I am always at my most productive in the morning. Armed with a hot cup of coffee and a delightfully full to-do list, I can sit down and start tackling tasks left and right. It feels great to cross multiple things off my list before lunchtime! Without fail though, I come up on an anti-productivity wall in the afternoon. Sometimes even by 2 p.m., my creativity feels used up and I’m craving a refill in my coffee mug (which is not necessarily a healthy solution). Based on my experience and research, I’ve come up with a few things that make it easier to overcome ‘the wall’.
When your work requires that you be seated at a desk in front of a computer, it’s important to take time to get up every once and a while. Taking a lap around the office can help wake you up. The combination of physical activity and a change in environment can be extremely refreshing. I’ve found that a short walk and some time away from my computer screen helps me generate solutions to problems and think more creatively. Studies have shown that it’s best to get up and move at least once every hour for five minutes. This small change not only helps you be more productive, it can also decrease your risk of obesity, depression and heart disease.
Not everyone (including myself a lot of the time) drinks enough water. Office environments are often teeming with sugary soda and unending coffee. While those beverages can be helpful when you really need a caffeine boost, it is definitely best not to rely heavily on caffeine to make you feel better. It is, after all, an addictive substance. Staying hydrated helps me feel more alert while avoiding excessive cups of coffee.
When I get a headache from too much screen time, drinking ice cold water helps ease the pain and sometimes makes the headache go away all together. Refilling my water bottle is also a good excuse to get away from my desk for a moment.
Listen to Music
If you’re able, listen to music at your desk. This is a good way to increase your productivity. Listen to songs from your library that are upbeat or happy for a musical pep talk. For example, at the top of my work playlist right now is Panic! at the Disco’s “High Hopes.”
If you think that listening to your favorite tunes might be too distracting or cause you have a desk dance party, ambient music can also help you be more productive. Music applications like Spotify have plenty of ambient playlists readily available, or you could choose an album you’re unfamiliar with to function as background noise.
Get Some Peppermint Oil
The strong minty smell of peppermint oil can make you feel more alert, but essential oils can be expensive. For a cheaper substitute invest in mint lotion or lip balm. Though not as strong as inhaling the concentrated oil, my Burt’s Bees mint lip balm is refreshing.
Break It Down
Forbes suggests that you plan out your schedule so that you can tackle your biggest ‘to-dos’ before lunch, in the sweet spot after your coffee has kicked in but before the afternoon slump. However, if you’ve hit the wall but still have a lot to accomplish today, it is easy to get discouraged. Break your to-do list down as far as possible and take it one thing at a time. For example, instead of getting overwhelmed that I need to have two blogs written by tomorrow, I would take things one paragraph at a time. Three sentences are a lot more manageable than three pages. Just accomplish the first tiny task and move on to the next.
Hopefully, these five tips will help you (and myself) climb that afternoon wall and finish the day productively. If you have any tricks to stay on task in the office, share them with us in the comments or on Twitter @IndianaINTERN.