But I never take a lunch break

Ok, so hands up? How many times last week did you eat your lunch away from your desk (and munching on a sarnie in a meeting doesn’t count!)? Not at all? Once, tops?

I totally get it, I really do. It’s a challenge to prioritise getting a proper break at lunch-time when there’s so much going on. You’ve got that big meeting to prepare, you’re behind on calls, a new team member says he’s stuck without your help, and, well, if you just put in a focused half hour now, you could get on top of things, right?

I hear this all the time with my non-profit coaching clients. They are fabulous, dynamic, super-bright leaders who are really going places – but I think they are wrong on this one.

They – and you – need your lunch break!

I encourage all my clients to take a break at lunch time and hang on to that personal time as if their life depended on it. Which in a way it does.

You need a lunch break!

Here’s why you need a break

Lots of recent research shows that working through lunch is a massive false economy. Whizzing through the ‘to do’ list might feel good at the time, but missing out on a lunch break is super bad for you. Not just for your productivity, which slumps when you don’t give your hard-working brain a break, but for your happiness, resilience and all-round mental health too.

Sooner or later, long, unbroken days of hard work lead to stress and ill-health. And then how useful would you then be to the amazing organisation you work for? Not very.

I think in our heart of hearts we know this really, don’t we? And yet it’s still one of the hardest things to do – which is why I bang on about it all the time.

So, what’s my best advice on how to take a lunch break?

Just take it!

Yep, it’s as simple as that. Don’t even ask yourself whether you will. Just do it. Like cleaning your teeth or getting dressed in the morning. That way lunch away from your desk becomes a habit that is non-negotiable except in a genuine emergency. And you’re giving a powerful message to the rest of your team: that looking after yourself is encouraged and highly valued by the organisation. 

Here are a few tips that will help:

  • Physically block 45 minutes or so in your diary and don’t let anyone put anything in that space. If it has to move, get your break in later or earlier, but don’t lose it all together.
  • Have a bit of a plan for what you will do each day, such as a walk around the block or meet up with a colleague in a cafe. Getting outdoors, especially in the sunshine, is always a good idea.
  • Let it be known that you are not available at lunch times. It might be tough at first but taking charge of your own day is impressive. I very much doubt anyone will think you are slacking. And if they do? Well, who cares? Clock watchers aren’t cool any more. You know what you need to perform well.
  • Don’t over-plan. I see clients who have scheduled ten or more hours of work a day. Hello? That’s just not going to work.
  • Keep a note of how you feel after your break. Whenever you’re tempted to give it a miss, quickly read what you’ve written to remind yourself of what you’d be giving up.

Over to you

If you usually eat your lunch at your desk, can you commit to taking a proper lunch break every day for the next week? Block out the time in your calendar now and then notice how it feels to give yourself a little pocket of space every day. Let taking a break become your new normal and see how that impacts your energy and productivity.

What next?

One way of guaranteeing you take a break is to make plans. Might I suggest coming along to Leaders Who Brunch Out To Lunch on 3rd July? Laughter, inspiration and connection are all on the menu, so you’ll go back to your desk with a spring in your step! Find out more and book your place here.