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Is it just me or is productivity low in the afternoon for general population? I find that I'm unable to do simplest of tasks between 1pm and 5 pm.

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It differs. Some people are more active in the late afternoon or evening (see also this question) – THelper Feb 8 '13 at 11:28

Trying to save some "rote" tasks for this time period can be a good strategy: you'd have to do them anyways at some point during the day, so might as well do them when you're not at your peak productivity.

What you have for lunch might be a factor as well; abstain from sugary drinks and high-carb food that might spike your blood sugar level and cause a "crash" in the afternoon.

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+1 for fingering the diet... blood sugar fluctuations are bad for concentration. Avoid sugars but do eat starches with fat and/or vinegar to slow down their digestion. – w00t Feb 13 '13 at 13:58
You are right about the Lunch factor. Maybe that's an important reason now that I think about it.. – pjamu Feb 21 '13 at 10:33
The brain functions on glucose, so this isn't surprising. Too much glucose (e.g. from pure sugar) will force your body to try to bring it down, which leaves your brain starved for it. It's not so much 'carbs' but carbs that have a low GI, like carrots, spaghetti, muesli. Things like baguettes and potatoes are high GI and 'burn' quickly. – Muz Feb 22 '13 at 3:24

You match my cycle - I am most productive with analytic work early in the morning and late in the evening, but mid afternoon that part of my brain is at a low ebb. For me this isn't about motivation or willpower, just that I have discovered over time what I am good at at different times of day.

I discovered that that does seem to be a good time for me to work on creative topics - so you may find it worthwhile to try different types of activity in this time period.

If all else fails, a good kickstarter can be to go to the gym - I often find myself revitalised after an hour's workout.

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Gymming sounds good but I feel physically down too. It's not just the emotional state. – pjamu Feb 21 '13 at 10:38
Physical exercise is one of best two ways to feel 'up' physically (the others being rest, stimulant chemicals etc) - so while the first few times you may need to force yourself to go, your body will enjoy it. – Rory Alsop Feb 21 '13 at 10:41

Everyone's willpower has a limit. After forcing yourself for enough time, you start to run out of willpower. (Muraven et al., 1999)

A solution is keep the high willpower tasks early in the day (Eat the frog first). Another 'solution' is to cut out all the things that would make you stressed out. Being in contact with people you don't like or strongly disagree with is the fastest way to sap your willpower.

I'd also recommend starting the day by doing something light that you don't want to do. Making the bed is an ancient technique, as well as 10-30 minutes of morning exercise.

[Source: Roy F. Baumeister, M. Muraven, D. M. Tice, "Longitudinal Improvement of Self-Regulation Through Practice: Building Self-Control Strength Through Repeated Exercise"]

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Thanks I'll try out the book.. – pjamu Feb 21 '13 at 11:17

I often feel the same in the afternoon. Are you sure it isn't diet related? If you tend to have coffee early in the day, you might be experiencing the drop off of your cup. We keep some tiny packages of fruit snacks in my office to keep everyone even and productive.

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Yeah I have at least 3 cups of coffee a day. I feel the best between 6 pm and 9 pm. – pjamu Feb 21 '13 at 10:25

Sometimes I also feel the same way and it’s hard for me to be productive. However, if you like on what you do or enjoy on what task you do it also help you be more productive even in the afternoon. Having a regular break like stretching or do some tasks that is unrelated to work could also help you to be productive. In my opinion discipline is the key to be more productive at work.

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My friend's disciplined she gets up 5.00 am to do her work and does everything diligently but even she suffers from "late-afternoon" burn out. – pjamu Feb 22 '13 at 6:41

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