The “witching hour” in offices, when you start to lose momentum and experience a drop in energy, is 2:55 p.m., says Dawn O’Connor, director and productivity ninja with Think Productive in Calgary.
Around this time, we start experiencing “inactive attention” — our brains feel a bit fuzzy and our motivation starts to wane.
“It’s important to acknowledge that we are human and not superheroes,” O’Connor says. “We cannot be at peak energy and attention level every minute of every day.”
However, there are ways to overcome that afternoon lull in productivity. Here are O’Connor’s five tips for getting through the mid-day slump:
1. Use the “buddy” system
If you know the mid-afternoon is typically a slow, low-energy period for you, find an “accountability buddy” to keep yourself on track, O’Connor says.
By meeting or collaborating with colleagues or assistants, you’ll likely increase your focus and push past any potential dips in energy. This strategy works particularly well for people who are extraverted, O’Connor says, and draw on the energy of other people.
2. Eat a crunchy snack
O’Connor’s firm has noted that people with low energy often improve their attention level when eating something crunchy, such as popcorn, carrots or an apple. Avoid the vending-machine snacks we often gravitate towards.
Even chewing gum is helpful, O’Connor says, because the movement of the jaw is similar to eating something crunchy.
3. Take a walk
You might just have to accept that this time of day is going to be difficult. So, take a break from your work and head elsewhere.
“Even a seven-minute walk can completely restart or recharge you,” O’Connor says. “Or, take a quick sprint from floor to floor.”
4. Change your scenery
If the task and technology permit, take your laptop and go work in a public space, such as a communal area in your building or a neighbouring coffee shop.
“These places have a certain buzz,” O’Connor says. “And the shift of perspective can help kick you back into gear.”
If stepping out of the office isn’t an option, O’Connor says, try an app called “coffitivity” (coffitivity.com). The app mimics the sounds of a coffee shop.
“This app gives you the ambiance and background noise,” she says, “So you can focus back on your work.”
5. Complete “zombie” tasks
Design your day around the afternoon slump by scheduling “zombie tasks” — work that requires minimal energy, thought or concentration — during times you expect to be less productive, O’Connor says.
For example, you can review your appointment schedule, clean up your email inbox or finish filing or photocopying.