Career challenge: How to use your lunch break to boost productivity for the rest of the day

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When you arrive in the morning for your job, you’re likely ready to tackle your work with enthusiasm and an eye toward productivity. 

Like many, the first half of your work day probably goes by faster than the second half. 

After a busy morning — and when your lunch break arrives — your welcome respite is a chance to eat lunch, recharge and even step outside your workplace to take a break or handle some personal errands. 

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Experts say there are strategies that all of can incorporate into our lunch breaks to springboard our energy, productivity and mental clarity for the second half of the work day.

How do you handle your lunch break? Experts offer tips for making the most of it — and boosting your productivity for the rest of the work day.  (iStock / iStock)

While not everyone, of course, has a full hour for lunch at their jobs, you can still try to incorporate this smart advice in a more limited fashion.

Here’s how to take your lunch break to a higher level.

Be sure to take a lunch break

You may think that working through lunch could save time — but there are drawbacks to consider if you don’t take that well-needed break.

Most employees agree that taking a lunch break away from their desks improves their job performance. 

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"A lunch break provides increased productivity and mental clarity, and gives your brain the break it needs to prevent mental burnout," said Janine Allo, Ed.D.

Allo is chief people and culture officer at ezCater.com, a provider of corporate food solutions with offices in Boston, Denver and Vancouver, Canada.

A woman works on her computer at her home office. It’s crucial for productivity for workers to make sure they take time for lunch.  (iStock / iStock)

Lunch is the meal that powers you through the majority of the work day, she said — so it's crucial for your productivity not to skip it. 

"While you’re benefiting physically from taking a break, it's important for your mental health and focus, too. You and your quality of work will benefit," added Allo.

Have a lunch game plan

The best way to fuel your mind and body is to eat a healthy lunch. 

Also, try to have a plan in place before your lunch break arrives. 

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"People often go into the work day completely unprepared for lunch, and if they don't have a plan in place for feeding themselves but have a schedule full of back-to-back meetings, they often resort to snacking rather than eating a meal, or skip lunch entirely," said Allo. 

A worker is shown with his Shake Shack order during lunchtime. Have a plan — whatever it may be — for your lunch break, experts advise. (Shake Shack)

Not having a lunch plan can leave you hungry and, in turn, less focused and productive for the remainder of the day, she said.

Whether your game plan is heating up leftovers while working from home, packing a lunch the night before if you’re going to the office, or making plans to eat out with colleagues, Allo stressed that any plan is a good plan. 

Venture out to an open space

Break away from your desk — and even better, leave the office for part of your break. 

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The great outdoors can boost your mood and mindset, according to research.

"Go for a walk in nature," suggested Amy Morin, a psychotherapist in the Florida Keys and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. 

A woman jogs outside. “Moving around a little can boost your energy,” career experts suggest — “and being in nature rejuvenates your brain.” (iStock / iStock)

"Moving around a little can boost your energy and being in nature rejuvenates your brain."

If you can walk in a park where there's grass and trees, Morin said you'll get more benefits than if you just walk around a busy city block. 

The great outdoors can boost your mood and your mindset. 

"Nature can help your brain pay better attention for the rest of the day," she said.

Do some relaxation exercises 

Use some of your lunch hour to relax. 

"Engage in 15 minutes of progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, and meditation — and you'll be better equipped to concentrate after your lunch break," said Morin. 

Your brain gets a “much-needed break” if you do some relaxation exercises at the appropriate time during your work day. (iStock / iStock)

"Relaxation exercises give your brain a much-needed break from all the activity."

She added, "That break can help you stay on task and be more productive once you start working again."

Is it OK to spend your lunch hour alone rather than socialize with others? 

While one person might feel energized from socializing with colleagues, someone else might find it's best to get a little alone time during lunch to build up energy reserves for the afternoon, said Morin.

Take cues from how you feel each day. 

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"It's important to know what sort of activities can charge your batteries best and on which days," said Morin. 

For example, when you're feeling anxious — a walk by yourself might help. 

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Or, on a day when you're feeling down, you might find that socializing boosts your mood and your energy best. 

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