Want To Be More Productive? Stay Calm

Productivity expert Chris Bailey shares his advice at the WorkProud Webinar

Figuring out that calmness is a key to becoming more personally productive is one thing. Actually implementing that strategy into your life and work is quite another.

Chris Bailey has done both. A successful author and renowned expert on the subject of productivity, who lives in Ottawa, Canada, he changed course after experiencing a full-scale panic attack during what should have been a routine speech.

Bailey, whose latest book is How to Calm Your Mind: Finding Presence and Productivity in Anxious Times, traced that transition and shared advice on how to make it happen for others at the monthly WorkProud Webinar.

Drawing from his own struggles and experiments, Bailey’s story-driven, science-backed talk guides audiences through practical ways to find calm in an anxious world. A few topics covered include:

  • How investing in calm saves us time by letting us work more deliberately under pressure.
  • What burnout is and how to break down the six factors that cause it.
  • How to use the power of calm in everyday situations, including during presentations, difficult conversations, and negotiations.
  • How we can use the science of “savoring” to sharpen our focus and see meaning behind what we do.
  • How the neurochemical dopamine is a primary enemy of calm — and productivity — but can be tamed through a “dopamine fast”.
  • Employee pride: Attendees will be able to connect with their work at a deeper level, become more engaged with their work, and enjoy themselves more as they work.and enjoy themselves more as they work.

You can watch the entire webinar right here:

We also prepared an article based on the webinar’s contents for those who prefer learning something new through reading.

‘How to Calm Your Mind’ by Chris Bailey

Like many people in the workplace, Bailey spent years digesting books, websites, life hacks and advice about increasing productivity, workplace well-being and avoiding burnout. But after his own crisis, he said, “I realized I needed to invest in calm at the same time. How can we have calm as a constant companion in our days? So instead of productivity I pointed the lens to calm, what calm even is and how can we get there.”

He started “taming my own anxiety” by asking a simple question: “What is the opposite of anxiety? What is apparent from the research is fascinating, and it shows that the point of no anxiety doesn’t live at the end of the spectrum, as we might think.

“It actually exists in the middle of the spectrum, and what exists on the other side is this idea of calm, to become less emotionally reactive to the circumstances as they change around us, where we relate to our thoughts in a positive manner and where our mental state is less agitated.”

To achieve that, Bailey recommends these strategies:

  • A two-minute burnout checkup. With 1 being lowest and 10 the highest, rank your stress level for six factors: workload, control, rewards of pay and recognition, a sense of community, fairness and manifesting values. “Take a composite score and chart this over time,” he said. “Pay special attention to the numbers that are 7 or above.”
  • Vagus nerve stimulation. This key nerve that starts in the brain and extends to the lungs, heart and beyond is important for relaxing the body and relieving stress. Among the techniques to activate that nerve, Bailey said, are yawning, taking in your whole field of vision, and deep breathing from the diaphragm. “Inhale deep into your core and exhale longer than you inhaled.”
  • Conduct a stimulation fast. At least for a while, eliminate the dopamine that energizes and distracts us, with positive and negative effects, such as online media and constant news updates. Instead, focus on calmer avocations like hobbies, books and meditation. “It brings us back down to earth,” he said. “Tasks become easier…it’s a shortcut for lowering the stimulation level of our mind.”

Not everything works for everyone, of course. “Take what works for you and leave the rest,” Bailey said. “We’re all wired differently. Not all of this will work for you. One thing that became apparent during this research is that there is no one-size-fits all, just as there is no cookie-cutter system to become more productive.”

What calm should not do, Bailey said, is cause any regrets or second thoughts.

“Adjusting our stimulation levels downward has this weird way of making us feel guilty,” he said. “But I want to absolve you of that guilt by sharing with you something that I discovered about productivity in this journey towards calm. The research shows that calm actually saves us time.

Calm, workplace well-being, and productivity

“How much longer does it take to do your work with that anxious state of mind? This is the effect that anxiety has on our cognitive performance. Our work actually takes longer when we do it with an anxious state of mind…A calm mind is a productive mind.”

It took Bailey a difficult moment in his life to learn the lesson, but it was worth it.

“I’m actually grateful for that episode,” he said. “Because it led to such fascinating ideas and research out there. I hope you’ll find what I did, that calmness also leads to productivity. It leads to creativity, it leads to engagement as we move from the burnout side of the spectrum, it leads us to become more focused on what’s in front of us and it lets us connect with more meaning around us.”


WorkProud, which helps companies craft an inspired workplace culture through communication, recognition and rewards, presents a monthly webinar featuring experts on workplace issues from around the country. It’s always free, and there’s usually a great giveaway just for tuning in. Watch for details about upcoming sessions in our monthly newsletter. If you don’t already subscribe, sign up here.

At WorkProud, we leverage technology to:

  1. Increase the quantity & quality of recognition.
  2. Drive accountability to show leaders appreciation of its workforce.
  3. Measure recognition and its effects.



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