Afternoon is the worst time for distractions, fatigue, and reduced efficiency. A solid routine can help.
Much is made of morning and evening routines, but hardly anything is mentioned about afternoon routines. This is odd, because afternoons are when energy plummets, when creativity and efficiency are drained, and many workers crave a second wind. It makes sense to focus on how to improve this (sometimes torturous) time of day, which is why I was thrilled to see Patrick Allan’s article on LifeHacker. In it, Allan describes the necessity of establishing a solid afternoon routine in order to resist the time when when “distractions have the most power—you’re fatigued, irritable, and way more impulsive.” What follows are some of his suggestions, as well as a few of my own:
1. Eat well.
Choose a lunch that will fuel your energy throughout the afternoon, instead of sitting like a brick in your gut. Avoid refined carbohydrates that are likely to make you sleepy. Opt for vegetables, healthy fats, and protein. Check out this list of 8 foods to fight fatigue and 9 energy-boosting drinks that aren’t coffee.
2. Get moving.
If you feel sleepy or lethargic, sitting will only make it worse. Get up and move around. Do a few jumping jacks, planks, sit-ups, or run down a few flights of stairs. If you can spare more time, go for a walk around the block. Allan suggests moving your daily workout time to the afternoon. Not only will it wake you up, but it frees up valuable alert time in the morning when you’re likely to do your best work.
3. Save the easy stuff for last.
Most people do not work as efficiently in the afternoon as they do in the morning, which is why you should leave the easy, less mentally-draining things till later in the day. These are the kinds of jobs you can do while listening to music and generally zoning out. Allan writes:
“For me, this means responding to emails, finding stories to pitch, doing research for other stories, editing photos, and organizing files as need be. Unless one of those things is urgent that day, I don’t bother with it until after lunch. It’s just me, my headphones, some upbeat music, a sparkling water, and a zoned-out sprint through the tedious stuff I’ve gotta do.”
4. Put a time limit on big assignments.
Instead of feeling daunted by something big that needs to be done, Allan suggests setting a five-minute timer. By knowing there’s a limit, you can throw yourself into the project and get a surprising amount done before the timer goes. By then, you may want to continue; if not, just keep doing it every afternoon and the work will add up.
5. Establish a fun afternoon ritual.
Every afternoon, after my baby goes down for a nap at 1 p.m., I make myself a cup of strong black tea or a matcha latte. If there’s dessert in the house, I eat that, too. It marks the start of the next chapter in the day, while giving me a small caffeine boost. I look forward to that hot tea, enjoyed in a silent house.
6. Have a power nap.
Sometimes this is the best route to go, since a quick 10- or 15-minute snooze can do wonders at clearing cobwebs from your head. Allow yourself this little luxury, and your employer will thank you for the impressive surge in productivity that occurs immediately afterward. Not everyone has access to a place to nap, but if you do, take advantage of it.