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10 Websites and Apps to Recharge Yourself at Work in 5 Minutes

10 Websites and Apps to Recharge Yourself at Work in 5 Minutes

Taking regular and meaningful breaks from your work is important to staying alert and not burning out. However, a common excuse for not taking a break is that there’s simply no time in a busy schedule to take a truly refreshing breather. This causes you more stress and the cycle continues, making you less focused and less productive but feeling like you just can’t allow yourself a break.

The solution is to find simple and easy to access resources to give yourself quick but effective sessions to de-stress, whether at the office or wherever you do your work.

These are some of the best websites and mobile apps for doing just that, all of them free or very affordable. So, no more excuses. Start giving yourself healthy breaks to recharge and stop hitting a wall with your daily grind.

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    Calm.com (website)

    The name of this website says it all. Upon landing on its homepage, you’ll be asked to choose a length of time, whether you want music, and if you’d prefer a soothing voice-over to guide you on your journey to relaxation. Whether you have two minutes or 10, this site will help you find inner peace in no time.

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      Rainy Mood (website, iPhone, Android)

      There’s something uniquely soothing about the sound of rain. As someone from a rainy city who is currently in southern California most of the year, I really enjoy having the ability to hear the pure sound of rain falling no matter where I am. If you also feel comforted by rain, bookmark this site and use it to have a little moment of rainy zen at work when you need one.

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        Sound Drown (website)

        For the most variety in experience customization, Soundrown definitely wins. This site has many sounds to choose from and, perhaps best of all, the ability to overlap them. So if you want to listen to birds chirping by a fountain, you can. If, for whatever reason, the sound of a train running through a crackling fire is your cup of tea, you can do that too. I especially like that you can change the volume of individual sounds, so that if the bird chirping is too prominent against that trickling fountain, you can soften it without turning down the entire soundscape’s volume. I have this one bookmarked as well. It’s a nice escape from your routine if you find some background noise relaxing.

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          Do Nothing For 2 Minutes

          This is the relaxation site for the non-stop fidgeters out there. Do Nothing for 2 Minutes gives you a serene background, a simple screen, and the serene sound of ocean waves along with text stating the same instructions as the site’s name. If you move your cursor before the 2 minute countdown is up, you “fail” and must start over again. This will force you to actually sit calmly and relax instead of drifting over to your email, or that one online shopping site you can’t stop looking at. I admittedly found it a bit challenging at first, but the challenge only creates more incentive to actually make the most out of those 2 minutes and truly relax.

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            Silk

            Silk is “interactive generative art,” which means you get to make pretty glowy art with squiggles. Your mouse is your digital paintbrush and you have several settings to customize the color of your strokes (you can see in this screenshot I took that I have green and blue mixed together). Oh, and every line or blob you make is mirrored, and you have a few options for patterns from the simple two-fold all the way up to six symmetrical folds. It’s incredibly relaxing to move your cursor around and watch as brightly-colored waves and ribbons spill out into pretty patterns. It doesn’t require a lot of set up, so you can fit in a zen “drawing” break when you need to.

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              Breathing Zone (iPhone and Android app), $3.99

              This app costs a couple of bucks, but that’s because its techniques are backed by research. Breathing Zone uses a “clinically proven therapeutic breathing exercise” shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure. It’s so legit that it has been featured on several news outlets and, at least according to the site, even has legit doctors recommending it to patients. If you work in an environment that’s high-stress or you’ve got the co-worker from hell in the next cubicle, this app is probably worth the money.

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                Earthlapse (iPhone/iPad app), Free for limited time, reg. $0.99

                Space is something else I find very peaceful, and, if you do too, Earthlapse is an amazing app to relieve stress. The app plays relaxing new age music while real time-lapse photography taken by NASA over the Earth rolls across your screen. The screenshot above is just one view; there are unobstructed views as well, and you have the choice of whether you want a clock and other info on the screen or nothing. When you’re having an especially nasty day at work, just look down on the Earth from miles above and revel in the insignificance of your troubles, if only for a moment.

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                  Daily Yoga (iPhone/iPad and Android app), Free

                  Doing exercise and stretching is proven to help reduce stress by increasing endorphins, so a bit of light yoga is an excellent break from work and stress-reliever. If, like myself, you don’t know any yoga poses except Downward Facing Dog, Daily Yoga has instructions on how to do the poses, including proper breathing and video demonstrations. No need to attempt to twist yourself into a pretzel; just take a break from work to do some simple poses that will calm and recharge you. Easy peasy.

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                    Fluid Monkey (iPhone/iPad and Android app), Free

                    Similar to Silk, Fluid Monkey involves making colorful, interactive images with your finger (rather than a mouse). You touch the screen to generate little particles of varying colors that swim around a simple and tranquil background, which you can then move around and play with. What I like about this app in particular is the level of customization to make the perfect soothing simulation for you. You get to customize color, thickness of the “fluid” that the particles move in, and particle friction. It’s sort of like having a very customizable lava lamp, or an incredibly abstract fish tank–two things you probably aren’t allowed to have on your physical work desk.

