Making the most of your lunch hour

Here’s a few tips about getting the most out of your lunch hour as possible. It’s not about rushing around but about giving yourself enough time to leisurely do what you have to do.

  • Leave your seat or desk a few minutes before your actual lunchtime starts, it takes a few minutes to get to the door/clocking off clock/swipe card machine. You time actually starts when you are out of the door!
  • Travel light with no coat. If you have to wear one, get it off as soon as you get back into the building. If you have have no bag or coat no one will know what time you got back.
  • Have a few excuses at the ready like the old chestnut ‘Northern Line’ ‘had to pop back home as the wife was locked out’ etc
  • Arrange to meet up with mates as it’s more fun doing a lunchtime with someone else and you have two people thinking of excuses if you are going back late.

General advice
Before we get fully into this, we thought it would be a good idea to get some rules we generally stick to as well as some tips to think about if you want to make the most of your hour.

Getting around
You might feel tempted to go mental and get as far away as you can before having to come back to your spreadsheets/tools. Resist this temptation as much as you can. From bitter experience, that’s never a relaxing lunchtime, you either end up allowing too much time to get back and feel cheated, or you’re huffing and puffing all the way back to the office, your back’s sweaty and people ask you if you’ve been jogging. Try and get wherever you’re going under your own steam, so you know how long it took you to get there and how long it will take you to get back by the same route.

Walking can get you a lot further than you think if you get a stride on. I’ve managed to get up to the first parade of shops in Essex Road and back to Farringdon, and have a mooch in a record shop in a lunch hour.

Failing that cycling’s great for lunchtimes. If you haven’t got your own bike, then the floppy haired blonde mayor bikes are great for getting around. Remember to take your own lock if you’re going away from the city.

Working in a marble-clad city office has its advantages. Namely, you normally have on-site showers. If I need to run some errands and don’t want to cycle, I usually go for a jog. This has meant I’ve been able to get up to Oxford Street in my lunch hour and sweated my way through the women’s lingerie department looking for a present for the wife, thus killing three birds with one stone; a bit of exercise, running some errands and getting out of the office. It only cost me 5 minutes of my lunch hour to shower, and a short ticking off from the shop assistant.

Good places for a lunch hour
If you’re just starting out on this amazing journey you might suffer, as I did, from a terrible blank mind when faced with a whole hour to yourself. Here are some starting points:

Libraries
There are loads of London libraries. You don’t have to live in the borough to join (so join a few!) and they’re a great in the winter as an excuse to get out of the office and feel like you’re doing something productive. I find the best thing is to get loads of books out in one go that I’ve always meant to read and feel worthy. Recent withdrawals have included V by Thomas Pynchon, Little Dorritt, Lateral Thinking, An introduction to Ethics and a book about cycling fitness. I augment these choices with graphic novels. When you get these books home, I find the best thing to do read the comics and let the worthy ones languish on your shelf for the full 4-6 weeks that you’re allowed them for before returning them and paying your fine. Most libraries now email you the day before the book is due back, saving all those fines or the “post them through the letterbox” ploy.

If you actually want to use the things you get out of the library, it’s good to remember that they also have DVDs, CDs and if you’re not tired of looking at a computer screen, you can also book internet time without the boss looking over your shoulder. This is a good ploy when looking for another job.

City of London libraries have a good DVD selection, the documentaries are free to get out for a week but the other films are quite expensive.

Islington libraries fare a little better. No DVDs are free but most are £1 for one week and more if they’re brand new. Prices are the same for box sets.

Westminster libraries – not bad with some good reference libaries throughout the borough. Popular with daytime sleepers.

Camden libraries – good selection. In the Holborn branch there are quite a few computers, but don’t try and book computer “D”… it’s under permanent loan to a big bloke who hawks mucas and looks menacing and tells you it’s his.

Parks
London’s obviously full of parks. There are also little pockets of green tucked away in churchyards and behind office blocks that can be nice for a sandwich and a doze. I generally only go in the summer months and sit and read a book or talk loudly on my phone by a sleeping tramp.
Parks we like:
Postmans Park
Smithfield Meat Market Butchers Park
Lincoln’s Inn Field
Embankment gardens

Walks
If you ever visit the library, try getting out a book on the area where you work and see if there is anything interesting worth seeing or having a look at. We’ve found quite a few bits that have prompted a lunchtime work, including the original clerk’s well that gave Clerkenwell it’s name, a disused prison in the basement of a pub, and the remains of the temple of mithras. Beats watching The Great British Bake Off on catch up anyway. If you’re really cheeky you can walk close behind an official walk and pretend you are not listening when the guide is scowling at you.

Galleries + museums
All the big ones are free. Get out of the rain. Get cultured. Or at least have fun trying to guess where the schools trip kids are from based only on their haircuts and lurid blazer and tie combinations.

P and W

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