Q: Business owners I know spend lunch either taking clients to eat or hitting the gym for a workout. I can’t afford pricey meals and don’t want to work up a sweat at noon. Any suggestions beyond sitting at my desk?
A: While building my business, I thought I had to be chained to my desk during lunch. I feared a disaster would occur and it’d serve me right for not being there. Over the years, I grew to resent the control freak side of myself. I also yawned and was somewhat restless by midafternoon because I was always “on” and never took a break for a change of scenery.
Recently I changed my routine. Some days I have an inexpensive lunch in the neighborhood with my husband or a friend. Other days I trade my heels for sneakers and head to Central Park, which is near my office, for a walk while listening to music. A couple of times a month I visit a museum exhibit. And I’ve found that a few minutes of relaxation by a river, lake or even a fountain can do wonders for my mood.
The point is that I get out and see something beyond my computer monitor.
Melissa Rappaport, who runs a Los Angeles-area public relations firm, uses some lunch hours to bond with her staff. “Once a week I take an employee on a picnic, an errand or a walk outside of the office. It gives them a chance to have my undivided attention without the distractions of phone, email and visitors.” The result: insights on employee dynamics and loyalty that have reduced turnover because each person knows she’s being heard.
Jewelry designer Marlyn Schiff spends hours each day in her suburban-Philadelphia studio making pieces and uses lunchtime to relax and think creatively. “I step away from the bead charts and supplies. I spend time poring through magazines and Instagram feeds for images that allow me to look for trends and inspiration.” When the 30- to 45-minute break ends, she has recharged.
Documentary film producer David Beilinson makes a point of visiting the New York Public Library a few times a week at midday. If he’s traveling, he finds a library at his destination. “Libraries are amazingly peaceful places that encourage you to get lost in thought. And since I work primarily with video, there’s something energizing about picking up a book and reading the printed word.”
Here are guidelines for uplifting lunchtime diversions:
1. Pick an activity that invigorates instead of drains you. Workouts and errands may feel like duties instead of joys.
2. Choose something that you wouldn’t normally do at night or on weekends because of other obligations or because your friends or family members don’t share your interest. You decide which pursuits are worth your time.
3. Select an activity that inspires you, sparks creativity and makes you feel great about yourself, so you’re at your best when you return to your desk. A change of sound and scenery can make 20 minutes feel like two hours away from my office.
This article appears in the November 2015 issue of SUCCESS magazine.