Know thyself: In general, energy is low after waking, peaks around 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., drops from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and lifts again from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Its lowest point is before bed (around 11 p.m.), says Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., author of From Fatigued to Fantastic (Avery). Plan your most difficult tasks when you have energy to burn, then switch to easier projects as your concentration wanes.
Stroll with it: A brisk, 10-minute walk gives you oomph and reduces anxiety, say researchers from California State University in Long Beach. Walking boosts not only your brain but also your metabolism and cardiovascular system. In contrast, volunteers who ate a candy bar were tense and exhausted an hour later. To log more steps, loop around the block on your lunch break or park your car farther away from store entrances.
Straighten up: Poor posture puts uneven pressure on your spine and makes muscles work extra hard, draining energy. Sit tall to open the chest and increase oxygen intake by as much as 30%, says Dr. Teitelbaum. To improve posture, imagine someone pulling up on an invisible string tied to your head. Or swap your desk chair for an exercise ball.
Groove to it: Volunteers completed cognitive tests 10% faster while listening to up-tempo music (no lyrics) compared with silence, finds a study from the University of Dayton in Ohio. Research suggests music also reduces anxiety, lowers blood pressure and decreases stress hormones.
Get fit quick: Karas tells clients to squeeze in fitness moments to counter the enervating effects of sitting all day. "When we're seated, the body shuts down, increasing risk of disease," he says. Stand while on the phone, or try his slow squat to tone the lower body: Rise from chair, shift your weight to your heels, engage your abs and, with your arms in front of you, sink slowly until your butt taps the chair. Repeat 10 times.
Pop a peppermint: Sniffing mint or chewing mint gum stimulates the trigeminal nerve, which increases activity in the area of the brain that controls alertness, say researchers at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation.
Nix multitasking: Are you IM-ing and chatting on the phone while reading this? Tackling one thing at a time is more efficient, says Noelle Chesley, an assistant sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. The human brain isn't designed to multitask, and while you may think you're successfully juggling projects, you're actually switching from one to the next. The back-and-forth forces you to reorient yourself to a "new" task over and over.
Tame technology: Incoming phone calls and e-mails keep us in fight-or-flight mode. Constant adrenaline hits with each ring or e-mail wear us down over time, says Chesley. Her research reveals that mobile phones are particularly stressful for women, especially when family-related calls interrupt work. For non-emergencies, request a text. Or try trading days off with your spouse; that way only one of you is on call for the small stuff.
Go green: Workers brainstormed more creative ideas when they had flowers or plants on their desks, say researchers at Texas A&M. A nature-inspired photo or screensaver can also inspire you.
Take mini breaks: Set an alarm on your computer to remind you to get up every hour and move around, suggests Dr. Teitelbaum. Deliver messages to co-workers in person rather than via e-mail or phone.
Eat Carbs: Dips in serotonin between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. can lower energy and mood, says Wurtman. A snack with 25g to 30g of carbs can boost levels of the feel-good hormone. Nosh on low-fat foods, like popcorn, pretzels, graham crackers, vanilla wafers or a low-fat granola bar, for the quickest serotonin hit.