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When is the least productive time of day? New study pinpoints the hour and minute

Although this may not be news to anyone who slams coins into a vending machine every afternoon, hoping for a little caffeine or sugar fix to get them through the workday, a new poll has found that office workers are indeed at their least productive at precisely 2:55 p.m.

It's that sinkhole of a time when lunch is long gone, the morning rush has flat-lined and crappy online videos suddenly seem terribly enriching.

The news – from a poll of 400 workers by British office brokerage londonservices.com – struck a chord with CNN blogger Jarrett Bellini who reenacted how the 2:55 dip plays out at his desk.

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"For starters, 2:55 p.m. is just enough time for my huge belly finally to communicate to my tiny brain that the burrito we inhaled for lunch was (A) larger than a Buick and (B) possibly filled with horse tranquilizer.

"On top of that, at least in America, 2:55 p.m. is right about the hour when weekday European soccer matches kick off. At CNN we all have TVs at our desks, so when the perfect storm of food and footy collide, you'll be lucky to get a complete sentence out of me.

"'Hey, man, how did your meeting go this morning?'

"'Can't ... speak ... brain ... no work ... burrito ... Tottenham ... carne asada ... cats. ... '"

If you'd actually like to get some work done, the poll found that 10:26 a.m. and 4:18 p.m. are the most-productive times of day for office workers – times that also bracket the work day and might be explained by morning wakefulness and, as Bellini points out, mild panic that you haven't finished your work yet and 5 p.m. is fast approaching.

Michael Davies of londonoffices.com offers one perennial suggestion on how to overcome the 2:55 hump: "We all have peaks and troughs when it comes to our levels of productivity, but the trick is to maintain a steady work level rather than swing between extremes. … I would recommend people take a few five-minute 'mini-breaks' throughout the day. This could include popping to the water fountain, grabbing a cup of tea or even a quick walk round the office."

Yet some work experts would disagree with encouraging a steady work flow, suggesting short bursts of high-intensity work is actually ideal and that we should build downtime into our schedules. Work-life balance guru Tony Schwartz, for one, advocates a few 90-minute focused sessions a day, with breaks long enough for meals or exercise in between. He says he wrote his last book in six months with just three such sessions a day.

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So here's to less, not more, guilt about taking a break at 2:55 p.m., especially if it means a reward after 90 minutes of hard work. If 2:55 strikes after 90 minutes of cat videos – well, you're on your own.

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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