After following a 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM schedule for most of the summer, I’ve occasionally experienced “That 2:30 Feeling,” courtesy of the 5-Hour Energy commercials. (Being a college student, in which I can nap as often as I wish, just doesn’t provide that experience.) For those who haven’t seen the commercial, “That 2:30 Feeling” refers to the almost complete exhaustion many people feel after lunch, which is then mysteriously followed by a period of renewed energy near the evening as the workday comes to a close. I clearly, though, don’t want the mid-afternoon lulls to attenuate my productivity. So what should I do?

Idea 1: Caffeine

Since I can’t stand coffee or tea, caffeine for me usually comes in the form of energy drinks. But is this really the right solution? A quick burst of caffeine might make the difference between making significant progress on a project or having another regrettable day of doldrums.

It comes at a cost, though. Caffeine’s side effects are well documented, and a particularly infamous one is that it can ruin a sleeping schedule. In fact, from my experience with consuming energy drinks, the immediate impact seems negligible. My focus during the hours after drinking Red Bull rarely seems to be on a higher level than my focus throughout days when I abstain from consuming energy drinks. The lasting impact is far more noticeable. On days when I would ordinarily sleep at around midnight, having a Red Bull before lunch makes it highly likely that I’ll stay up until 4:00 AM before managing to finally wrestle myself to sleep. Then the next day’s sleeping schedule is ruined … and it’s a constant struggle for me to return to my desired “midnight-to-8″ routine. So what is a better solution?

After a day at work when I was just about to feel “That 2:30 Feeling,” something happened that just screamed “crisis averted!” I found something to do that regained my focus and allowed me to stay alert for the entire day. It brings me to my next idea.

Idea 2: Code.

On that day I referred to earlier, I set a goal to write a Java program that could generate artificial sentences out of a bank of words. Suddenly, I felt eager. After a moment of deliberation, my fingers began tapping on my keyboard as fast as lightning. My brain was completely funneled in on the current task. My focus was optimal; my productivity was at its peak. And by the end of the day, I had a working program that generated humorous random sentences. (Those who have written random sentence generators will know what I am talking about.) In subsequent days, I tried to plan out my work by setting the period of time after lunch as a coding period.

So what is my point? Not everyone can or wants to code. And not all jobs are conducive to programming. I was lucky in that my interest in programming, combined with my work which requires me to write several scripts to support my overall goal of text simplification, made it easy for me to identify something that was necessary and could be solved with some programming.

In the grand scheme of things, having something to do that grabs your attention and mandates focus, but isn’t too dull, and is related to your job, is what you needs to fight “That 2:30 Feeling.” Everyone may have something different that works for him or her. For me, my solution is to code.