2 PM. That’s the approximate time every day I hit the wall. Even the simplest of tasks begin to feel like I’m pulling teeth to get them done, and I start to wonder if I can go home yet.
And while, occasionally, I can just call it quits and head home for the day (I know—I’m very lucky), this isn’t something I should make into a habit.
I’m fairly confident that I’m not alone in having a time of day when I need to take a step back and recharge my batteries. So, I’ve thought up 12 things you can do to save the rest of your day (and your productivity), other than the common “take a walk” and “get another cup of coffee” suggestions.
1. Phone a Friend (or Family Member)
I have a colleague who takes a break once a week or so and goes outside to call her grandfather. And each and every time I think—wow, what a great use of time. I should do that more often. (Yes, Mom, I’ll call you more, promise!) Sometimes, there’s nothing like catching up with a loved one to bring you back down to the planet.
2. Get Up and Move (Just a Bit)
Let me ask you a question: How many hours out of the day do you spend sitting? The answer is probably “a lot.” Even if you have a standing desk (props to you!), you still spend a lot of time in the exact same position.
When you start to feel a little sluggish, perhaps it’s because your body hasn’t sensed movement in a while, so it’s putting your mind into hibernation as well. Hop out of your chair (unless you’re standing, of course) and do some squats, push-ups, jumping jacks, or any other bodyweight exercise.
And when you’re done, don’t forget to stretch. Your muscles can actually permanently shorten from prolonged postures (a.k.a., sitting). Using some time during your workday to stretch will not only help prevent that, but can also help to make you feel less stressed.
3. Read an Article
The benefits of reading are plenty, but at a very basic level, it allows you to escape from the work you’re doing at the present moment. When you bring your attention back to the job at hand, you’ll have a fresh view on what you need to accomplish in the last hours of the workday.
If you don’t have anything on your to-read list (or in your Pocket), go to your favorite site, find an article that looks interesting, and get lost in it. Just make sure you keep an eye on the clock in case whatever you’re reading is super captivating—you don’t want to get too lost.
4. Listen to Music (and Break it Down)
I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing like the beat of a good song to get my head bopping. And this often correlates with an increase in my mood and energy levels.
And, confession: That energy often leads to me busting a move in the middle of my apartment. It may not be pretty, but the energy spike is pretty undeniable.
I’m a full supporter of you dancing to your favorite tunes in the office, too, as long as you aren’t distracting your co-workers. When you’re around others, use your headphones—not everyone wants to listen to your favorite song on repeat, you know.
5. Do a Crossword (or Another Type of Puzzle)
There’s no better way to get the wheels in your head turning again than to present yourself with a challenge (um, what’s the word for that mythical creature who is half-horse, half-human, again?).
6. Cross Items Off Your Other To-Do List
What other to-do list? Oh, you mean that list of non-work items that keeps building and building because when I get home at the end of the day I’m exhausted and choose to mindlessly watch TV instead? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. If you need to take your mind away from work for a little, it doesn’t mean you can’t be productive—you can just do so in another area of your life.
Now, I wouldn’t suggest running home to deep clean the kitchen, but I’m sure there are some smaller tasks you can take of. Call the doctor and schedule an appointment, deal with your bank, or pick up deodorant—whatever it is, crossing a small item off your list (no matter which list it is) will make you feel good.
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7. Get Organized
The Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that a cluttered workspace, whether your desk, cubicle, or even your computer’s desktop, could be making your mind feel a little chaotic, too. Why? Because when you have tons of other objects in your line of sight, those items compete for your brain’s attention, and thus distract from what you’re trying to focus on.
Remove unnecessary items from your desk—this does not include those that serve the purpose of sprucing up your boring cubicle. On your desktop, put all your files into folders, “trash” anything you don’t need, and close all the browser tabs you're not using (like the shopping cart you filled with things you'll never actually buy). You’ll be surprised at how much clearer your mind is when you eliminate all those distractions and can solely focus on the tasks at hand.
8. Treat Yourself
It may be just me, but sometimes having a “reward” in the middle of the day helps to make the rest of the day look a little bit more manageable. But this doesn’t mean you should buy yourself a Venti Mocha Frappuccino every afternoon (goodbye, savings account and normal blood sugar levels).
I like to keep small bags of popcorn at my desk as well as two of my favorite teas—Pumpkin Spice Rooibos and Candy Cane Green Tea. And, yes, I drink these seasonal teas all year long (I’m a rebel).
9. Chat With a Co-worker
You know those people sitting next to you all day? Yeah, those ones. You may not have that much in common with them, or they may be your best friends—either way, taking some time to chat with them about their day, their interests, activities they did recently, is a great way to take a break.
We tend to get really caught up in what we’re doing and spend a lot of time with our eyes glued to our computer screens. Break away and talk to a human. About something other than work! Just make sure you aren’t interrupting them when they’re in the zone.
10. Check Off Your Daily Workout
Not every company provides their employees with the luxury of flexible hours; however, if you work for a company that does (woo hoo!), take advantage of this perk and get a sweat session in. Pop outside for a run, hit up your building’s stairwells, try out a group fitness class near your office, or find a vacant space and take advantage of the free exercise videos provided all over the internet.
Working out is not only good for you in the long run, but it can also have instantaneous effects on your cognitive performance, making you more prepared to face the rest of the day. Another added bonus? You’re bound to feel less stressed since you won’t have to exercise when you go home for the night. Now that’s what I call killing two birds with one stone!
11. Write Someone a Letter
When’s the last time you wrote someone a letter? A real, pen-and-paper, envelope-and-stamp, signed, sealed, delivered letter? Not only does this take your eyes away from the LED lights of your computer screen, but it can also make you feel really good.
Alena Hall, Associate Third Metric Editor of The Huffington Post, says, “Similar to keeping a gratitude journal or writing about your future goals, sharing your genuine thoughts with another person can be quite the morale booster—not to mention a mini adrenaline rush as you drop the final draft into the mailbox.”
Don’t have anyone you want to write to? This is also a great opportunity to write in a journal, as well.
12. Revisit Your Goals for the Day
This may not be the time to think about your overall life goals—contemplating climbing Mount Everest when you can’t even type out a coherent email will seem really overwhelming.
But it is a good time to remember what your priorities are for the day. Take a moment to write down your top two or three small goals for the remainder of the day and then focus on tackling just those.
Midday slumps happen even to the best of us. And while there are steps you can take to prevent them most of the time—following a regular sleep schedule, exercising regularly, avoiding foods and drinks that’ll cause a major sugar crash, and so on—sometimes it’s still going to happen.
But that doesn’t mean you have to raise your white flag and surrender. Instead of sitting at your desk like a slug, do something about it. You have more control over this than you think. And, furthermore, your boss and your co-workers will appreciate that break you took when it allows you to produce better work.
Do you have other things you to do recharge in the middle of the day? Let me know on Twitter!