7 reasons to take your lunch break (and 10 ways to use it for learning)
"I’ll just skip lunch today.”
“I’m going to eat a quick bite at my desk.”
Do these sound familiar?
For a lot of people, this is an everyday routine.
In fact, only one in three workers actually step away from their desk to take lunch. Most employees either skip it altogether or eat at their desk while working.
Tethering yourself to a desk or scarfing down your lunch in your cubicle isn’t a recipe for success – it’s a recipe for disaster.
Without taking adequate breaks from work, your productivity, mental and physical well-being, as well as overall work performance begins to suffer.
While taking breaks might sound counterintuitive to boosting productivity, it’s one of the best ways to do so.
You can regain focus and energy after stepping away from your desk, which helps prevent a slump throughout the remainder of the day.
Aside from boosting productivity, there are many benefits to taking a lunch break.
7 benefits of taking a lunch break
1. You’ll have fewer aches and pains
According to the Mayo Clinic, neck and back pain can result from continuous hours stuck behind a desk.
Poor posture and sitting in one position puts strain on your spine and the muscles that help support it. Leaving the office at lunch will stretch your spine and muscles, releasing pressure and eliminating discomfort. Plus, when you step outside, you’ll get a nice dose of fresh air and sunshine.
When you get up and walk, you burn calories and lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease. The more you sit, the higher your risk because sitting impedes circulation, and your metabolism. Bottom line, get moving during work hours!
2. You’ll prevent fatigue
The figures are pretty clear on this one. Your concentration at work can improve even with a quick 20-minute break.
People who take ‘better breaks,’ by breaking earlier and completing activities they liked, were found to have a decrease in headaches, eyestrain, and lower back pain caused by fatigue.
The popular belief that the amount of hours you put in equates to the work that you get out is finally starting to fade.
We’re realizing that working smarter, and not harder, is the answer to a productive workforce.
3. You’ll feel more motivated
When you’re working towards a big goal or wrapping up an important project, it feels counterproductive to stop what you’re doing and take a break.
In those moments, it seems like pushing through and getting it done is the right thing to do. Until you hit the inevitable brick wall when your motivation starts to wane and you lose focus.
“When we work, our prefrontal cortex makes every effort to help us execute our goals. But for a challenging task that requires our sustained attention, research shows briefly taking our minds off the goal can renew and strengthen motivation later on.”
Prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance according to a small study. This is why it’s best to take brief breaks. Doing so allows you to deactivate and reactivate your goals, which enables you to stay focused on the task at hand.
In fact, nearly 90% of North American employees claim that taking a lunch break helps them feel refreshed and ready to get back to work.
It’s tempting to ignore the need to take a break when you just want to get something done. But, you’ll feel more motivated and inspired if you allow yourself to step away from the task so you can clear your mind and recharge your batteries.
4. You’ll feel more balanced and less stressed
Taking a lunch break provides an opportunity for self-care.
Many of us don’t take advantage of this time and believe that working continuously throughout the day will help us get more done, but using your lunch hour wisely to eat well and complete a few errands like going to the bank or picking up your dry cleaning will leave you feeling less stressed and more in control of your to-do list.
This is a simple way to add more work-life balance into your day.
5. You’ll get a creativity boost
How many times have you struggled to figure out a solution to a problem or come up with new creative ideas at work, only to have the perfect idea or solution hit you when you're enjoying dinner with friends and family?
Spending too many hours with your nose to the grindstone can actually do more harm than good when it comes to creativity.
Taking a few strategic breaks throughout the day will give your mind a chance to organically come up with the solutions you're looking for.
6. You’ll be happier
Spending your lunch hour with friends, co-workers, or doing something you enjoy can erase the negative effects of a hectic workday.
Releasing stress by venting about work, engaging in a hobby, or sharing a laugh is a guaranteed mood lifter.
Doing something that’s unrelated to work is a great way to distract your mind and refocus your attention away from the pressures of projects and deadlines leaving you feeling happier and less stressed.
