January 20, 2016

The Power of a Lunch Break

Since starting my project in Dallas this fall, I’ve made a conscious effort to take a break for lunch every day. Sometimes I get lunch with a colleague, sometimes I catch up on blogs on my phone, and frequently I read a few chapters of a book on my Kindle. Plus, whenever possible, I try to go to a fast food place in the area rather than eating at the cafeteria, so that I also can drive and get a little bit of alone time in the car. It is bliss to get that kind of a break in my work day, and I really love it – even if it means staying later at night to get everything done, it’s worth it.  Today, though, I had a really urgent issue come up just before lunch, and so I ended up just eating some emergency-stash soup at my desk and working through.

Really, neither of these options is a good one.

Now, first I want to note how amazing it is that eating at my desk while working is the exception rather than the norm – that used to be me every single day, because I felt guilty doing otherwise! But for the rest of the day today after no-break-lunch, I felt incredibly harried, and a lot of my focus was gone. I realized that working through lunch actually made me less productive than had I taken even a short break to get my brain away from work.

I suppose this shouldn’t come as a surprise to me, since I learned in my company’s Senior Associate Leadership Development program about the importance of renewal. According to Tony Schwartz, founder of The Energy Project, employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take no breaks or just one during the day. But even though I had heard all those statistics, I didn’t imagine that it would affect me quite as much as it did. It turns out that getting away from my desk and focusing on something non-work related significantly calms my stress levels, and makes a huge difference.

Here’s a great video from the Energy Project explaining the importance of renewal:

Tomorrow, I’m determined to take some kind of a break around lunchtime. My day is hectic, but at the very least I can go pick up some food at Chipotle and eat it in my next meeting, right? With that roundtrip taking about 15 minutes and the cafeteria line usually taking about the same, it’s a wash, so I don’t have to feel too guilty! And with any luck, I’ll also have a few minutes to sit and read while I eat, work-free, before getting my refreshed mind back in the game.


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