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In our obsession with productivity, you might think this article is about how to multi-task and use your lunch hour to work more efficiently. It’s not.

In fact, your lunch hour should be the least “productive” moment in your day. Lunch is a micro-vacation from work. It should be relaxed, pleasurable, and enjoyable.

If your lunch hour only lasts a mere 20 minutes–or just doesn’t exist anymore–here’s how to turn it around and make it joyful:

  1. Put it on your calendar
    To avoid getting stuck in back-to-back meetings all day, schedule your lunch as if it’s a meeting in itself. On shared calendar systems like MeetingMaker or iCal, make sure the office can see that you’re booked at this time. Your lunch is sacred, so don’t allow anyone to book meetings with you during this time.

  2. Eat lunch at the same time everyday
    Once it’s on your calendar, eat lunch consistently everyday at the same time. This keeps your body in a rhythm, but it also trains your office to know when you’re unavailable.

  3. Go an hour later or earlier
    Beat the long lines, by going to lunch during off-peak times, such as 11am-noon or 1–2pm. You’ll get speedier service and no stress-inducing crowds. Since you’ll be in the office while everyone else is eating, you’ll also get fewer interruptions and more time to work.

  4. Automate lunch choices with the Wheel of Food
    Stop wasting time deciding where to eat. Spin the Wheel of Food, and let it pick for you.

  5. Yelp it
    Once you land on a restaurant, use review sites such as Yelp to research it. Keep an eye out for reports of stuck-up waitresses, disgusting food, and breeding cockroaches.

  6. Map it
    Avoid spending your lunch time getting lost while trying to find the restaurant. Use Google Maps or Yahoo Maps to get directions before heading out.

  7. Ditch your phone
    Eliminate interruptions and compulsive text-messaging by leaving your mobile phone at work. I admit, this is my worst habit. It takes away time from truly enjoying a delicious meal. And when other people are with me, it’s just plain rude.

  8. Don’t bring work to lunch
    Laptops, work files, and meeting notes should also remain at the office. Don’t work, eat!

  9. Eat away from your desk
    To fully separate work from lunch, eat away from your desk. You’ll avoid the temptation to check email, take phone calls, or browse gossip sites. Plus, it keeps your desk clean and free of crumbs.

  10. Don’t overeat
    You must enjoy the pleasure of eating, but be careful about overstuffing yourself. If you get too full at lunch, you’ll enter a food coma when you return to work. So instead of being alert and more efficient, you’ll just be drowsy and unproductive.

  11. Eat slower
    It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register when you’re full. So to avoid overeating, eat slowly for 20 minutes before deciding if you’re still hungry. This helps you avoid unpleasant food comas. And according to scientists in fancy lab coats, it also helps you lose weight.

  12. Take the full lunch break
    Done eating before your lunch hour is up? Don’t rush back to the office. Take the rest of your break to take a walk, read a book, or twirl under the sun. Do anything, except work.

  13. Pack your lunch
    To make more time available for relaxation during your lunch hour, pack unch ahead of time. You’ll avoid the hassle of dealing with restaurants, and it’ll save you money.

  14. Get a frequent diner card
    If you visit the same restaurant often, ask for a frequent diner’s card. Besides saving you a little bit of money, you’ll get treated better as a regular customer.

  15. Make lunch dates
    Make your lunch more enjoyable and social by going with friends. Just try not to talk about work.

How do you make the most of your lunch? Are you a munch-and-go person, or do you relish every bite? Share your tips and experiences in the comments

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8 Comments

  • Sarah S.

    gravatarJun 26, 2007
    5:46 pm

    Ah! I’d never used yelp before — nice!! I’d also recommend http://reviewsby.us/ for plate-by-plate reviews.

  • jos

    gravatarJun 27, 2007
    7:46 am

    good tips… im going to have to try to use some of these… only thing is that in my area 1-2 is prime lunch lines in my area.. i usually bring my own lunch so it doesnt matter anyways

  • Pierre Lourens

    gravatarJun 27, 2007
    11:49 am

    I work downtown, so there are plenty of places to eat lunch. I either pack or go somewhere cheap. I always eat at the public park, and I bring along a book or my iPod. I normally finish eating with about 30-40 minutes left, and the left over time is recharge time. The time for me to relax.

  • Katie Bonn

    gravatarJul 8, 2007
    1:11 pm

    Thanks for the kudos, Sarah S. My husband and I started http://reviewsby.us over a year ago and we’re excited that’s it has started to reach maturity!

    reviewsby.us definitely helps with #5 above, which is part of the reason we started the site. I always check to see what meal I ate at a particular restaurant before I go there again to avoid wasting money, but also precious stomach space and my lunchtime on crappy food!

    I also completely agree with #1. Put your lunch on your calendar and don’t let anyone creep into your schedule during that time! Treat it as one of your most important meetings of the day. Without it, your other meetings definitely won’t go as well. Food feeds your brain!

  • raj

    gravatarJul 10, 2007
    1:46 pm

    good advice, except #2. Too many people live life eating meals “when they’re supposed to”. Eat when you’re hungry. I found the day not so monotonous once I started doing that, years ago. You can still schedule this variation, though it’s a bit harder.

  • liz

    gravatarSep 20, 2007
    10:30 pm

    i guess legally i am allowed a lunch hour (or hal fhour from work) but… working for a SMALL company, if i actally left the office for more than a couple minutes every single day, i would be fired faster than you can say “we’ll do lunch”

  • DB

    gravatarSep 21, 2007
    6:22 pm

    These are great ideas! I’ve linked to your post in my blog on MicroVacations, http://www.microvacationsblog.com.

  • jamie

    gravatarFeb 6, 2009
    8:59 am

    I think that all schools should have at lest 1 hour of lunch because some kids don’t have time to eat lunch & have to throw it away.