7. You’ll accomplish more
When you plough through lunch sitting at your computer, your brain doesn’t get a chance to switch off and regroup.
The result – an afternoon characterized by foggy thinking, tiredness and diminished productivity. Stepping away at lunch and returning to work after 45-60-minutes will help you feel more invigorated and refueled so you’re ready to take on the afternoon’s challenges.
Now that you’re convinced you should take your lunch break everyday, let’s explore a few ideas about how to leverage your lunch hour to improve your skills and enhance your knowledge.
10 ways to leverage your lunch break for learning
#1. Listen to a podcast
Podcasts are great for so many reasons: they’re usually free, you can listen from anywhere, and they’re a great way to learn about something new,.
Don’t want to use your entire lunch hour listening to a podcast?
No problem, shows come in many shapes and sizes. You can find a quick 15-minute show or a more in-depth 60-minute show.
You can listen to a show by yourself while you take a walk or eat your lunch or make it a group thing and ask your co-workers to listen in while you eat together.
The beauty of it is it’s up to you and your schedule.
There are a ton of shows out there that teach you about specific topics, fields of study, and career paths.
A few of my personal favorites are:
Note: I’m so inspired by podcasts, I’ve just launched my own show, Food for Thought, which gives you things to think about when you’re trying to make more sales - easier - without all the seriousness of conventional sales talks. Check it out!
#2. Read a chapter of a book
Have you ever started reading a book that you just didn’t want to put down?
Take advantage of your lunch break to check out of work and check in to the book you’re reading. It’s a great way to recharge your batteries and take your mind off the day’s deadlines.
For me, taking a step back from my daily role as a sales trainer and CEO means fueling my mind with ideas that will influence my thinking about business and sales but from a different perspective.
For instance, psychology is one of my favorite topics to read about. Here’s what I’ve been reading (and re-reading) lately:
- Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz
- Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
#3. Take an online course
Online courses can feel like a chore, but if you break them down into micro-sessions for yourself, it can be much easier to manage.
Most courses organize their content into sections or modules that can be completed in a short sitting so consider setting a goal for yourself to complete a certain number of sections every day during your lunch break.
When you commit to an online course in this way, you’ll be finished in no time!
If you’re simply looking to get started at no cost to you, HubSpot offers a range of free certification courses that I would highly recommend for any sales or marketing professional looking to grow their skills and knowledge:
- Sales Management Training: Strategies for Developing a Successful Modern Sales Team
- Inbound Marketing
- Inbound Sales
- Social Media
#4. Read a blog post
I don’t know about you, but I have a growing list of bookmarked blog posts I’ve been meaning to read.
Blogs are a valuable source of free knowledge that can be helpful if you’re looking for ideas on how to tackle a specific problem or increase your knowledge of a particular topic.
Dedicate a portion of your lunch hour to reading a blog post that you’ve been meaning to get to but haven’t had the chance.
You can make this time even more productive by reading it on your phone from a nearby park to get the added benefit of a change in scenery and some fresh air.
I’m always looking for like-minded trainers and business owners who think differently about sales and marketing, so I’m staying up-to-date on these blogs:
#5. Talk to a mentor
Oftentimes, you have to motivate yourself to make a change or commit to doing something differently, but sometimes this can only go so far. That’s where a mentor or coach comes in.
Everyone has good days and bad days, but when you have someone to confide in and talk to about the good, the bad, and the ugly, it helps you replicate, move on, or learn from those moments so you can continue to flourish on your career path.
Sharing good news with your mentor will give you reassurance, as well as encouragement for more good days in the future.
For example, let's say today was good because you came up with an amazing sales strategy that's proven to be successful.
Not only will your mentor be proud of you — always nice to have someone be! — but they'll probably also give you ideas on how to leverage this success and spearhead other sales opportunities.
Likewise, on those bad days (we all have them), your mentor can help you get back on track. They will help you figure out what went wrong and how to prevent it in the future by coming up with an action plan.
