You’ve heard about the importance of warming up properly before intense physical activity, especially if you want to increase your performance. Well, it turns out that mental warmups and ice breakers are equally as important to prepare for tasks that can tax your mind.
When used before a meeting, college class or work event, ice breakers can lead to self-improvement through better peer-to-peer communication and improved work performance.
If you’ve begun to feel sluggish or unmotivated at work or at school, practicing ice breakers before you dive into your task can improve your focus and overall productivity. Research supports that these cognitive exercises, or mental ice breakers, can help you collaborate better with your co-workers or peers:
For example, in the context of the classroom, one study of adult learners found that the usefulness of ice breakers and energizers in adult learning.
“[…] brings humor into the class, establishes rapport, fosters a safe learning environment and overall assists with content learning.”
That translates to the workplace as well. If you’ve been trying to find a way to improve your performance at work, ice breakers could be just what you need to get more out of each day at the office.
The good news is that these mental warmups aren’t difficult to practice. With a smartphone or a tablet, you can download a variety of apps to help you stretch your brain — and engage in some team-building activities — before you dive into your strenuous workload or tiresome meeting.
Check out these 12 fantastic ice breaker apps that are a combination of educational and fun:
Icebreakers (iOS, Free)
Available for your iPhone or iPad, the Icebreakers app provides unique ideas for “starter” activities to prepare for meetings, workshops and classrooms.
The app includes everything from games and puzzles to coaching exercises and even workout routines to pump you up. You can organize the ice breakers by type, situation and size of your group, and the app is also designed for any age — so if you have kids, they can use the program, too.
For even more games and puzzles, which include worksheets and a timer, you can download the pro version of the app.
Let’s Talk (iOS, Free)
Need to prepare for a tough meeting? Let’s Talk provides a variety of interesting questions that can help you initiate the conversation.
The questions are designed for small groups of 4 to 20 people — so teachers can also use the app to stimulate discussions in the classroom as well.
The free version of the app has four different categories of questions. If you like one question in particular, you can click a heart button at the bottom of the screen to “favorite” it for later.
The premium version includes nine categories of 1,100 questions — so it’ll definitely come in handy at that next awkward meeting.
Wealthy Walrus (iOS and Android, Free)
Wealthy Walrus is another fun app that can help you get to know your co-workers or peers better.
The premise of this app is creative. The “wealthy walrus” has $11 billion dollars to give out, but only if you perform ridiculous acts you’d normally avoid.
For example, one question is: “For $14 million, would you press a button that blows up an uninhabited planet outside of our solar system?”
You choose either “yes” or “no,” and then compare results with your co-workers or fellow students.
Trivia Crack (iOS and Android, Free)
A little bit of trivia can be an effective mental warmup — and a great ice breaker if you play with co-workers or peers.
Trivia Crack lets you spin its colorful spinning wheel, Willy, to select trivia questions from six different categories. You can even create your own questions in the app’s “factory” to really challenge your teammates.
The app also includes a chat window, so you can communicate with your co-workers even if you’re stuck at your desk.
Trivia Crack is free, although you can make in-app purchases, such as extra lives if you’re losing the game.
QuizUp (iOS, Free)
QuizUp is another fun trivia app you can use to stimulate your brain before work or to interact with your teammates in the office.
You simply choose the category in which you want to compete, and the app will enter you into a quick, real-time match — so it doesn’t require a heavy time commitment.
The app even lets you challenge (and chat with) people around the world, in case you want to brush up on your interpersonal skills when it comes to meeting new people.
QuizUp is free, although you can choose from a variety of in-app purchases to boost your score.
Download: QuizUp for iOS (Free)
Crossly (iOS, Free)
If trivia isn’t your thing — or you just can’t hold your own against your co-workers — consider trying your hand at crosswords.
Crossly is a multiplayer crossword app that lets you challenge an opponent in a race to fill the board. You earn one point per letter, although you can steal points along the way if your opponent misses a word.
