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How to Mentally Reset and Improve Productivity

When you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it’s hard to get motivated and to produce quality results. Whether you’re trying to complete a big task or you need to think creatively to solve a problem, feeling mentally burned out and exhausted can make it very challenging to accomplish much of anything. It’s also difficult to stay productive when your brain is running on fumes. A mental reset can help you improve your productivity while generating a more positive outlook on your life.

What Is a Mental Reset?


Image via Flickr by Arenamontanus

Stepping back and figuratively resetting your mind can help you refocus on the most important tasks on your to-do list. Many people get stuck in the mundane patterns of everyday life, making it tough to meet deadlines or come up with creative ideas. Think about what you do when your computer is operating slowly or sluggishly—you restart or reboot it. Imagine that your brain is like a slow, sluggish computer that needs a reboot. It’s easier to understand the concept when you apply it to something you do on a regular basis. And restarting a computer changes the way it’s currently operating.

Performing a mental reset doesn’t involve changing your entire life or focus, but instead, it just involves making shifts in the way you’re accomplishing tasks. When you hit the restart button on your computer, the components within it aren’t changing in any way. Rather, this action clears the data and lets it start fresh. Your mental reboot will help change how you’re operating. Unfortunately, this type of reset doesn’t come as easily as pressing control-alt-delete on a keyboard or pushing the power button.

Step One: Analysis

If you’re stuck in a rut, it’s important to start by analyzing whether or not your current tasks are helping you work toward your long-term or short-term goals. Figure out where your time goes and also whether or not the time you spend on those tasks is helping you work toward your goals.

It may come as a surprise to see how much of your time is spent on tasks that aren’t as critical as others. But many people take breaks throughout the day to look at social media, surf the web, or watch TV. When your brain has to stop and start so many times, it becomes more difficult to complete a single task effectively. The first step in performing a mental reset is to create an accurate representation of how you spend your time.

Step Two: Figure Out Why

After you have a better understanding of where your time goes, the next step is to figure out why you spend your time that way. Checking social media can become more of a habit than an active way to take a break. So, if you’re scrolling through your feed without really looking at what you’re seeing, or if social media has become more of an obligation, it may be best to step away from the apps for a while.

If you’re wasting a lot of time on starting, stopping, and restarting tasks, you’ll end up expending more energy and will often get less done. Self-awareness is important for a mental reset, so be honest with yourself about how you spend your time and why.

Step Three: Declutter

cluttered desk

Image via Flickr by aubergene

Decluttering doesn’t always refer to getting rid of old stuff in your house — although, doing so can help reduce stress and help you feel more relaxed at home. Instead, focus on decluttering your mind. Thinking and stressing about several different projects or tasks at the same time reduces productivity because you don’t finish one item to completion before moving on to the next.

If your workspace is piled high with paperwork, files, and other stuff, take an hour or two to declutter and clear out your space. Looking at work that needs to be done or that causes you stress can lead to feelings of anxiety and worry, making it hard to focus on your task at hand.

Step Four: Positive Thinking

With a decluttered mind (and work area) and a list of daily activities, you can start thinking about why you care about the tasks that take up your time. Perhaps you work from home so you can spend more time with family and take advantage of a more flexible schedule. Maybe you spend long hours at the office to save for your future or to take a big vacation. No matter what you’re doing, there is typically reasoning behind your actions.

Remembering the reasons for why you got started in a certain career or industry can also help you feel positive and recharged. You can take pride in the work that you do instead of feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. The power of positive thinking and associations will go a long way in the process of a mental reset.

Step Five: Take a Real Break

Instead of cashing out your vacation time every few months, set aside some days to disconnect and focus on other aspects of your life. The work can always wait, and most people have colleagues and coworkers who can take on some responsibility during a short vacation.

If you don’t have the cash to spend on a lavish vacation, simply enjoy a few days at home. Sleep in, go for walks, spend quality time with family members and pets, and also take advantage of time away from work. Another option is to plan a weekend get-together with loved ones to give yourself something to look forward to.

With the right techniques and a willingness to change some of your habits, you can reset your mind and improve your productivity. On a movie set, this practice is often referred to as going “back to ones,” or starting from the beginning. Consider what takes up your time and why you give so much of your time to certain tasks. Step away from the work and give yourself a break. These healthy habits can help reduce stress and help you feel more motivated. With some minor changes, you can refocus and feel good about the tasks you have on your plate.

About the author

Allie Blackham