By the time 3:00 p.m. hits, my body starts telling me that it's time to check out. Despite my high motivation and earnest desire to achieve my goals, simple biology causes my energy levels to plummet, negatively impacting my concentration and ability to stay productive. My experience is not abnormal.
For many individuals, the hours following lunch, between 12 and 4 p.m., are a vacuum in which time slows and productivity plummets. People find themselves scrolling through their social-media accounts rather than staying focused on the task at hand because their bodies feel like falling asleep.
Here are 10 simple ways to avoid your afternoon slump and stay productive throughout the rest of the day:
1. Know your body's tendencies.
My body crashes at 3 p.m., but yours may crash earlier or later than mine. Start taking notes about how you feel at different times throughout the day and adjust your tasks accordingly. If you're very productive in the morning, schedule more difficult tasks first--or do the opposite if it takes you a while to get moving.
2. Experiment with healthier nutrition.
Knowing when your body feels tired gives you information that can help you fight this battle with nutrition. Try adding in slower digesting carbohydrates in the morning, like sweet potatoes or brown rice, to sustain energy levels, and then eat an apple for a quick boost in the afternoon. The better you build the foundation of your diet, the higher your energy levels throughout the day.
3. Take a short break (without your phone).
Taking a break sounds counterintuitive, but it will actually save you time when used correctly. Leave your phone at your desk or put it on silence before leaving your office and walking around. Sometimes fresh air and no distractions can help reset your mind--which at this point in the day is accustomed to being over-stimulated.
4. Elevate your heart rate with quick movements.
Sitting most of the day is one of the least healthy aspects of most people's work routine, and it leads to fatigue. Jumping jacks in the stairwell, running up a flight of stairs, dropping down for some quick mountain-climbers and pushups, or taking a short series of rapid deep breaths will bring your heart rate back up to normal and increase your internal body temperature. Both of these factors will provide you with the energy you need to remain focused.
5. Make room to feel what you've been avoiding.
Ignoring or minimizing uncomfortable thoughts and feelings--whether related to work or your personal life--removes valuable energy that could be applied elsewhere. Give yourself five minutes to sit with your feelings without labeling or judging them. When you give them space, you'll feel a sense of relief and discover energy you didn't know you had.
6. Hit the reset button with a light afternoon meditation.
After your short exercise and feeling activity, it's time to transition back into the workplace grind. Allow your mind to reset and regain composure by taking a minute or two to focus on your breath and become aware of your surroundings. Focus on what you can see, what you can touch, and what you can feel.
7. Reorganize your priorities and set deadlines.
Look at all of your tasks. Decide right now which need immediate attention and which can be put on the back burner, then write out what you need to accomplish.
8. Eliminate all distractions.
Put your phone on silent, close your extra browser tabs, and tell your co-workers that you need some time to yourself this afternoon. It's time to get serious about productivity.
9. Start (and keep) moving to find your flow.
Remember Newton's first law? Objects in motion stay in motion. Start moving and allow yourself to be consumed by the task so that you can enter a highly productive state of flow.
10. Do your best and accept the result.
No matter how your day went, implementing changes takes time. When adding in the steps above, recognize that we all have some days that are less than optimal. However, with acceptance comes forgiveness and the ability to be open to new possibilities tomorrow.
Give yourself permission to continue refining the way you approach productivity and you'll be pleased with the results.