Productivity throughout Your Day
While we all have individual preferences and differences, there are general behavior patterns, based on the circadian rhythms, that can affect how you function and perform at work . As you plan your workday activities and schedules, it’s worth considering your body’s natural energy cycles.
The first few hours of your day are good for routines and schedules. Consider getting in a quick workout and powering through tasks you need to do each day. We tend to improve our moods and focus throughout the morning, with our best times occurring around noon, making late morning and early afternoon a perfect time to schedule any important meetings, presentations, or work requiring sharp mental focus. Capacity for reasoning and analysis begin to fall around 2 p.m., so avoid scheduling important tasks or meeting for the later parts of the afternoon.
Most people feel an afternoon slump between 2 and 3 p.m. Here are proven strategies for helping you overcome both cognitive and physical fatigue.
Take the Stairs
Feeling tired and groggy in the middle of your workday? Research from the University of Georgia found that walking stairs for ten minutes boosted energy and motivation more than caffeine. You may think you’re too tired to exercise, but a brief bout of exercise will actually help you feel less fatigued .
Sit Up Straight and Smile
Sit on your chair. Spread your feet about hip-width apart to center and stabilize your base, then roll your shoulders down and back to open up your chest, and sit with a good, solid, open posture. Add a smile to your face, and just sit there for a few minutes with good posture and a big smile.
Research shows that our posture impacts our psychological health; slouching leads to decreased energy and a negative effect [3, 4]. Making an effort to sit up straight can actually improve your mood and boost your energy. Choosing a confident posture can make you feel more confident . Even fake smiling can reduce the physiological effects of stress on your body . Of course, actual smiles and laughter can improve health across the board , so consider this permission to take five minutes off to watch funny cat and epic dance fail videos on YouTube!
Take Coffee Naps
When you’re working a long shift and you feel really fatigued with hours still to go, one particularly effective strategy to boost your energy is a coffee nap . Research indicates that brief naps can be helpful for improving both physical energy and cognitive focus, although naps longer than 20 minutes can actually lead to increased feelings of fatigue and drowsiness. This is because of the pattern of our sleep cycles; sleeping past 20 minutes allows the body to enter a deeper stage of sleep, and if you enter deep sleep, your body needs to finish a full cycle (usually about 90 minutes); otherwise, you will feel groggy . When you drink caffeine (for instance, a cup of coffee or a strong cup of tea), it takes about 10 to 15 minutes for caffeine levels to rise in your blood . If you down a cup of coffee and then immediately take a 20-minute nap, you’ll find that the combination of coffee plus sleep will actually boost energy, alertness, and cognitive performance far more than either coffee or a nap alone . Just make sure your coffee nap is at least six hours before your bedtime; otherwise, the caffeine will impair your nighttime sleep .
Whatever strategy you use to recharge in the middle of the day, you’ll have more energy and focus to power through the rest of your to-do list.
At the end of the workday, spend a little time to close out the day. Jot down key accomplishments, and plan your tasks for the next day. This organizational strategy may help consolidate memory formation and help you manage work-related stress.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk more about rest and recovery, including brief strategies you can fit into your busy life.
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