find our way is not the most efficient.

We spend a lot of time making decisions. Some may require a lot more effort and thoughtfulness than others and there may be shortcuts that we can use so we do not spend so much time on each and every decision. For example, if you are someone who likes to start a task, but has trouble finishing it, you might try making a conscious effort to not begin another task until you have completed the previous task. This may help you minimize the energy it takes to start and stop multiple tasks and work on more than one task at a time. When making decisions, we tend to think we should make decisions logically. Sometimes, being too rational, can make us feel like we’re limited and can’t enjoy the things that we want to enjoy. Finding a balance between rational decision-making and indulging ourselves, like stopping to get a donut and coffee before work, can give us a sense of freedom and add a little more joy to our lives, even if it means we get to work five minutes later.

The strength of our emotions can also influence how productive we are able to be. Dr. Winch explains, in “Psychology Today,” that emotion regulation is what we do to try to manage intense or upsetting emotions. Some of the most common strategies that are used include:

Distraction – by focusing on something else, like watching a reality show instead of talking through a disagreement with a friend, we have distanced ourselves from the uncomfortable experience of having a disagreement.

Suppression – distancing ourselves from feelings in the moment by not letting them get to us and not expressing our true feelings.

Distraction and suppression typically happen automatically to help us regulate our emotions, but are actually some of the least effective strategies as the distressing emotion is still present.

Reframing is the most effective way to regulate our emotions. Reframing allows us to try to change the emotion itself by changing the way that we view the situation. For example, we might realize that, having a disagreement with a friend would allow us to address a bigger issue that has been on our mind.

By working to find “the silver lining,” we are likely to experience less intense and shorter lasting distress. It is important to try to remember that we have the ability to adjust our experience of our emotions and that they are malleable. In working to enhance our ability to regulate our emotions, we allow ourselves to have time and energy to work on other areas of our lives that need our attention.

For Help:  

If you or someone you know might be struggling, utilize EAP benefits to seek services from highly qualified, licensed professionals. If someone you know is experiencing difficulty, let them know they are not alone and you are willing to assist them with finding the help they need. Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone is powerful in helping others seek the help they need.

If you or someone you know needs immediate mental health assistance, you can access a local crisis program, such as Carilion’s CONNECT (540-981-8181), go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.

Remember, it’s better to get help for yourself or someone else if needed. Getting help is better than the alternative.

Family Service of Roanoke Valley and Psychological Health Roanoke have qualified and experienced clinicians available to help you and your family.


Boyes, Alice, Ph.D. 5 Productivity Tips for Ordinary People. Psychology Today, retrieved on September 23, 2018 from

Winch, Gary, Ph.D. Why You Should Believe You Can Control Your Emotions. Psychology Today, retrieved on September 23, 2018 from