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Well at Work

4 Things Fit, Productive People Do Between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.

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For most people in the working world, the 3 o’clock to 4 o’clock hour is one of the least productive ones. Mid-afternoon fatigue sets in and it’s difficult not to see the day’s finish line approaching. At that point, it’s challenging not to shift into autopilot and coast home, getting little accomplished. But by recognizing the body’s rhythms and making a few scheduling adjustments, it’s possible to make “3-to-4” one of the more valuable hours of the day. Here’s how:

1. Schedule a workout.

Many youth and high school sports practices are held during this timeframe. This right-after-school scheduling isn’t just for convenience. Studies suggest that physical performance peaks during this time of the day, which also is the same point where mental focus can decline.

That dovetails nicely with the schedule of a grade school, high school, or college student, but not with someone in the working world expected to maintain hours between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Then again, it’s possible to tweak your schedule, especially if you work from home. Or see if your employer will let you work from 6 or 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Here are five ways to boost your health when working at home.)

When traffic is an issue for commuting, scheduling a workout from 3 to 4 p.m. and pushing your departure for home to 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. can save time in traffic. If you’re fortunate to have a corporate wellness center or a nearby gym, you can return to the office after your workout. You’ll wait out the traffic and perhaps have the office to yourself for a productive hour or two before heading for home. The training likely will make it a focused, productive one.

2. Schedule meetings or conference calls.

A disproportionate share of meetings and conference calls are scheduled first thing in the morning, giving them perhaps a false air of importance. While there’s something to be said for exchanging ideas and having face time during the most alert part of your day, those hours are perhaps more valuable spent on solo tasks that require your utmost attention, such as writing and reviewing documents.

Interacting with people between 3 and 4 might be just the jumpstart you need from the mid-afternoon malaise. (Here's how to stay healthy during long meetings.)

3. Eat a mid-afternoon snack.

Assuming lunch falls between 12 and 1 and dinner between 6 and 7, the 3-to-4 hour is the perfect time for a light snack to keep your metabolism firing and your mind sharp. Good options to stash in a desk drawer include nuts, beef jerkey, meal replacement bars, and apples. (Try these 10 energy-boosting snacks for the office.)

4. Take a break—with movement.

Nobody would sit through an all-day seminar or series of meetings without taking at least one 10-minute break (for reasons other than nature calls). So why deprive yourself when it’s just you and a desk? Take a few minutes and go for a walk, enjoy that snack outdoors, and reset your posture to offset the effects of sitting hunched over a screen for hours.

This is especially important if you don’t have the option of working out between 3 and 4 p.m. Instead, perform a few Movement Prep exercises. (Learn about Movement Prep here.) At the very least, squeeze the shoulder blades back and down as if trying to draw them into your back pockets. Activate (squeeze) your glutes one at a time. Draw your belly button in away from your belt buckle to activate the core region. By activating the glutes, core, and shoulders, you’ll counteract the forces of pushing your body into a hunched over position and reset yourself for a final productive push to the end of the workday.

About The Author

Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.

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Tags: Health, Work