If you're like most people, the late afternoon is not the most productive moment in your workday. Instead, you find yourself zoning out during meetings, struggling to focus on complex tasks, and maybe discreetly yawning at your desk.
Are there things you can do to feel alert, energized, and engaged with your job throughout the entire workday including the afternoon? It turns out there are. The personal finance site GOBankingRates has studied the question of how to stay energized at work, especially during the afternoon, and come up with 15 recommendations. You can find the full list here. Here are some of the best:
1. Drink a glass of water with lemon in it.
Staying hydrated is important for feeling energized, and most of us drink too little water and too much other stuff that might or might not be good for us. Drinking a big glass of water will keep you from being dehydrated, and the tart flavor is a natural stimulus to make you more alert.
2. Get some exercise during the day.
This could be first thing in the morning or perhaps on your lunch break. It might seem counterintuitive to exercise as a way to feel less tired, but it does work, at least if you can make a habit of it. A University of Georgia study showed that regular low-intensity exercise over time decreases fatigue.
3. Train yourself to sit up straight.
Why would this matter? "Sitting hunched over compresses your internal organs, including your lungs," personal trainer Amanda Sterczyk, ACSM explained to GOBankingRates. "When you can't take in a deep breath, your body isn't able to pump oxygen and blood to your brain and every other part of your body. A hunched-over body contributes to 'foggy brain." Who knew?
4. Take a few deep breaths.
Now that you're sitting straight and not crowding your lungs, you can give yourself an even better oxygen boost with exercises that encourage you breathe deeply and fully. One good example is 4-7-8 breathing, which has the added benefit of reducing anxiety and centering your mind.
5. Eat wisely.
If you head to a restaurant for lunch, watch out for huge portion sizes that can leave you feeling stuffed and sluggish. When your body has to work hard to digest a large meal, it drains energy away from other things you need to do. Sugars and carbs such as pasta or bread can also cause a burst of energy followed by a bad slump so unless your workday is nearly over, avoid them. Opt for meals with lots of fiber, such as salads, because that causes the sugars from your meal to enter your bloodstream at a slow, steady rate instead of all at once. And it goes without saying that if you don't want an afternoon slump you should avoid alcohol at lunchtime.
Once you're back at the office, resist the temptation to eat sweets or other high-carb snacks during the afternoon. Instead, try a hard-boiled egg or hummus with carrots or other vegetables.
6. Don't park at your desk.
You may be inclined to buckle down, trying to get everything done before it's time to leave for the night. The problem with this is that the longer you sit immobile at your desk, the sleepier you're likely to become. So mix it up! Set a timer for 30 minutes (or 25 minutes if, like me, you're a fan of the Pomodoro technique) and when it goes off, make yourself get up and move around for a few minutes. Or have a standing desk you can switch to throughout the day. Or make it a habit to stand walk around your office whenever you're on the phone.
7. Chat with your co-workers.
While you're up and away from your desk anyhow, it's a great idea to walk around the office and have a quick chat with others who work there, or perhaps your building's support staff. As Michelle Cederberg, certified exercise physiologist told GOBankingRates, "We get energy from social interactions with people we like. Our bodies actually release oxytocin when we do this, and we feel more relaxed and content as a result."
8. Spend ten minutes outdoors.
Sunlight is a proven mood elevator and energy boost, and even ten minutes at a time (ideally twice a day) can make a big difference to your energy level and outlook especially as the day wears on. It will also give you vitamin D, which is important because a lack of that vitamin is linked to fatigue and sleepiness.
9. Drink a cup of coffee--then take a nap.
This may really sound counterintuitive, but "coffee naps" are a popular new tool for increasing energy and they're based in science. The reason is that when you drink coffee, it takes about half an hour for the caffeine to reach your bloodstream, and it turns out that anywhere between 10 and 25 minutes is the ideal length for a midday nap. That's long enough for you to feel a bit rested, but not long enough for you to wake up feeling groggy. Drinking coffee right before you nod off means you'll start getting the caffeine effect when you wake up or soon after. That should leave you feeling energized and ready for the rest of the workday--and the evening too.