Pump Up Your Afternoon Productivity With These 5 Easy Methods

Woman working with cup of coffee


Monica Mizzi is the Editor in Chief of WellMe

Imagine if you could beat that sluggish feeling that comes over you when 2 p.m. rolls around. You know the one: where every ounce of energy you had has somehow given away to an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion. Suddenly, simple tasks seem more arduous than usual and you can’t concentrate on your tasks despite pressing deadlines. 

The 2 p.m. slump happens to the best of us, so it’s certainly nothing to feel guilty about. But how exactly do you overcome it? It really isn’t rocket science. In fact, most ways simply involve simple hacks that will increase your productivity, despite the natural inclination to feel lethargic and unfocused. Here are 5 easy ways to say goodbye (or at least, see you later!) to the afternoon slump. 

1. Take more breaks.

I thought this first tip would catch your eye! If you’re used to working at a non-stop pace, the thought of taking a break may not appear feasible — particularly if you have deadlines to meet. It may seem counterproductive to stop working, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Biologically speaking, refueling is pivotal, as your brain needs glucose to recharge. 

For this reason, taking a break will actually support you to better tackle any work you have, whatever time of day. Of course, you can’t be too liberal with your breaks. Short, timed breaks are the way to go. A popular productivity method for organizing these breaks is the Pomodoro Technique. It involves segmenting your work into 25-minute units, and taking a small break in between. There are dozens of free computer and phone apps to get you started, so you’ll find it all too easy to give this tip a go.   

2. Learn to say “no.”

The art of saying “no” is one that has eluded many of us; especially in a work context. The downside is that saying "yes" all of the time can leave us feeling completely overwhelmed and exhausted. While there are some instances where you won’t be able to get out of assisting your coworkers, there are more than enough instances where you can. We know it feels selfish to do so, but ultimately, saying no is about respecting your own time and schedule. 

If you take on every task that someone begs you to help with (or lumps on your desk), you’ll soon fall behind on your own work, which won’t be a good look. Practice saying no and not feeling guilty about it. It will take some getting used to, but once you get over the initial awkwardness, you’ll see it’s not as hard as it seems. 

3. Stop trying to achieve perfection.

One of the most effective ways to boost your productivity in the afternoon is to stop striving for perfection. Having a perfectionist disposition can be a major roadblock for completing the tasks you need to get done, especially when you’re already feeling drained. 

Why? It takes substantial time to keep checking over your work to ensure it’s 100% perfect. This time could be better channeled into working to the best of your ability without sweating the smaller details. If you’re a perfectionist, chances are your work is already better than average. And if you really do make a slip up, it’s not the end of the world. Everyone makes mistakes, and mistakes can help you to further develop your skills and abilities. 

When that perfectionist voice starts kicking in, try to be mindful of moving forward and not being so hard on yourself. Working on this will save you from wasting time and stressing out, two factors which contribute directly to afternoon lethargy.  

4. Snack smartly.

Who doesn’t love a delicious snack at work? There’s always something on offer—the delicious cookies Jan brought back from Belgium and the slice of Ryan’s birthday cake in the fridge calling out you. It’s certainly tempting to develop a snacking habit to try to boost our energy levels, and — dare I say it — to alleviate boredom. The thing is, the snacks you’re consuming are likely contributing to your slump.

If you’re used to reaching for a confectionery or packaged food, you may get a nice energy boost in the short-term, but you’ll feel the effects of crashing before you can say “pass me another Oreo.” That’s why it’s important to snack smartly. 

What we mean by this is to snack on foods that will actually help to keep you alert, satiated, and satisfied. Some healthy work snacks include vegetable sticks with hummus, mixed nuts, yogurt, porridge and fruit. Try making a healthy swap next time a craving creeps in, and you’ll be sure to notice a stark difference in your energy levels in the afternoon. 

5. Make a to-do list... or not!

Articles about productivity used to rave about the benefits of to-do lists for productivity and organization. But there’s been an increasingly loud camp that’s very against the list. But why the hate? Well, unless to-do lists actually keep you on top of your tasks, they may lead to a greater stress and a lack of efficiency.

Just think back to the last time you made a to-do list, and by the middle of the day you’d barely crossed off one or two tasks. If you felt guilty that the majority of the tasks weren’t tackled, and subsequently felt demotivated to get a start on them, it may be time to abandon the to-do list once and for all. 

The same goes for all of you who focus more about making to-do lists rather than actually doing them (you know who you are!). Reflecting on your past experiences with to-do lists will help you determine if this productivity tool is actually working for you. If it is, carry on. If it’s not—consider this your permission to tear up you list!