I’m the first to admit I have worked through many a lunch hour caching up on email and other tasks on my long to-do list for any given day. Besides the fact that I didn’t give myself a much-needed break during a busy day, I have come to appreciate why putting down the work is so important to my wellness and productivity.
Jacquelyn Smith wrote a great piece in Forbes about how our American work-obsessed society is cheating itself out of a healthy daily break. The midday break was created to help you refuel (literally with food) and re-energize so you can be a better employee and a happier and healthier person.
Here are several other reasons why Ms. Smith advocates for a lunch break:
Take a Real Break – taking 3 minutes to wolf down a sandwich at your desk does not count as an actual lunch break. You must get up from your desk, disengage your mind from your work, and if at all possible, get out of your work environment to reset your brain and your attitude.
Get Up From Your Desk – get some fresh air and move around a bit because this does wonders for the body and spirit. If a walk outside is not possible, then find another location in your work environment to sit and relax and clear your mind.
Eat and Enjoy Your Food – skipping lunch is disastrous for your metabolism and often leads to late afternoon vending machine raids or caffeine infusions to keep you alert. Treat yourself to real food that fits your healthy eating plan and eat slowly to digest well and give yourself time to actually taste what you are eating. Savor each bite since eating at your computer does not give your brain the opportunity to enjoy your food.
Do What You Can’t in the Morning or Evening – sometimes a lunch time errand like the bank or the post office can help you get away from your desk and get you moving mid day. Don’t try to cram in too many personal errands since if your lunch break becomes stressful it defeats the purpose and zaps your energy.
Catch Up With Friends – your personal life needs tending just as much as your work life so take time to meet with friends or make new ones during lunch. Socialize a bit and think of your lunch break as an enjoyable part of your day. It will make settling back into the work routine easier when you have a mid day break to do something really fun every now and then.
Network – even if you love your job, you should always network before you need it. It never hurts to build and maintain new professional relationships so you are in the know about new opportunities in your field and on the mind of recruiting professionals. Setting up strategic networking lunches periodically will keep your accomplishments front and center.
Avoid All Screens – give your eyes a break! If you choose to eat your lunch under a tree in a park, cheers to you – but don’t ruin the experience by whipping out your iPhone to check email. Unless it’s an emergency, you deserve to unplug from technology for at least an hour during your workday.
Don’t Cheat Yourself out of Break Time – if you are like me you have often worked through lunch to “catch up” but in the end you may feel exhausted at the end of the day because you didn’t honor yourself with a break. The concept of break time was instated for a reason so be a wise professional and prioritize yourself every day.
I’m still a work in progress but giving myself permission to take a break was a very important first step and I hope you will take it as well.