Imagine it’s lunchtime, and you’ve decided not to eat at your desk today or, in other words, participate in the most depressing workplace practice of all time. We don’t know anyone who actually gets an official hour for lunch, and you may feel weird about leaving your desk for that long, but if you can’t at least abandon your work station for thirty minutes, it may be time to re-evaluate your career situation. Those of you who aren’t putting in your notice right now, however, should take the following advice for making the most of your lunch break, a practice which, if done regularly, will improve your productivity, health and happiness.
Take A Hike
We're not going to suggest you workout or take a nap—though afternoon is the ideal time for both activities—as the sweat factor is an issue with most forms of exercise and sleeping in your car or under your desk isn't really a good look. What you can do, however, is take a walk, the health benefits of which are innumerable. A quiet park or pathway is ideal in order to reset your focus, but any form of midday fitness is better than nothing. You can double your productivity, if you're so inclined, by listening to a podcast as you stroll. Or, spend the time on creating content for Instagram or Snapchat. (We have your attention now, don't we?).
Put 10 Minutes Towards A Big Goal
Remember when we learned that working just 10 minutes a day towards a big goal can increase happiness levels? Your lunch break may not feel like enough time to write a book or learn a new language but it is, so there are no excuses. (Sorry!) Think about how good you would feel if you put 10 minutes of your lunch break each day towards mindfully eating (read: zoning out), 10 minutes towards walking, and 10 minutes towards accomplishing a goal separate from your work life? 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for a year equals 130 hours of found time. 130 hours!
Handle Annoying Errands
Annoying errands (post office, bank, etc.) aren't the most enjoyable way to spend your lunch break, but just think how good you'll feel when the final bell tolls, and you're able to "clock out" without having to tack another to-do onto the end of your day. Also, all the most tedious errands can generally only be accomplished during work hours, so you will have to use your lunch break to this end at some point and it might as well be today.
Meet At Least One Friend Per Week
By "friend," we do not mean "vague work associate." One of the least desirable side effects of a typical office job is that you end up spending far more time at work than you do with loved ones. Remedy this to some small extent by scheduling in at least one lunch per week that is purely personal. More than this and you may end up being stressed out by your commitments, but adding a little time for your relationships will make your work week seem, overall, less tedious. Plus, social ties help you live longer.
Avoid all screens, for at least 30 minutes, if you can—too much screen time has been shown to damage the brain. If none of the aforementioned activities sounds good to you as an alternative, we suggest reading a book (an actual, made-from-paper book), coloring (it's a socially-acceptable thing now!), meditating, calling your mom, attempting a crossword puzzle or something of the like. If you absolutely cannot abandon your screen and are not working towards a non-job-related goal, we suggest you use your lunch break to accomplish tasks you will otherwise never force yourself to spend time on. An example would be to make a list of your contacts, with updated emails, so you know who you know and how to reach them for networking purposes—update this regularly. Or, spend a little time on Mint.com trying to balance your budget and work towards financial goals. Remember, you have 130 hours a year that you will never get back—use them wisely!