When is the last time you took a proper lunch break during the work day? By proper, I mean:
- You left your office building
- It was approximately the middle of your workday
- You ate something
- You did not return for at least 30 minutes
The following do not count as a proper lunch break:
- Scavenging leftover breakfast pastries from another group's meeting in the conference room
- Eating in front of your work computer while doing non-work things (kitten videos, personal email, etc.)
- Forgetting/neglecting to eat lunch and then going to Starbucks at 4pm
Reader, when I worked in an office I regularly did all of the above. Many of my clients - be they administrative assistants or executive directors - are also challenged by the seemingly simple goal of taking a proper lunch break.
Why on earth would you want to take a proper lunch break? Three reasons:
- Taking regular breaks improves productivity and focus.
- Turns out that sitting for too long every day is risky to your health and longevity.
- Research shows that distracted eating leads to overeating.
Enough convincing - here are some strategies for taking a proper lunch:
Start with once a week. Commit to getting out of the office for 30 minutes one day a week. Work up from there.
Make it a date with yourself. Plan ahead of time to do something nice for yourself. Put it on your calendar, go somewhere you enjoy being, and don't stand yourself up.
Make a date with someone else. Plan to leave the office with a buddy - or meet up with a friend who works nearby - and it will be much harder to flake out at the last minute.
Leave your phone behind. Bring a book, a magazine, or maybe something from your "to read" pile, but give yourself a chance to unplug, get some fresh air, and disengage from your inbox while you eat.
Attach lunch to other outings. Need to be out of the office for a morning meeting? Tack 30 minutes onto the entry in your calendar and have a proper lunch on your way back. Afternoon external meeting? Leave 30 minutes early and arrive relaxed & fed.
Reframe lunch as increasing, not taking away from your time at work. Nothing helps a productive morning become a productive afternoon like a break in the middle (see research above). And, much like when you get those great ideas in the shower, an unstructured and relaxed lunch can pay off in a creativity boost.
Start a lunch club. Over at the National Organizing Institute blog, they have a great how-to on starting a lunch club, providing peer support and interesting meals, 5 days a week.
What are your strategies for taking lunch? What difference does lunch make in your day?