How super successful people deal with the afternoon slump

It is a truth universally acknowledged that come 3 pm on a workday, you will feel the afternoon slump.

It doesn’t matter how much you work out, how many hours of sleep you got the night before or how much coffee you chugged, for at least half an hour or more post-lunch your body and brain will come lethargic. Lifting your hand to check your email will seem tiresome.

So how do we get over this disastrous afternoon slump? We look to successful people around us who have figured out how to overcome this dreaded time period.

Don’t let meetings be endless

Randy Komisar, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, said he keeps productive by making sure meetings stick to the schedule. “I leave meetings at their allotted end time regardless of whether they are finished,” said Komisar, who authored the book, Getting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a Better Business Model. “I do not reschedule an appointment for a more important one unless it is an emergency. If an email will do, I don’t make a call; if a call will do, I don’t have a meeting; if a 30-minute meeting is sufficient, I don’t schedule an hour.”


Though exercise is great to do in the morning before you start the day (like Tim Cook who starts at 5 am), some need to save it for the middle of the afternoon. Evan Williams, the former founder and chairman of Twitter, takes a break from work in the middle of the day to visit the gym. He said, “My focus is usually a great first thing in the morning, so going to the gym first is a trade-off of very productive time. Instead, I’ve started going mid-morning or late afternoon (especially on days I work late).” Mark Cuban also exercises every day.

Working out midday is actually an ideal time for this as your body temperature rises a few degrees in the middle of the day so your muscles will be nice and warmed up. “You’ll feel positive and happy since endorphins are released when you work out,” explains Eve Karlin, Fitness Manager at Crunch Fitness in Burbank, CA, “In addition, exercising in the middle of the day is a great way to release stress.”

When author Tim Ferriss asked Richard Branson how he stays productive, Branson answered “work out,” as recorded in Ferriss’ 2010 book The 4-Hour Body. Branson said working out includes swimming, Bikram Yoga, rock climbing, running, and weightlifting. He believes exercise gives him at least four additional hours of productivity each day.

Kat Cole, the chief operating officer and president of North America for Focus Brands, does yoga everyday but also will strike a pose if she feels the need whenever. 

Take a long relaxing lunch

Winston Churchhill (you may have heard of him) thought lunch was pretty darn important. He took a long one, to say the least. It went from 1–3:30 p.m. most days and was usually a full three-course meal with his family and guests. After lunch he would often work again until around 5 p.m.

Do your one-on-one meetings in the afternoon

It really comes down to knowing your energy. In the morning, you may be better at just getting tasks done and knocking out emails. In the afternoon, you may be more creative or more interested in talking out ideas.

“It helps to know the ebb and flow of your daily energy, and to match it as closely as possible to the tasks at hand,” says David Klein, co-founder, and CEO of CommonBond, a platform connecting student borrowers and alumni investors to save students money on their loans. “In the morning, for example, I have a lot of energy to ‘do.’ Ideally, I have a few hour blocks to just crank. In the afternoon, I have a lot of energy around ‘managing’ and a lot of my one-on-one updates are in the afternoon. And on nights and weekends, I have a lot of energy around ‘thinking.’ A lot of strategic discussions happen at this time.”

Take a short nap

Sometimes the best thing you can do is just shut your eyes, even if it is for 15 minutes. Though if you can, try for 30. Arianna Huffington believes so heavily in the power of sleep and the efficiency of sleeping that she had nap rooms built at The Huffington Post offices for that very purpose. And she is in good company. Thomas Edison also believed in naps in the afternoon.

Cuban is also a fan of the nap. “If I’m dragging, then I’ll take a nap,” he told Business Insider. “Look, I get to define my own schedule. Other than having to travel sometimes, I’m usually working on my own schedule. If I’m tired, I’ll sleep.”

Take a mental break

The always amazing Oprah takes two 20 minute silent breaks every day. We assume one is in the morning and the other one is probably in the afternoon. Sometimes you don’t need sleep, you just need to clear your mind.

Read a little

When lifestyle guru Lauren Conrad needs a break she recommends reading a good book. She wrote, “I’ve always thought that no movie or TV show — no matter how great — can compare to a beautifully written story. There’s nothing quite like spending an afternoon enthralled in a fabulous book.”

Eat small snacks throughout the day

According to Guiding Stars’ scientific advisor, Kitty Broihier eating small snacks is the key to maintaining your energy throughout the day. She told Ladders, “Mini-meals allow you to maintain your energy and not feel sluggish. This way of eating may be new for some. The key is to break your day’s intake down into small meals and slightly larger snacks. Snacks and meals composed of some carbohydrates along with some protein and/or healthy fat will help control blood sugar and maintain energy levels.  Banana and nut butter, plain Greek yogurt topped with berries, and avocado toast are just some examples of balanced snacks.”