Does your productive day start to hit a wall around 2 or 3pm? You’re not the only one — the afternoon slump is real. That energy dip so many of us feel is like trying to get work done after a few shots of whiskey, according to Russel Foster, chair of circadian neuroscience at the University of Oxford. Productivity coach Mackenzie Sweeney brought Foster’s research to TikTok in a series of videos on neuroscience and productivity and she explains that not all times of day are created equal when it comes to getting work done.
“Essentially, between deep work time and the 2pm ‘I want to crawl into a hole’ feeling, it’s the equivalent of trying to do work with drunk goggles on,” Sweeney says. At our productive peak, we have hormones and blood pressure working on our side. Blood pressure typically peaks around midday and drops in the afternoon and evening and so does cortisol, the stress hormone. Sweeney advises trying to do work that requires deep focus when both cortisol and blood pressure are high and you feel most alert.
But what about when you feel tired and foggy after lunch and still have important work to finish? That’s when you need to restart productivity by taking a true break. Sweeney says this means closing your computer, moving your body and getting outside if you can. Fresh air and sunlight will help boost energy and pausing work will help you feel refreshed when you go back to it. If you can’t take a break, she suggests changing up the type of work you’re doing and focusing on creative tasks because you might be less likely to second-guess yourself when you’re tired.