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This article suggests that feeling tired at 3pm is perfectly normal, and should be countered by simply having a nap.

However, in some workplaces, this isn't possible (a lack of beds for one).

I can work flexible hours, so I can choose when to start my day, or when to have my break. One possibility is to start work at 6-7 am, and finish at 3pm.

What is the best way to counter 3pm slump, if you have to be working then?

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6 Answers 6

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There are a range of techniques which can work. The simplest here, if you can't nap, is to build this low period into your day plan. Unfortunately if you just time shift your day earlier, you are likely to find the low point will move earlier as well.

I always try to plan my day with regard to times when I am better/worse at particular types of activity.

For example:

  • if you have a mental or physical slump mid afternoon, make sure you don't hold critical meetings in that time slot. Reserve it for reading the day's news, catching up on those lower priority emails etc

There are always those types of activities which require less effort/concentration etc.

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+1. If you work in a large organization, there should be a lot of lower priority stuff you can do during that slump - the last motivational message from the CEO, mandatory online trainings, writing reports to report on a report... –  Stephan Kolassa Nov 28 '13 at 8:24
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Boosting yourself with caffeine may be what you have to resort to, although a very short nap (10 min) would yield much better productivity results and be much healthier. Most employers (except in cultures embracing the siesta) apparently don't know about this. Perhaps you could talk to your boss?

Josephine Fairley: According to research, a daytime nap – provided it’s less than 30 minutes – promotes wakefulness and enhances both performance and learning ability. ... Short periods of sleep were good for alertness, memory, motor skills, decision-making and mood. And at the same time, naps cut down on stress, carelessness and even heart disease.

Some commentators predict sleeping at work will become commonplace in a decade or two. Unfortunately, we're not there yet.

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Brainrules is awesome! Thanks for the share. –  Gaʀʀʏ Dec 12 '13 at 19:30
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It has been mentioned before for other questions, but the best technique I've found is a standup desk. Caffeine, I've gotten used to it, and my body isn't affected anymore. But standing up has proven very effective. I do it all day long (or at least a lot more than I sit), but you could do it only for an hour or two in the afternoon if you don't like doing it for long periods of time.

Better even, if you can setup a treadmill desk (I've had one), then blood pumps through your body, and there's no way to fall asleep, you're much more alert.

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Here's what works for me. Its a 3 step program

  1. Plenty of sleep the night before. You know how much you need. Get it.

  2. Exercise in the morning. 20 minutes or more jogging does it for me.I am more alert on the days that I run than the days that I don't run

  3. Avoid high carbohydrate meals. It could be my proclivity toward diabetes, but I have found that switching to veggies, soups and salads at lunch does wonders for my afternoon wakefulness.

.

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Another option not yet mentioned is to get up and move around. If you can't take a nap, take a few minutes to rapidly walk up and down some stairs and get your heart rate up. The extra blood and oxygen to your brain will help wake you up and make you alert again.

This, of course, is only applicable if you have a sedentary job. If you're already digging a ditch, extra activity is not useful advice.

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First . . . there are times when I've been able to take a nap to beat the afternoon slump. The problem is it's then nearly impossible for me to get to bed at a reasonable time, so the next day is worse.

Because of that, I mostly try to work around the slump, i.e., save the items that require minimal mental energy expenditure for that time. Even then, I'll typically drink a caffeinated beverage at around 2 pm to help slog through.

I recommend the following book for mental energy management:

"Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long" by David Rock.

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