Three o'clock in the afternoon: the time when you can barely keep your eyes open, let alone get any work done. If you're struggling with motivation, take heart that there are more options besides staring off into the distance. Here are six ways to stay productive during your afternoon slump.
1. Take a walk around your building. Sitting is bad for us. Studies show excessive sitting leads to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death. Get up, stretch and move your muscles. Try walking on a different floor of your building, or taking a trip outside to the parking lot. Stretch in the elevator or behind your desk. You'll avoid the health risks of being in a chair all day, and receive an instant energy buzz by moving around.
2. Schedule meetings. It may seem counterintuitive, but talking to a colleague or client can help you stay awake and alert when you can't otherwise concentrate. Switching tasks will keep you stimulated, and the forced activity allows a natural break from staring at your computer screen. If you don't have any meetings to schedule, try hanging out at the office water cooler for 15 minutes to refresh and reset your mind. Just don't be tempted by any sugary treats while you're there.
3. Organize your systems. Ditch tasks that are difficult to concentrate on, and spend your afternoon slump organizing your online and offline systems. Set up filters for your emails, organize your Evernote notes into folders, clean out your desk drawers and backup your computer. These simple, easy tasks are likely already on your to-do list, but have never become a priority. Use the time when you're most likely to be inefficient to put your house in order. You'll only become more effective as time goes on.
4. Eat a healthy snack. Your blood sugar drops a couple hours after eating, so it's only natural to feel sluggish after lunch. But you don't need to rely on caffeine to get you through. Sugary treats will only make you crash, while noshing on a healthy snack can revive your blood sugar and your energy levels. Healthy doesn't have to mean boring or tasteless. Try an apple with a spoonful of peanut butter, a corner of brie cheese with some whole wheat crackers, or a handful of almonds with dried cranberries.
5. Catch up on industry-related reading. Resist the urge to log on to Facebook and Twitter, and instead, bring up industry-related articles and websites instead. Catch up and get inspired by new ideas, and share your new-found learning and knowledge with your colleagues, team members and network. In a post for The Daily Muse, Lauren Bloch argues that job-related reading "can make you a more valued employee, increase your personal branding, and, if job searching, make you a much more competitive candidate." Use it to your advantage.
6. Take a nap. Still can't keep your eyes open? Convince your office to allow 20-minute power naps. It's not as uncommon as it may sound. As far back as 2008 a poll released by The National Sleep Foundation found 34 percent of employees are allowed to nap at work. Employers like British Airways, Google and Nike all offer their employees access to nap-specific rooms. Benefits of a power nap include increased alertness, performance and ability to concentrate, lower stress and an enhanced mood.
A dip in productivity at 3:00 p.m. may quickly become an afternoon of inactivity if you're not careful. Instead of wasting time and cursing your lack of energy, avoid the dreaded slump by engaging in smart, productive – and easy-to-accomplish – activities.
Rebecca Thorman's weekly blog Kontrary offers tips to create the career, bank account, and life you love, and is a popular destination for young professionals. Her goal is to help you find meaningful work, enjoy the heck out of it, and earn more money. She writes from Washington, D.C.