Energy levels tend to ebb and flow throughout a typical workday. A cup of coffee may provide some caffeine-infused spark in the morning, but a big lunch can squash energy later in the afternoon.
Waning mental sharpness as the workday progresses can compromise productivity, making it more difficult for workers to complete projects on time. That, in turn, can contribute to stress. In fact, in its "2017 Stress in America" survey, the American Psychological Association found that 58 percent of Americans say work is a significant source of stress.
Staying mentally fresh during a workday can pay a host of benefits, and the following are just a few ways to maintain mental focus until quitting time.
• Exercise regularly. The physical benefits of routine exercise are well documented. But even the most ardent fitness enthusiasts may not realize just how big an impact physical activity is having on their brains. The Harvard Medical School notes that exercise stimulates regions of the brain that release a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, which rewires memory circuits so they can function better. A stronger memory can help workers recall project details and deadlines more easily, even as the workday draws to a close.
• Avoid the "quick fix." Relying on a beverage or snack to provide a quick mental boost may end up compromising your mental sharpness. Foods and beverages that are high in sugar may provide an immediate energy boost, but that spike is almost instantly followed by a crash that can adversely affect your mental sharpness. Stick to healthy snacks, such as fruits and vegetables, and avoid late afternoon cups of coffee, which studies have shown make it harder to fall asleep at night, thereby compromising your energy levels the next day.
• Take a walk outdoors. Spending some time outdoors during a lunch break, or even a quick, post-lunch stroll around the office grounds, can provide a break for the brain. That break can help the brain refocus, improving productivity as a result. One great way to get outdoors during busy workdays is to conduct meetings outside when the weather permits. This gives everyone a chance to recharge their brains in the great outdoors, and few people would prefer a dusty conference room to a nearby park or picnic area outdoors.
Various strategies can help working professionals maintain their mental sharpness throughout the workday.