Why Grumpy People Can Be Super Productive

If you're waiting for the "right mood" to strike before you attack that stack of work, you might be waiting a loooooonnng time.

When we say that we're "waiting for the right time" to start on something, we tend to mean that we want to feel good about what we're doing—but new research suggests that a pinch of negativity can actually be a creative spark.

How so? Creativity, as we know, is both an emotional and intellectual process: Psychologists have found that positive emotions open up your inventory of possible actions—one of the many reasons that it's good to feel good. But, as new research in the Academy of Management Journal suggests, it's good to feel bad, too—depending on how you roll through the day.

To find that conclusion, researchers asked 102 creative folks to rate their moods at the beginning of the day and the end of the day. As to be expected, positive feelings at the end of the day correlated with day-long creativity. But here's the twist: People who felt distressed, hostile, or guilty at the beginning of the day—and then felt good by its end—were more productive than the people who felt positive from morning to night.

The British Psycholical Society's Occupational Digest blog clues us into why:

The narrow, alert focus on issues (that comes from negative emotions) can be useful by focusing on things that are in need of a solution and spurring motivation to act on these ...

Once this focus has been set, allowing the negative emotions to slide away and positive emotions to explore the possibility space is a good recipe for getting to innovative solutions.

As Inc. writer Jessica Stillman suggests, the study has an immediate application to your working life: Instead of waiting for a lily-light "right mood" to descend upon you to get the work done, you can use your grumpiness as a weight to dive into your workflow—powering progress until the end of the day.

In other words, the most creative days are like little metamorphoses: If you start as a curmudgeonly caterpillar—and use that focus to get your work done—you can end as an accomplished butterfly.

Hat tip to Occupational Digest: Starting negative may help you be creative

[Image: Flickr user andronicusmax]

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  • This article makes me sick I hate grumpy people demotivating and ruining the productivity of those around them just for their own selfish short term gain.

  • MikeO3

    That gif or whatever picture at the end of the article is annoying. Does this comment make me a grumpy comment contributor? :)

    I am always grumpy if people don't deliver tasks when they are supposed to but personally I do feel that I do focus more when I am grumpy... especially true for house chores over the weekend delegated by my wife.


  • Marcel Tualla

    While "grumpy" might be too humble a word in my case, I do feel a good
    amount of spite, retribution and negative energy can be an amazing
    driver when motivating ones self to do amazing creative. The old "I'll
    show you" (as well as being pretty competitive) has always been a major
    catalyst in my formula of pulling off great work.

  • jschklar

    There is also the caveat that "negative people" are not all Pollyanna and think everything will take care of itself...They take responsibility.

  • mcgdesign

    I have experienced what the researchers have described! The only caveat: I have found it really hard to design a "fun" ad or brochure when grumpy.

  • Joe Passkiewicz

    Thanks Drake!  Something positive that can come out of a grumpy morning!  I like it!

  • Team IQTELL

    If you're waiting for just the right moment to work then you're probably suffering from a mild case of procrastination due to perfectionism. Another good explanation (although not scientific) is that grumpy people get interrupted less by their colleagues thus able more to focus.

    Also, feeling grumpy helps us to think more clearly http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/833... "While cheerfulness fosters creativity, gloominess breeds attentiveness and careful thinking"