Midday Productivity Hacks for Powering Through Your Workday
We’ve all experienced the midday slump. You feel all energized in the morning and then after lunch settles in, you start wishing there were more hours in the day. How am I going to get it all done? As it turns out, “powering through” is usually not the answer. Taking a few moments to reset your mind and your body, be it by chatting with a colleague or taking a walk around the block, is sometimes all you need to put yourself back in productivity mode. Read on for a few hacks you can use to reboot the next time you start looking at the clock.
Maintain a balanced diet during office hours. Consuming too much sugar, too many high-fat foods, or lots of carbs will leave you feeling drained, sluggish, and unable to concentrate. When you ingest too many empty carbs (a.k.a. sugar) and not enough protein, you’re setting yourself up for a blood sugar spike and brutal downfall. Try to have a balanced lunch with equal parts protein and carbs, and keep protein-filled snacks nearby. We love raw almonds, dark chocolate squares, blueberries, and avocados as snack options. This is how to avoid the 4 p.m. slump.
Take a few moments each day to really be present with your thoughts. Lunch is a great time to focus on nothing but the meal in front of you. Try to eat mindfully and appreciate the nutrients you are consuming. Then you can get back to the organized chaos that is the workday.
Steve Jobs used to practice what he called the “discipline” of meditation. “If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time, it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things—that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before,” Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson.
According to a recent study, there is a spike in click-through rate around lunchtime on weekdays. Take a five-minute break to catch up on Snapchat or scroll through your Instagram feed. It’s good to get your mind out of work mode for a little. Just don’t let it become an all-day habit. Setting a time to go on social media gives you something to look forward to and helps you stay off social when you really need to be focusing on the task at hand.
According to a new sleep study, the human body was meant to have a mid-afternoon nap. “The judicious use of naps, sleep researchers now say, could be the key to maintaining alertness,” notes The New York Times. “Studies are also finding that an afternoon nap can significantly increase mental alertness and improve mood, particularly in the large number of people who sleep too little at night.” If you can't make it home for a nap midday, consider lying down in your car or popping into a nail salon for five-minute neck massage. That way you can close your eyes and unwind for a mini break.
Step away from your screens—that includes your phone, your iPad, and your desktop—and have a conversation with a colleague in person. Face-to-face interaction is the best way to communicate, and we guarantee that you’ll get more accomplished in a shorter period of time when you don’t have to worry about structuring a written sentence. Plus, when you talk with someone in person, ideas evolve and turn into something more creative and interesting than you would have guessed.
Use your lunch hour to get outdoors. Even if your lunch “hour” is more like a 20-minute gap between meetings, take the time to go outside and catch a glimpse of the sun. Or, if your calendar is too busy to take time alone, invite your 1 p.m. meeting to join you for a walk or a coffee outside of the office. A recent study published by Stanford University proves that creative thinking improves while a person is walking. Another study conducted by the University of Illinois proves that productivity and creativity improve when someone takes regular, brief breaks. So what can we learn from science? If you want to maintain your productivity all day long and give yourself a new jolt of creativity, take a break and go outside.
Make a Spotify playlist with only feel-good tunes, and reserve it for moments when you need a rush of energy. That way, every time you click "play," your mind will be trained to know that it’s go time. Try to have different playlists for different moods and times of the workday. That will help keep your body in a rhythm.
Maybe it’s coffee or a square of dark chocolate, or maybe peanut butter and apple slices. Whatever you choose, pick something for a late-afternoon treat. You want something that makes the ugly hour of 4 p.m. look brighter than usual. Planning a treat moment is also a good way to keep your snacking at bay. We often reach for unhealthy office snacks out of boredom or anxiety. When you make an event out of your 4 p.m. treat, you’ll be more conscious of what you’re consuming.
Cut caffeine after 3 p.m. The only thing it will do for you then is make it difficult for you to fall asleep. Try decaf coffee if you must, but opt for an herbal tea when possible. Caffeinated drinks later in the day, especially when they are your third or fourth, tend to have the reverse reaction. They can make you feel a bit nauseous and unfocused. Stick with water and you’ll be much more clear-headed.
How do you keep focused during the late-afternoon slump? Share with us in the comments.