What is the Afternoon Slump?
The slump often appears at around 2 pm, and while it may still be the afternoon, it isn’t time to go home, and there is still have a pile of work to do. The urge to nap is strong!
This can be both a physical and mental drop in energy. Not only do we want to sleep, we feel lethargic but also the mental switch off of not wanting to get any work done. There are a few reasons why this happens. Our internal body clock does seem to wind down at around 2pm-4pm, our core body temperature drops and a hormone that results in us feeling sleepy is released. This hormone, melatonin, gives us the feeling that we want to snooze and is all part of the body’s natural circadian rhythm.
The effects of this can be further increased because of;
- Lack of sleep
- Food intake
- Lack of movement
This is predominantly a physiological response; however, the good news is that we can counterbalance this quite easily. If we don’t do anything to counterbalance the slump, then there is likely to be a significant impact on our ability to focus and pay attention.
Productivity levels will also reduce so we have a responsibility to act to prevent this from happening, and this doesn’t mean with coffee and chocolate cake!
Top Tips for Beating the Afternoon Slump
It is our responsibility to look after ourselves. We need to determine what action we need to take and if it impacts our work, we need to communicate how our employers can support us to achieve this. If a reasonable adjustment is required to enable you to do this, then it may be worth asking your manager if these adjustments can be implemented. More companies are taking the health and wellbeing of their employees more seriously, with employers understanding that happy and healthy employees results in a productive workforce.
Food is fuel. If we do not fuel ourselves correctly, then we will not run in an optimal way. Eat good food on a regular basis. Keep meals regular, not big meals with significant periods of time in between. Make sure that your meals are balanced with different types of food and a variety of nutrients. Beige food is not your friend.
Ultimately you want to eat foods that will give you energy for a sustained period of time rather than a quick release of energy, spiking your insulin levels and then resulting in an energy slump afterwards. That’s not to say that you should be avoiding carbohydrates, just that you want to keep them in balance with the other foods.
How much water you drink can impact on you both physically and mentally. If you are dehydrated, you won’t just feel the impact physically you will have less focus and reduced concentration levels. Don’t gulp it down, drink regularly throughout the day, so it is a continual intake of fluid. Aim for 2-3 litres or more if you are active or if the weather is warm.
4. Meal/screen breaks – take them!
Employment laws entitle you to breaks. Do you take what you are entitled to? Many people have got into the routine of sitting and eating at their desks and not taking the lunch break they are entitled to. This is not doing you any favours and will impact your overall productivity.
5. Gym, walk, stretch, phone a friend
Physically take yourself away from your desk and work area. Go for a walk, if you have time go to the gym, phone a friend and talk about something not work related to give your head a break and put you into a different headspace.
6. Schedule your activities to help – lively activities for the afternoon
When you plan your day, schedule activities for the afternoon that don’t require long periods of concentration. Plan activities that are short and if possible that require more physical movement. Even an activity such as filing, can get you up and away from the desk and less likely to feel the impact of the afternoon slump.
7. ‘Eat that frog’ first thing in the morning
‘Eat that frog’ is a book by Brian Tracy and talks about doing the task that we least like to do first thing in the morning. Schedule your day so that your least preferred tasks are completed and out of the way before your day gets going. If you put these tasks off for the end of the day, they are likely to coincide with your least productive time of the day and therefore either not likely to get done or will not be of high quality.
Also check out, Principles and Theories of Prioritising.
8. Walk and talk meetings
How many meetings do you have that you hold in a small meeting room that could be conducted by walking and talking? Do you have to have your one-to-one sessions in a meeting room or can you take a walk around the building, car park or even local area to talk things through?
There is increasing research that suggests people think more clearly when walking and that it can reduce stress, particularly for those more difficult conversations. Walking has many positive health impacts both physically and mentally, so why not use this as a reason to escape the office for a while?
Not everyone is able to listen to music while working. Some people find it distracting, and others just aren’t allowed to! Listening to music on your break can still be helpful. Music is a great way to help switch the mindset especially as we associate music with a variety of memories and emotions. Why not create an uplifting playlist of songs that put you in an energetic mood and if you need lifting at lunchtime, then play a few tracks?
The slump is real, but it can be reduced and even removed if you take action. For the optimum lunch-break eat your well balanced, nutritious meal and then take a walk, supping your water and listening to the songs that get you fired up. It is a sure way to get the most productive afternoon, and before you know it will be time to log off and go home!