No matter where you work from – corporate cubicle, open spaces, bustling cafes, or a home office that’s custom designed to your needs – your energy post-lunch does get sluggish. Your attention span flickers, and your productivity plummets. But, don’t blame it on the food!
The ‘post-lunch dip’ is a result of our physiological rhythms. The 24-hour circadian cycle of our body is naturally in a resting phase, in the afternoon. This also converges with the homoeostatic cycle, which measures the amount of time spent awake. If you’ve been up for about seven hours, it pushes for rest. Infact, a poll of 420 workers shows that 2.55 PM is the most unproductive time! But, our workplaces desire efficiency.
Here’s how to fight that lull.
Take on problem-solving. Studies show that the non-optimal time of the day is better for solving insight problems, versus analytical ones. When our focus is heightened, we analyze the pros and cons, and make a choice we think is ‘right’. But, if we want out-of-the-box solutions, the afternoon slump is ideal. When we are tired, our brains get less distracted. Prof. Cindi May, College of Charleston, notes, “If you need to open your mind to alternative approaches and diverse options, do so when your filter is not so functional.”
If you’re curious, attempt solving this at the peak time of your day, and again later, when you are fatigued. A dealer in antique coins got an offer to buy a rare bronze coin. It had an emperor’s head on one side and the date 544 BC stamped on the other. But instead of buying the coin, the dealer called the police. Why?
Line-up some mechanical tasks. Our mind is actively looking for distractions in the afternoon. That’s why we end up on social media! Thus, it’s a widely accepted practice in organizations like Google and Microsoft, to do the less mind space requiring, mechanical tasks in the afternoon. Wondering what could that be? E-mails.
Since they comprise a small chunk of your work, Tim Ferris author of ‘The 4-hour work week’, recommends setting aside 30 minute chunks to send emails at noon and 4.00 PM. Data shows that is the best time for emails to be read as well. If not that, try cheering for your organization on Facebook or Twitter.
Take stock of today and tomorrow. Slow afternoons are a great time to check-in with yourself or your team members, to jog over your to-dos and plan the next day effectively. Author of ‘The Disciplined Leader’, John Manning, says taking 10 minutes around 4:50 p.m. today will help you prioritize your most important work for tomorrow. And your team might welcome the opportunity to collaborate too.
“You can certainly make better decisions if you are making them at the right time of day,” says neuroscience Prof. Rebecca Spencer, University of Massachusetts. Why not lean in to the wisdom of our body, for the same?