It’s mid-afternoon and you’ve been working hard since early morning. You’re already reporting and the next thing on your calendar is back-to-back team meetings. If this scenario sounds familiar, how can you find ways to beat the 3 p.m. slump? Five experts give us their best advice.
1. Take a break to reset your mind
Simon List, director of information technology at the Pension Protection Fund, says the right technique to tackle the 3 p.m. crisis depends on the individual. However, everyone can benefit from taking a break and getting away from the computer screen for 15 minutes.
“It’s good to take some time to reflect,” he says. “Whether it’s going for a walk or doing something to clear your mind, like reading a book, it’s good to reset because then you’re activating another aspect of your mind.”
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List says he likes to exercise in the morning, which keeps his mind fresh throughout the day. The key to success is to avoid overthinking and getting mentally bogged down.
“What you don’t want is your mind racing 100 miles per hour on one thing. It’s not healthy to sit in front of a screen for hours on end. To overcome the crisis, you have to find a mechanism that works for you,” he says.
2. Avoid Heavy Transactional Meetings
Lisa Heneghan, global digital director at consultancy KPMG, says professionals need to think very carefully about the types of meetings they have at different times of the day.
“I think about what I call ‘the rainbow of meetings’ and the different experiences you have. What you don’t want at 3 p.m. are your transactional meetings, where you have to go through bunch of administrative stuff.”
Heneghan says professionals should look for early afternoon meetings that inspire and motivate. Ideally, these meetings will take place in person, but they can also work online. Success is about thinking creatively.
“Balance your day, so you have a real opportunity to think and do some of the things we do best when we’re physically together,” she says. “If you’re online, doing these kinds of meetings at that time gives you something where you’re thinking a little more creatively; you’re thinking about other things, about opportunities.”
3. Explore experimental working methods
Danny Gonzalez, director of digital and innovation at London North Eastern Railway, said one of the things that can help professionals avoid a mid-afternoon slump is to avoid overreliance on the video conferencing technology.
Something all professionals have learned over the past couple of years is that going on back-to-back video calls is physically and emotionally draining. Gonzalez says managers need to make sure hybrid working doesn’t just mean being stuck in front of a screen.
“As a team – and I think as an organization – we try to make sure there’s a really good balance between using Teams, having physical meetings and actually just providing headspace. “, he says.
Gonzalez’s department tries things like having days where there are no team meetings unless they are needed. He says performing these kinds of experiments is crucial to establishing the right kind of work rate.
“I think the risk is that if we continue in the world we were in a year ago, where it was literally people staring at a screen from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., then people get tired pretty quickly. I think also that it’s starting to affect a lot of people’s mental well-being,” he says.
“So for us, it’s just about making sure there’s a healthy balance between the different ways we approach work/life balance.”
4. Meet inspiring people in person
Not all professionals work from home every day. David Schwartz, vice president of PepsiCo Labs, spends most of his time in the office or on the road: “I love being in the office with startups, my staff and our leaders.”
Schwartz thinks video calls still aren’t an effective replacement for the benefits that come from in-person conversations. One of the ways he keeps things bright and airy if he’s home during the afternoon is to entice startup entrepreneurs to come to a cafe near his home. He advises other professionals to think about similar tactics as well.
“During the afternoon slump, have that coffee in person or go out to the coffee shop and have those meetings,” he says. “Then have meetings in the fun areas that excite you. For me, it’s about learning new technology, because we’re on an ongoing journey of scouting. When I learn something new, the adrenaline begins to rise.”
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Like other professionals, Schwartz says a personal break is good — 3 p.m. is when her daughter gets home from school. Taking time off from work to play for half an hour is an energy boost: “It gives meaning to work beyond the benefits it brings to the company. Having flexibility in your day benefits the family.”
5. Split your working day
Daniel Smith, head of analytics at clothing brand PANGAIA, says he spends up to 80% of his time in the office – but when he’s at home he acknowledges that working solidly alone can mean you spend less time away from the office. His coping strategy is to take short breaks when he needs them.
“The best way to avoid the crisis is to split your lunch time,” he says. “I’m going for a walk. You have to walk away for as long as you want. If I walk for 20 minutes and then have lunch a bit later, I don’t have this seizure.”
Smith says exercise is crucial to making sure your enthusiasm for work doesn’t wane later in the day.
“I quit caffeine after lunch – if I drink after that time, I find I can’t switch off late at night,” he says. “And when you take a break, you have to do something where you get up and move. That’s always been the case for me.”
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