staying productive after 3 p.m., the problem with routines, and more

Over at QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I take a look at several interesting work-related stories in the news right now: how your resolve to stick with a routine might actually be getting in your way, staying productive after 3 p.m., and more. You can read it here.

{ 56 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.*

    Whoa, I really, really like the idea of meetings closer to the end of the workday. I’ve already had a chance to get things accomplished so I’m not feeling like the meeting is getting in the way. Once the meeting is over I can tie things up for the day and go home.

      1. Kyrielle*

        This is what I often do (I come in early and work a shifted schedule). 3 pm meetings would make me so sad. (Time zones can complicate them too, of course.) But I can see the reasoning – on my old schedule this would have been awesome.

    1. Ad Astra*

      This would work perfectly for me. In the mornings, I’m primed to get things done. In the afternoons, I’m just sorta… there. May as well be in a meeting instead of staring at my screen accomplishing nothing all afternoon.

      1. fposte*

        It took me ages to figure this out. Now all my initiative-type work goes in the morning and more passive/routine stuff into the afternoon.

        1. Bea W.*

          I’m totally opposite. I’m brain dead in the morning, and I really start rolling after 2 PM.

    2. BRR*

      I love after-lunch meetings. My slump is lunch-3:00 then I get a second wind but it’s not as good as my morning productivity.

      1. Abby*

        Same! 1-3PM seems to drag on foreverrrr, but for some reason 3-5 breezes by super quick.

    3. Lady Kelvin*

      I’m the complete opposite. I’m worthless* in the morning and hit my stride around 11-12 each day, and am super productive till evening. If its something I’m really interested in, I can go till 7-8 although I usually give up around 6 each day.

      *It also matters what time I get to work/wake up. When I wake up before 8 I’m a zombie, after 8 no problem. As a grad student I got to the office between 9:30-10 every day, did some menial stuff while I finished my tea and then I was ready to dive into research for the day. I’m really dreading having to work a “normal” job because my productivity is going to take a serious hit.

      1. Murphy*

        As it turns out I’ve turned into a morning person the older I’ve gotten. I used to wake at 8 and start school work at 9 (when I was in grad school), but now I’m fine so long as I’m not up before 5 am (5:20 is my usual wake-up) and even on days when I can sleep in I never, ever sleep past 6:30 (and am usually up by 6). My body has adjusted to it’s new reality.

        1. Bea W.*

          Heh. The older I get, the less of a morning person I’ve become, and the longer it takes for me to even get out of bed. I used to be able to roll right out of bed and be out the door in less than an hour. I need at least 2 hours to be commute ready.

      2. Christopher Tracy*

        I’m the exact same way, Lady Kelvin. I still hit an afternoon slump of sorts (really it’s just that my morning cup of coffee has worn off and I need another), but I’m still way more productive than I am in the morning.

      3. Ellie H.*

        I have this thing where my biological internal clock is to be a night owl but I’m only productive in the morning, and especially the early morning. It’s really a struggle because it is so hard to go to bed early enough to get up early enough to maximize my productivity potential. I know the most logical advice (which I’ve heard) is to channel your efforts into being productive at night instead but I haven’t figured out a way to do that.

    4. De Minimis*

      I used to hate these….the meeting used to always go overtime due to excessive talking and I’d either have to decide I was leaving late or just walk out of the meeting [which I did the second time this happened.]

    5. So say we all*

      My meetings are discussion oriented, so late afternoon can be the kiss of death. I held a 3 pm brainstorming session recently and a lot of the people just sat there, saying, “Sorry, I’m too tired to think of anything.” I held the next session at 10 am and they were bubbling over with ideas.

  2. Lily in NYC*

    I am so much more efficient in the morning. I’m glad I have flex time, because I come in early when I’m most productive and usually leave at 4:30. And I take a really late lunch – 2:30 or 3:00 pm – because I know that’s when I’m feeling my laziest.

