Spoiler alert: Not one of these lunch break suggestions is going to be “work.”
You may look productive when you work through your lunch, but studies have found you're anything but. In fact, studies have found that working through your lunch break is one of the least productive things you can do.
Think you're too busy to take a break? Think again. Allowing your brain to occasionally switch off gives it a chance to re-energize. When you return to work, your focus, creativity, and brainpower are significantly boosted, meaning you will get more done than you would have without taking the rest.
All breaks from work are beneficial, but to really get your productivity juices flowing, fill your lunch break with these five tips.
Productivity tip #1: Eat mindfully
The clue is in the name: A lunch break should be for eating lunch. Yet, many employees are eating hurriedly, unhealthily, or not eating at all. The problems with this are numerous because nutrition and productivity are inextricably linked.
Mindful eating is essentially eating with a focus on what you are putting in your mouth and is a form of meditation, allowing us to reset our mood and decrease stress. It also helps encourage us to eat healthily, which in turn makes us fitter, smarter, and happier.
If you consistently get sluggish and unproductive in the afternoon, the cause is likely to be linked to your lunchtime diet. Make sure you're not overeating or chomping down on sugars and fats, which lead to energy slumps. Also, drink lots of water because dehydration saps our energy.
Productivity tip #2: Socialize
Humans are social animals. Being around other people makes us happy, improves our physical well-being, and boosts our mental performance. Spending your lunch break socializing can give you the pick-me-up you need to breeze through the afternoon's work.
See if you can coordinate your schedule with friends or family in order to spend your lunch catching up. If being physically together isn't possible, video calling technology means you can still use the time to reconnect.
Alternatively, you can spend that time with your colleagues. Workplace socializing is good for business because it builds relationships and rapport, sparks creativity, and encourages teamwork. Try to get out of the office and make sure to take business chat off the table, or it'll feel like an extension of work.
Related: 5 Ways to Network With Your Current Co-workers
Productivity tip #3: Exercise
As you may know, the mental and physical health benefits of exercise are overwhelming. Your lunch hour is a great time to make use of them, boost your energy, and reset for the rest of the day.
You don't have to be a gym bunny to benefit; even a gentle stroll outside your office can send your afternoon productivity skyrocketing. If you need some extra motivation to get your sweat on, you'll find many gyms offer lunch-hour-friendly classes that are 30-45 minutes long. Finding exercises you enjoy is the key to making sure you'll actually get up and go, so sign up for new activities and experiment!
Productivity tip #4: Make plans
Having something to look forward to has a powerful psychological effect on our happiness. Studies have found that we are happier before taking a holiday than after it because the anticipation is such a strong mood-booster. Take advantage of this and use your lunchtime to plan something exciting. It could be a weekend away, dinner with your best friends, or even just a night in with a film you've always wanted to see.
Not only will your plans put you in a positive frame of mind for the rest of the day, but arranging something nice for that evening will motivate you to power through your workload in order to get home and enjoy your treat!
Productivity tip #5: Escape mentally
Getting caught up in the work bubble can leave us stressed and unable to see the bigger picture. Spend your lunch breaks getting away from it all by immersing yourself in a great book, an engaging podcast, or an interesting film or TV program. Transporting yourself to a different world or focusing on different subjects will allow you to return to work relaxed and with a fresh perspective on the issues at hand.
Whichever medium you prefer, make sure you enjoy it away from your desk. Changing up our location allows us to fully switch off from work and ensures no colleagues can interrupt you. Plus, a different environment improves our productivity! Find yourself a local park, library, or coffee shop and enjoy a lunch break free of other distractions.
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