4 Science-Backed Tips That Will Energize Your Afternoon Slump
Feel better and get more done in the afternoon
According to Dan Pink, the author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, afternoon fatigue occurs because natural circadian rhythms dictate our periods of alertness throughout the day.
For example, I share a circadian rhythm with a group called the “early birds”. I’m most energized in the early morning between 5:30 am–10:30 am, but my energy falls off a cliff in the afternoon — as if the pistons in my head are running at half speed. It sucks.
Afternoon fatigue used to bother me. I wanted to get stuff done, but my mind and body just wouldn’t allow it. It was a problem, and I wanted answers. I researched ways to counteract the afternoon slump and it turns out there are things you can do to minimize its’ effects.
So here you go! I’ve been doing these science-backed tactics for over a year — they all work extremely well.
1.) A 20-Minute Exercise Before Lunch
Oh exercise, you are the miracle drug.
Why? Because it’s a natural mood booster. During exercise, the body increases the production of mitochondria, the “energy factories” in your cells. A hard workout literally creates energy in your body.
A daily exercise routine is also one of those sticky habits that improve all areas of your life.
You will sleep better at night.
It forces you to eat healthier foods.
It forces you to hydrate.
It puts you in a better mood and creates better relationships.
If you’re getting struck by the afternoon slumps, you could do worse than exercising in the morning or right before lunch.
A study conducted at the University of Minnesota surveyed 15,000 undergraduate students across the US and asked them to think back over the past seven days. “On how many days did you exercise or take part in physical activity for at least 20 minutes that made you sweat or breathe hard?”
Here’s what happened: The students who exercised for 20 minutes at least three times during the week were happier, calmer, and more confident in their ability to handle personal problems. They also carried a feeling that things were going their way.
That’s 20 minutes a day, three times a week.
Do you have trouble finding the motivation to go to the gym? Start small. Take advantage of online workout apps. I’m addicted to the Peloton app. Did you know that you don’t need a bike to take their classes? Hell, you don’t even need weights. They offer strength, cardio, and yoga training, and all classes range between 5 to 45 minutes long.
No more excuses!
2.) Meal Prep and Portion Control
Meal prep is a big one for me.
Besides daily exercise, eating healthy and limiting junk food is the single best thing you can do to maintain a stable energy level throughout the day.
I get seven meals a week from a company called Clean Eatz. There are a lot of meal prep companies out there, but to be honest, I don’t trust any of them except these guys. Why? Because most of them make the food thousands of miles away in South Dakota or something — I’m not putting that in my body. Clean Eatz leases brick and mortar stores in most major cities. You can walk into their kitchen and watch their chefs prepare your meals. I don’t know about you, but I prefer a little transparency with my food.
Why do meal plans help sustain energy? I’m not a health and fitness expert, but it’s all about portion control and incentivizing you to eat healthier. A carb and sugar overload at lunch causes a sharp decline in blood sugar, making you tired. Ever eat a Chic-Fil-A spicy chicken sandwich with a large fry and a Coke before heading back to the office? Yea, you know what I’m talking about.
Meal prepping allows you to gain control over what you put in your body so you can eat with confidence and know you won’t burn out by 3 pm.
3.) Take A 10-Minute Power Nap at 3 PM
A nap in the middle of the day sounds lazy, but studies show that power naps are an excellent antidote for afternoon fatigue and actually increase memory and improve performance.
Take a study conducted at Waseda University in Japan. The premise was simple: teach a group of students how to juggle. Afterward, tell half the students to watch TV for two hours and the other half to nap for two hours. The students were all beginners with no difference in juggling skills before the first juggling practice.
What happened after two hours? The nappers significantly improved their juggling skills while the TV-watchers struggled.
Timing is everything when beating the afternoon slump. Psychologist and author of Happiness 101, Dr. Tim Bono, suggests coinciding a ten-minute nap with our natural afternoon energy dip, which for many people occurs around 3 pm. Here’s the critical thing to keep in mind: don’t sleep longer than 20 minutes or take a nap too late in the afternoon — that’s how you mess with your internal clock.
Here’s Dan Pink’s power nap routine:
At 3 pm, Dan drinks a cup of coffee, waits five minutes, then sets a timer for 10 minutes — the alarm for his power nap. Chug a cup of coffee before a nap? That’s right! It takes time for caffeine to kick in, so it won’t prevent you from sleeping, but it does kick in when you’re coming out of the nap.
Try it. You will wake up recharged and ready to tackle the afternoon.
4.) Schedule Your Most Important Work In The Morning
Dan Pink argues that trying to get important things done during our afternoon slump has more profound repercussions than we realize.
Students who take tests in the afternoon rather than in the morning experience severe score declines. Medical professionals who examine colonoscopy scans in the afternoon spot only half as many polyps as in the morning. Fatigue-related traffic accidents peak twice each day — in the middle of the night and between 2 pm and 4 pm.
Here’s the thing: we can exercise, eat healthier, and take naps to offset some of the effects of afternoon fatigue, but our brain will still be less alert than during our peak hours — our physiology at work ladies and gentlemen.
What should you do? Honesty, schedule your most important tasks in the morning or whenever you experience peak energy. I get most of my shit done in the morning: reading, writing, exercise, and CRE calls. It is the most efficient productivity strategy I use.
What’s your experience with afternoon fatigue? Do you utilize any of the strategies from this article? If you have any tips for remaining productive in the afternoon, please comment. I would love to hear from you.