As a recovering workaholic, I found myself eating lunch at my desk often thinking that I was getting more work done. In reality, my lunch break was probably my least productive hour.
Almost every professional sport has some sort of half-time. Basketball has four 12-minute quarters with a 15-minute half-time. Hockey has three 20-minute periods with 17-minute breaks in between each. In short, high performers takes breaks…during the game.
So lately, I’ve been doing experiments with my lunch break and trying out new creative ways to use that hour besides just stuffing my face with food.
My intention for the hour has been to get my mind off work, unplug from email, and re-energize. You have to be intentional about taking lunch or else work just takes over. Below are some of the ways I’ve been using my lunch breaks.
1. Play cards or a board game
I love Scrabble and Checkers. Some other good games are chess and poker. Of the 4 games, Scrabble takes the longest, but can still be played in less than an hour. Whether you do it in the park, in a a conference room, or at a restaurant, this is a great way to change up lunch and get a friend involved.
2. Take a nap
Naps aren’t just for kindergartners. Day-time rest is essential for high performance. Even with half-time, time-outs, and TV time-outs, Phil Jackson often benched Michael Jordan at the beginning of the 4th quarter even if the Bulls were losing, so that he would have the energy he needed to perform high during the final minutes of the game. Of course Jordan wasn’t napping on the bench, but he was resting. Your car, under your desk, or the park grass are good places to nap.
There are all kinds of workouts that you can do in less than an hour. There’s 10-minute Abs or T25. If you find a local gym and do one of those, you will still have time for travel, showering, and eating. Alternatives include walking up and down your building stairwell, going for a run, or doing exercises on the jungle gym at a nearby playground. I personally love bowling and basketball.
4. Call someone you love
Granted this doesn’t take you a way from technology, hopefully other people you love are taking lunch around the same time as you. If so, you can give them a call to catch up. I have a list of people in my favorite on my phone and sometimes I’ll scroll through that last and call the person who I haven’t talked to in the longest. Even leaving a voicemail exhibits that you were thinking about them.
5. Take a walk in the park
In New York, there is usually a park within 5-10 blocks. This is one of the easiest things to do during lunch. I like people watching and being in nature. It’s important to get out of the office and get some fresh air. Find your spot in the park and go there when you need to.
6. Read a fiction book
I stopped reading business books during my “free-time” because it started to feel like work. I gave up on fiction because I thought “What’s the point?” But I’m starting to fall in love with fiction again because it accesses a different part of my brain and expands my imagination. Reading is a form of entertainment just like movies, TV, and music if our intention is to simply enjoy it.
Meditating is a way to simply clear your mind after the first half of the day. For me, my meditation usually begins with my to do list bouncing back and forth in my head, but after a few minutes, my thoughts clear away and my stress fades and I’m able to breath, be, and smile. It can be a 5 minute sit or a 50 minute sit. It’s up to you. It also doesn’t require perfect silence. With practice, you will be able to find your quiet space within.
8. Meet someone new
Lunch is a great time to build a new relationship. If you schedule lunches with colleagues, clients, old friends, and mentors in the area, you will ensure that you take your full lunch break. Breaking bread with someone is one of the easiest and strongest ways to form long-lasting mutually-beneficial relationships. So try to schedule 1-2 lunches per week.
9. Do self-care
Get a massage. Get your hair done or a hair cut. Get a manicure or pedicure. Do something for yourself. Oftentimes, we start our day doing things for others first—whether it’s our boss, our spouse, our kids, or our clients. Lunch is your time. Self-care doesn’t just mean cosmetic. It could also mean journaling, buying a healthy drink, pray, or list the things you are grateful for.
10. Go on a date
If you’re single, lunch is a great time to go out on a date. Perhaps you’ve met a nice guy or gal in your office or an office nearby. Invite them to lunch. If you’re in a relationship and your partner works nearby, even better. Challenge each other to find new secret spots and hole-in-the-walls so that you can experience something new together.
If CEOs can do business over 18 holes of real golf, you can play a game of miniature golf during lunch. That’s a Lunch Breakthrough!
Discussion Question: Please share your lunch break ideas below.