    1. BRR*

      I had a professor who for our once a week class always gave a break 2/3 the way through. At first I thought it was odd to not do it around the half-way point but I soon realized I liked that he did it this way because the last part of class wasn’t nearly as onerous.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Oh, that’s a great idea! I wish the 4-hour play I went to recently did something like that. (so boring)

        1. SophieChotek*

          What four hour play? Chekhov? Shakespeare? (Sorry off topic…but four hours…)

          1. zora.dee*

            I saw a 4 hour Oedipus Off-Broadway in 2000 (i think). Billy Crudup was on stage for the Entire. Time. except for one 10 min scene. It was insane but also kind of cool. ;o)

          2. Lily in NYC*

            Part I of the Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby (not on broadway). There’s a part II but I refused to go. But I saw August: Osage County when it was on Broadway -it was 3 hours and 45 minutes and it was so amazing that the time flew by (and the best part is that they gave us Angela Lansbury’s seats when she didn’t show up. I sat next to Clare Danes).

        2. Dynamic Beige*

          I remember seeing Gandhi in the theatre back in the 80’s and there was an intermission. Was kind of surprised (and not in a good way) that there wasn’t such a thing in the LOTR. Seriously, you’ve got to be very careful with your fluid intake in situations like that. People need a break!

          1. Mike C.*

            It’s strange that he longer movies don’t have intermissions anymore. I remember seeing this in the older production of Fiddler on the Roof (VHS, lol). You’d think that theaters would love it because it gives folks a chance to buy more concessions.

            1. De Minimis*

              They used to have them on the cable movie channels—I remember seeing one for Scarface.

          2. Lily in NYC*

            I remember that! I wonder if that’s the only movie I attended that had an intermission.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        I did some of my graduate work in Austria, and this was how a lot of our classes were structured. We would have the first hour/ 75 minutes of class, break for ten minutes (when we would all take shameless advantage of the tea trolley), and then resume for the final hour. I was so much more productive with that break.

    2. Ife*

      The time between 12:00 – 3:30 is basically useless to me. Then around 4:00, when I’m starting to think, “welp, just have to hang on a little bit longer till I leave, let’s try to look at this thing so the afternoon isn’t a complete waste,” SUDDENLY that triggers a burst of productivity and I sometimes even end up staying later than I intended. That, and the fact that people like to send last-minute urgent emails at the end of the day (it’s so cool to hear that email-checking spikes in the afternoon — totally explains why those urgent emails always come at the end of the day!).

      Honestly, my ideal workday would be like 8/9:00-11:30, and then go home and goof off, eat, nap, etc. and then come back around 3:00 and work till 6:00, and then maybe check in again briefly around 9:00 pm. That is how I got through college coursework, and it worked so much better than staring at my screen pretending to be productive! Mental breaks are important, and I usually don’t get a full 8 hours of actual work done in a day anyway (even if I wanted to… there just isn’t that much to do).

      1. friendlyinitials*

        Same here! I’m incredibly sleepy after lunch and nothing I do seems to cure it. I know if I could just take a nap I’d be way more productive in the afternoon. I usually eat an apple around 3 which seems to give me a boost but until then I’m just blankly staring at my screen desperately trying to stay awake. It doesn’t help that my work involves a lot of reading so my eyes just glaze over.

      2. Bea W.*

        Before 10 AM – Completely useless
        10-11 AM – Somewhat less useless
        11-2 – Getting it done
        2-3 Useless
        3-4 – getting going
        4 and later – steam rolling like a boss

        My ideal workday would start about 10 or 11, with a break for a nap about 2 PM.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        You need to move to Spain! That is pretty much their work schedule – but they are trying to move away from the siesta because so many people have long commutes. The dinky village my family’s from completely shuts down for a few hours every afternoon. I used to love it as a kid spending summers with my grandparents because my sister and I had the run of the town when everyone else was napping. We each had a donkey and we used to race them in the streets (well, we tried but the rude donkeys wouldn’t cooperate).

  3. Alton*

    I’m the opposite. I’m really not a morning person, and I have a hard time focusing and being productive early. As the afternoon wears on, I get more alert. I’m okay with going with the flow, but I like morning meetings because they can help me wake up and they don’t take up valuable afternoon time when I might be more in the zone.

    1. Mianaai*

      Absolutely the same for me. It doesn’t help that I’m in a semi-open office plan (cubicles and tons of glass) and 3:30-4 is when it starts to quiet down and I’m not constantly distracted by everyone else’s meetings/phone calls/etc. I generally get most of my work done 3-7; I schedule my busywork, email reading, meetings, etc for the morning and try to keep the afternoon clear.

