There is nothing worse than being at work and suddenly it hits you: The Afternoon Productivity Slump. It seems like many people struggle with it, but at the same time it feels like it is one of those ‘office taboos’.
So what exactly is the ‘Afternoon Productivity Slump, does everyone suffers from it, and more importantly, how can we avoid them?
Well, these slumps occur in everybody, but some people seem to be less affected than others. On average these slumps linger for about a whopping 90 minutes in which you find it difficult to concentrate, feel less alert and energetic, and are bound to make more mistakes.
Partly these slumps are caused by our internal clock. At night time our body temperature drops and that is a signal for you brain to release melatonin, the ‘sleeping –hormone’. After lunch this slump is a mini version of that. So although not completely avoidable, there are ways to make them less noticeable and your day more productive.
In a research study of 12 physicians ( which is small, yes, but the outcome provides ‘food for thought’..) who, due to long hours, forgo eating proper meals, were measured by a composite score of speed and accuracy reflecting their cognition. On the intervention day on which nourishing meals and plenty of water were consumed, these scores were superior in comparison than the baseline days, suggesting that proper nutrition throughout the day helps us be more productive.
Starting your day with a nourishing breakfast helps toning down the ‘afternoon slump’, but what you eat and drink at the office contribute just as much. ‘Breakfast’ pastries, morning meetings with donuts or wrapped cookies that you only eat out of boredom, can all bring you down later in the day. They are un-needed processed carbs and sugar which might give you a (very) short burst of perceived energy, but these food choices will get back to you with a vengeance; A bigger drop in your blood-sugar level leaving your body having to mop up the effects of it.
Lunch should consist of a good source of protein (lean meat, fish or legumes), complex carbohydrates and plenty of fresh salads and vegetables. Take your own, which is cheaper!, or find the right eateries to fuel you up. Choose the brown rice option at your sushi place, or if you go for a salad roll, add some extra protein and ask for the wholemeal version. The Thai cuisine offers a lot of fresh produce but can be heavy on the sugar. Go for salads and fresh rice paper rolls and ask for the sauce to go at the side.
Having an important meeting after lunch? Don’t try to dodge your sleepiness with an energy-drink. They do not live up to their name; Research showed that an energy drink does nothing to help with your sleepiness and on top, it slows down your reaction time. To ward of the afternoon slump, a glass of cool water will help you fight it off, or eat a crunchy apple!
And make sure you will take your well-earned lunch break somewhere other than your desk. If possible, leave the office all together and enjoy some fresh air. A different environment will have those creative juices flowing in no time, and some exercise increases the blood flow to your brain.
And if that isn’t enough to make you re-think about eating at your desk: Just know that your desk and phone have 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat…