Happy Monday! As you settle down for the start to a fresh week (perhaps with an extra cup of coffee), let’s reflect on how we spend our weekday lunch breaks. Obviously, every company structure varies from the next and each office setting is different—but overall, can we agree there are some consistencies?
Like Consistency #1: We need to give ourselves a lunch break.
Did you know only 1 in 5 Americans take advantage of their standard one-hour lunch breaks? And almost half of those who do take a lunch break, report they eat at their desks! Don’t tell me your excuses. Don’t launch into why you’re too busy to take a lunch, or how important it is for you to work on this project before deadline. It is essential you respect yourself, your mentality, and your health to stand up from your desk and clear your mind from work for a while.
There’s plenty of research that supports why professionals should utilize their one-hour lunch break (like this Forbes article or this one from the Washington Post), but the bottom line line is this: Changing your environment periodically throughout the day boosts your creativity, problem-solving skills, and ability to focus, while decreasing stress and anxiety.
But I get it. I really do and I admit I’m sometimes guilty of getting so caught up in the workday’s activities that suddenly it’s 3pm and I haven’t eaten more than a few stale pretzels. Let’s be honest with ourselves though: We need to recognize we are helping our team, our productivity, and our happiness by “changing our environment” for our precious hour-long break.
And the best way to change up your environment and give your mind a mental treat is to get outta that office! Maybe you feel stuck in a lunch routine and want to try something different, or you need to plan ahead to pull yourself away from the screen, or you realize your break consists of still sitting at your desk just scrolling through Instagram. Come on now, we’re better than that! You have one hour all to yourself, so take full advantage of it and get excited.
Here are 15 places to go and things to do that will help you create and appreciate a fulfilling lunch break, ultimately leading to a more successful workday!
1. Take your laptop to a coffee shop. Work on your blog, attend a webinar, take that ecourse you bought 3 months ago. Read some of the posts you’ve pinned or catch up on the day’s news. Get all updated with your non-work-related emails or research that trip you’ve been wanting to go on. Write a little, play a brain game, online shop for that upcoming birthday! I think you get my point—change up the scenery and take that hour for doing whatever the hell you want with your own computer.
2. Go for a workout. Jog around a nearby trail or neighborhood, or look into a monthly membership to a gym within 10 minutes’ drive. If you live nearby and your apartment complex has a gym, hurry your booty over there and squeeze in a 20-minute exercise! Don’t let the prospect of a sweaty afternoon stop you—you can always bring makeup to touch up, deodorant to refresh, even a washcloth to wet and get the sticky sweat off. It’ll get your energy levels up for a productive afternoon! (Although maybe don’t do this right before meetings, just in case you have to catch your breath.)
3. Go for a walk. This is my go-to lunch break solution a few times a week. Explore the nearby area, specifically neighborhoods, trails, or city streets. Create several favorite routes for the comfort of familiarity with the adventure of being outside. Set step goals if you have a fitness tracking device, plug in headphones and get lost in an audiobook or a new album, find exciting nooks in the realm around your office location.
4. Run errands. I know we don’t want to, I know. But think about it. You get out of the office, you don’t have to do anything difficult, and you are productivity. When you get off work, it’s already done. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling? So go fill up your gas tank, return those shoes, mail that thank you card to your aunt, even pick up groceries if you can put them in the fridge at your workplace afterward.
5. Go to the park. Pack yourself a picnic along with a blanket and book you’ve been meaning to read. Write in a journal at one of the tables. Take a stroll around the perimeter. Swing on the swings and let out your inner child! Just enjoy being at a park and soaking up the outdoors.
6. Post up in your car (with the windows rolled down for sunshine, if it’s warm enough) and kick the seat back in a nearby comfortable area. Read a book, listen to an audiobook or podcast, watch an episode on your phone, or even take a nap! Bonus points if it’s in the shade (again, when it’s sunny out), and/or near a park.
7. Go home. Unless it’s a commute (heads up: I consider that 20 minutes), go home every now and then and relax for 15 minutes. Make yourself lunch the night before so you can enjoy it right away. If you have a furry friend, give ‘em some love. Watch one episode of a light-heartedly show. Get a little laundry or cleaning done, knowing how happy it’ll make you later.
