We get it, there are days that are so packed and hectic that you just can’t afford to eat a proper lunch. So to save time, you order in and eat at your desk instead. You’re not alone: a 2016 survey by Herbalife found that 29% of Singaporeans eat lunch at their desks four to five times a week.
Making a habit out of “desk lunches” is both unwise and illusory. You might think that skipping lunch will make you allow to have a more productive work day—and maybe even finish up earlier than everyone else—but research shows just the opposite.
Studies by the International Labour Organisation found that employees who skip lunch were more stressed out and less productive than those who don’t. Similarly, researchers at the University of California-Davis have also reported that those who skip lunch end up with weaker creative and cognitive capacities at the end of the day than those who didn’t.
Indeed, it’s not just how you use your lunch breaks that affects your daily productivity; how often and how long you take breaks in between focusing on your work is critical too. To that end, here are X best (science-backed_ ways to take proper breaks for optimal productivity.
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Eating a heavy lunch makes you feel like falling asleep just as soon as you settle back down to your desk after lunch; post-lunch lethargy is real, especially when it’s paired with the oppressive heat of tropical weather.
Foregoing lunch entirely, though, can lower your blood sugar levels, which might in turn shorten your attention span and slows down the rate at which your mind processes information. In other words, it leaves you more easily distracted and less able to think quickly.
The solution lies somewhere in between. Leave your desk and take a proper lunch break, but make sure that you:
You can even meal-prep your lunch in advance before the start of the week once you get used to these dietary and lifestyle changes.
Another reason why you feel lethargic after lunch so often is that it’s just how your body is built. Science tells us that most people experience a significant drop in energy levels at around 2PM.
Taking a 10-20 minute power nap, then is a great way of restoring your energy levels and giving your brain some down time to get back to its full operational capacity. Among other things, research has shown that power naps:
How productive you are during the day depends a lot on how good you are at being able to cut off distractions and fully concentrate on the task at hand. Still, there’s only a certain amount of hyper-focus that your brain can take before it starts to run on empty.
According to attention restoration theory, though, immersing yourself in nature is one of the best ways to improve your concentration. In hyper-focus mode, your mind is actively engaging in “directed attention”, which is a limited resource that needs to be recharged like any other device.
Being in nature, though, frees you from this need to direct your attention. Instead, it allows your mind to wander and become pre-occupied as and when different thoughts occur to you. This, in turn, is what replenishes your “directed attention” reserves, facilitating greater concentration when you get back to work.