Stress can really mess you up. It can slow you down. It can
cause you to make bad decisions. It can even make you sick. Fear and other strong emotions can have a
similar detrimental effect.
When you’re stressed, afraid, or otherwise upset it would be great if you could just quit working until the problem went away. A vacation is a great way to de-stress when you feel overwhelmed—and it works. If you can, schedule several vacations a year to give you breaks from your daily routine.
It isn’t always possible to take a vacation, though. The reality is that, as small business owners, most of us often have to continue working despite stress and other problems. But there are ways to keep those problems from negatively affecting your business.
Use the eight techniques in this tutorial to learn how to rest your mind
and reboot your brain when you can’t take a longer break.
Important: The advice in this tutorial is not medical advice. If you feel ill or if problems persist, be sure to consult with a medical professional.
1. Understand Your Daily Energy Levels
Are you a morning person? If you are, you probably wake up each day feeling refreshed and ready to go. But for some of us, the morning hours are not when we do our best work. It turns out there’s a reason for that.
If you’re not a morning person, you should know it may not be your fault you feel sluggish in the mornings. A recent study published in the Nature Communications journal found that those who self-identified as morning people shared some common genetic attributes.
The study results suggest that our time is not all the same, quality-wise. If you’ve been feeling sluggish or if you’re struggling to get things done, it may not be you. It may be your schedule. So, don’t let anyone make you feel bad if you don’t like to get up early.
You may be scheduling your most difficult tasks for those times when you are naturally least effective. If you are, the fix is easy. To reboot your brain, try rebooting your schedule. Tackle the tough tasks when your energy levels are high and leave the routine tasks for your low energy periods.
To learn more about how to schedule tasks for when you’re most effective, check our tutorial on how schedule and sort tasks by your creative energy level:
Your daily rhythms are not the only thing that impacts your energy. Let’s take a look at how sleep can impact your productivity.
2. Get Enough Sleep
If you’re feeling too tired to complete your daily tasks, consider that you may actually be tired. Lack of sleep is well-documented as a reason why workers are less productive.
Worse yet, sleep loss adds up over time. So even if you only miss an hour a night, by the end of the week you’ll have a sleep debt of over seven hours. If you feel worn out by the end of the week, there’s a reason why.
How much sleep is enough sleep? The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the Centers for Disease Control (CDS) agree. The average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Teens and children need even more sleep.
If you feel like you need a mental reset and you suspect lack of sleep is the problem, take the appropriate steps to get enough rest:
- Make sure that you have a quiet, comfortable room to sleep in.
- Keep the room you sleep in cool, but not too cold.
- Adjust your bedtime to an earlier time.
- Once you find a sleep schedule that works, stick to it.
- Avoid eating a meal right before you go to sleep.
See a physician if you suspect that a medical condition is keeping you awake. Physical rest can help you rest your mind and a rested mind means you’ll get more done.
Sleep is important to your productivity, but so is your workflow. Let’s talk about how the right processes can make you more effective.
3. Find a System That Works for You
As a small business owner, routines are an important productivity tool. You can’t afford to hire lots of specialized employees, so you need to find ways to get a wide variety of tasks done quickly and accurately.
By establishing a system that make sense to you, you can get more done. Routines are best used on tasks that you perform often, but in the same way.
With the right systems in place, you can positively impact your productivity. Instead of focusing on mundane chores, you can pour your energy into higher level tasks.
Here’s a quick overview on how to find a system that works for you:
- Identify routine tasks that you perform often.
- Document the best way to perform the task.
- Use time-saving tools when appropriate.
- Test your system and adjust it as needed.
It may take a few days or even a week to get used to doing things using your new system. After following it several times it will begin to feel more natural. Once you’ve adopted a system that works for you, you’ll feel like you’ve had a mental reboot. For more advice on how to find a system that works for you, study this tutorial:
How you do your work is important to your mental rest, but so is where you do your work. Let’s explore how your surroundings can affect your productivity.
4. Beautify Your Surroundings
As a small business owner you likely spend a lot of time in your office, but do you give much thought to what your office looks like?
You should. A good looking office can be a mood lifter. When improving the appearance of your office, pay attention to two areas:
A cluttered, messy office can add to your stress. Working in
a disorganized office can be a distraction. Give yourself a mental reset by
organizing your office and putting everything in its place. If you have a lot
of paper clutter messing up your workspace, this tutorial on how to go
paperless can help:
It’s also important to your productivity that your office be an attractive and inspiring environment. No one wants to spend hours of their time in an ugly or depressing space. Reboot your workspace by adding photos, repainting, or otherwise decorating the workspace.
