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Beating the Dreaded Afternoon Slump

man on computer

You know the scene. It’s Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. There’s still plenty you could do before the end of the work day but none of it is terribly pressing and you’ve hit the late-week, post-afternoon caffeine boost slump.

As a remote worker without the societal pressure of working in close proximity to the people directly affected by the work I do or don’t do (my coworkers), no one is more familiar with the slump than I am. Really I’m looking into this more for myself than any of you.

There’s plenty of advice out there about what to do and what not to do to beat the slump. Here are some particularly helpful pieces of advice I’ve come across.


Sometimes getting through a slump is all about reframing the way you’re looking at the work you have to do into a thought process that’s more motivating and productive.

Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose

Many people seem to be looking to Daniel Pink’s book “Drive,” a piece of work about the mismatch between what science knows and what business does, for the breakdown of the key components of motivation: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

This means working on something you chose to do, getting better at something you feel matters and believing you’re working on something that’s bigger than yourself. Zapier’s Belle Cooper says this is all intrinsic motivation that’s most useful for creative work.


Okay, but what does this thinking look like when it comes to facing actual tasks?

Know who your work is benefitting

Cooper talks about how knowing that our work will make a difference to someone else makes us work harder. This can mean talking to the people who actually benefit from what you’re doing day-to-day by asking for feedback from customers, clients, etc.


Write a to-do list. But don’t just make it about what needs to be done, specify what needs to be done first by labelling tasks as “must,” “should” and “want.” And don’t get discouraged if you don’t get to every last thing. You’re only human.

Establish a daily progress ritual

Pink says you need to channel a sense of progress, not by fooling yourself into thinking you’re getting more done than you actually are, but by allowing yourself to acknowledge what you’ve accomplished so far instead of being hard on yourself for what you haven’t done yet.

It’s easy to forget what you’ve actually done in the run of a day and if you don’t have tangible results, you won’t be able to find motivation in your accomplishments. Pink recommends starting a daily progress ritual by jotting down what you accomplished that day. Recognize the value in small wins like problems you’ve solved and contacts you’ve reached.

Find a change of scenery

This doesn’t necessarily mean setting up on a park bench for the rest of the day (though if that’s doable for you, go for it). Even getting outside for five minutes can boost your mood and help to chase the slump away.

If you can’t get outside, try switching things up where you are. Reorganize your desk or workspace to get rid of clutter or clean up your digital workspace by closing tabs you aren’t using and deleting shortcuts to programs and files you never use.

Destroy the distraction

Multitasking isn’t really a thing. Any time you get distracted from whatever you’re working on, it can take over 23 minutes to get back to your original task. Think about how many times you go from your main work over to your favourite social media platform or even your inbox in a day. All that switching wastes time and causes stress.

If you start thinking about something you forgot to do or think you’ll forget to do if you don’t get on it right now, don’t leave your original task. Write it down for later.

Check out this handy productivity tips graphic for more ideas.

How do you beat the afternoon slump? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook.