Avoiding the Late Afternoon Lull

Maybe 5-Hour Energy drink should have sponsored this one. In a none too surprising result, a new survey by Accountemps finds that 4 p.m. to 6 p.m is the least productive time of the day for employees, with 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. a close second.

More than 1,000 senior managers were surveyed. A couple of highlights and Accountemps’ advice for battling the late afternoon blues.

Managers were asked, “In general, what is the least productive time of day for employees?” Their responses:

8 a.m. to 10 a.m.  – 10%
10 a.m. to noon – 4%
Noon to 2 p.m.     – 19%
2 p.m. to 4 p.m. – 28%
4 p.m. to 6 p.m. – 37%
Don’t know – 2%

“All professionals experience lulls in productivity, but the late afternoon, in particular, may not be a good time to hold brainstorming sessions or take on highly challenging projects,” said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Managing Your Career For Dummies®, 2nd Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.). “High-performing individuals are typically attuned to their most productive times of the day and, when possible, schedule their critical tasks during those hours.”

Accountemps offers five tips to help professionals avoid the afternoon slump and maximize productivity:

  • Plan ahead. Don’t push challenging projects off until the end of the day, when your energy may wane. Use your less-energetic periods to catch up on more routine tasks, such as responding to e-mails and reading industry publications.

  • Get out and smell the roses. If you feel your energy beginning to dip, stretch or take a short walk to recharge. Try eating your meals or holding afternoon meetings outside.

  • Eat well. Remember to make time for lunch and nutritious snacks throughout your workday. Avoid high-carb foods, which can cause you to crash later.

  • Track goals. Keep a to-do list to remain focused, and ensure it’s visible on your desk so you can check items off as they’re completed. There’s nothing more motivating than making progress on your projects.

  • Switch gears. If you’re struggling to focus, take a quick break and research something new. Changing tasks can help increase your productivity late in the day.

2 thoughts on “Avoiding the Late Afternoon Lull

  1. It is so ironic to see the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the prime mover of Daylight Stupid Time, figured out that the time of day actually has something to do with productivity!

  2. Yes, the Indiana Chamber did play a critical role in helping enact DST — and many, many Hoosiers benefit from it each and every day. Maybe if we could move away from the school day calendar based on when kids had to go home to help their parents on the farm, we’d improve the future for young people and make them more competitive in the workforce.

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