8. Get a manicure. While as a budgeter I recommend painting your own nails 90% of the time, sometimes it really is just time to cash in that other 10%. Find a nail salon (with good Yelp reviews, of course), make an appointment, and you do you.
9. Go on a lunch date with your significant other. What an awesome way to spend your break, right? My S.O. and I have weekly lunch dates and they seriously brighten our days so much. I can’t recommend this outing enough 🙂 Not close to one another’s work places? Find a restaurant halfway. Long distance? Talk on the phone or video chat on a walk, at a park. Don’t have remotely similar lunch schedules, like, ever? Well, that just sucks then, I’m sorry.
10. Call up a friend and makes lunch plans. How often do we say we’re busy to our friends and use it as a reason for not seeing one another more often? Reach out to a friend or 2 and ask whether they’re available for lunch. (If not, switch it to happy hour or brunch plans so you can see still this friend!) Ask about a specific day, and solidify plans so that you both actually follow through. You’ll have a great opportunity to laugh, catch up, vent, and brainstorm, giving you an extra pep in your step for the rest of the afternoon!
11. Invite a coworker to lunch. Is there someone new to the office that could use a casual lunch? What about that girl who sits across from you and you both always laugh together, but have never hung out outside work? Or hey, maybe you have some truly awesome tactics or strategies to explore and want to discuss it in an informal setting with your team or manager? Lunch can turn into a key networking tool! Who knows, your coworkers could even turn into some of your dearest friends. (I know mine have!)
12. Enjoy a conversation with someone on the phone. Whether it’s daily calls to your mom or catch up with your best friend who lives across the country, give someone you care about a call. It’s easy because you can do this almost anywhere—only, please don’t be that person at the store who’s loudly telling an inappropriate story to her sister on the phone.
Out for Food:
13. Go to the market and “make” your lunch. You know those nicer-than-average grocery stores that have mini food markets, like with a salad bar, sandwich station, pre-made dishes? If you haven’t, find your closest Whole Foods. Getting lunch here can be delicious and a good shake-up from what you’re used to. Most of these places have a few tables where you can sit, or you can take it to that park.
14. Go to a favorite restaurant by yourself. Yeah, you heard me. Walk in with your head held high and say, “Table for 1.” Bring a book or journal to keep you company if you’re worried about bordom—especially if it will help keep you distracted from your phone. Tight on money? Search for deals online, order water and a salad, save half to stretch for tomorrow’s lunch, or make sure these favorite restaurants aren’t expensive.
15. Seek out a new restaurant with a great reputation. You know, that restaurant “you’ve been meaning to try out” for 3 years. Or that spot that’s always triggered your curiosity, but just can’t bring yourself to break habits? Step outside your comfort zone and try somewhere new! Don’t know where to start? Jump on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare (is that still a thing?) or even social media to find a restaurant. (I have an actual addiction to Yelp… just sayin’.)
A few tips…
- If you want to do something that doesn’t make it easy to eat (like go on a walk, run errands, work out), bring your lunch with you and eat it before or after your lunch break. Only eat at your desk if—and only if—you still take that full lunch break. Feel weird eating at your desk? Have small snacks throughout the day, so there’s no big meal to feel weird about.
- Bring a change of clothes in your bag, particularly if you’re planning to walk or (obviously) work out. But even if you want to picnic at the park but you dress business professional, bring more comfortable clothes for when you’re outside! Don’t want to leave the change of clothes in the office? Leave it in the car and snag ‘em on your way out.
- Listen to an audiobook, podcast, new album, YouTube clip, whatever your heart desires! Get caught up in a new story, or educate yourself, learn a new skill, or find inspiration and encouragement. You can do this while taking a walk, relaxing in your car, running errands—really, wherever you can plug in earbuds.
- While I encourage you to explore the area around you, I should add that it’s important to be careful and aware of wherever that area is. If your place of work is in a not-so-good part of town, please don’t take my advice and go walking through the neighborhoods or post up in a park. Cool? Cool.
Have a fantastic start to the week! Challenge yourself to mix up your lunch break routine and remember to always take your lunch break!