Quick Energy Boosts to Get You Through the Workday

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

After eating lunch, it’s now around 2:00 p.m., and all you want to do is nap under your desk. There are still hours left in the workday, yet you feel completely drained of energy and in need of a major pick-me-up. This mid-afternoon burnout is something everyone experiences.

That doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to stop it, though. When you need a quick energy boost, try some of these life hacks to get back up and running for the rest of your day.

Go for a Walk

One of the best ways to get a quick burst of energy is by going for a walk, especially outside. This low impact activity doesn’t cost anything, and you won’t have to change out of your work clothes.

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Photo Courtesy: Lukas_Rychvalsky/Pixabay

A brisk walk outside can get your adrenaline pumping and give your body some much-needed vitamin D. If you feel a lack of energy at the same point each day, try to schedule a walk at the same time. You’ll come back feeling energized and ready to take on the remainder of the afternoon.

Drink Something Cold

When your energy reserves are running low, it might be time to drink an ice-cold beverage. Drinking something cold can give your body a chilling burst of energy. You’ll wake up a little more with every sip. Temperature is the key to success here.

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When you take a sip of a cold drink such as water, lemonade or iced tea, the chill from the drink jolts your body awake. The coldness literally jumpstarts your senses. It might be just enough to get you through the afternoon.

Enjoy Something Funny

As the old saying goes, laughter is the best medicine. When you start to dream about that nap under your desk, laughing can be a great way to wake yourself up and give yourself a boost of energy.

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If you need a good laugh, google some jokes, watch a hilarious video, or start following a comedian on social media. A session of literally laughing too loud may be just what you need. While you’re at it, let your co-workers in on the joke, too. Chances are you can all use a laugh.


Call a Friend

When you start dozing off in the middle of the afternoon, sometimes all you need is a little pick-me-up from a friend. Before you reach for an energy drink, reach for the phone instead. Give someone you haven’t talked to in a while a quick phone call.

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Talking to a friend or family member may be just what you need to get energized. By scheduling the call in the morning, you’ll also have something to look forward to all day. Stimulating conversation can be just enough to help you make it through the day.

Try Rosemary

When your energy levels are getting low, consider trying rosemary. This herbal remedy is not only commonly used in cooking, but also for its energy-boosting properties. Rosemary can help boost alertness and mental activity.

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To keep some rosemary handy, you can plant a little herb pot at your desk. If you have a job where you don’t have a desk, you can keep some in a bag or in a container in the fridge. Sprinkle a little rosemary on your lunch or snack in the afternoon. You can also use rosemary essential oil.

Do Push-Ups

When you’re really struggling with energy in the afternoon, a quick set of push-ups may be all you need. Start in the plank position and do a few sets. If it feels too daunting, you can change your positioning to better accommodate your strength. Even just a few minutes can increase the flow of oxygen to your heart and endorphins to your brain.

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This practice works best if you have a semi-private space at work to knock out a quick set, although any private area will do. For just a few pushups you likely won’t even need to change your clothes.


Go for a Run

Nothing feels quite as good as a quick jog outside. When you go for a run or engage in other cardiovascular exercise, your body releases endorphins and cortisol. Both of these hormones help make you feel more alert, giving you the energy needed to get through the day.

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When you start to get bogged down in the afternoon slog, throw on some running shoes and go outside. If the weather is bad, you can also use a treadmill if you have access to one. When you come back from the run, you’ll feel more awake and focused.

Read a Book

When you’re starting to lose focus at work, a project that should last 30 minutes may take you the entire afternoon. Instead of just forcing yourself to keep going, take a break with a book. You don’t need hours away to get a nice boost of energy.

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If you can step away from your desk for 10 minutes, reading a few chapters of a good book may be just the mental break you need. When you come back from reading, your mind will be refocused. Just a few minutes away can help you stay alert.


If you’re feeling sluggish, some easy, low-impact physical activity can be really helpful. Schedule a little time on your calendar every day to head to a quiet place in the office or outside. Take a few minutes to stretch and focus on your breathing. Stretches can include reaching your arms over your head, touching your toes or even some light yoga.

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Taking deep breaths while stretching can help focus your mind and get you centered. You’ll feel calmer, more grounded and more focused. It can make all the difference when the afternoon rolls around.


