Do You Use All Twelve Seconds Of Your Lunch Break Effectively?

You peer blurrily at the stupid tiny clock in the corner of your computer screen, watching the last few seconds of your lunch “break” slip away. You continue charting frantically, trying to finish as much as you can before you get bombarded with the workload of your afternoon patients.

You rub your eyes, but the grittiness won’t go away. You know it’s because you have been staring at the screen too long, and that you shouldn’t chart through lunch, but what can you do? You don’t want to be charting at 9pm either, so working through lunch seems like the lesser evil.

You wolf down some food in 60 seconds flat with one hand as you click madly away with your mouse using the other hand, sighing as you are called to go see your first afternoon patient.

Sound frustratingly familiar? Desperate to find a better way? Do you wish you could actually feel rested after lunch and still get more done?

Enter the two-minute power-walk

Your body and mind require time to rest and recharge. Nurse practitioners usually have “little to no” opportunity to relax, even during our “long” break for lunch. However, honoring your need for rest results in increased productivity, creativity, problem-solving social engagement and decreased errors.

Take a two-minute walk outside the building as your first action the instant you are free of patient responsibilities. Your body and brain will thank you.

Walking briefly outside during lunch offers many benefits, such as:

More Creativity

Studies show up to a 60% increase in creativity after a hike, and a short walk outside offers a powerful creativity-booster in the middle of your workday. When you are mentally exhausted, you can’t think of as many creative solutions for your patients’ issues, so you taking a short walk can be the difference between “no solution” and “hey, I know what we can do” for your patients.

Less Errors

Longer work without adequate breaks leads to increased numbers and severity of errors in the clinic just as it does for nurses in the hospital. You simply don’t work at your best when your brain can’t rest. You can reset this timer at least to some degree by getting outside and moving around, even if it’s only for two minutes.

Better Problem Solving

Changing your environment results in clearer thinking and improved problem solving. Yes, you can get these benefits in just a couple of minutes. The key is to get your mind off of the “same old same old” train tracks and onto a fresh set of tracks where you may come up with different solutions to the problems you are trying to solve.

Less Pain

When you chart through lunch, you tend to hunch over your shoulders, scrunch your eyebrows together and stare at the screen even longer than usual because you’re trying to reach a certain goal.

This results in increased stiffness and pain in your neck, wrists, shoulders and back, as well as the “stale” mental feeling that we all know and hate to feel when we have been working too long.

Get up, get out, move around, and you will be less prone to injuries and more able to work effectively.

Increased Productivity

Short rest breaks such as a two-minute walk will increase your productivity, which is why I recommend the power walk as the first thing you do during your lunch time. If you don’t do it right away, there is always “just one more thing” that you absolutely have to do before you can take your walk, and suddenly you run out of time and you are seeing patients again.

After the break, you are more productive thanks to the increased creativity, clearer thinking and the movement inertia you gain through the walking. Despite the loss of charting time to the break, you will get more done, and more effectively.

Increased Social And Emotional Engagement

Many of us nurse practitioners stare at our screen throughout our lunch, ignoring those around us. Taking a walk opens up our energy to connecting with our coworkers in meaningful ways. Positive social and emotional engagement in our workplace leads to increased happiness, job satisfaction, and morale.

So get up and go for a walk the moment your lunch break starts. Even if you end up charting through the rest of your lunch, the walk will help you be more energized, creative and productive, and prevent mental and physical exhaustion.

Try incorporating this two-minute power walk into your daily routine for the next three days. How did you do? Did it help? Let me know in the comments below!