#6. Eat with a colleague
A study from Cornell University found that certain teams that eat meals together have better job performance compared to those that don’t. They explained that eating together has a “long, primal tradition as a kind of social glue.”
No matter the size of the company you work for, you’re bound to have co-workers you’ve never had an hour-long conversation with—or met. And even if you work for yourself or for a tiny company, you certainly have clients or vendors you’ve never met face-to-face!
Your lunch break is the perfect time to get to know someone on your team or in another department.
Extend an invite to grab food with someone you’d like to get to know better. You never know what you might have in common or what you could learn from someone you’ve never had the opportunity to get to know.
#7. Join a lunch network
Have you ever heard of “Let’s Lunch?”
It’s a free online network that matches you up with someone in your area for lunch during the workweek.
You can connect your LinkedIn profile, provide your availability and geographic flexibility, and the site’s algorithm matches you up with a like-minded lunch partner.
It’s a great way to grow your network utilizing the free time that’s already built into your day.
#8. Take a client out for lunch
This may not seem like you’re taking a break from your work day, but if you approach it in the right way, it can be fun and insightful all at once.
Use this opportunity to get to know your client on a more personal level.
Sure, you can still talk business, but go deeper.
Try to build a more meaningful connection with this person to understand who they are, why they do what they do, and what aspirations they have for the future.
If you end up talking all business, that’s ok too. At the very least, get their perspective on what it’s like working together and how else you can help.
What can you do better or differently to exceed their expectations?
#9. Attend an event
Maybe your own company is hosting a lunch-and-learn event, or you’ve decided to venture out to an external networking event hosted by another organization.
Attending an event is an opportunity to take a break from your daily responsibilities and workflow to focus on building relationships, learning new skills, or enhancing your knowledge.
Bonus, you’ll likely get a free lunch and meet people who could potentially become a new contact in your network, stepping stone to your next career move, or a new client.
#10. Leverage a learning app
Chances are, your phone is an arm’s-length away at any given moment.
Instead of mindlessly scrolling your Facebook or Instagram newsfeed, why not use the technology at your fingertips to learn a new skill while you eat?
You can boost your business leadership skills or dive into design fundamentals with the Skillshare app and online learning community that has over 15,000 different classes.
Whether you’re thinking about learning a new skill or would like to share your expertise on a particular subject, you’ll find something that appeals to your interests.
The video lessons range from 30-minutes to 1-hour, so they’re perfect for lunchtime learning.
Remente is another clever app that combines psychology with brain and mental training to help users lead a happier life with fewer distractions.
Within the app, you will find courses to teach you how to increase productivity, efficiently manage your time, and how to better deal with stress. You can also set yourself goals and track your mood.
Not only will using these types of apps during your lunch hour teach you new skills, it will help you feel more in control while also giving you a much-needed boost of motivation to tackle the rest of the day.
A lunch break does the body (and your work habits) good
Healthy work habits can be difficult to develop and even harder to maintain.
The stress of our day-to-day catches up and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of things that need to be accomplished.
Oftentimes that means getting in early, working through lunch or staying late to get things done, ultimately sacrificing your personal well-being.
Regardless of whether your job requires you to make quick decisions, be highly creative or be completely focused at all times, taking a break from your day is hugely beneficial to your on-the-job performance.
Repetition can keep us in a rut, and stop us from seeing things objectively. In fact, it’s actually the process of being away and then coming back to our desks that facilitates a new outlook.
Paying attention to your mental, physical, and social well-being at work is just as important to your overall performance and success as delivering results is for a particular project or assignment.
The benefits of taking a lunch break combined with using that time to learn enhances your mental, physical, and social well-being.
Every day is an opportunity to learn, grow, and improve.
My challenge for you is to take your lunch break every day this week and next week and use it for your own development. It will pay dividends.
Psst - I have an idea! I invite you to spend your next lunch break with me during my new podcast, Food for Thought (Via Apple Podcast or Google).
I promise, I’ll give you a lot to chew on!
Wondering where to begin?