Q. I generally enjoy my work, but I routinely feel kind of fuzzy in the afternoon. I'd like to be more productive in the second half of my workday. Any suggestions?
A. It takes just a quick break to regain your momentum, especially if you build a repertoire of techniques to rest your mind and build your energy.
The inner game
Give yourself permission. Some people think that taking breaks is slacking, especially if you're doing something that looks frivolous. However, recharging yourself will increase your productivity and is a good investment of a few minutes. If this feels far-fetched, think about times when you've given yourself a chance to reenergize compared with when you just try to tough it out.
Understand your energy cycles. Pay attention to when you have peaks and valleys, and plan your work tasks to take advantage of that, whenever possible.
Evaluate your lifestyle choices. In particular, look at what and when you eat (tip: eating breakfast will help you in the afternoon), sleep and exercise. If you aren't taking any preventive steps, consider what you can do to improve your habits.
The outer game
Once your slump has hit, there are many ways to get out of it.
Try some physical options. Take a walk -- inside or out -- or do some stretching. Five minutes will change your day. Drink some water; better yet, sip water throughout the day. Have a small snack, something that will give you lasting energy, not just a sugar rush. Do some deep breathing, letting the oxygen charge you up. Try peppermint -- breathing a little peppermint oil can clear your head in an instant.
Fire up your brain. Keep some puzzles nearby or do a few lines of a crossword. Get a calendar that has daily brain teasers. Or go online to find interesting options (if workplace policies permit). Some of my favorites are posted on my website with this column.
Be visual. Take a mini-vacation by looking at nature pictures or photos of a memorable trip. Create your own images by drawing a two-minute picture. Keep a small white board and markers nearby, or a coloring book and crayons. These are for your eyes only, so have fun with them.
Give yourself an ear massage. Sound strange? It takes just a minute or two, and can be very invigorating. It's a good survival tip if you're getting drowsy in a meeting, too, because a discreet mini-ear rub can help shake the dust out of your head.
Connect with people. Find a co-worker for a quick chat, or call a friend or family member. Even sending a friendly e-mail can provide an energy lift.
Close your eyes. Find a quiet place to rest for a few minutes. If you can grab a quick nap, great. If not, just relaxing can be enough. If prayer or meditation are part of your life, try incorporating these into your day for a boost.
The last word
There are many simple options for recharging yourself during the day: body, mind and spirit. Finding the ones that work for you will turn your afternoons around.