Give your brain a break

After two relentless years, we’re on a mission to achieve more rested bodies and minds, because it’s clear from pandemic that “Productivity Anxiety” is overwhelming us. The blurring of our personal and work lives and selves, has led to many of us feeling out of balance and exhausted due to a feeling of – or expectation to be – ‘always online’.

Our brains need a break. Stepping off the productivity wheel and getting mental rest is vital for our exhausted brains (and bodies), as the pressure to be always on with family, friends and colleagues can feel like an impossible task.

For this reason, Microsoft partnered with Stylist Restival, a wellness event focused on achieving more rested body and minds. Stylist’s, Susan Riley, chatted to Gillian Binks – leader of Microsoft’s productivity anxiety study – and therapist, author and social media creator, Joshua Fletcher (also known as @anxietyjosh), who specialises in conditions associated with anxiety, to discover how we can best manage our digital health in our new hybrid world.

To support finding a new balance that works for you, Microsoft offers a suite of tools to optimise your time and to do list.

Filter out the noise, find your flow and focus on what matters in each moment.

Empowering every person to achieve a better work life flow is vital. Individuals can’t fulfil their potential, or recognise their achievement if they’re constantly berating themselves for not being ‘enough’. There’s a real need for us to kickstart a conversation around burnout, what it is, and how we help people navigate through it, and out Microsoft technology can play an important role here.

– Gillian Binks, Marketing Strategy and Planning Lead, Microsoft UK

Find your work-life flow

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Finding the right balance between ever-increasing demands at home and life can feel like an impossible task.

Our research shows that while half of people (50%) use technology to recover from daily stresses and to be more productive, only 35% use it to reinforce their boundaries. It is no surprise that 60% say they are battling to keep on top of their ever-increasing to-do lists.

Discover how to filter out the noise so you can find your flow and focus on what matters most to you, in each moment. Our tools help you do that. Focus assist blocks notifications and sounds connected to tasks you’re not currently focused on, and Microsoft To Do is a cloud-based app to help you manage tasks across all your devices.


Manage your digital health

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Alarmingly, more than 20% are unsure of what good digital health boundaries look or feel like. In today’s world, the pressure to be “always on” with friends, family and colleagues can leave us feeling beholden to our technology, overwhelmed and exhausted. As a result, we fail to set healthy boundaries and we find ourselves in a negative cycle, sometimes forgoing the use of tech altogether.

But digital health is not a digital detox, which, like fad diets, might work for a time but are not realistic to create lasting change. Digital health requires you to tap into your personal digital nutrition – or digital consumption – and improve your relationship with technology, to feel in control and fulfilled by it, instead of feeling depleted by it.

It is critical we find ways to truly give our brains a break. Mental rest is being able to give yourself time to rest and relax. It’s about getting enveloped in an activity that you find joy and truly absorbing yourself in this, so your brain isn’t focused on anything else. Used in the right way, Microsoft technology has many tools that can help us better manage our time, reduce stress and enforce healthier mental habits.

– @AnxietyJosh

Overcome your productivity anxiety

Surface Duo devices and Surface Headphones on a stand
© Bronac McNeill

Productivity anxiety is reaching new highs, with 61% reporting an increase since the easing of restrictions. No longer working exclusively from home, many of us are struggling to get as much done as we’d like.

Research shows that 42% of us feel as though we can’t keep on top of our to-dos, while 40% of us feel guilty for not fulfilling all our commitments across their personal and work-lives.

Discover how to achieve a healthier, more sustainable relationship with productivity, as well as how technology can help us find more balance in our day to day lives.

Dual-screen technology – such as the Surface Duo 2 – has been proven to reduce cognitive load by making it easier to multitask. Studies show that two screens can give you a 42% productivity boost.


Unlock your creativity

Girl in dungarees drawing an eye on a Surface device
© Bronac McNeill

Exploring and unlocking our creativity is proven to boost our mental health.

Despite the turmoil of the past two years, over 40% say they discovered a new interest, skill, passion or hobby with the help of technology, and 60% say exploring their creative side improves their overall health and wellbeing.

Discover how Microsoft technology can help you explore and flex your creative muscles in new ways through access to new tools, inspiration and creative resources – from 3D digital painting with the Microsoft Surface Pen to accessing a creative writing course on Microsoft Teams – together we can bring new ideas to life.

Josh’s nine tips for managing productivity anxiety

  1. Name to tame – identify the unhealthy behaviors, habits and expectations that may be driving your productivity anxiety
  2. Let go of ‘I should’ – work out what matters most to you, not other people, and use that to set your goals and routine
  3. Use tech to lower the (cognitive) load – dual-screen devices such as the Surface Duo 2 support your working memory, helping to lower the mental energy it takes to get things done and be more efficient
  4. Challenge your negative self-talk – ‘I’m not there yet’, ‘I had an off-day’, ‘that wasn’t the best I can do’ rather than ‘I’ve failed’ or ‘I’m a failure’.
  5. Use tech to create a rock-solid routine – do-not-disturb, personal and work settings, calendar blocks, helpful apps; technology can help you stay on the right track
  6. Value progress, not perfection – let go of rigid high standards and allow yourself to celebrate growth
  7. Build rest into your routine – Prioritise yourself on your ‘to do’ list
  8. Reserve ‘perfection’ for when it really matters – You can’t apply it to everything. Instead, use it selectively to strive for what you value most
  9. Be realistic about your limitations. Don’t be afraid to say no. Avoid overloading yourself, which can lead to burnout

Meet the experts and find out more

All images copyright of Bronac McNeill