I had a beautiful afternoon in Boston last Sunday. The sun was shining through a crisp breeze and the Red Sox won the American League Pennant the night before. Spirits were high, smiles were big, and I was looking forward to a leisurely lunch in the North End.
I found a place with a table next to the street. The front of the restaurant was one big open window. I was dining alone, but didn’t bring a magazine or a book. Instead, I had my camera, journal and an appetite for a long lunch.
Enjoying an Italian red and fresh bread with crushed garlic and olive oil as I perused the menu got me thinking about how rushed our lunch time usually is. I remember when I wasn’t my own boss eating lunch in the car or at my desk and never taking a full hour unless I was entertaining clients.
Why didn’t I take longer lunches?
- I wanted to get more done.
- I wanted people to know I was committed to working hard.
- I was too busy.
- I had hopes of leaving early.
- Employers expected me to work through lunch.
Study after study demonstrates that longer hours do not result in more productivity. This article shows that some of the most productive countries work fewer hours. Swedish sociologist, Roland Paulsen shows that longer hours result in more empty work and idle time at work. Think Facebook, YouTube and other wasted time.
It’s not always the boss that has us working more. We feel important when we are busy, or when we claim to be busy. Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think wrote this in a Wall Street Journal article, “We live in a competitive society, and so by lamenting our overwork and sleep deprivation — even if that requires workweek inflation and claiming our worst nights are typical — we show that we are dedicated to our jobs and our families. Being “busy” and “starved for time” is a way to show we matter. Put another way, it makes us feel important.”
Never again will I trade what I experienced at my longer lunch to feel important.
- warm sun
- cool breeze
- spicy red wine
- garlic infused oil
- people watching
- fresh green basil
- the smell of wood fired pizza
- homemade gnocchi with San Marzano tomatoes and burrata mozzarella
- lively conversation from my dining neighbors
- quiet reflection at my table for one
I ate slowly and was done eating long before the food was gone. I didn’t need to finish everything or rush through my meal. When I was finished, I wasn’t hurried out, but instead sat quietly, finished my wine and wrote about everything around me. After lunch, I walked for almost an hour.
How to enjoy a longer lunch
Try a longer lunch challenge. Talk to your employer about trying a two-week challenge. Everyone takes a 60-90 minute lunch for two weeks. Compare productivity, employee moral and other indicators that contribute to a good business. If you work for yourself, leave your phone, computer and other things that tether you to your work and commit to a long lunch and walk every day for two weeks.
Share the research. Anonymously drop this article or others on your employer’s desk or even better, tape it to the door of your workplace lunch room.
Prioritize. Vanderkam suggests changing our language. “Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.”
Enjoy several courses. Order a salad, entrée and dessert and ask your server to bring them out one at a time. If you are making your own lunch, make it fun with several small options.
Eat a lunch worth writing about. Savor your food by writing about your lunch. Bring a journal and write a story or pretend you are a food critic. Have fun.
Walk after lunch. Leave the dishes in the sink and take a walk after lunch. You can linger longer by taking a little stroll before rushing back to work.
I can’t help thinking about what we sacrifice to feel important, to feel like we matter. I don’t even think that’s what we really want. Most of us just want to be loved, but if we don’t feel that, we search for other ways to stand out.
To bring this full circle, if we were all a little less busy, perhaps we could be more loving and show people how much they mean to us.
This plea for longer lunches is really a plea for what we really want. More love. Less busy.