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Productivity for Parents: Use your lunch hour to clear your head, productivity expert Maura Nevel Thomas says.

There are better ways to use your lunch hour than working through it.

Productivity for parents doesn’t mean squeezing in some work anytime you have a spare moment.

I recently shared some ideas for a Fast Company article called “Six Ways Parents Can Make the Most of Their Lunch Hour,” although these tips apply to anyone, not just parents.

As writer Lisa Rabasca Roepe says in the introduction of the article, “it’s tempting to work through your lunch hour each day, hoping that you’ll get a few extra things done to allow you to leave the office on time, or maybe even a few minutes early.” But a bigger boost to productivity for parents is using the time to step away from work.

While other experts quoted in the article offered tips on how to “do more,” I believe that sometimes the best thing you can do for your work is not work! Here are my tips from the Fast Company article:

  1. Is your brain buzzing with all your competing priorities? Do a few minutes of stream-of-consciousness writing to clear your head. Then use what you’ve written to translate your thoughts into action items that you put on your to-do list. “Getting organized” for action is really worth the time it takes, if you use that time strategically.
  2. Take a mental break during your lunch hour and let your mind wander. When you’re busy with work and family demands, I know it’s hard to picture doing something like this that feels unproductive. But you’ll actually be more creative, resilient and resourceful in all areas of your life if you treat your brain to some restorative time. Expanding a little more on this idea, you can also give your brain a break by exercising. A heart-pumping fitness class will help rejuvenate you for the rest of the day, but so will a power walk or just a stroll through nature. Doing something that doesn’t require a lot of mental energy can give you a fresh perspective when you return to the office.
  3. Go out to lunch with your colleagues and enjoy each other’s company at least once a week.

One more thing: If you’re using your lunch hour for running errands, planning or any of the other possibilities listed in this article, don’t forget to eat! Some protein and low-glycemic carbs will help you to replenish depleted energy stores and help you make better decisions for the rest of the day.

Kudos to Fast Company for making clear that true productivity for parents requires breaks from work sometimes. Test out some of these ideas during your own lunch hour this week.