This is a guest post by Kayla Matthews. She writes about self-development, productivity and goal setting for sites like MakeUseOf and The Daily Muse. You can read more of her tips on ProductivityTheory.com.
You had a productive morning — you knocked out several items on your to-do list, attended a few lively meetings and topped it off with lunch.
Now you’re back to your desk, and you feel like you could crawl into bed. Your eyes are glazed over. You’ve checked your email inbox five times in five minutes, and you can’t seem to recapture that drive you had earlier in the day.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone.
The afternoon slump, the least productive time of the day for most office workers, has been studied to the point where researchers have pinned the average start time at 2:55 p.m.
Your time is valuable, and while a nap sounds great, you want to get more work done. What steps can you take to increase your productivity and beat that afternoon slump? Here are five tips to get you over the hump:
1. Have a plan.
The best way to approach your afternoons is with an actionable plan.
When you’re working on a bigger project, you want to maximize everything. As you and your teammates work through a project, you will constantly change and adapt what you’re doing as you learn what works best. Because of this, valuable time and energy often go into wasteful tasks that could have been avoided with a better plan.
There are countless ways to go about preparing for each project, each phase and even each day. Take the time to find a planning method that works for you and your teammates.
2. Energize during lunch.
Your lunch break is a vital time to recharge before heading into your afternoon.
There are some obvious ways to give yourself a boost — eat plenty of carbs and protein that take a while to break down in your system, such as grains, meat, fish, beans, eggs or dairy. Fruit and veggies are good as well, but make sure that’s not all you eat.
Spending time with your coworkers outside of the office setting is also a good way to spend your break. You can take this time to hold informal meetings, bounce ideas off of one another or just strengthen bonds.
For some, a quick 10 to 20-minute power nap can do wonders — but don’t sleep any longer than that, lest you risk entering deeper stages of sleep that will make you groggy.
If napping isn’t your thing, a brisk walk in nature — if available — can help you distress and get ready to take on the afternoon.
Related: 7 Natural Stress Relievers
3. Do one thing at a time.
There is this notion that multitasking is the best way to approach our work, and we need to focus on many different projects at once to be our most efficient.
This isn’t necessarily true all the time, however, and you may find the concept of “monotasking” instead to be a better use of your time.
Separate your day into individual tasks, and then allow yourself to do nothing else during each block. Hide your phone, don’t look at your inbox, artificially shorten your deadlines and really focus your whole mind on whatever project you’re working on in the moment.
4. Maximize your morning.
If you can’t beat the slump, work with it.
When creating your schedule, keep in mind that your mornings are naturally your most productive, so you want to utilize them wisely.
Schedule your most intensive and demanding projects in the morning to help you put a serious dent in them, and save your less demanding work — like checking your email, attending meetings and answering phone calls — for the afternoon to make the slump far less daunting.
5. Stop wasting time in meetings.
There is no denying the importance of meetings. A well-run meeting is an effective way to get brains in a room together to solve problems.
However, not all meetings are effective — in most workplaces, about half end up being a complete waste of time.
If you’re able to run meetings, consider whether every meeting you call is necessary or if a simple update email for your group would be a better use of their time. Keep meeting groups small and have a specific agenda.
In addition, scheduling your meetings like departing trains — at specific times like 1:03 p.m. to 1:26 p.m. — can create interest, get people to show up on time and keep things brief.
The afternoon slump can be a daunting foe, but if you work to increase your productivity, you will not just overcome each workday — you’ll conquer it.