- Like most people, you probably feel your productivity dip in the afternoon.
- There are ways to get around that besides mindlessly scrolling on Instagram.
- One ideal way: get coffee near the office with a coworker. You’ll stretch your legs, fuel up on caffeine, and strengthen your bonds with your colleagues.
Do you feel like your ability to focus and your supply of discipline and willpower are always dwindling by 2 p.m.?
You’re not alone.
Lots of people experience a mid-afternoon lull: that dip in energy levels, alertness, and concentration are part of one’s natural circadian rhythm, explains Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humour to Work.”
“The timing, extent, and intensity of the afternoon lull varies from person to person, and although our lunch diet can affect it, the No. 1 influencer is how well you slept the night before,” Kerr said.
Other factors, such as sitting for too long or spending too much time on the computer, can also contribute to a decline in energy.
And, perhaps one of the most surprising causes of afternoon fatigue is having too little work to do. “If you don’t have a clear plan of action and don’t set priorities for your day, and especially for the afternoon, it’s that much easier to lose steam and feel a dip in energy,” Kerr said.
Here are 11 things successful people do to deal with the dreaded afternoon lull.
Jacquelyn Smith contributed to the original version of this post.
They go to their scheduled meetings
Some people make the mistake of planning meetings in the morning, and then working on projects that require individual focus in the afternoon.
“This is a mistake, since you’ll show up to the meeting regardless, and the stimulus of getting there and talking to people will help you focus,” Laura Vanderkam, author of “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast” said. “Better to plan meetings and phone calls for the afternoon, and individual work for the morning, when you’re more focused.”
They get out of the office
“If you don’t take an intentional break, your body will take an unintentional one for you,” Vanderkam said. “Go for a walk. Get some fresh air.”
Taking a walk will get your muscles moving and the oxygen flowing, and it also allows you to clear your head.
“Plus, getting some fresh air will not only help wake you up, but if you’ve been working on a computer, focusing your eyes on longer distance objects can help minimise eyestrain – and getting some sunlight can help reset your clock,” Kerr said.
When the energy boost you get from lunch starts wearing off, you tend to experience a wave of sleepiness, Vanderkam said. To avoid that, successful people eat something healthy to perk themselves up a bit.
“Snack on something that isn’t too high in sugar, like cheese or fruit,” she said. “You don’t want to crash again 20 minutes later.”
They drink coffee
Sleep experts agree that an afternoon cup of coffee does help maintain alertness, as long as you don’t overdo it, Kerr said.
If you’re not a coffee drinker, then try green tea or water.
“Regardless of what you drink, use a beverage break as an excuse to get away from your desk, walk around, stretch, and interact with some people – all things that will help you maintain your energy levels,” Kerr said.
The most successful people turn the lull into a creative advantage by taking a power nap, Kerr said.
“Some of the greatest creative minds, most notably Thomas Edison, were or are huge fans of naps, believing that naps not only allow them to be more productive, but that they also helped them to be more creative,” Kerr said.
It may be difficult to nap at work – especially if you work in a cube or an open space – but if you can find a quiet place to rest for 15 minutes, you could be doing yourself (and your employer) a huge favour.
They listen to energizing music
A few upbeat songs can easily lift you up, get you moving, and provide a much-needed distraction to help you clear your head, Kerr said.
They exercise or stretch
If you’ve got a flexible job or you work from home, the mid-afternoon slump is a great time to work out.
“Exercise is energizing, and when you return, you’ll likely be able to focus for another few hours,” Vanderkam said.
Even if you can’t hit the gym or go to a class, take 10 minutes to go for a walk or stretch – anything that might get your heart rate up a little bit.
They drink water
“Being dehydrated contributes to a feeling of sluggishness, so get in the habit of drinking a tall glass of water,” Kerr said.
Everyone knows that drinking water is important for their health. Being hydrated is crucial, too, for reaching peak productivity – a British study from 2012 showed college students could boost their grades by 5% if they brought water to their exams.
They take time to be thankful
Kerr said you should “create a ritual for your afternoon downtime to start a gratitude journal, and write down three things you are grateful for each day.”
They power through their work by changing up their routine
“Doing something as simple as meeting in a different location than you normally would, or moving your work to a new room, can sometimes be all it takes to jumpstart your energy,” Kerr said.
“Now, I’ve made this gesture of investing time in doing an activity that I’ve been having trouble making progress toward,” he said. “And so simply being invested in trying to achieve the outcomes I’m looking for puts me down the path toward getting started.”
Socialising can be both fun and ultimately beneficial to your career. Grabbing coffee with a coworker or client strengthens your bond with them, and doesn’t require too much energy.
“Set a goal to connect with one colleague or client each afternoon, and do it during your slump time, when you don’t need as much energy and use it as a chance to break away from your computer and build relationships with key people at work,” Kerr said.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.