We’ve all been there… it’s full steam ahead all morning, you grab a quick lunch and have the best of intentions of powering through the day. Instead… BAM! You hit the wall. Suddenly, your energy plummets, your mind wanders and all you really want to do is curl up under your desk for a nap. Instead you find yourself feeding the vending machine or making a Starbucks run.
Instead of reaching for the nearest Snickers Bar, you should know research has given us some really simple ways to slay the dreaded afternoon slump.
1. Strategic snacking. Eat the right afternoon snack to keep the brain fueled and humming. Avoid simple carbs and go with complex starchy carbs with a healthy protein instead. Think whole wheat crackers, pretzels or whole grain bread topped with peanut butter for both a quick refuel and a steady release of energy all afternoon.
2. Stay hydrated. Dehydration can also give you brain fog and make you lethargic. Water is your best bet, but if you really need the caffeine, go with green tea. It has less caffeine than soda or coffee, and it’s loaded with antioxidants.
3. Crank up the tunes. Music is so powerful in so many ways. The right type of music can increase creativity, focus and productivity, improve mood and decrease stress. If you want to use music to beat the afternoon slump, it’s important to listen to the right music for the job. There is a wealth of research that not all playlists are created equal. Dr. Emma Gray of The British CBT and Counseling Service in London was commissioned by music streaming service Spotify to conduct research to determine what types of music deliver benefits. According to her findings, every subject has music that’s compatible with it, and that listening to the right kind can maximize focus, creativity, or knowledge absorption.
For simple tasks that require little concentration or creativity (like answering emails or organizing files), listen to songs you know and love.
Go for less distracting music when you need strong focus. “Low information load” music–songs with little variety and complexity, those with few or no lyrics–allow you to concentrate better.
If you’re feeling sluggish, listen to something new and different. Music you’ve never heard before, music that introduces new demands on your brain can raise your energy level.
If you need to tap into your creative brain, opt for unfamiliar songs paced at 50-80 beats per minute.
4. Move your body. Physical movement is one of the easiest ways to boost alertness. Standing up and stretching your arms toward the ceiling and then bending at the waist to touch your toes is a great way to get the blood flowing and release the tension of sitting at a desk all day. Numerous studies indicate that simply walking outside for as little as 5 minutes can deliver huge benefits. Even a short walk around the building or to the mailbox and back forces you to stand up and move, which is beneficial if most of your day involves sitting in front of a screen. Frequent short breaks can boost engagement and productivity, and a quick break from artificial lighting can reset your focus and concentration as the natural light delivers a shot of vitamin D and serotonin.
5. Schedule collaborative projects in the afternoon. When you hit the wall in the afternoon it’s really easy to zone out and lose focus on simple tasks. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, working with others can help boost your energy and keep you on task. If collaboration isn’t an option, consider the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique involves setting a timer and “chunking” tasks into 25 minute blocks with a 5 minute break between each block. You can do anything for 25 minutes, right?
6. Experiment with the 1-3-5 Rule. Determine when your energy peaks and dips throughout the day. Once you understand your body’s natural rhythms, commit to accomplishing 1 major task, 3 medium tasks, and 5 small tasks every day. Schedule your most demanding tasks when you’re at your best and the easier tasks when your energy wanes.