Yoga, sunlight and lots of small, fibre-filled meals could help.
Few things kill office productivity as quickly as fatigue. And while the obvious answer is to get more sleep throughout the week, that isn’t always the most helpful advice for overworked City folk barely able to fit work drinks in between all-nighters at the coal face. Here are a few tips for those of us who aren’t natural Sleeping Beauties.
CUT DOWN ON COFFEE
Dosing up on caffeine in the morning is fine, and Harvard Medical School’s Anthony Komaroff says that 200 to 300 milligrams, the amount found in two to three cups of coffee, is likely to make you far more energetic and alert in the hours that follow. But carrying on into the afternoon might not be such a good idea.
The cumulative effect of large doses of caffeine throughout the day could have a knock-on effect on the quality of your sleep that night, meaning you’ll be less well-rested the next day. It’s easy to see how a vicious circle can set in here, with less sleep leading to more coffee drinking. This also goes for other caffeine-heavy drinks, like certain teas and fizzy drinks. Instead, drink lots of iced water in the afternoon – dehydration can lead to sleepiness, and the cold temperature should have you sitting bolt upright.
EAT LESS FOR LUNCH
We’ve all experienced the post-lunch slump – that overwhelming lethargy after eating a huge bowl of pasta and other carb-heavy foods. Larger meals demand more energy to digest, so spreading the same amount of calories over a longer period can help to get rid of the afternoon lull.
Roberta Anding of the American Dietetic Association tells WebMD.com that including plenty of fibre in your smaller meals can help the carbs enter your bloodstream at a slow and steady pace, making sure your energy has staying power. The daily recommended amount of fibre is 25 to 30 grams, and beans, wholegrain pasta and popcorn are good sources.
Physical exercise is often recommended as a way to beat fatigue, but most of us don’t have the luxury of being able to swan off for a 30-minute spinning session in the afternoon. And factoring in changing and showering times, even going for a quick jog will eat into your day.
There are shortcuts. Researchers at the University of Oregon gave six months of yoga instruction to 135 men and women aged between 65 and 85, and found that participants reported substantial increases in overall energy levels compared to those who didn’t do yoga. Other studies have produced similar results across different age groups. Pulling a “downward facing dog” pose in the middle of the office might draw some strange looks from your colleagues, but it’ll be quicker and easier than half an hour of hell on a cross trainer.
OPEN THE BLINDS
Nothing is as fundamental to our body clocks and sleeping rhythms as the sun, but a burst of vitamin D is all too often overlooked as a source of instant stimulation. If your desk is near a window, don’t shy away from the rays. And if it’s not, make the most of what sunlight you can get by taking regular walks to the other side of the office. Some people try artificial sun lamps, but the evidence of their effectiveness is mixed.
Screen out distractions
This web app allows you to turn your computer into a completely distraction-free writing environment. It’s a word processor with plenty of the usual easily-accessible features, but all you can see on the screen is text and a customisable background, encouraging complete absorption in the task at hand. The software is available for Windows, Mac, Linux and in source code format. It’s free, but you’re encouraged to leave an optional tip of $5, which is nothing compared to the cost of Microsoft Office.