OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe all know that what you eat for lunch matters. So does what you do with your lunchtime. Whether you’re a stay-at-home dad or working full or part time in today’s workforce, what you do with your lunchtime matters. Just like professional athletes, we all need the energy from calories for our minds to function the best. We also need a little time to recharge, too. You don’t have to take this advice from me. Take it from Michael Kerr, an international business speaker, author and president of Humor at Work, and other experts.

Make a plan.
“Don’t squander your lunch break because it’s ‘free time,’” says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant. Time is a non-renewable resource, wherever you are, whatever the time of day. Try your best to plan it out and make the most of it. You should also plan your activities immediately after lunch, suggests Kerr. “Giving thought to how you prioritize and schedule events in the afternoon can maximize your productivity. For example, scheduling a meeting or conference call right after lunch may end up causing you stress over the lunch hour or you may end up squeezing the lunch break in order to get back in time and be ready for the meeting.”

Take a real break.
Breaking from work for 60 seconds to chow down your lunch at your desk doesn’t count. “In order to get a period of true respite, the time has to involve an actual break from work,” says Alexandra Levit, the author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success. Try not to check your e-mail, bring work with you, or talk about work during lunch.

Get up from your desk or work space.
“Staying at your desk is a big no-no in my book,” Kerr says. “There are more and more reports on the dangers of sitting too long, so even just getting up to walk to another room to eat is important, or better still, getting outside for some fresh air and a quick walk can do wonders for the body and spirit. “Even if you don’t sit at a desk, you should get away from your work space during lunch, as it will help you clear your mind.”

Don’t try to be a hero and starve yourself for the sake of being a hard worker or checking off another “to-do” item, Taylor says. “You’ll pay for it later when you can’t concentrate and throw your body off balance. If you’ve earned a headache or are lightheaded at 4 p.m., you haven’t ultimately gained anything.”

Do what you can’t do in the morning or evening.
Some errands, like going to the Post Office or the bank, must be handled during work hours. “Be strategic and use your lunch break to accomplish some of those personal errands that can’t be handled before or after work, or on the weekends,” Taylor says. But be careful that you don’t cram too many personal errands into your lunch break, Kerr warns. “You’d just end up swapping one stress for another kind of stress without getting the re-energizing benefits a good break can offer.”

Engage in activities that will help you re-energize.
Take a walk outside, visit the gym or meditate. Get out and do something that will make you feel better about yourself. “A quick dose of sunlight and fresh air is the perfect elixir for the midday blues,” says Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD, organizational psychologist and author of The YOU plan.

How about you? Are you guilty of routinely taking lunch at your desk? If so, I encourage you to get up and away from the office and take a real break.

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