Does your mind seem like a crowded subway station, with ideas rushing around and new tasks coming and going in all directions? 

If so, hundreds of productivity hacks are waiting to “help” you with even more ideas to optimize your schedule. Perform squats when brushing your teeth. Check emails while waiting in line. Keep a bedside notepad to capture your late-night ideas.

But these strategies play into the frenetic pace. Instead of squeezing productivity out of every moment, what if your mind simply needs to clear the station and enjoy some quiet time? 

Research shows slowing your mind can bring personal and professional benefits. According to Inc. magazine, downtime can improve attention, motivation, creativity, job performance, memory — and, yes, even productivity.

Use the following tips for a mind reset when your days reach peak busyness.

  • Perform a short ritual.
  • Take a purposeful break.
  • Sneak in stealth meditation.
  • Admire nature.

A short ritual

Performing a ritual can help you curb feelings of overwhelm. Base the practice on your circumstances and personal preferences. It could be a breathing exercise. Or squeezing tension into your shoulders and then releasing it. Or placing each finger together in order, from thumb to pinky finger, while counting slowly to five. 

You might create a mantra to say or think when your mind gets inundated. One example is, “I have time for my goals. I have time.” 

Studies from the Greater Good Science Center suggest repeating these small rituals can broaden perspectives and enhance well-being.

A purposeful break

Taking a coffee break, having a midmorning snack and doing breathwork are common ways to escape overload. But many people do them while checking texts, peeking at emails or thinking about upcoming deadlines. 

The trick is to be purposeful with your break. Choose an activity, set a timer and focus solely on that activity. 

Smell your coffee before you sip it. Savor your snack. Breathe deeply without thinking about your next project.

Five or 10 minutes can feel much longer when you’re not multitasking. Setting a timer can free you from worrying about going over your allotted time. Just pick a break, choose your time and enjoy.

Stealth meditation

Meditation doesn’t have to mean 30 minutes in a dark room. You can see benefits from short bursts of mindfulness.

“Stealth meditation” refers to brief breaks that calm your mind. And they can fit easily into your workday.

  • Each time you compose an email, take two deep breaths before you hit send.
  • Stand up and stretch whenever you cross an item off your to-do list.
  • After finishing a phone call, close your eyes, release tension in your neck and shoulders, and sit up straight. 

Think of activities you do throughout the workday, pick a practice that calms your mind, and attach it to the end of those tasks. These stealth meditations allow you a moment to be still.

The beauty of nature

The natural world can remedy a busy mind. Research shows being in nature can improve mental and physical well-being. Even looking at a picture of nature can reduce stress levels. 

Find breaks in your day for a nature boost. A few minutes of the following can help calm your mind:

  • Take a walk outside. 
  • Look up at the sky. 
  • Study a tree or plant. 
  • Listen to birds. 

Finding balance

Pursuing your goals is a good thing. But when you can’t stop to rest, a frazzled mind can negatively affect your work and well-being. 

If you need help finding balance, speak with your human resources department or benefits adviser. They can connect you to the right wellness benefits and programs.