Afternoon Slump: How to Remain Productive Throughout the Day

You may be a student balancing a full load of responsibilities, or perhaps you are your own boss calling all the shots and working from home. Regardless of title or station, we all deal with slumps in our daily routines that can derail our focus and impact our productivity. Sure, many people have their go-to caffeine jolts to begin and even sustain their energy throughout the day, but there are also various little ways of improving your physical and emotional state to better offset that mid-day doze. Understanding how body cycles and external stimuli play into your work climate can better equip you to maneuver any lull. Here are a few things to consider:

The Body Cycle:

Do you consider yourself a “morning person?” Or perhaps you feel you really come alive with the city-sizzle of nightfall. Whatever the case, it seems most of us follow a typical pattern of behavior. Demand Media, an online resource for small businesses, suggests we experience “peaks and valleys” in alertness, mood, and productivity. They say that, “Exposure to elements like light, noise, and other external factors can reinforce how an individual perceives his/her own productivity, claiming the average peak for workers is between the hours of 9 A.M. and 2 P.M.”. Perhaps standard business hours are such because of these “norms”. Becoming more aware of your own biorhythm can help you better fit your strengths to the workday.

Address External Stimuli:

Forbes says you should get into office-zen. Along those lines, de-cluttering and knocking of smaller, less essential tasks from your "to-do" list can improve your focus and morale. A recent study on workforce distraction by the University of California, Irvine identifies that employees are actually happier and more satisfied with their jobs when they are also performing “busywork” like filing, organizing, and completing smaller tasks, because it gives them a sense of immediate gratification and accomplishment without the inherent stress of larger, more involved tasks.

Give yourself lots of light: open blinds or add artificial light to create an environment conducive to staying alert. Keep it cool: if you have any power over the thermostat, aim for 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Forbes, experts say this is the “sweet spot” for workplace productivity. Colder temperatures can promote feelings of sadness, while warmer temperatures tend to slow people down. Lastly, minimize distractions whenever possible: have maintenance fix that broken A/C unit that constantly breaks your concentration; address excessively loud or talkative office-mates; or limit your personal use of social media, etc. that zaps your focus and eats up your work time.

Engage the Senses:

Boost your focus and mood by incorporating aromatherapy into your work environment. Experiment with using essential oils like peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus, and cedar wood that can improve alertness while enhancing the body’s intake of oxygen. Using pressure or massage on key body points -- like the webs of the hands, below the knees, and the earlobes, can also help alleviate tension and stimulate blood flow that keeps the body alert.

Get More out of Your Lunch Break:

“Just like pro athletes, we all need the energy from calories for our minds to function at their best. And we all need a little time to recharge, too,” says Michael Woodward, PhD.  So, fuel your body for excellence. Choose fresh and lean proteins over the heavier carbs that can make the body feel tired. Take your break! If possible, take a walk to eat outside or in an area away from your desk. The change of atmosphere will help you reset your emotional and physical status, and putting your body in motion will be reinvigorating.  Use some of your break time to stretch, climb a few stairs, or do some isometric exercises (tensing, holding, and releasing muscles). Enjoy your break: Make a few personal calls or use social media to reconnect with friends and loved ones.

Bottom Line: The confines of our everyday work environments aren’t always optimal. With so much typically going on in our routines, it can be easy to lose focus throughout the day. Being aware of the ways your body clock works, and how other external stimuli factor in can give you the upper hand in combating the afternoon slump. Making little changes to your personal space and regimen can help you maximize your peak performance. Things like activating your auditory, olfactory, and tactile senses, and modifying some of your personal break-time behavior, can make a big difference!