When you run your own business, it can be tempting to work right through your lunch break — but that might actually be bad advice for entrepreneurs. Before you spend your next lunch hour responding to work emails, taking client meetings or staying chained to your desk, consider whether squeezing out a few extra drops of productivity is truly the best use of your time.
Need inspiration for your next midday break? There are certain habits that successful people practice every day.
Riley Adams: Completes 1-Hour Tasks
Riley Adams, the founder of the Young and the Invested blog, sets goals that he can accomplish in one-hour increments. Then, he dedicates his lunch break to achieving these goals.
“These things include doing blog outreach, creating new social media sharing content for later that day or week, writing content for my own site and optimizing it for search engines, or even basic site maintenance,” he said. “I’ve found that knowing you have a finite amount of time available to complete a discrete task makes you focus your efforts, and optimize the amount of time and effort you put into the task at hand.”
Learn more about time-management hacks successful people do daily.
Shawn Breyer: Learns New Skills
Shawn Breyer, owner of the Georgia-based Breyer Home Buyers, uses his lunch break to take an online course or read an informative book or article.
“I use my lunchtime as study time,” he said. “I’ll focus on developing a skill that I need for an upcoming project or goal that I’m trying to accomplish. This allows me to plan ahead, adapt and grow as my business grows.”
Gene Caballero: Plays Piano
Gene Caballero, the co-founder of on-demand lawn care service GreenPal, plays the piano during his lunch break.
“Playing any instrument has been scientifically proven to engage practically every area of the brain at once, especially the visual, auditory and motor cortices, so it gets my mental capacity going again and helps me through my afternoon,” he said. “It’s like a mental full-body workout. It gives me the mental jump-start I need to finish my day and gets my creative juices flowing again.”
Justin Comparetto: Checks in With His Employees
Justin Comparetto, president and co-founder of the Italian food wholesaler Just Ryt Foods, has found that talking to his employees is the best use of his lunch break.
“I rarely take a lunch break for myself, as I’m always looking for ways to capitalize on the time,” he said. “So with that in mind, I typically use my lunch hour to visit with all of my employees to catch up on their personal lives, along with checking in on how operations are going. This has really been helpful because it allows us to tackle any issues head-on, and my team feels like they can come to me for mentorship.”
Check out these helpful tips to create meaningful relationships at work.
Brian Davis: Meditates
Brian Davis, co-founder of the online landlord resource SparkRental, crams a lot of activities into his lunch break — but that doesn’t mean he skips eating.
“Every day during my lunch hour I work out, shower and meditate for 10 minutes,” he said. “Because my workday revolves around sitting at a computer, working out midday is the only way I can stand to sit still for so long. I eat lunch at my desk upon returning to work.”
Dan DeBaun: Exercises
Dan DeBaun, founder and CEO of Big Berkey Water Filters, always does something active during his lunch hour.
“I’ll typically do a 30-minute cardio session — spinning or running — followed by a quick shower,” he said. “This workout helps release any stress accumulated during the morning hours of the workday and allows me to come in refreshed for afternoon meetings, strategy sessions and conference calls. I am ultimately more productive when I maintain this regimen.”
Discover: 15 Ways to Feel More Energized at Work
Bill Gates: Eats a Cheeseburger
Microsoft founder Bill Gates is a creature of habit when it comes to his lunchtime food preference. Joe Cerrell, managing director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, told The Telegraph that Gates will eat cheeseburgers no matter who he’s meeting with.
“If you get the lunchtime slot with Bill, you’re eating burgers. Someone will always be sent to get bags of McDonald’s,” Cerrell said. “I don’t think [his wife] Melinda lets him have them at home.”
Theo Lee: Networks
Theo Lee, CEO and co-founder of KPOP Foods, a Korean packaged food brand, sets up lunch meetings that can help expand his network.
“Whether it’s a potential investor, business partner, consultant, broker — or even if the person has nothing to do with my industry — I try to meet as many different people over lunch as possible,” he said. “Building a network this way is incredibly beneficial, and while there may not be an immediate connection or opportunity, something could change down the road or the person may have a connection that is beneficial. It’s also a great way to help other entrepreneurs by offering advice or assistance.”
Elon Musk: Takes Meetings
According to an interview with Auto Bild, Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk schedules meetings during his lunch break, and will only dedicate five minutes to actually eating. He consumes most of his calories during dinner instead.
Read more about Musk’s essential tips for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Matthew Ross: Catches Up on Personal Calls
Matthew Ross, co-owner and COO of deal and review site RIZKNOWS, is disciplined about his personal phone usage during the workday, so he uses his lunch break to catch up on his calls and texts.
“I like to leave my phone face down while I’m at the office so that I’m more productive,” he said. “The 10- to 15-minute window midday is a perfect time to shoot off a text or give a family member a callback.”
Robin Salter: Reads About His Industry
In addition to being the chief marketing officer of the tech startup KWIPPED, Robin Salter runs two of his own companies. With so much on his plate, he likes to be productive during his lunch break.
“I call my lunch time — which is usually between 30 and 45 minutes — ‘lunch and learn,'” he said. “I keep a ‘learning’ tab in my bookmarks bar, where I save URLs of articles and videos that offer educational information related to the industries in which my startup is involved. During lunch, I pull up these articles and videos, and ingest food and information simultaneously. It’s a valuable and efficient way to spend lunch.”
John Sammon: Goes for a Mall Walk
John Sammon, CEO of Sixth City Marketing, proves that you don’t need access to a gym to get in some physical activity during your lunch break.
“I try to mall walk on my lunch hour,” he said. “In running a growing advertising agency, you’re sitting all day and the job, in general, can be stressful. I find it helpful to get away and walk about 20 to 40 minutes in the mall. In a strange way, it helps digest what has gone down in the morning, and what I need to focus on in the afternoon.”
Levi Sanchez: Listens to Podcasts
Levi Sanchez, founder and financial planner at Millennial Wealth, listens to podcasts while he takes his midday break.
“It could be business-related, industry-related or sports-related,” he said. “It’s a good way to take a break from the day while enjoying lunch.”
Jon Sterling: Runs Errands
Jon Sterling, the founder of the side hustle advice blog The Sterling Report, has found that his lunch hour is the optimal time to take care of personal errands.
“The middle of the day is the very best time for me to complete all my personal maintenance tasks,” he said. “The gym, the grocery store, the post office and other necessary places are busiest in the mornings before work and in the evenings after work. They are not as busy in the middle of the day, and I take advantage of that. The time savings are twofold. First, I avoid rush-hour traffic on the roads. Secondly, my time in these places is reduced because I can navigate quickly, and I don’t have to dodge many other people.”
Lorena Tomasini: Ditches Her Phone
Lorena Tomasini, owner of MALM Life and Health Insurance Agency, uses her lunch break to digitally detox.
“I make sure to put my phone on silent and away from me,” she said. “This helps me to disconnect and concentrate on eating [rather than] answering my phone or putting out fires.”
Oprah Winfrey: Treats Lunch as a Social Event
Media mogul Oprah Winfrey told Harper’s Bazaar that she typically eats lunch in the garden with her longtime partner Stedman Graham, but even on days when he’s not around, the former talk show host still makes the meal a social one.
“I will invite others over — all the people I’m interested in talking to or meeting,” she said. “I had Jennifer Lawrence up for lunch, Chrissy Metz, Princess Ameerah of Saudi Arabia.”
Now that you’re inspired to use your lunch break mindfully, click through to find out how to make the most of your mornings.
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About the Author
Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert.