Munch ado about nothing
When things go wrong I don’t mind being told off. I don’t like it of course – few people do – but when something I’m working on goes wrong because of me then being told off is one of the things that invariably can happen.
Being told off by your parents and your wife however is rather less comfortable. Last weekend I had this unfortunate feeling during a quick visit to the parents for a cup of tea and a natter. After politely asking how work was going and hearing the positive reply, my wife decided the time was right to stir things up and get me into trouble. Did she tell them that I wasn’t performing in my role adequately, that I had messed up on a major project or that I was working all day everyday and through most nights? Well, no, as none of those are true, but she told them something that ensured I’d be subjected to 45 minutes which I never want to repeat; she told them that I sometimes skip lunch.
Okay, sometimes actually means at least two or three days a week or perhaps more, but the details matter not; I was in the dog house. What followed was a detailed explanation of all the problems skipping a sandwich can cause, which ranged from lower concentration levels and decreased productivity right through to death. The thing is, having looked around the office, I don’t think I’m alone in this.
Recently we blogged about the challenges facing those trying to balance home and family lives, and the lunch skipping debate fits firmly into this category. A straw poll indicated that those who felt they were ‘high achievers’ or were working their way up the ladder were massively less likely to regularly take time for a lunch break, instead staying glued to their desks and at most grabbing a quick sandwich or plastic tub of cold pasta.
Despite not really meaning to, this puts a subconscious pressure on others attempting to match their efforts to match their style, warts and all. If investing lunch breaks on more work is what it takes to get ahead, then surely this is a good thing? What difference will walking away from the desk for fifteen minutes to an hour actually make to your health? And if it doesn’t make that much difference, surely spending it at the desk should mean you are able to finish up a bit earlier and make your way home at a reasonable hour?
The simple answer of course – and the one my head, if not my stomach, realises – is that taking time for lunch is actually a key and vital part of a healthy life. In part it’s about getting some calories into you which will then fuel you to work at your best, but it’s also about getting away from the desk and freeing up your mind from the struggles it is facing for just a short while.
The first of these reasons is pretty important in and of itself. The human body requires a certain amount of calories every day in order to operate at normal capacity, and without this your performance will drop off significantly. If you’ve ever gone for a day or more without eating then you’ll soon appreciate that there is no way you can perform and work through complex problems to a level which does you justice if you don’t have the raw ingredients to do so.
The second, however, that of freeing the mind up to work on problems is equally important and not to be overlooked. Many are the times when staring at a screen or flicking aimlessly between windows is getting me nowhere; a break up and away from it can give me the change that I need to stop thinking with my head and start letting intuition work its magic. Even better are the lunches I am able to share with colleagues, where through either a little discussion of the problem or even by entirely ignoring it for half an hour I am actually able to work out options and solutions that would never have occured to me otherwise.
Local government is full of people who are trying to achieve and show themselves to be hardworking. Those who try to achieve will happily work through their lunch. Those who actually achieve will keep a personal balance and make sure they take that short break each and every day.
I plan to be in the latter group from now on.
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