“Peeking” also allows you to reveal one letter per turn if you’re having a hard time with the clue.
The app is highly accessible, too, fully integrating Apple’s VoiceOver technology during gameplay.
Crossly is a free app, but once you’ve snagged the program, you can upgrade within the app to turn off ads or purchase extra peeks.
Download: Crossly for iOS (Free)
Ideament (iOS, Free)
Formerly called Idea Sketch, the Ideament app can give you a mental warmup with its ability to turn your best brainstorming ideas into easy-to-read visual diagrams.
You can use the app to map a concept, create a flow chart or plan a presentation or meeting — and the best part is, you can share these illustrations with your co-workers or peers via email, the cloud or Dropbox. You can even post your ideas to social media platforms like Facebook.
The paid version of the app, Ideament+, lets you create even more complex diagrams.
Words With Friends (iOS and Android, Free)
You’re probably already familiar with this popular word game app, but if not, Words With Friends is basically the online version of Scrabble.
Consider creating a quick match against your office buddies or classmates when you can grab a break. You can even meet new people and practice your interpersonal skills by challenging someone across the world.
The app lets you track and improve your performance with detailed stats. You can also expand your vocabulary by checking out the built-in dictionary and the word of the day.
There’s an even a new winter-themed version to celebrate this festive season.
Blush No More (iOS and Android, Free)
If you feel awkward in social or work situations — especially when meeting new people — Blush No More is your virtual cheat sheet on how to act.
The app provides 250 sample questions you can use to start a conversation. There are topics from water-cooler moments to running into someone at the gym.
The questions were generated by journalists who are skilled in pulling private information out of their sources on a daily basis.
94 Seconds (iOS and Android, Free)
Only have a few minutes to take your work break? Consider challenging your co-workers or peers to 94 Seconds, a word game that can stimulate your brain by helping you think quickly on your feet.
The app provides one category and one letter, and you have 94 seconds to find as many correct answers as possible. The app includes four different jokers to get the right answer or to score more points.
If you’re a poor speller, you’re in luck. The app even allows spelling errors and typos, within reason.
94 Seconds is free, though you can make in-app purchases, such as download extra jokers.
Fitocracy (iOS and Android, Free)
Exercise can be a great way for you to bond with your teammates. Fitocracy lets you monitor your fitness goals, track your workouts and motivate people in your network. You can even participate in various fitness challenges with your co-workers or peers.
The app provides hundreds of workout routines designed by fitness experts, and you and your office mates can try them together.
Fitocracy is free, but you can purchase in-app “hero” status to unlock platform features.
Headspace (iOS and Android, Free trial)
When you’re feeling fatigued or overworked, don’t underestimate the positive power of meditation.
Headspace can give you a mental warmup by providing meditation and mindfulness exercises. These guided and unguided lessons focus on a range of topics, such as stress relief, happiness and mental health. You don’t have to invest too much time in the practice, either. The Take10 protocol will teach you these techniques in only 10 minutes per day.
You can use this tool as an ice breaker to connect with your co-workers or peers, too. The app includes a “buddy system” where you and your network can motivate each other, track each other’s progress and give each other advice.
With the calm that comes from meditation, you may just do a little less venting when you can initiate that water-cooler conversation.
So What Are You Waiting For?
You’re busier than ever at your job, and you’ve probably already begun to experience that old, familiar feeling of mental strain.
Next time, beat the strain before it happens, and improve your ability to collaborate with teammates. Give your brain a warmup and practice a few energizing ice breakers.
By downloading these apps and following the techniques they recommend — for only a few minutes per day — you’ll reap the benefits of extra focus, better workplace communication and maybe even increased knowledge and intelligence.
After all, it only takes the click of a button — and you know you’re always staring at your smartphone, anyway.
Have you used any app to foster workplace banter? Do you have a favorite ice breaker app that we didn’t mention here? Tell us about it in the comments section below!
Image Credits:People Working Together by Rawpixel.com via Shutterstock