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I would say that more than half of the people at my office eat lunch at their desks while working. They might go grab some food and then come back and eat it at their desks. I am one of those people, too. At least, I was one of those people until I started leaving work for lunch. I have worked for this company for almost 5 years so far and just now started to feel the need to take a break in the middle of the day.

Why did I start leaving work for lunch?

The general answer is that it’s probably due to my most recent promotion in 2017 and all the additional responsibilities that came with it. I need a break in the middle of my day. But it’s now July of 2018, so why now? Well, it started after I took a two-week vacation to Greece, Turkey, and Italy. I came back to Indiana and was unmotivated to get back into my daily life. This wasn’t my first overseas vacation and not my first two-week vacation but something was different this time. After vacations, I usually feel recharged and ready to go back to normal. I’m usually more motivated after vacations. Not this time. I can’t say why exactly, but I think it’s because it was so beautiful in Greece, Turkey, and Italy and then I got to come home to good ol’ Indiana.

I guess that’s what they call it the post-travel blues. It took me two whole weeks to get out of the post-travel blues. Thankfully when I came back from vacation, it was the 4th of July week and only a four day work week. It was a nice way to come back to work!

During the second week back at work, I decided I needed to make a change that will bring me more motivation. This is when I started to leave work for lunch for about an hour.

Where did I go?

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If it wasn’t raining, I went to a nearby park. It was glorious. When the weather stops being so nice (or if it rains), I will start going home and occasionally will go to restaurants or cafes.

I had lunch in the same park for five work days in a row to see if there would be an improvement in my motivation while I was actually at work.

So what happened after I started leaving work for lunch?

I’m sure you want to know the short answer: I was more focused at work. I also wasn’t falling asleep at my desk after lunch, like I usually do. Since I knew I’d be taking an hour-long break in the middle of the day, I was more motivated to be productive before and after the break.

Now I’ll go through each day to see the progression. My mindset change didn’t happen immediately, but it didn’t take too long, either.

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Day 1 | Lunch at a park
I went to a Japanese Garden, which is only a five-minute drive from my work. There is a large wooden picnic table which is covered. This is nice because the area where I usually sit is shaded and protected from rain. On this first day, coming back to work was a little difficult. I had to leave the beautiful park and come back to work for four more hours. I’m sure I could have been more productive during the last half, but I wasn’t falling asleep at my desk!

Day 2 | Same park again
Repeat of the day before, but it was a little easier to be productive this time because I knew I needed to work so I could leave for a break soon.

Day 3, 4, 5 | Same park again
I couldn’t wait till lunchtime! Taking this mid-day break actually made the whole work day go by so much faster! Being productive at work was much easier. If I had something on my mind that usually would distract me at work, I could just wait until lunchtime to deal with it.

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The following week

For various reasons, I wasn’t able to leave the office for lunch two days in a row the following week. Can you guess what happened to my energy level? I was practically falling asleep at my desk after lunch, even if I had a cup of coffee! This didn’t happen when I left the office for lunch. Even though it was disappointing that I couldn’t take my out-of-office break, it did prove my point that I should leave work for lunch, whenever possible.

Can leaving work for lunch feel like a vacation?

This may seem like an odd question, but I came across an interesting article that argues that a vacation from work doesn’t have to be a long time away from work. Scott from Vacation Counts made his own definition of vacation. “Improved DefinitionTime spent away from work engaged in a chosen activity that results in feelings of happiness.” So if you leave work for lunch and do something else you enjoy, then it may feel like a mini-vacation. I can get on board with that!

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Do you leave work for lunch? What do you like to do during your break, aside from eating?

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