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Earlier this week, I attended a meeting on ways of working. One thing we discussed was whether to have a policy against eating at the desk. I was surprised to hear that, for some, even 5 minutes away from the desk was not acceptable: they had work to do!
Don’t get me wrong, my workdays are hectic, and on the odd occasion, lunch is a luxury. But it’s an exception, not a rule.
No matter how busy we are, I think it’s within our power to carve-out time for ourselves. Did you know that even a single 5-minute break improves mental acuity by 13% on average?
Sadly, nearly one-fifth of workers don’t leave their desks during lunchtime, with the average lunch break lasting only 22 minutes!
Skipping the lunch break gives a false sense that we’re ahead of the game. Maybe to finish work earlier? In reality, it’s unlikely: Parkinson’s law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. In other words, the more you work, the more you work. And that’s all there is to it!
Properly taking a lunch break not only resets the mind and helps with creativity but makes us more efficient and boosts productivity!
The only question is: what are you going to do with your time? Any ideas? If you’re lacking inspiration, this post has got you covered. Here are my top 21 ideas to make the most of your lunch break!
1. Eat healthily and mindfully
It seems obvious, but the number ONE thing you should do during your lunch break is to eat healthily.
Eating healthy is somewhat subjective but do yourself a favour and avoid junk food, crisps, highly processed and sugary foods. Instead, give your body what it needs to perform at its best in the afternoon.
Be mindful about what you eat, really focusing on the colours, the taste, the smell. We all try to pack as much as we can in the lunch break (myself included) but taking time to enjoy the food we eat for a few minutes has proven benefits. And don’t forget to eat away from your workstation if you can!
I don’t think I need to highlight the benefits of exercising daily, but doing it in your lunch break can be a real time-saver (especially if like me, you run out of steam in the evenings!).
On a sunny day, I love going for a 30-minute run at lunchtime. Not only does it give you a boost for the afternoon, but the exposure to daylight also has enormous benefits to your sleep quality.
Exercising doesn’t have to be too intense to yield results, though. Walking steadily for 20-30 minutes does the trick. Plus, you can do other things while you walk, such as listening to a podcast, breathing exercises, or simply reflecting…
3. Work on side-hustle
When I can free up an hour at lunchtime, I try to spend 20-30 minutes working on the blog (usually the admin stuff).
If you’re exploring a “side-hustle” such as property investing, blogging, Amazon FBA or YouTube, using your lunch break to clock in some extra work can be precious.
After all, 25 minutes a day is over 2 hours a week. And an extra 2 hours a week will make a big difference if you’re organised!
I really struggled to get into meditation, especially at lunchtime. Hard to find a quiet place in the office to meditate, and to be honest, I had better things to do. Or so I thought…
Now, many of us work from home regularly. And hopefully, it makes it easier to shut off distractions. Unless you have young kids like me, in which case you have to time it right!
Meditation has especially helped me on stressful days or when preparing important presentations. Check out this article to get started. You can also use guided meditation apps like Headspace or Calm.
Top tip: No time to meditate? Try short breathing exercises to regain control, find focus and tackle anxiety.
5. Review your finances
Do you have a personal finance budget? If not, I recommend you start one. Understanding your finances, how much you spend and having savings target will go a long way in taking control of your life and finding balance.
The lunch break is a great time to update your budget, review your finances and set new targets. And it doesn’t have to be that tedious: I have linked all my accounts to Money Dashboard which automatically categorises transactions for me, and there are plenty more apps out there to automate the process!
6. Call a loved one
I am notoriously bad at keeping in touch. Life always seems to get in the way and something urgent always “comes up”.
Relationships are what you make of them. They develop with care, and most importantly with intention.
Setting a specific time to reach out to family and friends is great because you’re less likely to find an excuse not to do it.
7. Take a nap
What do Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, JFK, and Leonardo da Vinci have in common? They were all expert power nappers!
I’ll be honest, taking a nap in the middle of the day is not something I’m good at. I take too long to fall asleep. But it can certainly be practised.
My wife, on the other hand, can take a nap whenever she needs to and always comes back refreshed and full of energy. I’m jealous!
If you have the ability and 20-30 minutes to spare, a quick nap at lunchtime can boost your energy in the afternoon.
8. Listen to a podcast
What I love about podcasts is that you’re immersed in an enlightening conversation whilst doing something that doesn’t require too much brainpower: like a lunchtime walk!
With so much content and podcasters out there, you will find one that works for you.
Why not learn something new about your health with Dr Chatterjee’s Feel Better Live More, explore financial independence with Paula Pant’s Afford Anything or boost your career with Pete Mockaitis’ How To Be Awesome At Your Job?
These are some of my favourites, but what would you like to hear? Head to your podcast aggregator and start searching!
9. Watch a TED Talk
After a busy morning, it’s natural to run out of steam. And the lunch break is a good time to refuel the mind as well as the body!
TED Talks are the perfect solution: short, inspiring and entertaining presentations from the world’s most renowned thought leaders.
What I love about TED Talks is that they get you to think. Every single time. And if like me, you like to expand your horizons, they’re a great starting point.
Not sure where to start? Check out the most popular TED Talks of all time.
10. Run errands
You know how mornings are always such a rush and come evening we just want to chill out? But what about these letters to send? These cheques to cash in? Or the phone’s screen to get repaired?
