For the average kindergartener, the school day peaks around lunchtime. The whole class gets to eat together, then goes outside to play for a while before coming back inside to take a nap. Once they wake up, class resumes and the rest of the day breezes by.
School officials and parents aren't foolish enough to think these students should study during their lunch break and skip recess and nap time in order to cram in more work. The students wouldn't be able to concentrate under those conditions. They'd probably be terrors for the unfortunate teachers to handle, too.
So why do so many of us operate as if nonstop work will make us better employees?
Look into the eyes of your co-workers between the lunch hour and closing time and you're likely to witness a vacant gaze. Or maybe you'll just see shut eyelids as they doze off intermittently for the rest of the afternoon.
The afternoon blahs -- be they boredom, restlessness or stress -- can drag you down and hurt your productivity. Plus, they just make for unpleasant afternoons if you don't have a good way to combat them.
Have some fun
The appeal of the lunchtime/recess/nap trifecta is that these activities are fun. You're not likely to find many students eagerly awaiting clean-up time or a parent-teacher conference. In workplaces throughout the country, weary employees are finding their own afternoon delights.
Karen Austin, who is the president of her own marketing firm, puts a little groove into her afternoon. "I literally stand up and start shaking my hips from left to right until my blood and my energy start to rise up!" she says. She encourages her staff to do the same.
If you work from home, you have a little more leeway than other employees. Jean M. Fogle, a freelance writer and photographer, knows she'll be yawning and bored by 3 p.m. every afternoon.
"I am lucky to have something that has a great internal clock, my Jack Russell terrier, Molly." When Fogle finds Molly staring at her, she knows it's time for some trick training. "Each afternoon we work on some tricks she is learning. I end up laughing, she ends up eating treats, we both end up refreshed. After a 15 minute break, I am ready to get back to work and she is content to take a nap, at least till it is her dinnertime."
Of course, some workplaces aren't keen on having dogs or private dance parties during the day, so office workers with online access find Internet distractions. Gretchen Doores, a senior account specialist at Greenough Communications, lets herself check her social networking profiles and chat with friends for a few minutes. After she's had some virtual recreation, she's ready to go back to work.
That your daily lull comes after lunch isn't surprising. Your body's attempting to digest whatever you ate. If you devour a burger and half a bag of potato chips during lunch, you shouldn't be shocked that you can't focus while your body battles greasy food.
To fend off sluggishness, many workers find ways to get physical. Some companies provide exercise equipment for their employees to use. For example, World Ventures has step machines in its office.
Some employees who can't get a real workout on the job still find ways to get their heart rates up. Walks around the block, push-ups during a coffee break or stretches at their desks can give a much-needed little boost.
Christopher Dale, a public relations specialist, divides the day differently than everyone else. "The trick is to delay 'afternoon' as long as possible," he says. Instead of following the pack at noon, he takes his lunch break an hour or two later. He takes a swim or hits the gym before picking up lunch on the way back to work. "You will encounter no crowds, return to your desk showered and refreshed and have a short afternoon."
Of course, the logical way to avoid feeling like a sloth is not to feast on greasy fast food with a dessert of candy from the vending machine. Instead, pack a nutritious lunch and some snacks that aren't filled with sugar and preservatives. Your body won't be struggling for the last few hours of the day.
Here are other ways workers are keeping the afternoon blahs at bay:
** Tevis Gale, founder of Balance Integration Corp., likes to get some sunlight, either by going outside or sitting in sunlit area of the office.
** Finding a funny cartoon or something she can laugh at brightens marketing coach Sue Painter's day.
** Author and motivational speaker Mark Black keeps his favorite tasks for the last half of the day. When he knows the more interesting or exciting items on his to-do list are coming up, he's more energized to get them done.
** Naps are popular among workers in various fields. If you can use one of your breaks or part of your lunch hour to doze off in the car or in a vacant office, you'll find yourself as energized as the kindergarteners awaking from their afternoon sleep.
Anthony Balderrama is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.