Even with a fresh, clean workspace and a well-organized list of tasks, it’s difficult for even the pros of time management not to fall prey to that energy-sapping destroyer of productivity—the midday slump. Making a habit of taking breaks to tackle these brain-boosters could be the difference between burnout and breakthrough in your workday.
01. Get Moving
A recent study conducted by the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that people were 23 percent more productive on days that they exercised during the workday. So if you’re feeling slumped, even a quick walk down the hall or around the block will get your blood flowing, bringing necessary oxygen and glucose to the brain cells.
Exercise also sends productivity-boosting hormones to the brain: serotonin, which improves mood; dopamine, which heightens attention; and norepinephrine, which affects attention, perception, and most importantly, motivation. Hormones sent to the brain during exercise mix with BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which contributes to learning, mood regulation and brain cell growth.
According to Charles H. Hillman, Ph. D., an associate professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, "Exercise improves attention, memory, accuracy, and how quickly you process information, all of which helps you make smarter decisions.”
02. Snack Smart, Eat Chocolate
It’s not a myth—indulging in some dark chocolate when you’re lacking motivation can increase productivity. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids which have been proven to increase blood flow to the brain, resulting in a longer attention span, boosted memory, better reaction time and enhanced problem-solving skills. Even hot cocoa can do the trick—it contains antioxidants which helps prevent oxidative stress in brain cells. Make your own (healthy) version with your favorite milk, cacao powder, vanilla and a touch of sugar.
03. Make a Call
Research published in Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report reports that social connection in the workplace increases productivity and passion for tasks. While the study suggests investing time into relationships with coworkers, sometimes removing your mind from the tasks at hand for a moment to foster personal relationships outside the office is equally beneficial.
Instead of using break times to scroll through your Facebook timeline or to chat about work with your coworker, pick up the phone and make a quick call to someone you care about. Hearing about someone else’s day not only provides some much-needed perspective to a stressful 9 to 5, it also distracts your mind from your slump and reenergizes you.
04. Switch to Something Mindless
Last year, TIME magazine captured the nation with its announcement, “You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish.” The article highlighted the findings of a Microsoft study, which faulted our increasingly digitalized culture for reducing the human attention span to a mere eight seconds—one second shorter than that of a goldfish. The study’s conclusions relate to concentrating on three specific tasks performed across different types of digital devices (responding to patterns, spotting differences, and classifying numbers and letters). But our ability to focus on larger tasks at work (e.g., writing a report, responding to emails, participating in a meeting, etc.) is still embarrassingly short, with some research suggesting that our productivity and attention are sapped within ninety minutes of starting the task.
To halt your attention from slipping and avoid the midday slump, turn to mindless tasks to break up the day between larger assignments. Clean off your desk. Organize papers. Clear out your inbox. Achieving these small tasks requires little concentration and brain power, yet are still productive, simultaneously fostering a sense of achievement while distracting your mind from more stressful undertakings. After a mindless—but productive—break, you can return to the task at hand with your attention invigorated.
By intentionally incorporating these habits into your day, you'll be asking, "Where did the time go?" instead of, "Is it over yet?"
Photo Credit: Seemi Samuel