Give some special thought to furnishing your office with pieces that are both attractive and functional. Chairs, desks, bookshelves, and other office furnishings don’t have to be institutional brown or grey. Try adding a punch of color with a brightly colored chair or use glass shelves to make your office more attractive.
Next, let’s examine the importance of having a good support group.
5. Take a Power Lunch with Friends
Do you work through lunch every single day? If you do, you could be negatively impacting your productivity. That’s because our bodies naturally need a break. It’s good to take regular breaks during the day.
And our psyches need a support group. We need other people. We need people who will listen to us. We also need people to share ideas with and help us work through problems. Meeting with friends regularly can help reduce stress.
Why not combine the two needs by scheduling regular lunches with a friend or friends? Start by scheduling lunches with:
- colleagues at other companies
- your mentor (if you don’t have a mentor yet, review our tutorial How to Find Great Mentors)
- personal acquaintances
After enjoying an hour or so with friends and peers you’ll feel more mentally rested and ready to tackle the rest of your day. You may also enjoy getting a different perspective on your work and personal challenges.
Another way to get a mental reset is by improving your health. One way to improve your health is through exercise. Let’s take a look.
One way to reboot your brain involves moving your body. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and improve mental stamina. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) studies show that the more active you are, the better your brain works. Some benefits of regular exercise include:
- better focus
- clarity of thought
- better memory
Getting exercise can also improve your health. Regular exercise can lead to:
- reduction of obesity
- lower blood pressure
- Type 2 Diabetes control
- better cardiovascular health
As you begin to feel better from getting regular exercise, you’ll be able to get more done.
If you think exercise is too hard for you, think again. It doesn’t have to be difficult. Exercise could be as simple as taking a walk or as complex as going to the gym. Start slow and increase your activity level as you become more fit.
If you’re most sedentary during your working hours, it’s time to make some changes. Here are some tutorials to help you build a healthier lifestyle:
- FreelanceHow to Create a Healthier Home OfficeLaura Spencer
- Productivity4 Important Personal Habits for a More Productive LifeAnnie Mueller
Next, let’s examine the impact of listening to music on your
7. Play Music
Music is one way to relax and de-stress. Listening to music can also help you sleep better, which can lead to a more productive day. Studies show that listening to relaxing music before bed-time improves your sleep.
Music is not just for bed-time, though. Use it during your workday as a quick way to rest your brain.
According to the NCBI, other benefits of listening to music include:
- decreased anxiety
- lowered blood pressure
- reduced heart and respiratory rate
To include music in your daily routine, start by playing it during routine tasks or before bedtime. Gradually add it in during more intense tasks once you are sure the background noise will not be a distraction to your work.
Spotify and Pandora are two internet-based music services that allow you to customize your music selections. Use them to easily add relaxing music to your busy day. You can also look into online music services made specifically to improve your mental concentration like Focus At Will, which has a range of tempo and energy level settings.
Finally, let’s a take a look at how spiritual practices could help you reboot your brain.
8. Get in Touch with Your Inner Self
People often describe the benefits of meditation (or prayer) for tackling personal problems. What most people don’t realize is that spiritual practices may also boost your productivity.
While more study needs to be done, there is evidence that some spiritual practices such as meditation may help you learn how to rest your mind and otherwise relax. Early studies on the topic of the physical effects of spirituality compiled in this NCBI article show that those who engage in such practices often enjoy physical benefits during their spiritual activity such as reduced blood pressure and lowered heart rate.
If prayer and/or meditation fit into your belief system, make time to work them into your busy day. Even a half hour a day could help. You could experience a mental reset and productivity boost as a result. Even just a few minutes of meditation to start your day can help improve your ability to concentrate and work through difficult tasks.
Reboot and Mentally Reset Daily
There are many small things you can do each day to help keep you from feeling overwhelmed and reduce your stress. By developing the right habits, you can effectively reboot your mind and work more efficiently.
To reboot your brain and improve your productivity remember the mental reset techniques in this tutorial:
- understand your daily energy levels
- get enough sleep
- develop a system that works for you
- beautify your surroundings
- have lunch with friends
- play music
- meditate or pray
If the list seems too long, start by picking one or two of these techniques and adding them to your daily schedule.
To learn even more about productivity, check out our productivity series of tutorials or start working through our guide to productivity systems. By making just a few changes, you can reboot your brain daily. You’ll get more done and feel better too.