Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
As our workplaces become busier and more demanding, the idea of maintaining a calm mind might seem like an impossible dream.
But taking a few minutes throughout your day to soothe and refresh, your brain will save you time in the long run by making you more productive.
Using apps and other technology to calm your mind is helpful because you’re already using technology for work and it’s something you can take anywhere, even when you work from home or go on a business trip.
Read on to discover digital solutions to five common work stressors!
Overwhelmed with Work? Calm down by Creating a To-Do List
When you feel overwhelmed, it’s easy to lose sight of how much work you actually need to do.
Writing everything down as it comes to you, without sorting for priority or deadlines, can help. Not only does it clear your mind of buzzing thoughts but making a list also gives you a visual idea of how much you have to do and where you might start.
Wunderlist is a beautifully minimalist app and Web tool that will help you calm down by acting as a dumping ground for all your nagging thoughts and worries. Best of all, you can mix work tasks with personal tasks, which often come to us just as we’re trying to focus on something else.
Get it all down and sort it later. Then set reminders so you don’t forget to pick up the cat food on your way home from work.
Another great app for keeping track of your notes, to-dos and other work materials is Evernote. What distinguishes Evernote from simpler apps is its ability to take a photo of anything and add it to a digital file along with lists, websites and other materials.
Evernote could be especially helpful for people who take a hybrid approach to productivity — combining handwritten lists and other paper items with digital organization. And Evernote’s checklist feature will be satisfying for people who love that definitive mark of completion.
Evernote has a three-tiered pricing structure from a free option with basic features to a $49.99/year “premium” option for all features. Wunderlist also has a “pro” option for $4.99/month. Both apps also offer a sharing and communication function for use among a few people or a whole team.
Distracted? Protect Yourself from Mindless Web Surfing
Distraction is an ever-present problem in today’s offices. Not only are there more ways than ever for co-workers to interrupt you with a question or problem but there’s also the temptation of the web and your internal impulse to procrastinate. But while technology may cause part of the problem, it can also help you fix it.
Leechblock [No Longer Available] is a Firefox plug-in that lets you control when and how much you visit the sites that cause the biggest time-sucks in your day.
For example, you could block social media from 8-5 on workdays. Or you could give yourself an “allowance,” say twenty minutes a day on Buzzfeed.
Firefox will let you browse freely throughout the day until you’ve reached the time limit; then you’ll be blocked until the next day. Leechblock will help you stay calm and focused at work by protecting you from the tendency to click mindlessly through the Internet.
If you frequently find yourself with five or more tabs open, Instapaper will help you eliminate the distraction of an overstuffed web browser without losing the articles or sites you “just have to read” someday.
A little “I” button appears in your browser and you can click on it anytime you want to save the page you were looking at for later. When you have time to kill, say while waiting at the doctor’s office, you can open your account from any device and read the articles you saved in a clean, magazine-like format.
If you do a lot of research for your job, Instapaper could also be a helpful way to collect sites and articles and view them as a single unit.
Deadline Stress? Soothe Your Nerves with a Colorful Calendar
Do you have so many meetings to attend you can barely keep them straight? Google Calendar will help you stay calm in the face of meeting overload. This oldie-but-goodie uses color-coding features to help you prioritize meetings and everything else going on in your day.
Use a visual chart of your day, week and month for staying organized. Keep a boundary of how much you can actually do. Dilip Soman, a marketing professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and his PhD candidate Yanping Tu did a study on the effects of time on tasks and found color coding a stretch of days on a calendar can influence your perception of time. This simple color coding works for short deadlines and long-term goals.
You can send yourself emails and turn them into reminders of the steps you need to complete before a project’s deadline. Or you can use Taskforce to manage the emails co-workers send asking you to do this or that by a certain time.
Taskforce will keep you calm at work by making sure you don’t forget about the projects and deadlines that are most important to you.
Bad Mood? Listen to Whatever Chases Your Blues Away
When you’re having a bad day at work, listening to music can help you feel better. And while listening to your favorite bands is comforting, discovering a new song you love can be a great mood booster, too.
Use Pandora to start a radio station with an artist you like, and let Pandora suggest new, similar artists for you to listen too.
If nothing but your beloved bands will do, use Spotify to listen to your favorite music wherever you are. Spotify will help you improve your mood at work by giving you an effortless way to put on headphones and tune out all those negative vibes dragging you down. You can even make playlists of favorite songs for every mood, giving you a ready-made remedy for a case of the Mondays.
Sad music can also help alleviate the blues. Japanese researchers undertook a study and said that “sad music might actually evoke positive emotions”.
Emotion experienced by music has no direct danger or harm unlike the emotion experienced in everyday life. Therefore, we can even enjoy unpleasant emotion such as sadness. If we suffer from unpleasant emotion evoked through daily life, sad music might be helpful to alleviate negative emotion.
Worth trying for sure. Tell us what your feelings are on this bit of contrarian research.
Both Pandora and Spotify offer free versions as well as the option to pay a monthly fee for ad-free listening. Pandora One costs $4.99/month and Spotify Premium is $0.99 for a limited time 3-month trial, then $9.99/month.
Alternatively, if you find music more distracting than helpful at work, take a few minutes to practice some mindful meditation and approach the rest of your tasks with a de-stressed and refocused mind.
Feeling Limited with a Project? Inspire Yourself with Positivity
Have you spiraled into a pessimistic attitude about how much you can accomplish on a project? Whether you feel limited by the resources available to you at work or your own abilities, calming down with an inspirational podcast or yoga at your desk can help you find clarity or inspiration to get past the roadblocks you see ahead of you.
Listen to podcasts with Stitcher. There are many great shows out there, but here are a few to get you started that will help you have a more productive and positive work day: “Beyond the To-Do List,” “Back to Work,” and “The Accidental Creative.”
If you use yoga to unwind outside of work, you can also bring these tools to your workspace. Download Salute the Desk for a variety of stretches and yoga poses you can do at your workstation. You can also set reminders through the app, which will help you pause from whatever’s stressing you out and take a few minutes to breathe and stretch. Go back to your work with a refreshed mind.
Take Some Time for Yourself, Then Press On!
Now that you know how to soothe your mind at work, get empowered to be your most focused, productive self, and make work stress a thing of the past.
In most cases, feel stressed out at the office can be solved by simply stepping away from the situation for a few minutes, then revisiting the issue with a calm and fresh perspective. Using the apps and websites listed here, you can take a short, efficient break in the face of work stress and then press on with increased clarity and mental energy.
What other apps or websites do you use to calm down in your busy office? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section below!