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                      Dead Trigger 2 (available on iPhone, Android, and Facebook), Free

                      Like to relax less conventional ways? Me too. Due to my roommates having a TV with three game consoles set up, one of the ways I used to relax after stressful days at class last year was playing Left 4 Dead 2. There’s just something magical about unwinding by mowing down hoards of zombies with a virtual semi-automatic. The “2” similarity here is just a coincidence–the first Dead Trigger is still available and also awesome, but it makes more sense to list the most recent version first. Take out that stress and frustration with a jolly round of zombie killin’.

                      Featured photo credit: my new job at the call center/Domenico via flic.kr

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                      Last Updated on May 21, 2019

                      How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

                      How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

                      Regardless of how creative you already consider yourself to be, there’s a good chance you would like to level up your creative abilities.

                      You might want to write a better song, think of better solutions to problems at work or around the home or maybe paint a picture.

                      In any case, the good news is that creativity is not born: it’s made, and each one of us has the potential to be more creative and come up with incredible ideas.

                      “Creativity is any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

                      The definition of creativity is broad, and reminds us that creativity is not limited to artists or musicians. It does however require that we have some kind of impact on the domain in which we create.

                      Creativity also emphasizes values.

                      “The process of having original ideas that have value” — Ken Robinson

                      This makes up for what Csikszentmihalyi misses out. For instance, we can make a change in the world without adding significant value. Any destructive act, like smashing a window, creates change, but it doesn’t necessarily create valuable change.

                      In short, there isn’t one single definition of creativity It’s up to us to find a definition that feels true and useful. When you know what your standard is, It’s much easier to embrace creativity and start to cultivate it.

                      And in this article, you will learn how to be more creative and take a good look at what goes into the creative skill:

                      1. Cultivate Focus

                      In order to create, there needs to be a focus on creating something, whether it’s a song, a theory, a product, or a sculpture.

                      You could also call this “drive” – it’s the initial spark that drives the solution to a problem, or the will to get on your laptop and start typing.

                      However, it’s worth noting there are different stages to the creative process: the divergent stage and the convergent stage.

                      In the divergent stage, we want a broad focus – we want to be willing to let in lots of different inputs, ideas and insights. This is the time for brainstorming all possible ideas and solutions.

                      In the convergent stage, we start to narrow our focus, like a camera lens. At this stage, we start to drill down to a handful of ideas or solutions, discriminating throughout the process.

                      How to cultivate focus?

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                      Take a 20 Minute Walk

                      Walking away and getting your heart rate up is the best free tool you have in regaining your focus.

                      I know it might seem counterintuitive to take a break right when you’re at your busiest, and especially when you’re drowning in your massive to do list, but the effects it will have on your clarity and ability to focus are undeniable.

                      Walking is physiologically proven to release stress, and clear your mind. In fact, most of my most brilliant ideas (and some pretty terrible ones too) have occurred on my daily walks.

                      If you give this technique a try, what you’ll find is that you’re much more productive than you were before you took a breather.

                      Over time, if you do these walks daily, you’ll quickly find that your to-do list starts to feel a lot less significant, and a lot more doable. It’s all about keeping razor focused, and that’s what short daily walks will gift you.

                      2. Build a Structure

                      When I wake up in the morning, I start the day with a structure in mind. I know that 15 minutes will be dedicated to meditation, 30 minutes to coffee and reading, 20 minutes to yoga and so on.

                      The structure of this morning routine might be boring, but the act of each task in itself has the potential to be, on some level, “creative.”

                      The point of structure is that it gives you the space to make time for something you want to do. It helps you carve out the time to do your creative work. Once you begin that thing in itself, you are free to go about it however you’d like.

                      Without structure, we can lose focus and can feel overwhelmed with possibility. If you’ve ever looked at a blank page and felt too overwhelmed with possibility to make a mark on it, you’ll know what I mean. How much easier it gets when you are given some guidelines or a deadline?

                      The trick is finding the right amount of structure for you and your creative needs. Too little structure and we feel overwhelmed. Too much structure, and we risk feeling limited and stifled.

                      Again, it’s worth thinking about creating in those two stages: divergent (less structure) and convergent (more structure.)

                      How to build a structure?

                      Create a Morning Routine

                      Your morning routine doesn’t have to be rigid or so arduous you dread waking up. In fact, it should feel like the opposite. When you get a routine that works for you, you’ll look forward to starting the day.

                      We all have different needs and preferences which can shape our ideal routine. In the book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, you can be inspired over 160 different creators’ daily routines, from Charles Darwin to Pablo Picasso.

                      Experiment with any that take your fancy, and see how you feel with a bit more structure to start your day.

                      You can also take a look at this article about morning routine for inspirations: The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day

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                      3. Find Motivation

                      There is a theory that suggests: people will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself — not by external pressures. This is also known as intrinsic motivation; a drive that comes from within.

                      Think of a time when you did some of your best work — chances are you were totally absorbed in what you were doing, to the exclusion of everything else. You were completely focused on the work itself, barely noticing time flying by.

                      Now think of a time when you felt under pressure to perform. Maybe it was an exam, or a commission for an important client, or maybe your boss had told you “there’s a lot riding on this.”

