I’ve seen more and more people for whom the concept of a lunch break has effectively disappeared. There’s so much to do, and spending time on a break seems like a waste. So lunch is wolfed down at your desk, and work continues on.
But here’s the thing: Done properly, a break makes you MORE productive for the rest of your work. You’ll think more clearly, make fewer mistakes, and move more swiftly. That’s why breaks have been a mandatory part of hourly work for many decades. But even there, I find people who cheat themselves of the opportunity.
What should you do to have a rejuvenating lunch break? Think and move differently than you normally do. If you’re physically active in your work, take a rest. If you’re sedentary, take the opportunity to move around a bit – even if it’s just a quick jaunt around the building.
You’re not going to think differently if you’re in the same environment. If you’re doing intense mental work, do something which is playful and away from the stuff that’s stressing you. Don’t worry, you’ll get back to it soon enough.
If you’re mentally focusing on relationships with other people, like trying to process a bunch of e-mail conversations, your break can exercise a different part of your brain. Look at some artwork that gives you pleasure and energy. Think about what great stuff might be in store for the weekend. Even 60 seconds can make a difference.
A number of years ago, someone led me in an exercise which I found to be quite striking. Right now you’re looking at a computer screen, which is probably about an arm’s length away. So look away from the screen for 10 seconds at something which is 10-20 feet away. I’ll wait.
OK, the next step is to look at something which is at least 100 feet away, so that your optical focus REALLY has to change. You might have to head down the hall to find a window, so I’ll wait.
OK, welcome back. That exercise should be done once every 30 minutes, and involve a change in physical posture.
The other exercise, which you should do 3 times every work day, is to go look at something natural and relaxing for 3 minutes. Something that will get you away from staring at a computer screen like you are now, and get other parts of your brain working.
And of course you can combine these exercises with eating lunch at a more leisurely pace than what you might currently be doing.
Feels better now, doesn’t it?
by Carl Dierschow