Lift Weights at Your Desk

If you don’t have time to go to the gym, a small set of weights at your desk can have the same benefits. When you feel yourself getting tired, grab the weights and do a quick set of exercises.

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If you can't keep weights in or under your desk, an equivalent heavy object can do the trick. Try a reverse pushup using your desk or chair for support as well. A couple of reps can do wonders for your mood.

Eat a Healthy Snack

When you start to feel sluggish, sometimes all your body needs is a snack. The next time you’re feeling low, consider grabbing some fruit, nuts or veggies. These foods can all help give you energy without the crash later. Stay away from carbs like bread that can drag you down later in the day.

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To give you an even bigger mood boost, take your snack outside. A little sunshine and fresh air will do wonders for rejuvenating the mind and spirit.

Reach for a Smoothie

Sometimes all you need to stay awake something refreshing and full of healthy vitamins and minerals. A smoothie full of energizing fruit is a great option for this. You can add protein, extra boosts of vitamin C or shots of wheatgrass to see through the afternoon. Enjoy it chilled for an extra kick.

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You can make this refreshing beverage at home in the morning and keep it at work until you’re ready, or you can bring your supplies and make fresh it at work. A walk to a local smoothie shop may also help you refocus for the rest of the day.


Talk to a Coworker

When you need a little break during the day, take a few minutes to chat with a coworker. You can chat about your weekend or music or books you’re reading. Just make sure you stay away from work talk if that’s what was lulling you to sleep in the first place.

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A little chat that isn’t about work can take your mind off your to-do list for a few minutes. You can also ask a coworker to grab a coffee or to take a walk. A little fresh air and catch-up can be a nice mental break and give you a boost of energy.

Go to a Park

If you’re struggling to concentrate or focus, try to get outside to a park. If you don’t have a park within walking distance, go for a short drive or walk anywhere with some green space. A nice stroll through nature can help your mood and energy levels.

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Seeing some trees and greenery may help your mental state as well. When you’re feeling tired and unable to focus, just seeing the sun can go a long way. Take the opportunity to get some exercise and perhaps do some people watching. After a little time away from your desk, you’ll feel a lot better.

Go Upside Down

If you have a space where you can be alone, lying upside down may be just the jolt you need to get your energy levels up. If you don’t have an office, consider visiting an empty conference room or even your car.

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Begin by lying upside down for a minute or two and maybe playing some music. When you sit back up, you should feel a nice burst of energy. Repeat this cycle a couple more times before you head back to your desk.


Walk a Few Hallway Laps

When green spaces aren’t available, a good old fashioned lap around the office might still help with afternoon fatigue. An office stroll can also be useful when you don’t have time to leave the building or the weather is bad.

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Walk with a friend or stop by some coworker's desks along the way to add socialization to the mix. You’ll feel energized and ready to tackle the afternoon after just a few minutes, and all without ever stepping foot outside.

Hit the Gym

When you have more time on your hands, you can get a huge boost of energy by hitting the gym. Even just a 20 minute trip can do far more than some quick pushups in your cubicle. Your body will also release those mood-pumping endorphins, and you’ll feel amazing.

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Whether it’s 30 minutes of mixed exercises or 10, it’s not about the duration. The act of getting up, moving and getting away from your desk is what matters. If you do have a little more time, a group fitness class can also be a fun diversion.

Plan Your Weekend

When it’s 3:00 on a Tuesday, the weekend can seem like a lifetime away. If you need a little pick me up, start planning your weekend early. This will give you a nice mental break from work and something to look forward to as the week goes on.

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Take just 10 minutes to step away from your desk with your phone, laptop or good old-fashioned planner. Head outside or to your office break room, kitchen or an empty conference room and get planning. You can use this time to make reservations, buy tickets, research or coordinate plans with friends.


Listen to Music

Good music makes you want to sing along or get up and dance. If you can, do both of those things — you'll get a great burst of energy. If you’re worried about your boss sitting across from you, go with headphones instead.

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Spend a few minutes making a playlist just for an energy boost. Choose fun songs that get your heart pounding and make you ready to take on the next project. You can even make a funny name for it so you can easily queue it up when you are feeling a little sluggish.

Give Yourself Some Acupressure

You can actually perform acupressure on yourself. There are five trigger points on the human body that you can access to jumpstart brain activity, even without needles. Just use your hands.