    2. Dynamic Beige*

      Me too and I kind of hate it. With the work that I do, it works out in my favour a lot of the time because clients often don’t make decisions until it’s near the end of the day. I wish I could get out of bed alert and refreshed but nope, I guess I’m just not either built or trained that way (not sure if it’s a nature or nurture thing).

  4. ThatGirl*

    I work earlier, so I’m leaving around 3:30, but my slump often hits by 1:30 or 2. One thing that has helped me is building in a mid-afternoon snack with protein and fiber. This was actually a suggestion from our on-site health coach. It helps prevent fatigue, keeps your blood sugar at a good level, and prevents me from being hangry by the time I get home. Gives me a little mini-break too.

    I suggest veggies and a little dip or hummus, fruit with greek yogurt, nuts and some whole grains, something like that.

    1. CR*

      Yes, currently trying to prop my eyes open at nearly 2 o’clock…I’ll try some yogurt.

    2. EmmaLou*

      I seriously have a jar of peanut butter and a box of plastic spoons next to my computer pretty much all the time. A spoonful can usually shove me through another hour of productivity because I am not just sluggish in the afternoons, I am just a slug. Meetings, especially if they provided some kind of energy snack, in the afternoon I could do. Just meetings, with nothing to engage…? *snrksspk!* Oh I am so sorry! I think I dozed off there. Did I drool on your sleeve? I’m… I’m going to go find my peanut butter…

      1. OhBehave*

        So that’s how you spell that snore/snort sound!
        The lunch energy surge has worn off and everyone is sleepy! Definitely yes to a protein boost. Little packages of peanuts, yogurt, etc. Also take a quick walk around to get the blood moving.

  5. Hibiscus*

    I pushed to have our teen volunteers come in the afternoon this summer simply because I know from experience that having a volunteer who may need intermittent, moderate supervision is a day killer. I also brainstormed a project so all three would come on the same day.

  6. Audiophile*

    This was a problem for me. I’d feel relatively energized in the morning, but by 3pm I was dragging.
    And struggling to make it through the next few hours. Starting at my desktop screen and waiting for the time to pass. I enjoyed being pulled into afternoons meetings.

  7. Rat Racer*

    I find that my slumps are not related to the time of day, but in the aftermath of meetings, which are interspersed throughout my day. Transitioning from talking to doing always takes me a while, and I tend to procrastinate getting back to work. On a day where I have hour long meetings every other hour, my productivity is shot.

    1. Murphy*

      Yes! The transition is the worst and a fair number of my days are like this. I can never really dig into something and I constantly feel behind the 8-ball. I wish I had more control over these meetings (and some I do), but man they’re a productivity killer (as are most of our meetings in general – seriously, I counted 26 hours/month of just internal information sharing meetings our department has. Better believe I pushed back on that crap).

    2. Formica Dinette*

      Meeting aftermath can be a problem for me too. Part of it is the transition. The other part is when a meeting ends up being difficult or irritating and it leaves me exhausted.

  8. Don't say my name!*

    The routine one was part of my problem–but the reason wasn’t that I didn’t like change, but that I feared the change meant the work would morph into something I couldn’t do. It was anxiety run wild. Even though I was right, we’re trying to work it out. I’m off the PIP I was on for this and I’ve put in an app for a different job at my company.

  9. NoWhiteFlag*

    I love 3 pm meetings. At OldJob most people worked from 7 until 4 and would schedule 7:30 am meetings. The meetings would drag on and on and those of us that worked from 8 to 5 would not be happy campers. Coming in early to participate in meetings, that would often start late, was a real drag on the day. With 3 pm meetings, everyone came prepared so they could leave at 4. I would still get an hour to clean up any items left from the day and plan for the next day. It was great.

  10. SusanIvanova*

    ““Your team members may also experience afternoon slumps where they’re actively looking for distractions themselves,”

    Every software team I’ve ever been on would throw a revolt if we started having meetings or any sort of interruption in the afternoon. Get the meetings out of the way in the morning while we’re still processing our coffee, but not too early – 11 is pretty much perfect.

  11. Hlyssande*

    If only I didn’t have so many conference calls with people in Europe (mostly Romania and UK), I could do the afternoon meeting thing. SIGH.

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