What Successful People Do During Lunch
Take your team to lunch

Matt Hall, cofounder of Hill Investment Group in St. Louis, says that, for his team, “lunch is where I believe we bond best."

Move

“I try really hard to make it outside for a healthy, sun-filled break on our gorgeous campus,” says Gina Lazaro, chief marketing officer at eyewear company Foster Grant.

Make it a date

So you can reconnect as human beings.

Meet someone new

Tim Gutwald developed a service called Network Shuffle that assigns members a new connection once a month for a face-to-face conversation. “The randomness ensures people’s networks are constantly expanding (beyond just friends of friends),” he says.

Make it your own

Thirty minutes might not seem like much, but it adds up. Do it every workday, and that’s 2.5 hours per week, or 125 a year.

What Successful People Do During Lunch

Do you take your lunch break at your desk, staring blankly at your computer? You're doing it wrong. Here are productivity-powering, energy-boosting tips for getting the most out of the midday meal.

Are you hunched over your desk shoveling salad again?

A number of surveys indicate that a leisurely lunch isn’t a universal perk. A 2012 Career Builder survey found that 10% of workers reported getting lunch out of the vending machine at least once a week. And a 2010 Monster study discovered that 21% of people reported always eating lunch at their desks (7% denied eating lunch at all) and 32% took a lunch break “only if I’m not too busy.”

But failing to take a real break is a recipe for needing a lot of unofficial and inefficient breaks--like random web surfing--later. “You don’t have time to skip your lunch break,” says Tom Rath, author of How Full is Your Bucket?, whose next book--Eat, Move, Sleep--examines healthy habits. “What you do at lunch can either make or break the rest of the day.”

“Our energy wanes and we make poor decisions,” agrees Kim Wilson, founder of the two Tranquil Space yoga studios in the greater Washington, D.C., area. “We’re just not as fresh as we are in the morning.” Successful people know that, done right, lunch can make you far more productive. Here are some ways to make the most of that time:

Take your team to lunch

Matt Hall, cofounder of Hill Investment Group in St. Louis, reports that for his team, “lunch is where I believe we bond best. The company pays for lunch as long as at least two of us are present. Normally all five of us are together.” They talk client work and office details so they don’t have to hold separate meetings over such things later, and try to have fun too. “We track our expenses and last year spent over $4,000 at a local Thai restaurant that is half a mile from our office,” says Hall. “When I told the owner of this family-run operation that last year we spent this much with him, he didn’t miss a beat. ‘Next year’s let’s make it 5k.’” Everyone likes free food--and the cost of lunch might be pretty small in the grand scheme of trying to keep employees happy.

Move

There are lots of bad reasons to eat lunch at your desk, but one good reason is to buy yourself time to slip away for an hour to work out. Wilson’s studios have lunchtime yoga classes, and she reports that “It’s very popular.” To be sure, “We have a lot of people who sneak away. It’s a one-hour class, and people will leave 50 minutes or 55 minutes in.” But, “They’re still totally different human beings than they were when they walked in the door at noon. They are so much happier. They’re almost glowing. It’s amazing.” If you’ve got access to showers, a run or bike ride can be great, but if not, even a short walk can help you solve problems that have been vexing you all morning. Rath reports that he often walks to the second closest location of Chop’t near his office in D.C.--not the closest--so his Fitbit registers additional steps. Even just going outside can boost your mood. “I try really hard to make it outside for a healthy, sun-filled break on our gorgeous campus,” says Gina Lazaro, chief marketing officer at eyewear company Foster Grant. “I take in the rays”--carefully protected of course--“and enjoy the few minutes of reflection to balance me out and prepare me for tackling my usually jam-packed afternoon.”

Make it a date

Greg Moore, the minister of All Saints United Methodist Church near Raleigh, N.C., has lunch dates with his wife. “At first, they were mostly used for shop talk (budgets, schedules, etc.)”--which didn’t feel so much like a date--so Moore and his wife moved these administrative discussions to Saturday. “That frees us up to actually reconnect as human beings when we have lunch.” To keep things fun, “we don’t have the lunch at the same time and place every week. We switch it up. But we do have it every week.”

Meet someone new

Ask friends to introduce you to new people, or invite new people at the office to lunch. Or try meeting someone completely random. Tim Gutwald developed a service called Network Shuffle that assigns members a new connection once a month for a face-to-face conversation. “The randomness ensures people’s networks are constantly expanding (beyond just friends of friends),” he says.

Make it your own

Jessica Roscoe works in a consultant role a few days a week, and runs The Creative Mumma, a U.K.-based online writing school and coaching business, on the side. She also writes novels. On her workdays, “I take my laptop into work, along with the notebook I use for everything related to my personal business. I leave the office and sit in the kitchen or in another part of the building out of earshot. I've already got my three most important things I need to get done written in my notebook from the day before,” she says. She works as fast as she can. “I always think, ‘What can I do in this small window of time that will move my business further? What will have the most impact?’”

Thirty minutes might not seem like much, but it adds up. Do it every workday, and that’s 2.5 hours per week, or 125 a year and--more importantly if you’re running a side business--30 minutes you don’t have to stay up at night to get stuff done.

So: What do you do on your lunch break?

[Image: Flickr user Steven Depolo]

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18 Comments

  • I agree, in fact I do my own lunch too. not just that, I've also created one new lunch everyday at my desk for 4 years. now it's a book called Salad Love. check it out! Cheers

  • Ecarr

    I play a Sniper or Assasin's Creed round during lunch, pause, salad, play, pause, salad, play...

  • Marguerite Tennier

    Whoever you are, take time to go outside and walk, at least 15 minutes - it will re-energize you for the afternoon - and of course, have a full lunch - protein, vegetable and a carb.  You need the fuel for the next 4 hours.

  • Sweathog

    Yeah, so what if you don't work for one of these enlightened dot-coms that have showers on-site...must be pretty gross to sit near these sweathogs all afternoon....

  • Introductions Agency London

    Sometimes just a quiet half hour in a local park serves as a time to reflect, energise through nature and get back on track.

  • Chris Henson

    What if you're hunched over your desk shoveling crispy bacon, whipping cream and a stick of butter? [asking for a friend]

  • BubblesDeux

    Eek! I work at my desk, unless I have a lunch meeting, then I work at someone else's desk. Then, of course, I wonder why I am so freaking inefficient all day. I like Jamie's idea - and may need to start this after lunch today! 

  • Vuong Tuan

    Thank you Laura. The tips are not totally new but worth every reminder
       

  • Tony Cable

    I go for a 5 mile tempo run at lunch.  It really relieves the stress!!

  • Kimberly

    I like to spend it as museums. It's nice to pop into a museum and spend a few minutes seeing something I wouldn't come across at work or on the internet.

  • Jamie Roberts

    I've found that exercise in the middle of the day is the best way to refresh my creative brain. Just 30-45 minutes of heart-pounding physical activity and I'm ready to take on the afternoon! It's something I started making time for 2 years ago, and it's been so beneficial to my body and brain that I avoid lunch meetings at all costs so I can exercise. 

  • Goknurgokbayrak

     I haven't heard before. What is the heart-pounding exercise and how can I do that exercise? could you explain me?