It’s everybody’s favorite time of day: usually around 3 pm (or at least, it is for me), when productivity comes screeching to a halt, otherwise known as the afternoon slump. Everybody has their own method for dealing with the dreaded slump — maybe you grab an extra cup of coffee, or just will yourself to get your work done through sheer determination alone — but some experts are saying that no matter how hard you try, you can’t avoid the afternoon slump. Hear that? It’s not your fault you stared at your computer screen for an hour without absorbing anything on it. Science says so!
Earlier this week, Christopher Barnes of the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business told Harvard Business Review that the slump is too strong, and that we shouldn’t try to fight it. At least, that's the short version of it, anyway: Barnes said that we all have “optimal windows for doing your most creative and focused work,” and that it’s better to accept the slump and work with it by scheduling less mentally demanding tasks outside our optimal windows. So, in other words, if you’re usually basically brain-dead by the late afternoon, use that time to do things like respond to emails rather than perform rocket science (or whatever applies to your current role).
But if re-structuring your day isn’t really your thing, or if you don’t get to set your own schedule, there are steps you can take to beat the slump. Check out these easy things you can do right in your office.
1. Get a Move On
Getting up out of your chair and getting your blood pumping can help you re-energize — and not only that, but it gives your mind a break, too. If you don’t have a gym you can pop over to (I don’t know too many people who have that luxury, anyway), experts suggest doing some squats or lunges at your desk. If you don’t want to become the office weirdo, though, I think walking up and down the steps a few times or even taking a brisk walk outside would do the trick.
2. Have a Snack Attack
Experts emphasize that you don't want to grab a Snickers if you're feeling tired — that sugar will only make you crash harder later. Instead, you should aim for a snack with both protein and complex carbs, like a whole grain cracker and a piece of cheese or whole wheat toast and some peanut butter, to make sure your blood sugar and energy are stable throughout the day.
3. Tea Up
If you usually reach for the coffee around 3 pm, consider swapping it with tea. Green tea has less caffeine than coffee, so drinking it later on in the day might not affect your sleep schedule as much as a cup of joe would.
4. Get Minty Fresh
You might have learned this nifty little trick in an SAT prep class, but in case you didn't, here's a fun fact: peppermint is a natural energy-booster. Merely smelling the stuff stimulates the trigeminal nerve, an area of the brain responsible for arousal, wich can make you more alert — no caffeine required.
5. Take a Deep Breath
Taking a deep breath (as opposed to a shallow one) gets more oxygen into your cells, which slows your heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and improves circulation — all of which give you more energy. The best part? You can take deep breaths literally anywhere, anytime.
6. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy
...And by that I mean, if you hate the smell of peppermint, you can also sniff citrus for the same energy-boosting effect. Smelling lemons may enhance your mood and mental stimulation, while peeling oranges may also relieve stress. Citrus, you da real MVP.