At my job, I have an hour lunch break for lunch. This has always seemed like a waste of time to me. Let me eat at my desk–especially days when I’m in a groove or have more work to do than hours to do it–and leave a little early to get home to my puppy! (Priorities) Maybe your time suck isn’t your lunch hour. Maybe it’s an awkward amount of time waiting at your child’s soccer or piano practice. No matter when it is, everyone has it–a gaping black hole in your day where you don’t feel like you can get anything done. (Commuting is another one of mine, which is why I listen to so many podcasts during my commute.)
Wishing you could get more done in a day? Look for these weird pockets of time, and hack your lunch hour to be happier and more productive, giving yourself more time for yourself later in your day.
If the point of a required lunch hour is to give your overstressed work population down time, then the lunch hour is a great time to meditate. Unless you are the world’s slowest eater, it will not take you a full hour to eat lunch. I’ve never thoroughly enjoyed meditation, and even the “quiet” spaces in my working environment are often extremely noisy. This makes it difficult to carve out 15-20 minutes for silent, calming, centering meditation. However, if you are mentally exhausted by the time your lunch hour rolls around, this is the one hack you should focus on finding ways to achieve. Can you use noise muffling headphones and a quiet corner? Can you to go to your car for some quiet? Rather than just eating, maximize the amount of rejuvenation you get from your break by meditating. This will leave you with more energy at the end of the day.
2. Run errands
This is a bit of a no brainer. Personally, I hate going off site during my lunch hour. I already have to commute in B.S. traffic, I don’t want to be out in it on a time crunch running errands on my lunch break. However, on occasion, I have been known to make returns or pick up groceries The grocery store is much quieter in the middle of the day than after work. (Bonus if you can safely store frozen and refrigerated grocery items in a fridge/freezer at work).
3. Run home
While not great for everyone, the ability to run home is wonderful for some. I have coworkers who run home for lunch daily in order to have some calm and eat a lunch they enjoy in their own space. Warning, though: If you live close enough to work that you can get home and back in your lunch hour, you may not have much time once you’re there. I did like having this luxury when Bentley was younger. I rarely went home over lunch, but at least I lived close enough that I could check in on him if he wasn’t feeling well that day. We would hurry outside so he could go potty, then we would play for ten minutes before I hurried back to work.
4. Work out
We have a small gym in our office, which makes it easy to change, do 30 light minutes on a treadmill, and change back. This is super easy to do. Pack some baby wipes, extra deodorant and dry shampoo. But also try to plan work outs on days you don’t have afternoon meetings. This works best for me if I can eat lunch at my desk then wait at least an hour before working out. If you don’t have a gym in your office, consider walking outside. If the weather is shitty, see if there’s a pathway/loop you can make in your office building. I know that’s not always possible in every working environment, but thus far in my varied work life, there’s always been some way to get in a light “workout.” If you really need to work up a serious sweat, you might want to save that for after the work day–your coworkers will thank you.
Since you can get books on your smartphone, it’s almost impossible not to have a book with you at all times. From relaxation to skill boosting, books are fabulous resources. I love a good romance novel, but I also enjoy productivity and motivation books. If you’re looking to truly maximize you lunch hour, read books in your field to help improve your skill set and put yourself in a better position to be promoted or move elsewhere.
6. Work on your monthly bootcamp
Did you get any ideas from my list of monthly bootcamp suggestions? Lunch time is a great time to work on your gratitude journal, get some reading done, practice your hobby, update your budget, etc. For a lot of monthly bootcamp goals–my language practice included–you don’t need large chunks of time. You just need an uninterrupted 15 minutes.
That’s the key to lunch hour hacks. We have so many small periods of “unusable” time in our days. The odd amounts when you get somewhere early or have fifteen minutes before you need to leave. These chunks of time are often wasted because we browse our phones, checking social media and the like. I promise you that 9 times out of 10 you will feel so much happier and more fulfilled if you use that time period to accomplish something. The point is just to have ideas of things that need accomplishing, so the next time you’re faced with that 15 minute window, you can turn on your meditation app or pull out your crochet hooks.
What do you do with the odd extra moments in your day? Share any secrets you have to hack your lunch hour!