As work draws to a close, here are some useful tips for staying awake, focused and on form
FIND yourself clock-watching before home-time? Or failing to disconnect when you do finally walk out of the door? Theories abound (from taking an afternoon nap to chugging caffeine) on how best to beat the 2pm productivity slump, yet there is little in the way of advice for those wanting a self-satisfied glow at the close of each day. But both the beginning and end of the day are “like bookends that carry extra weight relative to what happens in between,” says workplace expert Lynn Taylor. Here are some practical tips for finishing work on a high.
1 KEEP THE RIGHT TEMPERATURE
Men’s Health research has found workers are most productive in temperatures ranging between 21.7C and 25C. Any lower, and you’ll see an increase in worker errors – especially as the eyelids start to droop later in the afternoon. And the wrong lighting can have a similarly damaging effect. So head outside for 10 minutes – the daylight will help reset your chronological clock and reduce the amount of melatonin your body produces during the late-afternoon lull.
2 THE SEDENTARY WORKER
Indeed, conventional wisdom suggests that the longer you stay sat in your chair, eyes glued to your screen, the less productive you may become later on in the day. A 2008 University of Illinois study found that the brain’s attentional resources plummet after an extended period focusing on a single task. But Jack Groppel of Johnson & Johnson’s Human Performance Institute may have the solution. He insists that getting up and moving once every half hour stimulates blood flow and leads to a rush of hyperoxygenation in the brain, boosting energy levels.
However, a growing body of research has found small, unofficial breaks won’t make workers feel any more alert later in the day. Charlotte Fritz of Portland State University says that taking microbreaks, for a water-cooler chat or to surf the web, could even lower energy levels.
3 HAVE AFTERNOON TEA
According to a recent CBS article, the quintessential British pastime could get you through the 5pm slump. And going green could bring even greater benefits. The caffeine will boost alertness and help focus; the l’theanine (an ingredient in green tea) helps your body release the caffeine more slowly.
Blueberries, meanwhile, have long-been hailed as the grandad of the superfood family – but they could also keep the brain active during the afternoon. Researchers at Reading University have found the fruit boosts concentration and memory for up to five hours.
4 GET CLOSURE
The virtues of “inbox zero” may have been called in to question recently (with some claiming it creates more stress than it resolves), but an email-free evening could help you disconnect. “Block off at least 15 minutes at the end of the day to sort through any unnecessary CCs or random solicitations,” suggests Michael Woodward, author of The You Plan.
5 PLAN YOUR COMMUTE
Plan to hop on the Tube and watch the stops go by? A recent Forbes article claims that by finding a way to either use the time more efficiently (such as substituting the Rolling Stones for Rosetta Stone), or spend it doing something you enjoy (for example, listening to podcasts), you can look forward to the commute rather than dread it. “Planning a different mental activity also builds in a buffer between your work and personal life,” says workplace expert Michael Kerr.
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