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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

8 Super-Productive Ways to Beat the Afternoon Slump

The afternoon slump is an office job hallmark. You know that sluggish stretch around 3 PM when your energy level dips, your motivation takes a nosedive with it, and you’ve still got another few hours before calling it a day? Yeah. The worst.

You’ve probably heard all the common tricks to combat afternoon fatigue: Eat a protein-rich snack, organize your desk, watch a funny YouTube video. But considering you’re at work an average of five days a week, 50 weeks out of the year, none of these workaday workarounds are going to be effective day in and day out.

Need some new ideas for keeping your mind from going to mush in that post-lunch, pre-pack-up period? Check out these eight outside-the-box solutions for clearing your afternoon fog.

1. Do Office Chair Yoga

Stretching it out at your desk does wonders for your energy level (not to mention your chi). Plus, you may not realize it, but sitting at your desk for 8+ hours a day can do more than tire your eyes, fingers, and back—it can actually misalign your spine and lead to high blood pressure. Try one of five exercises from the Burlington Yoga conference (totally desk-friendly, promise) to relieve stress and rev your energy for the remainder of the day.

2. Try a Walking Meeting 

Have something to brainstorm on, but can’t bear the thought of sitting in a conference room? See if your co-workers would be game for a walking meeting. Ironically, forcing yourself to get physical can actually combat fatigue (and hey, it gets you away from your desk, right?).

Just be sure that there’s a meeting agenda so the group stays on track (so to speak). You can take your walking meeting in the hallways, as long as you’re respectful with your volume, or outside if there’s a safe place to walk near your office. Oh, and keep it small: A walking meeting is difficult with more than three or four people.

Related: How Taking More Meetings Could Save Your Life

3. Build Your Brainpower

Check out Lumosity: The free online exercises are designed by neuroscientists to improve core cognitive functions, including memory, problem solving, and attention. When you sign up for the site (there’s also an app), select the skills you’d like to work on most, from remembering people’s names to improving productivity, and you’ll get a tailored program with five rotating daily activities—perfect for a 3 PM pick-me-up. (Speed Match and Memory Matrix are two fun, fast exercises to start with.)

4. Add a Few Items to Your Bucket List

Completely checking out for several minutes is a great way to refresh your enthusiasm for the rest of the workday. Tap into your imagination and add some fun, inspirational ideas to your life's to-do list, using a digital organizing tool like Evernote, Springpad, Google Docs, or Bucketlistly. Hey, a few minutes of daydreaming might even help you feel extra-inspired to tackle that queue of client emails waiting for you.

Need some inspiring fodder for potential bucket list additions? Check out, Life’d’s ultimate bucket list, and tumblr’s bucket list tags.


5. Catch up on Your Digital To-Read Queue

Do you use a tool like Instapaper, Pocket, or Feedly to catalog articles you’d like to read? If not, consider starting. It’s free, it keeps your browser tabs at a minimum throughout the day, and it makes for a great time-filler when you’re waiting in line, sitting on the subway, or need a mental break in the late afternoon.

Fun tip: Use Twitter’s “favorite” button to set aside links to articles that sound interesting or relevant to your industry or interests, then use IFTTT (If This, Then That), a free online service that curates, automates, and organizes digital information, to set up a “recipe” that automagically inputs favorited Twitter links into your reading tool of choice.

Related: How to Stop Thinking About Reading Articles—and Actually Start Reading Them

6. Take a Quick Online Lesson

Online learning portals are abundant these days, with options ranging from Coursera to Khan Academy to Skillshare. Why not maximize your PM downtime by reading a short lecture? And we’re not talking Algebra 301 or Theory of Mechanical Engineering. A brief survey of the above portals offers workshops like “Comic Books and Graphic Novels” with University of Colorado Boulder English Professor William Kuskin; “Introduction to Public Speaking” with University of Washington’s Dr. Matt McGarrity; and “Make Your Mark: Unorthodox Marketing Strategies” by Karmaloop owner and CEO Greg Selkoe. Talk about edutainment.

Related: 50 (Cheap!) Professional Development Classes Anyone Can Take

7. Organize Your Smartphone

This is one of those tasks there never seems to be enough time for, but that can make a huge and positive impact on your stress level when accomplished. Take a few minutes to delete any apps you never use, sort your latest photos by event or date, and file apps in folders. Shift any apps you use daily—like your weather, music player, email, to-do list, and calendar—to the front screen. And why not update your background photo while you’re at it?

Related: Spring Clean Your iPhone

8. Refresh All Your Digital Passwords

It's a good idea to update your online passwords every so often, and a slow afternoon is a great opportunity. Best practice is to create a phrase that combines upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and at least one special character. Try not to use the same password for your email and all your social networks, and keep track of the new passwords using a tool like 1Password, PassPack, or Password Genie.

What tricks have you found successful for re-inflating your energy during the 3 PM workday slump?

Photo of coffee cup courtesy of Shutterstock.