‘I don’t have time for this’. How many times do you say that a day? Did you just say it as you clicked into this blog? Even though you haven’t taken a break in hours you’re probably still feeling guilty for procrastinating.
It’s strange that we are racked with guilt for taking a timeout. Be it going to the canteen for some Nescafé or walking down to the local Spar for a roll. This guilt is driven by presenteeism – the pervasive workplace culture that insists that you’re valued for how long you stay and not the work you do.
But even if you could eventually get round to taking that break, what exactly would you do for that half an hour or, god forbid, 60 minutes? Here are some suggestions.
Practice some mindfulness
Now we’re not asking you to lay down a yoga mat in the middle of the office and start chanting ‘Om’. All we’re suggesting is incorporating a sense of being present and mindful whenever you can. Even something as simple as eating a bag of popcorn can be turned into a meditative experience. Yes, we’re serious. Eat slower, savour the flavour, turn off any distractions and enjoy what you’re eating.
Mindfulness has gained more traction in recent years with the increase in burnout. It has also become the weapon of choice in the war on distraction. Aetna, the American health insurance company, made yoga and meditation classes available to all and saw a 28% reduction in stress levels, a 20% improvement in sleep quality and happier staff. Here are a number of Yoga studios who have drop in classes around lunchtime to help get you started.
Go for a walk or take a class at the local Flyefit. Even if it’s just for a half an hour you’re focusing on something that isn’t work related. The brain isn’t designed to be ‘on’ all day. We need regular downtime to function.
Exercise has the added benefit of boosting energy. So if you’re looking to beat the dreaded afternoon slump, look no further. Endorphins improve your mood, reduce stress and help you feel more confident. Most importantly, it will help free up your evenings for a guilt-free Netflix binge.
Learn something new
Reading just 20 minutes a day exposes you to over 1.8 million words a year. Every time you read, no matter the topic, you’re exposing yourself to new experiences and information. Some of the most innovative ideas came from completely unrelated areas. James Dyson was inspired by a visit to the sawmills.
If you’re not a big reader then podcasts offer many of the same benefits. There is quite literally a podcast for everything, from the science of social media to how economics apply to everyday life. If you struggle to keep up with current affairs there’s plenty of inspiration there too. Short, easy to digest podcasts are a great place to start. It means next time you’re going to a networking event, you’ll be armed with plenty of conversation starters.
Building positive working relationships is vital for a successful career. Arrange to have lunch with someone in the company you don’t know or re-connect with colleagues you haven’t seen in a while. The further up the career ladder you go, the more important it becomes to maintain and leverage solid working relationships.
Being able to collaborate effectively and successfully is one of the most invaluable transferrable skills. Collaboration becomes easy the more you really understand people and that’s not going to happen through email. Unfortunately the busier we get the less time we make for vital face time. Your lunchbreak is the perfect opportunity. Everyone has to eat, eventually!
Whatever you decide to do on your lunchbreak, it is absolutely essential that you at least walk away from the desk. Breaks help you to be more focused and energetic, but if you’re strategic about them they can also help your career long term.