Your lunch break is one of the easiest ways to squeeze me-time in on a regular basis, especially for busy people (and who isn’t busy these days?). But the real danger is, it’s just as easy to squander that time to cross 2 or 3 more things off your to-do list as it is to take it easy.
Resist the urge! Taking a break during your work day will help you do your job more efficiently and effectively. Instead of feeling guilty about tearing yourself away from the stack of work on your desk, remember that taking a break for some relaxation is part of doing your job well.
Sometimes, slowing down does pay off. Especially when you do it well. Here are 5 ways to maximize your me-time so you can get the most out of your lunch hour.
1. Leave the office.
Just in case you’re wondering, nope, taking your lunch break at your desk does not count as me-time. Even if you’re doing "me" things, like checking the latest happenings on your Twitter feed or responding to that unread email from your mom that's been glaring disappointedly at you every time you check your inbox.
It’s important for your brain to take a real break from work so that you can maintain your focus and energy all day. And leaving your work space and changing your scenery is the most beneficial way to do it. As often as possible, leave your desk, leave your office, and get out of the building. It will make it much easier to be productive when you return if you physically leave your work space on your lunch hour.
2. Have a plan.
Just like you schedule and plan your work so you can maximize your time and get a lot done, planning your lunch hour will enhance your experience. It’s amazing how much off-the-clock amazingness you can soak up in one hour if you know ahead of time what you’ll be doing.
The trap that many people fall into is to wait until noon rolls around to start figuring out what to do on their lunch hour. The good news is, it’s a trap that’s easily avoided if you decide how you want to spend your lunch break beforehand. By planning ahead you’ll avoid the last minute scramble of trying to figure out what you want to do and the extra bonus of looking forward to spending time on yourself.
Try sitting down each morning before you start your day and deciding what you’d like to do that day during your lunch hour. Or, if it makes things easier, plan out a whole week of lunch hour me-time on Sunday so you know what the plan is for the whole week. This can be especially helpful if you have a busy week ahead, which is when you need your relaxation the most.
Play and fun aren’t just for kids. Think about the things you have the most fun doing and see if there’s a way to incorporate those activities into your lunch hour. Grab your work bestie and head to a nearby park for a game of catch. Make a lunch date with a friend and go to that new Thai place you’ve both been dying to try.
Your me-time will be more beneficial if you spend your hour enjoying yourself and having a good time. If you’re looking for inspiration, consider how can you use your hour to explore or have a mini-adventure. Think you can’t discover something new with an hour of your time? Think again! It’s totally possible. Allow your imagination and creativity to guide you. You’ll come back to the office re-energized and ready to get back to work.
4. Take time to rest.
Who says you can’t get some R & R in the middle of your work day? Let’s face it, some days what you’re really craving mid-workday is some serious downtime – a real break to wind down and let your busy brain chill out. An hour is plenty of time to allow your brain and body to relax and unwind a bit. Go for a walk outside and get some sunshine and fresh air. Or find a quiet spot to meditate or read a novel.
A little peace and quiet goes a long way. And it will help you come back to your work with a clearer head. That means you’ll be able to focus on your work, get it done and get out of the office earlier rather than staring blankly at the screen all afternoon struggling to concentrate.
5. Make it a habit.
Ever notice how easy it is to come up with all sorts of reasons why you need to work through lunch or why you just can’t spare the hour in your hectic schedule? You may even be convinced that you don’t have a choice and it’s simply out of your hands.
But you can choose to make this hour all yours on a regular basis. The most effective way to make that happen is to turn it into a habit.
The first step to making your lunch hour a regular part of your routine will be to guard and protect this time fiercely, like a mama bear protecting her cubs. Make your lunch hour away from work a non-negotiable, sacred time that’s just for you. This means it’ll be important to set some boundaries for yourself, like letting go of all the reasons why you should skip out on it and resisting the urge to say “yes” to extra work and obligations that will interfere with your hour away.
In time, lunch hour me-time can become a habit just like brushing your teeth. You won’t even think about it, it’ll just happen. Time and practice is all it takes.
Taking a break is as much a part of your job as doing your work. And maximizing your me-time during your lunch hour is a two for one. It gives you a break from work and builds much-needed time for yourself into your day. Now that's efficiency anyone could be proud of.