The afternoon slump struggle is real, whether you’re a marketing manager trying to come up with ad copy or small business owner brainstorming expansion ideas. Sometimes you just need a little help to jump-start the flow of your creative ideas and there are plenty of ways to get that much-needed boost.
Here are five ideas to help power through your creative afternoon with new ideas and a productive mindset.
Take a Walk Outside
Sometimes the best way to recharge creatively is to completely step away from your desk and surroundings and get out into nature. The act of walking is both meditative and stress relieving, both of which can help clear your mind and generate new ideas.
A Stanford study from 2014 showed that a person’s creative output increased by 60 percent when walking, so take a stroll down the hall if you can’t get outside. Get up and move and wait for those creative ideas to start flowing in.
Have a Morning Brainstorming Session
If you can’t get your creative work done when you’re feeling most creative—which science says is during and immediately after sleep—use that creative time to prepare for your afternoon work instead.
For example, you may have meetings and calls from 10am through lunch, so spend an hour before your first call prepping for the creative work you have in the afternoon. Collect links and resources, write down various ideas you already have, and, depending on what you’re doing, you may even want to write an outline. When the afternoon hits, you’ve already done the most creative work, now you just have to execute.
Take an Afternoon Nap
Napping in the afternoon could be just the creative kick-start that your brain needs—if it’s something that’s within the realm of possibility for you.
“Mednick found that an afternoon nap was about equal to a dose of caffeine for improving perceptual learning. But in other ways, a midday doze might trump your afternoon latte. She found people who napped performed better on a verbal word-recall task an hour after waking compared with people who took caffeine or a placebo,” reports American Psychological Foundation.
If your work doesn’t have a napping area—we can’t all be Google—take a snooze in your car. If you work at home, crawl back into bed, set the alarm and snooze your way to greater afternoon creativity.
Hit the Gym
An afternoon workout is ideal for many reasons, from scheduling to creativity. A wide variety of studies have found that our brains get a creative and productive boost post-workout, and Stacey Lastoe, who tested this theory, found that to be true:
“When I got back to my desk, I was ready to tackle the afternoon. I picked right up where I left off on the article I’d been editing, and the rest of the day flew by. At 6:30 PM, I wasn’t ready to close up shop. I tried to determine if it was because of the class, which had me out of the office for exactly one hour and 22 minutes (which was longer than usual for me), but ultimately determined, if anything, I was feeling so productive from my exercise boost that I barely noticed what time it was, and that’s what kept me planted at my desk about an hour later than I typically stayed.”
To get an even greater creativity boost, try a workout you’ve never done before, like rock climbing or yoga, which were two of the top five indoor hobbies for 2016. Both can be done during your lunch break and will inspire you to tap into new ideas when you get back to the office.
De-clutter Your Desk
You may hear creatives joke about how it’s natural for them to have a messy desk or office. Yet a cluttered work environment is a big detractor for creativity. Even if you think you don’t notice the stack of files on your desk or the piles of papers in the corner, these things are likely impacting your creativity, causing unnecessary stress during the workday, according to Psychology Today.
Keep your desk tidy throughout the day, or take time after lunch to clear whatever mess was made so you’re ready for a creative afternoon. Even a simple file system and organized drawers can keep things out of sight. If you’re afraid that out of sight means out of mind, hang a bulletin board to pin items that need your attention. Better yet, set up a to-do list with reminders on your computer or phone.
Use these ideas to power your creative afternoon. A short nap or quick de-clutter session can help you stay productive and successful, even when your afternoon slump is at its worst.
Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years and is currently a full-time writer, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition specialist. She’s also the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Honest Body Fitness, an online health magazine for women who are fed up with being told how to look and how to get there, yet still don’t feel like enough.