8 Ways to Stay Productive During Your Lunch Break and Coffee Break

Turn your work breaks into opportunities to get ahead.

To stay productive during your coffee break or lunch break:

  • Practice communicating.
  • Take time to network.
  • Enhance your professional value.
  • Work on your strategic career plan.
  • Use the time for running errands.
  • Meet new people and learn how to make friends at work.
  • Meet with your mentor.
  • Simply take a break.

“Science may never come up with a better office communication system than the coffee break,” goes a saying attributed to columnist Earl Wilson. Yet many workers struggle to take advantage of their coffee breaks and lunch breaks, wondering whether it’s important these days to press pause on their work. Many professionals feel they have so much to do that they skip their breaks altogether. A study conducted by Right Management in 2012 found that of 1,023 workers surveyed, 39% stay at their desks during their breaks and 28% simply skip their breaks altogether. But there are several good reasons to take a break. Read on to learn how to use your breaks productively to move you toward your goals.

Practice communicating.

A coffee break is a great way to catch up with your co-workers by discussing what you did over the weekend, your upcoming vacation plans and any important office news. These conversations help to enhance camaraderie with your team. This makes for an easy opportunity to work on your communication skills. Use your break time to conduct an active listening exercise. Listen to what a particular co-worker is saying, limit yourself to reflecting on what she says, and then paraphrase. Do not ask questions or give advice. When your break is over, rate yourself as to how well you were able to listen!

Take time to network.

Your coffee break or lunch break is a great time to maintain or expand your professional network. Since you are in your professional environment, you are already in the right frame of mind. Did you read an interesting article that someone in your network would appreciate? Write a short message letting him know you were thinking about him and include a point that you enjoyed from the article. You also have the option of posting the article for your entire network to read on LinkedIn. You may use your break to research others in your industry with whom you may want to connect.

Enhance your professional value.

During your lunch break, consider taking a class to enhance your skills or learn something completely new relevant to your industry. Sites like Lynda.com offer a great variety of topics to help you learn a new skill, making you more valuable to your organization. You can also check with your university alumni program about its career webinar schedule. Many of them are hosted during the lunch hour, making it convenient for professionals to participate. Or simply use your time to do some industry-related reading in order to keep up with the latest trends.

Work on your strategic career plan.

A career plan consists of action steps propelling you toward your long-term goals. Start with where you would like to be in 10 years and work backward, identifying smaller goals to help you reach your big objective. If you don’t currently have a career plan, your lunch break is a great time to start on it! What are your current goals? What are you doing to achieve them? Keep a spreadsheet with your short-term and long-term goals, categorized by theme, to figure out whether you need to enhance your experience this year or develop a certain strength to take on more responsibility. Use your break to jot down your thoughts and measure your progress. Career coaches may offer useful career-plan templates.

Use the time for running errands.

While it may seem counterproductive, focusing on something totally different than your work tasks is a great way to boost your overall productivity. If you have an errand you need to run close to your office, do it on your lunch break. This will allow you to come back to work feeling refreshed. You’ll have a sense of accomplishment and give your brain a break from any projects that have been stumping you, giving you the opportunity to come back to them with a fresh perspective. This also saves you time on your commute home, allowing for more relaxation time at home.

Meet new people and learn how to make friends at work.

How well do you know your peers? While you surely know your teammates well, you may consider getting to know other co-workers who work in different departments. To do this, take a walk around your building, specifically around where the person who interests you works or takes a break. Take the initiative on your coffee break to approach her and introduce yourself. Compliment her on a positive aspect of her department and leave the door open for her to continue the conversation. Keep things casual and don’t force conversation if the other person doesn’t want to talk.

Meet with your mentor.

Do you have a mentor in your organization? Even if your mentor is not in your company, you both may find that taking some time to meet or talk on the phone during your lunch break is a convenient way to check in without cutting into your personal time in the evenings or on the weekends. Write your mentor and ask if there would be any time during a lunch break this month that would be convenient to meet or talk on the phone. Offer some days and times that will work for your schedule as well as the topic or goal you would like to discuss.

Simply take a break.

Sometimes we just need to give ourselves a true break. Take a few minutes to just relax your mind on your coffee break. Go outside and get some fresh air, take a few deep breaths, drink your coffee or listen to some music that calms you and helps you feel positive. These true breaks help to prevent work burnout and leave us feeling refreshed and ready to take on the next work task.  his article originally published at https://money.usnews.com/money/careers/slideshows/ways-to-stay-productive-during-your-lunch-break-and-coffee-break?slide=11 by Hallie Crawford, 4/18/2019