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The next time you feel a little sleepy, apply pressure to the backs of your knees, the soles of your feet, the sides of your neck, the top of your head or the back of your hand between forefinger and thumb. You can do this right at your desk without a trip to the acupuncturist.


When you’re feeling stressed, overtired and unfocused, you might just need some zen time. Go to a quiet place in your office or outside where you can block out everything and reflect. You can listen to a meditation podcast, music, or just your own thoughts.

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Picture yourself somewhere calm and peaceful. Visualize yourself on the beach or in a forest or comfortable hotel room. When you return to your desk, you’ll be refreshed and more mindful of what was stressing you out in the first place.


Switch Tasks

If you’re feeling bogged down and uninspired by a certain project, it might be helpful to simply switch things up. There’s no point in wasting time staring at your screen. You’re not accomplishing anything, and you’re probably just getting frustrated.

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Instead of stewing, move on to a different task. Even if you’re on a tight deadline, just moving on to something else for a few minutes can help give you a mental break. After 30 minutes, get up, move around, grab some coffee and come back to your original project.

Clean Out Your Email

When you don’t have the mental capacity to focus on real work, you can still be productive by using that time to clean out your inbox. This task is low energy but frequently pushed aside in favor of other tasks, so now is the perfect time to do it.

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Go through your inbox and delete old items, unsubscribe from junk mail and jot down anything that needs attention. Not only will you get your email inbox back to zero, but you’ll also feel a lot better than just mindlessly scrolling through social media.

Run an Errand

On a similar note, if you’re tired but still want to check something off your to-do list, consider picking a quick errand to run. Doing so can give you a nice mental break from whatever’s wearing you down while still getting important work accomplished.

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Short errands may include getting snacks, going to the post office or buying a quick gift for a kid's birthday party. Even just a mailbox trip is more productive than blankly staring and waiting for coffee to kick in.


Do Something for Someone Else

When you’re feeling worn out, giving back to someone else can be a nice way to give yourself positive feelings to lift your spirits while making the office or your own life better as a whole.

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You can do a favor for a stressed-out coworker or step out to get a card for someone with a birthday. If you’ve recently purged your closet, bring the bag of donations with you to work. You can run out to drop them off when you need a mental break.

Prioritize Your To-Do List

Not everything on your to-do list is of equal importance. While some projects need to be taken care of right away, others don’t need immediate attention. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a to-do list that is too long, start over with a new one.

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Get out your calendar, notebook or digital to-do list and reorganize what you need to accomplish for the day or week. Put things in order of importance and focus on the low-hanging fruit. You can knock some of the little things out when you’re having trouble focusing on a larger project.

Get a Desk Plant

There’s something soothing about a little green plant on your desk. If you are feeling blue or stressed out, a plant can be a good distraction. You can also take time to prune or water your plant whenever you need a break.

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Having some greenery around you can help with seasonal depression, too. When it’s negative degrees outside and snowing, you can enjoy that little green sprig on your desk. If you don't have a green thumb, try a miniature rock or sand garden instead.


Drink Green Tea

If you’re looking for a boost of energy from something other than coffee, green tea might be just what you need. Green tea can be served hot or cold, and you can make it fairly quickly at the office. If you need to get away for a bit, walk over to your local coffee shop and grab some.

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Green tea has been shown to increase brain function, burn fat and improve overall health. It also has helpful antioxidants which can give you energy and even reduce your risk of certain types of cancer. That's one powerful drink.

Clean Your Desk

A cluttered desk can sometimes cause feelings of stress and overstimulation, making it hard to focus. Papers, trash and piles of work can cause anxiety. By contrast, a clean, fresh environment can leave you feeling more organized and at peace.

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If you have a horribly unorganized desk, take a few minutes to clean up your trash, put away papers and organize yourself. This can greatly reduce your stress levels. The cleanup time provides a nice break, and you’ll have a fresh clean desk to get you through the afternoon.

Rest Your Eyes

As grandpa used to say, sometimes you aren't sleeping, you're just resting your eyes. Screen time fatigue is a real thing. If you’ve been staring at the screen too long, it might be time to take a few minutes to unplug.

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You can shut your eyes for a short while if you have your own office or are in an area where you won’t look like you’re sleeping. If your desk is out in the open, step away and go to the restroom, a break room or outside. Close your eyes and don’t look at any screens for 10 minutes.