Free the Lunch Break!


Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

Too busy to take a lunch break? Then you need to make some changes, because there’s mounting evidence that working through lunch at your desk is both counter-productive and bad for your physical and mental health. It’s also keeping you from your best networking opportunities.

Get Up, Stand Up, and Get Out

Working through lunch at your desk has become the norm at many offices. It’s reached the point where if one does not eat at one’s desk, one’s reputation as “committed” or “engaged” can suffer. It’s time to destroy that nonsensical point of view.

Sitting is bad for your body. The New York Times reported in April about several studies linking the physical act of sitting itself to a number of very bad health effects. Exercise after work does not effectively mitigate the bad effects of all that sitting. Getting up and going to lunch, even if it’s just walking down a few flights of stairs to the cafeteria, is beneficial.

Breaks Are Key to Productivity

Sure, you’re busy. You feel like you just can’t get everything done and get home before midnight. But a break at mid-day makes you more productive in the afternoon. I can personally attest that getting away from my desk at lunch makes me much sharper and productive right up to quitting time, especially since most of my work is reading, drafting, and redlining contracts, which is often both challenging and dull. Just 20 minutes chatting with friends over lunch plus a walk around the block is enormously helpful.

Break Bread for Fun and Profit

Lunch is the best time to network. People are available and you’re not taking them away from family or leisure time. Eating is about the best thing you can do while chatting someone up, and it’s a lot easier to have casual but useful conversations away from the office.

If you absolutely must, come in a half-hour early and stay a half-hour late. Work an hour at home after the kids go to bed. Get better organized at work to be more efficient. Delegate. Prioritize. But take a lunch break!



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  • Jeanette Otis

    I agree with getting out to lunch, and I wish my boss would do so more often. However, to address the “sitting is bad for you” from the NYT, they obviously didn’t consider sitting on a balance ball chair. My boss had provided me with a very nice executive chair, but I was sore all the time and a bit ADHD. Since I now sit on an inflated black sphere, my body makes continual core adjustments throughout the day. So not only am I working, but I’m also working out – which is good for the body and the mind. (Your abs may be sore the first week or so after using.)

  • Physiologically, our bodies want to “rest and digest” after we eat. While food in the stomach can give your body the energy to keep you moving through the afternoon, it can also slow you down if you don’t get your body working toward processing that food. So, if you eat without any physical activity the food will just sit in your stomach. Even if you eat at your desk and then take a walk around the block your body will physically be more productive – putting the energy into your system, which will make you more mentally productive. The lunch break is essential for your mental health in many ways, including getting the body powered up so it can energize your mind for the afternoon.

  • All of this is excellent advice, particularly using lunchtime to network with potential clients and referral sources—then you’re getting the physical and mental break you need while still being productive! Nothing beats face time with your prospects. Nothing by a million miles. When you look at how business is generated, it’s face time with the people you want to do business with. For the majority of lawyers, that’s it.

    And we need that face time, that social interaction. We live in a more and more isolated environment, and it’s not healthy. The ceremony of breaking bread with someone whom you want as an ally is as old as mankind—it is a powerful, fundamental force in our lives.

    Meanwhile, you hear news, you develop new ideas, you get your creative juices flowing. So absolutely take lunch! -ae