You can change your life in an hour. I’ve got one in mind:
This isn’t a post about upgrading your diet and cutting out that daily bag of crisps. It could be but it isn’t. It is simply about employing your break time a little more thoughtfully and some of the changes I’ve recently made for the better.
For many of us working the 9-5, our lunch hour is a non-event. It’s downtime where we refuel and clock-watch. I personally take a strategic 1PM to 2PM to trim my afternoons shorter than my mornings. I’m calculated like that.
Some of us use lunch to socialise with colleagues. To get out of the office.
Yet too many of us are guilty of eating at our desks, in front of our screens, doing something bleak like paying our bills—or worse, continuing to work.
How you spend lunch can really effect the rest of your day.
In fact, my whole motivation for rethinking my own time was the headaches I had started suffering from by the afternoon.
Only leaving my desk for the fridge, I used to sit on Facebook or watch YouTube videos with my headphones in. I’d be straight back on my laptop when I got home.
It dawned on me that I was spending anywhere between 10-12 hours in front of this little 13-inch screen, every day, at least Monday-Friday.
The headaches were effecting my performance at work. I couldn’t concentrate. I would take myself off for cigarette breaks without the cigarettes.
The headaches aside, even though I enjoyed my job, sitting in the same seat for 8 hours, often with no one to talk to, grinded away at my motivation.
Something had to change.
3 Ways You Change Your Life Over Lunch
The key to making successful and lasting lifestyle changes is to start small and let your efforts compound. If you want to develop any good habit, you need to allocate an achievable amount of time putting it into practice and build through repetition.
These facts make lunch time your secret weapon.
Whether you have 15, 30 or 60 minutes to work with, this is your chance to start improving yourself or get ahead of the competition.
On average, there are 21.74 working days each month. If you subtract time for 28 days’ annual holiday, it ends up at 19.4 days but let’s call it 20 for easiness.
If you take an hour for lunch each day, that’s 20 lunch hours every month.
This becomes 240 lunch hours over a year, the equivalent of 10 full “lunch days”.
Suddenly, your downtime starts to look like dead-time.
You are spending 2.74% of your entire year “on lunch”.
#1 Get outside and take a walk
About 6 months ago, I got a car and started driving to work. It’s been great because I can now get up later and feel less frantic in the mornings.
The trade off? Less exercise. I used to walk about 20 minutes (run 10-15 minutes) to catch the bus. Now there are days when I hardly walk further than the bathroom.
That was until I started going for a walk during lunch.
I’m extremely lucky to work at a business park that backs onto a nature reserve and the grounds of a posh hotel. Within 5 minutes of leaving the office, I can be lost in the woods, overlooking a lake with only dog walkers for company.
Weather permitting, I try to walk 20-40 minutes every day.
The fresh air clears my head. I draw a line under my morning and forget about the office for a little while. Spending time away from a screen has significantly reduced my afternoon headaches. Stretching my legs makes me less fidgety at my desk.
This is also the time I get most of my day’s thinking done. Sometimes, I’ll come up with an idea for work but most of the time my thoughts are a million miles away.
There’s something about exercise and being outdoors that induces self-reflection and creativity. This is when blog post ideas come to me and I plan for the future.
As an introvert, I take great pleasure in using these walks for some “me time”. They help me recharge and order my thoughts.
A friend at work who shares the same habit uses hers quite differently.
She takes this time over lunch to call home and chat with her retired parents.
We cross on our walks and wave to one another.
She’ll have her headphones in, chatting away. This might be the only contact they have all week—what a wonderful use of time.
Rather than stalking your friends on Facebook, why not take the opportunity to check in with someone? A simple phone call can salvage and sustain relationships.
#2 Consume more than calories
What you put into your body at lunch can shape the rest of your day, having a compounding effect on your health and wellbeing. This is true for more than food.
At the start of this year, I subscribed to Audible as a late Christmas present to myself. As an English graduate, I’m an ashamed lapsed reader.
With audio books, however, there are no excuses.
In addition to attempting a paperback per month, I can get through my Audible credit listening in spare moments during the day.
Audio books and podcasts (my other great revelation) are perfect for lunch time walks. Unless it’s the height of summer, I would never have pulled out a book. But 30 minute strolls over a month amount to 10 hours of listening.
Often an entire audio book.
Making a change as simple as spending half of your lunch hour outside, can lead to you walking an extra 480-720 kilometres a year and reading 12 books you might never have otherwise. That’s a big deal.
In the 20-30 minutes I am eating at my desk, I have started consuming on Medium too. Read for pleasure or inspiration, educate yourself about a topic.
You’ll get a lot more substance out this than skimming social media, especially if you want to build your own audience.
#3 Start saving your lunch money
We’ve all seen those articles claiming that the reasons millennials will never become home-owners are shop-bought sandwiches and avocadoes.
You probably scrolled on through, hoisin duck wrap in hand.
While hardly to blame for the housing crisis and the plight of generation rent, lunch is a great place to start forming a saving habit.
I don’t exactly indulge in pub lunches or even a daily meal deal. But I do buy the odd coffee and cake at work… Maybe a packet of crisps.
Oh, and if I miss breakfast, a sausage roll or muffin for brunch.
Between shop-bought coffees and snacks, I was easily spending in the region of £2 and £5 a day. If you are making caffeine runs to Costa or taking lunch at Pret, something closer to £10 is far from unrealistic. Harmless, right?
Until you run the maths.
At a conservative estimate, I was spending £40 every month in the canteen. I think a fairer ballpark would be £50-60. I’m sure others are much worse.
This adds up. We’re talking at least £500 over the course of a year.
If you’re broke and can’t afford to fix your car or go on holiday with friends this year, this is where you can start. Reach for the instant coffee. Make a packed lunch.
How are you using your lunch hour?
If you haven’t given this much thought before, consider adopting these simple changes. Can’t remember the last time you exercised? Start with a 15 minute daily walk. Not got enough time to read in the evening? Invest in audiobooks or learn through free podcasts. Struggling to escape your overdraft or buy your partner a birthday present? Cut out the coffees and start putting aside your loose change.
Lunch time is 2.74% of your year. Make it count. Change your life over lunch.