Thursday, May 18, 2017

How to Take a Perfect Lunch Break

I spent 40 hours a week working at a digital marketing agency, and my office is fairly traditional. The work day begins promptly at 8AM and ends at 5PM on the dot, with an hour break for lunch. We have an open office floor plan, which is the bane of my existence. There is a small kitchen, with a coffee maker that cranks out bitter Folgers and a microwave in which people insist on heating up fish. The days go by pretty fast, mostly because I like what I do (social media, copywriting, and content marketing) and because life is fleeting and much too short. Which is precisely why I try to make the most of that precious hour I get for lunch. 

The problem is that an hour is an awkward amount of time. My office is a bit isolated, so there's nowhere to go for a mid-afternoon stroll. I try not to spend money during the week, so coffee shops and retail outlets are a no-go. And a soggy sandwich, eaten while scrolling through Instagram yet again, doesn't quite energize me for the afternoon ahead.

Luckily I've discovered a much better way to spend my lunch break. It's easy, delicious, doesn't cost a penny, and gets me the vital things an office drone needs for a productive day - fresh air, sunlight, and a change in perspective. Today I will share my secret with you.

Step One: Pack Your Lunch In a Jar 

A jar might seem oddly specific, but hear me out. It's 12:30PM. You've been sitting in a sterile office all morning, sending tweets into space and wondering if anyone will read them. A client insists on adding a second space after each period in the copy you sent over for a approval. Your coworker has his death metal up so loud that you can hear it perfectly despite his earbuds. You already ate all the snacks in your special snack drawer, even though it's only Tuesday. Your day needs saving, and the only thing that can do it is a fresh, crisp salad, served up in a jar.

I make four mason jar salads every Sunday, and they sustain me through most of the week. (One day is a wild card, because you only live once.) Mine layer like this - Trader Joe's Goddess Dressing on the bottom, followed by diced red peppers and cucumbers. Then I add cannellini beans and quinoa for protein, and finish it off with a spinach/arugula blend. When the lunch hour finally arrives, all I have to do is dump the contents of the jar into a bowl, give it a good mix, and tuck into  a fresh, delicious, nutrient-rich lunch - the perfect fuel for a productive afternoon.

Step Two: Go Outside  

You cannot - I repeat, cannot - eat your lunch inside. This veers dangerously close to Sad Desk Salad Syndrome. Instead, I retreat to the picnic table behind our building, open the umbrella on hot days, and settle in for a full hour of freedom.

Let me clear - our picnic table is not fancy. Sometimes I am interrupted by delivery people or folks taking out the recycling. The view is nothing to shout about. But it doesn't matter, because this retreat is a mere five steps from the back door of the office, which means I don't waste time or gas in traffic, and no one else ever sits there. Freedom, vitamin D, and some alone time - in an office setting, these are precious commodities. I don't squander them.

Step Three: Read a Book

One of the reasons I don't particularly care about the view from the picnic bench is because I use this hour to read an actual, physical book. I love to read, but I know first hand how hard it is to make time for a good book. There are a thousand things competing for our time and attention - the latest Twitter outrage, peak TV, your dog or partner or children. But if you plan it right, your lunch break is wholly yours to use as you wish. I, for one, wish to read.

In addition to being just plain fun, reading also has numerous other benefits. Studies have shown it breeds empathy and literally makes you a better person, which your colleagues will surely appreciate.

So, to summarize: eat your lunch. Go outside. Read a book. Good advice for your professional life and life in general. Funny how that works.

PS: Need some reading recommendations? Here are all the books I read in 2016 and 2015 + the best vegan carrot cake, because life's too short to skip dessert.