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Lunch: More Than Just...

Lunch: More Than Just a Time to Eat

There are never enough hours in the day—that’s why many women eat while they work, clicking on emails between bites of turkey sandwich or listening to a muted conference call while munching leftovers.

While that seems sensible, time-management expert Nancy Colter says eat-at-the-desk types need to rethink their strategies. “Your brain needs a rest, a divorce from work completely,” she says.

You don’t have to take a whole hour and you don’t even have to spend your break eating, she says. Exercise, shop, read a romance novel—just stop working for at least a few minutes. You will think more clearly in the afternoon.

Colter, who does training at corporations on “soft skills,” such as time management, leadership, and performance evaluation, used to be a typical workaholic. She changed her ways after meeting a CFO who walked around the building twice every day at 3 p.m. It helped him clear his head. She started taking breaks too and became more productive. She also has read research on the brain and multi-tasking, which confirms her hunch that people need to get away from work.

I asked a few women what they do for lunch. Some are taking the time they need, while others should cut themselves a better break, at least according to Colter.

* Frances Riley, account executive at an advertising agency, says she spends 50 percent of her lunch breaks running errands. “My goal is to accomplish as much as possible during the week, so that I free up my weekends and have time for my friends and family,” she says.

Colter’s take: “That is good if she is not going to 22 places,” Colter says. You have to limit your errands, so you don’t feel even more stressed when you return to your desk.

* Stephanie Libby, a senior supervisor at a PR firm, usually brings her lunch and eats at her desk. Because her husband is a full-time student, she wants to save money. She works as she eats, she says, so she can leave at a decent hour. She tries to at least take a walk around the block at some point in the day.

Colter’s take: “I guarantee she isn’t [taking the walks],” Colter says. “We all have good intentions.” She suggests that Libby take her brown bag lunch into the break room. That way, she will physically be getting away from her work.

* Jamie Hubbard, a marketing associate for a financial services company, usually goes out to eat with colleagues. She used to hit the gym, then eat at her desk. However, she missed “the social aspect of lunch with my co-workers.” Sometimes, she and friends combine a quick lunch with a pedicure or trip to Target.

Colter’s take: “Excellent. Socializing is part of working.”

What about you? Do you take a break? Why or why not?