As most of us know all too well, it’s easy to power through your lunch break with work instead of, well, lunch. You sit absorbed in your computer screen while crumbs from your sandwich — which you hastily threw together before rushing out the door this morning — fall across your keyboard. Or maybe you just forget to eat altogether, leaving the salad you packed sad and wilting in the break room fridge.
While it’s important to get your work done during the day (obviously), neglecting to take breaks, especially lunch, can really affect your mental and physical well-being. And when your body and brain aren’t at full power, you aren’t able to produce your best work. Here are some tips for being productive away from your desk on your lunch break, so that you can be even more successful when you sit back down.
- Take a hike. Surely you knew this was going to be on here. Even if you aren’t quite the outdoor explorer, a little bit of fresh air will make a huge difference in your day. A short walk around the office, or even around the block, not only gets your body moving, but will help clear your head and give your eyes a break from the constant digital glow. Bonus: after a few months of lunch walks, you may even drop some pounds!
- Listen to a podcast. Maybe the act of walking aimlessly doesn’t appeal to you, or perhaps you prefer to stay inside. Try putting on a podcast while you walk, or just lean back in your chair, grab that sandwich and listen to something good. You can pull yourself completely out of work mode with an episode about the life cycle of bees, or — if you want to stay on the work productivity train — put on something that will teach you more about your industry. Either way, it’s important to give your brain (and eyes) a little break!
- Make lunch a process. If you like to cook, this one’s for you. Bring your lunch ingredients to work separately, then take the time to prepare your meal once noon rolls around. Obviously you may need to prep some items the night before (no one wants you trying to grill up chicken on a hotplate in the middle of the break room), but overall this is a great chance to focus on something besides emails. Slowly and thoughtfully make that sandwich, slicing up tomatoes and piling up the ingredients. Or take the time to whip up your own salad dressing, mixing olive oil and vinegar in a bowl. And once you’ve taken the time to make your meal, don’t eat it at your desk! Sit down, turn off your phone and enjoy the lunch you’ve just put together.
- Read. Almost everyone has a stack of books that they plan on getting around to reading “someday.” That day can be now! Use your lunch to finally tackle Anna Karenina (over the course of a few months, of course), or to catch up on that giant pile of The New Yorker that’s been slowly accumulating in your entryway for the last year. Not only will you gain some knowledge, but you’ll also feel super productive! (And you’ll eventually have so many bragging rights for having finished Anna Karenina.)
- Get some grocery shopping done. This sounds weird, but it can actually be quite productive and enjoyable. If you work near a grocery store (and your company has a fridge that can fit a few items), use your lunch break to go stock up on supplies for the week. Not only will you have a change of scenery, but you’ll also free up some after work time that you would have spent shopping. The abundance of sights, smells and sounds will take your mind out of its work fog, and you can even pick up a little treat for yourself in the candy aisle.
It can be tempting to work through your lunch break, but there are actually plenty of ways you can be productive during that time without starring at a computer screen. Try one of these methods this week and see how much better you feel!
How do you like to spend your lunch breaks? Let us know in the comments!