Here’s where the lunch break becomes extra productive: head out for a walk, listen to your favourite podcasts, stop by the shop on the way and tick that to-do list!
If you’re lacking motivation, think about all the free time you’ll get come the weekend!
11. Review your progress
If you’re like me, you like to start the year with objectives. Not just for work, but for yourself and your family. But did you know that 80% of people who make New Year’s resolutions have dropped them by the second week of February?
A grim reality…
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. The problem is that people don’t check-in to review their progress against these goals.
Be different. Follow through. And use your lunch break to schedule a periodic review (at least monthly).
12. Read a book
Another great way to take a mental break during your lunch break is to read a book. Find a quiet place or use noise-cancelling headphones (I use these, great quality and very affordable).
If you have the energy to tackle a self-development book, go for it. But reading fiction is totally fine. Remember the aim is for you to reset and ready yourself for the afternoon!
Top tip: Why not combine “reading” with a steady walk by using Audible? There are absolute gems to discover (including incredible narrators), and the first download is free. Give it a go! Alternatively, many local libraries now lend audiobooks for free (through a reservation service so you might need to join a waitlist).
13. Attend a webinar
Fancy learning something new? There is a wealth of webinars out there to develop your skills (webinar is just another word for an online event).
Webinars are convenient since you don’t need to leave the office to attend. They’re usually free. And you have live access to experts, so don’t forget to ask questions!
14. Catch-up on training
I’ve gone through a fair share of training in my career, and I don’t expect this to stop any time soon. Training establishes the foundations to your next career move (or a career change!).
Most training providers now offer online and on-demand options. You don’t get the same atmosphere than attending a class in person but the benefits of being in control and avoiding travel make it worth it!
Using your lunch break to do your training means that you have more chances to enjoy evenings and weekends!
15. Get to know your team
Here’s one about actually having lunch! You know, we haven’t always worked from home, even if it feels like it these days…
If you have a team and can socialise, you should grab lunch together now and then. Note that I intentionally wrote “socialise”. Try not to make it about work. Easier said than done…
16. Expand your network
In my junior years, I thought networking was futile and that my skills alone would help me climb the career ladder…
Fast forward a few years, I can tell you now that networking was not only important but crucial to my career progression.
Networking done well is a fantastic way to create and nurture genuine business relationships, exchange knowledge, share experience and gain visibility.
Sitting down together for lunch is a great way to break down barriers, forget about work and develop meaningful relationships.
17. Watch your favourite show
What helps me reset more than a nap is immersing myself in a different world. It’s rare, but when I find time to watch an episode of my favourite series at lunch, I always feel mentally refreshed and ready to tackle the afternoon.
There is so much to choose from across many service providers. My personal favourite is Amazon Prime Video with a lot of series to choose from.
18. Plan your meals
Meal planning can be tedious but not only is a real time saver when done right, it’s also good for your health and your budget.
I used to get to the end of the week and realised that we were running out of food. Result? Buy quickly for the following week without any real planning, which means more ready-made stuff i.e. processed, full of sugar, nasties and expensive!
I recently started doing my meal planning during the week, in the lunch break, which means more flexibility and time to do it right, without compromising on quality.
19. Do your grocery shopping
The natural continuation to meal planning is doing your shopping online. You can order your groceries from the comfort of your desk, avoid the queues and be in total control of your budget (something that always goes awry in the shop!).
We’ve tried most online supermarkets in the UK and our favourite has to be Ocado for the reliability, offering and customer service. This comes at a price though as it tends to be more expensive. We found that Asda and Tesco were good cheaper alternatives. Just be ready for really random swaps from time to time…
20. Write a journal
A stressful morning at work can leave you anxious come the lunch break. Journaling can relieve stress by helping your work through anxious feelings.
When putting things down on paper, we’re forced to examine them, understanding the root causes of our anxiety.
I’m new to journaling and it took me a while to get started. Mainly because I wasn’t sure how to “do it right”. Here’s what I learned: it couldn’t be easier. Get a notebook or a piece of paper and write down what’s in your head. That’s it. I was surprised by how it made me feel: lighter, in control and more aware of my feelings.
Feeling negative lately? Why not start a gratitude journal. The results are astonishing!
21. Tidy your workspace
The saying goes “a cluttered space is a cluttered mind”. I’m sure for some, clutter is not a problem. It is for me. At home, at work, anywhere. When things are untidy and cluttered, I struggle to focus on anything else…
Why is clutter so bad? Well you see, it forces the brain to consume energy and can negatively affect your mood, resilience, and ability to work productively.
Hard to find time to tidy your workspace? Why not put some music on and start decluttering during your lunch break?
The boundaries between work and life have become blurrier than ever this year. Most of us have had to change our daily routine. Finding time for yourself, to reset, to learn something new or to simply feel better is difficult.
But with self-discipline, we can all carve-out time for ourselves. Make a conscious effort to look after yourself during the lunch break. If anything, it will make you more productive in the afternoon. And will be instrumental in achieving a better work-life balance.
READ ALSO: 9 Ways To Be Happy At Work
I hope you found these ideas worth exploring.
What do you normally do during your lunch break?
Please comment below, I’d love to know! And if you found this post useful, do share!