How to Take a Proper Lunch Break

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:

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?