Defry Your Burnt Brain: 4 Quick Ways To Unplug In The Afternoon

Because there are better solutions than 5-Hour Energy drinks.

Defry Your Burnt Brain: 4 Quick Ways To Unplug In The Afternoon

Like bunnies, humans need rest: especially after spending the morning sandwiched between meetings, spreadsheets, gossip, and starving for an actual sandwich. By the time we reach 2:55 p.m, we’re fall-out-of-our-chair exhausted.


This leads to frightful consequences: the more tired a person is, the worse decisions they will make. If you’ve ever felt too tired to brush your teeth, you’ll know what we mean.

This can lead to Mindless Click Syndrome, a situation in which you fall prey to the glittering gifs of meme-based distraction. While a deep understanding of cuddling taxonomy is indeed important, it’s sort of like spending your day in your inbox–while you were at the office all day, you feel like you didn’t get anything done.

Let’s fix the afternoon!

Cuddle-browsing-based decision deterioration evidences a unobviously obvious point: that managing your energy level, rather than your time, is most important for having a suitably sustainable, non-hellish workflow. It’s about having a rhythm between focused sprinting (and focused resting!), rather than a continuous, delirious, unguided, low-level crawl of distraction.

Get some calm

If your organization is super progressive, you might have a chance to yoga or meditate in the afternoon. New research suggests that 20-minutes of yoga boosts your brain functioning–tell that to your boss. And meditation isn’t “just relaxing“–at a micro level, your genes will express themselves in a more stress-resilient way, meaning that at a macro level, your afternoons won’t be quite so skittish.

Get some rest

There’s a great Zen saying about the relationship between getting enough rest and being able to do good work: “Eat when hungry, sleep when tired.” So, then, if we’re feeling worn out in the afternoon, maybe we should sleep? It’s progressive stuff, we know, but if you can place a nap right where your energy begins to erode, you can bolster the rest of your day.


Get some movement

Go for a walk. Go to a park. Make a friend. Exercise: it makes you more productive.

Get some perspective

Like we learned at breakfast, we need to be mindful of what the hell it is we’re doing and why the hell we’re doing it.

The Jesuit tradition gives us a practice for doing that. Saint Ignatius of Loyola–who was very, very awesome–had a mindfulness practice he called the examen. Chris Lowney, who was a seminarian before he joined JP Morgan, gives a contemporary, universalized interpretation of the contemplative practice:

  • First, remind yourself why you are grateful as a human being.
  • Second, lift your horizon for a moment. Call to mind some crucial personal objective, or your deepest sense of purpose, or the values you stand for.
  • Third, mentally review the last few hours and extract some insight that might help in the next few hours. If you were agitated, what was going on inside you? If you were distracted and unproductive, why?

Faced With Overload, a Need to Find Focus

[Image: Flickr user Malte Schmidt]

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.