It’s 1 o’clock. Lunchtime! You know you need a break, something to eat, a stretch. But you’re presenting at a big meeting in an hour, 20 emails from this morning are still unopened, and your to-do list is, well, out of control.
What to do?
This is a dilemma I see a lot in my work. My coaching clients tell me of back-to-back meetings bumping into squeezed lunch times. When I go into organisations to run training, I see staff at computers gulping down a sandwich and a packet of crips and scrolling madly through emails. Yes, we’ve moved away from the 1980s mantra of ‘lunch is for wimps’, but in my view there’s still a way to go until the humble lunch break is truly valued.
Taking a proper break in the middle of the day is the best thing you can do with your time.
You set a great example
As a leader, when you’re seen to take a break, away from your desk, you send a powerful message to your team that they can too. From my office window I used to see a senior leader at the National Trust – where I worked in the 90s – taking a lunchtime stroll around St James’ Park. I thought that was pretty cool even then, and it was a great incentive for me to get out and do the same.
You need the nutrition
By the time midday comes along, it’s probably been a while since breakfast. Your body and brain are needing a top up so they can perform at their best. Obviously some foods are better than others at this point, but whatever you’re eating, doing it mindfully, without doing anything else too onerous means your digestive system is able to make the best of what you’re feeding it.
There are only so many good decisions and so much innovative thinking that we can do, but taking a break is proven to recharge our creativity (recent research from the Harvard Business Review says by a whopping 40%!). Otherwise we’re just winding down, getting slower as the day goes on, and less and less able to think straight. The work you do needs you to be on top form, right?
It wards off burnout
By taking a break, you are making a positive choice to step out of the busyness and look after yourself. Yes, a break improves cognitive function so we’re more productive, but, maybe more importantly, it’s a chance also to get outside, away from technology and into the fresh air which is the very best anti-stress activity there is.
It provides an opportunity to socialise
Google provides a free lunch for all its staff. Not so much for the meal itself but for the chance it gives employees at all levels to get together, relax a bit and chat informally about work or other stuff. It’s proven to be hugely beneficial, with people returning to work with extra focus and energy and work ideas are cross fertilised around the business. Of course, you don’t need to offer a free lunch to find new ways of relaxing socially in the middle of the day.
Over to you?
How do you usually spend your lunchtimes? Are you making the most of this time to recharge your batteries? How about your team? Is there anything you could do to encourage people to take a break in the middle of the day? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
If you’re feeling the strain of back-to-back meetings and not enough down time during your day, I can help. Call me on 0208 772 7808 (or 07958 501 427) or drop me an email here.
Or you can book a no-cost, no obligation 30-minute Discovery Call direct.