Do you find yourself sitting at your desk chugging an energy drink right after lunch? You may believe you need that pick-me-up to get through the rest of your day. If this is you, you aren’t alone. The energy-drink business brings in nearly $3 billion a year because, in part, people believe that it can provide a much-needed push to the end of the day.
While there is debate over the efficacy of these drinks, there is little debate that the 2:30 slump is real. Some of you reading this may do your best work first thing in the morning. You open your eyes ready to greet the day and get things done. Others of you may do your best work when the sun goes down and others are fast asleep. What you all probably have in common is that wall you hit between lunch and the end of the work day.
A study out of Australia, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, says that it’s not just your body that takes a hit. Sure, you feel tired. You may find yourself yawning and fighting to stay awake. Your neck and shoulders feel stiff and you couldn’t muster energy if your life depended on it. These things may all be true, but your brain is also impacted by the early-afternoon slow down. Here’s what’s happening, according to the study.
The study was conducted using 16 young men that work typical business hours. None of the men had traveled recently, meaning they weren’t suffering with jet lag. Each man was asked to take part in a bit of gambling so that an MRI scanner could monitor their brains in real time. The researchers kept a close eye on the reward center of the brain to see what a typical response looked like. The men were then observed performing everyday tasks at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. The brain had the lowest observed levels of reward processing at 2 p.m. This has much to do with the natural circadian rhythm.
So what does this all mean to you? It means that if you are experiencing a sort of slow down or even complete drain at 2:30 p.m., you can change your habits and structure your day in a way that keeps your brain humming along and your work getting done. Here are a few ways to go about beating the slump.
Give Yourself a Break… Literally
Your brain needs a bit of a cool down during the day. Experts suggest that a 10 minute break every hour is ideal, although it may be unrealistic. Keep in mind, though, that taking a break doesn’t mean you have to get up from your desk and make it obvious. Instead, stop working for 10 minutes and sit in your chair. It’s your brain that needs the break.
When it comes to scheduling your workday, the things that require the most brain power should be scheduled in the early morning. If that doesn’t work for you, be sure to take a break right before tackling these tasks. It will get your brain ready for the job at hand.
Lower Your Stress Level
It’s easier said than done — we know. Still, you should try to reduce your stress levels. When your body is in a state of stress, your brain is in a permanent fight or flight mode. Your heart beats faster, your immune system doesn’t work as well and the energy to your brain is lessened. If you haven’t tried breathing exercises, do so. You may feel like it’s a bit hoaky at first, but breathing correctly really can help your body beat stress. Inhale deeply through your nose for a four count, and then exhale slowly through your nose. Repeat this until you feel relaxed.
This type of breathing is, of course, in addition to the typical tips you hear of. Reduce the amount of caffeine you consume, get enough sleep and eat nutritious meals. Exercise routinely and keep yourself fit and to regularly release endorphins.
One Thing at a Time
Stop trying to multitask. Study after study has shown that it is simply not possible. You may think you are stellar at juggling all of your responsibilities and getting the job done, but the truth is that you are not being as productive as you could be if you were focusing on one task at a time.
Stay focused on a single task for short bursts of time — say, 30 minutes max. Take a quick break and then get back to it. You may be surprised at just how much more you accomplish when you stop trying to do everything at once.
Back to rewards. When you get something done or accomplish a goal for the day, reward yourself. Even a simply patting yourself on the back for a job well done will activate the reward centers of your brain and increase your levels of dopamine. The more often you get a spike in dopamine while you are working, the better you will enjoy your job.
Let’s talk about that huge project you are facing. Or should we say avoiding? It’s natural for people to procrastinate when they are facing a looming deadline or a project that is sure to be stressful. Instead of taking on the entire thing in a huge chunk, break it into smaller bits. Break the job into small tasks and tackle one at a time. Your huge project won’t seem so daunting when you are getting it done a piece at a time.
Are you ready to beat that 2:30 slump tomorrow? You can use any of the tips we’ve discussed or try them all. For even more ideas on how to make your workday a less stressful and more productive one, Company.com has the information you’re looking for. We can help make your day more manageable. Reach out to our team to discover the services we offer that will meet your needs, and to start a free trial of our premium software package.