                      Notice the difference? In the first memory, you were driven by intrinsic motivation, which made it relatively easy, even enjoyable, to be highly creative.

                      In the second memory however, extrinsic motivation was breathing down your neck, distracting you by whispering about the rewards for success and the horrible consequences of failure: likely making it harder to focus on the task at hand.

                      For this reason, intrinsic motivation, if you can find it, is what separates the good from great creative work.

                      This isn’t to say only internal motivators help. I personally get motivated by luring myself to work with a good cappuccino at my favourite cafe. That will get me ready to write or edit or whatever I’ve been avoiding.

                      How to find motivation?

                      Connect to Your “Why”

                      Your “Why” is your fuel: the thing that drives you forward, that gives you a reason to do what you’re doing.

                      ‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.’ — Friedrich Nietzche

                      When you have a reason to do something, a purpose or a goal that matters to you, you can connect your daily actions to it. Then, each act becomes infused with meaning and you find that intrinsic motivation comes naturally.

                      The trick is to remember your “why” and connect with it on a regular basis.

                      Think about how you want to feel on a daily basis. What would you like to accomplish in the next year? What would you like for yourself in the next five years? How about in your lifetime?

                      Ultimately, the tasks you face on a daily basis, or at least some of them, will connect to a greater purpose if you follow this path and you will find you feel more motivated to create and less resistance.

                      If you aren’t sure where to start looking for motivation, this will help: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

                      4. Be an Expert in a Chosen Domain

                      Research has shown that just as expertise in one domain does not predict expertise in other unrelated domains; creativity in one domain does not predict creativity in other unrelated domains.[1]

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                      So just because you can paint a pretty picture, doesn’t mean you can creatively solve a mathematical problem.

                      If you’ve taken one of those tests like the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, which will ask you to think of a bazillion uses for a pencil, and scored well, unfortunately this is only an indicator of divergent thinking skills. It is not a predictor for creativity all round.

                      The good news is, you can train your creativity in your chosen domain. Much like a muscle, you can isolate exercises to strengthen it.

                      Of course you can still do a total body workout – or atotal creativity workout – but it means your creativity-training exercises need to come from a wide variety of domains; not just thinking up uses for a pencil.

                      How to become an expert?

                      Make a Mastery Training Plan

                      Following our physical workout analogy, it’s worth applying the habits of great athletes to your chosen creative domain. For example:

                      1. Decide what area/s you want to work on

                      Much like a tennis player who decides they need to improve their serving technique, you can decide what area within your creative domain you want to improve at. Get specific.

                      2. Decide how much time you can dedicate

                      Most of us don’t have all day to train like a pro tennis player might, but you can likely squeeze 20 to 30 minutes in a day, if you want to. Whatever the time you can allow is, decide to dedicate yourself to it.

                      3. Review your progress

                      Finally, in order to check your progress, you can take regular reviews. Decide what your metrics are, and take time each week to check in with yourself.

                      How many days did you practice? How did you compare to the previous week? This kind of review can help you stay on track, and actually creates more intrinsic motivation as you see yourself develop.

                      5. Create a Conducive Environment

                      A psychologist in 1943 proposed that behaviour is:[2]

                      “a function of both the person as well as the physical environment they are in.”

                      I would suggest that the act of creating is a behaviour and that, even though it begins as an internal process, it’s very much affected by and even dependent on the environment we are in.

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                      I started noticing how environment affects me when I worked in an office. Over time, I realized that the more people who were in or who were talking, the more distracted I was. If I got to the office early before my coworkers arrived, I was twice as effective.

                      I was even more effective if I was at home. Now that I work from home, I know I’m even more effective when in certain coffee shops. Ideally, places that have high ceilings, gentle lighting, some barely noticeable background music – and excellent coffee.

                      It’s these little variations in our environment that can really shape our creative output.

                      If you’re an introvert, you probably do your best work alone. If you’re an extrovert, you probably do your best work in the company of others.

                      This isn’t to say you should find one way of doing things and stick to it: in fact, varying your environment from time to time is a great way to stoke the creative fire too, which we’ll touch on more later.

                      How to create a conducive environment?

                      Add or Subtract Stimuli

                      Novelty in our environment has been shown to stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that increases our desire to seek out reward.[3]

                      If you’re looking for creative motivation, adding some novelty into your environment can be just what you need.

                      On the other hand, some people are highly sensitive and when it comes to having too much stimulation in their environment, they find it difficult to focus.

                      Experiment with working in different environments. Note how you feel. Note whether you do better creative work or have more interesting ideas when you’re alone or with others.

                      Try listening to music, people chatting or try being in complete silence. Try a dimly lit room, try working in bright sunlight.

                      In each case, note how you feel before, during and afterwards and rate the quality of your work.

                      The Bottom Line

                      Creativity is not one particular skill or talent one can have. It comes in as many broad and unique flavors as there are people on this earth.

                      To be more creative, take little steps each day. Acknowledge where and when you feel most inspired, motivated and original and spend more energy in those areas.

                      More Articles About Creativity

                      Featured photo credit: Sticker Mule via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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