How To Reach The 3.30PM Slump At Work Without Craving An Eight-Hour Nap

Come mid-afternoon at work, it’s all too easy to burn out. Tasks that should take minutes stretch out to hours, brain farts are aplenty, and coffee loses all of its restorative powers. If you’re tired of spending your arvos feeling lethargic and useless, then you probably need to seriously reconsider how you approach your working day.

If this is you at 2.30pm, then we’re here to help.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just getting more sleep – though, of course, filling your eight hour quota definitely never hurts.

Generally speaking, your body’s circadian process/rhythm – essentially, our body’s natural clock, which is why jetlag wreaks such havoc – will create an energy dip in the mid-arvo. It’s pretty unavoidable, so we recommend taking advice from Strictly Ballroom: stop fighting it and instead, just “feel the rhythm”.

You, living against your circadian rhythm. 

Each person’s circadian rhythm is pre-wired genetically, meaning that you’re probably either a Night Time, My Time-styled ‘owl’ or early-hour ‘lark’.

Understanding your daily peaks and lulls is pretty key to staying productive. With that in mind, try and rewire how you tackle your 9-5 (even if it’s not actually a 9-5).

And, to continue the Strictly Ballroom references, much like Fran coming into both her dancing abilities and confident inner-self, your circadian rhythm constantly changes as you grow.  Young children and the elderly love to wake up early, for example.

Oh, and remember when you were a teen and could never get up for school on time? Turns out you had a point about your parents having ‘literally no idea’ about how you felt, since they existed on a completely different rhythm from you.

But generally speaking, most people should try and ride their morning bursts, which tend to steadily decrease from 9am-midday. They’re on a continual lull until an afternoon rise which peaks, conveniently, in time for post-work activities at 6pm before, generally, declining and rising again as we wake.

For example, are you spending the morning stuck on niggling admin catch-up and ‘urgent’ emails, leaving the big tasks until the afternoon? It’s better, if you can, to leave those relatively menial tasks to the arvo and rely on autopilot. Otherwise, you’re kind of wasting your best hours on boring stuff.

Similarly, you shouldn’t leave big decisions to the afternoon. When we’re tired, we’re less likely to think critically about what we’re doing. That doesn’t just mean you won’t dot the ‘i’s’ and cross the ‘t’s’: studies show we’re often less ethical in our circadian lulls, less likely to hold ourselves to our usual standards.

Having said that, scheduling admin for the end of the day isn’t always obtainable. But just knowing how you work – and accepting it – will help you tackle and prep for that slump.

Alternatively, here are a few hot tips for a bit of an energy burst in the afternoon. None involve your third extra large coffee of the day: trust me, even your barista is a little concerned.

Pump up the jams

For a booster, pop in the headphones and play some high-octane bangers. It’s obvious, but just that bit of comfort and background noise can de-stifle your day and studies suggest it’ll help your creativity flow, too. Personally, I’m a big fan of listening to Peaches as an amp-up, so here’s ‘Rub‘:

Walk it out

If you’ve been stuck behind a desk all day, give yourself a break beyond a Facebook scroll.

Taking five or ten for a walk outside will declutter your mind and body, which is probably painfully scrunched over a keyboard for most of the day. It’s dead obvious, but science proves the change of scenery will improve your mood ten-fold.

And if you have a meeting, suggest stepping outside the board room for a The West Wing-styled walk-and-talk. It might not be quite as rapid-fire as an Aaron Sorkin script, but you’ll likely be more alert and energetic. Plus you can goss about everyone, which if you’re like me, is a total energy booster.

Dim the lights

Blink 182, warning us in 1999 how smartphones would affect your circadian rhythms.

If you’re using your phone just before you go to sleep, you’re sending your brain mixed messages. That blue light that glows from our phone, tablet and computer screens messes with our melatonin levels, meaning we’re telling our body to hold off on sleep… just before we turn off the lights to go to sleep.

While the best combatant would be to use no tech before bed, who are you kidding?

Your best bet is apps like f.lux or the Android-friendly Twilight. By dimming the screen tint, they protect your eyes from strain late at night. You can program them to your own sleep pattern and circadian rhythm too, plus the gradual colour shift to gentle orange hues is a nice reminder to stop scrolling and start sleeping.

In theory, they allow your melatonin levels to rise, though the science is still out on that one. iPhone users used to have to jailbreak their phones, but since last year, they introduced a ‘Night Screen’ mode so you can stretch your body’s limitations to use their product more than ever.

Image credit: The Simpsons/20th Century Fox