I’m not proud to admit that I spent the first three years of grad school eating lunch at my desk. I’m not alone. A recent Gallup poll showed that 67% of office workers eat ‘al desko’ and until recently, I was definitely among them. This has changed since the fall semester started and I don’t think I would go back. I made a conscious decision at the beginning of this school year to step away from my computer at least once a day and lunch time just happens to be the perfect time to do so.
For the first three years lunch was pretty much an afterthought. Something to be crammed into the day somewhere, somehow. Sometimes it didn’t even happen at all. If I could sit at my desk and continue working while shoving bits of salad in my face, I considered it a win. I was pretty much on auto-pilot and no one else around me was doing any different. Seeing everyone eat at their desk day after day made it even less compelling to try something else until I realized I needed to make a change.
I initially made the switch because of the panic attacks I was having during meal times during the summer months. Staring into a computer as I was eating was not calming in any way, so I decided to move to our conference room so I could concentrate on relaxing my body and mind while I ate. I haven’t gone back.
Eating away from my desk is one of the smartest (and easiest) lifestyle switches I have ever made. I can’t believe it took me as long as it did because the benefits have been pretty great so far. For one, I actually take a lunch break every day. Since I’m not tethered to my computer during that time, I’m actually resting my mind rather than cramming in more work. I also find myself taking longer lunches as I’m not reminded of what time it is the entire time I’m eating. Lunch is now a leisure activity in the middle of my day.
I have also gone beyond just eating my food at a different location. I now routinely read magazines and the last few weeks I have been reading a book. What a difference a few months can make. While I’m still the only one from my work who eats away from their desk, I can’t see myself going back. It’s definitely a little strange when my boss walks in and I’m engrossed in a book but I just remind myself that is my time to recharge. In fact, I am more productive now in part because I am taking breaks instead of just doing non-stop work.
Whatever you might need to make your work hours more enjoyable, is something you should definitely look into. Whether taking a walk around your building after lunch or doing the crossword over coffee, do whatever is going to make you a more effective, productive and happy worker. After all, work makes up over 21% of your waking hours in a lifetime, might as well make the big and small moments count.