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Surprising Science

How Business Experts Stay Motivated Throughout the Workday

Find out where the high points of your day are and save the busy work for when you hit your midday slump.

An eight-hour workday is a marathon, which is why avoiding the midday slump is unavoidable. Asking someone to stay the same level of motivated throughout is too much, so you should learn how to navigate it. 

Carson Tate, author of Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style, says:

“It’s just not realistic to expect ourselves to be on all day. Just as you wouldn’t expect yourself to walk at a brisk pace for eight solid hours, you shouldn’t expect yourself to be focused or think strategically for that amount of time.”

Carolyn O’Hara of Harvard Business Review offers a few tips from the experts to help workers overcome the midday slump. The secret is finding the parts of the day when you reach your peak focus, which, for most people, happens around twice a day. (I’m sure that number would be more if your employer allowed you to nap on the job.)

Think of the workday like the peaks and valleys of your circadian rhythms when you sleep. At certain parts of the day, we hit our stride where we become focused and full of energy. It’s during these periods that we do our most creative work, says Christopher Barnes, an assistant professor of management at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. During these high-focus hours is when you want to do your most detailed work — save the email inbox cleaning for when you hit your lows later in the day.

If you’re having trouble hitting that high, Barnes and Tate recommend that you may need to focus on getting more sleep. If sleep isn’t your issue, then you may just need a trigger. Music can be a great motivator; create a power playlist for work, like you would for exercise. Better yet, getting up and walking around can help get the blood flowing to help boost energy and focus. But whatever you do, Barnes says, don’t reach for the coffee. Past studies have shown caffeine just stretches the synapses and may even reduce your performance over time when abused — caffeine just doesn’t rejuvenate your brain like a nap would.

Outside the confines of an eight-hour day, finding a work-life balance is an essential component of finding a productive work environment. Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of Families and Work Institute, explains how triangular relationships — the individual, the boss, the supportive team — create lasting productivity:

Read more at HBR.



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