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How To Change Your Life During Your Lunch Break

How To Change Your Life During Your Lunch Break

For many of us, the average weekday goes something like this: fight traffic or mass transit delays to get into work, make small-talk with co-workers, settle in for a few hours of productivity, grab a quick lunch out of the office (or eat solo at your desk while watching YouTube), work some more, leave work, and repeat until you retire or die at your desk.

Okay, maybe that’s a little grim. Hopefully, you’re actually really kicking butt and taking names in your career, while endearing yourself to your co-workers with hilarious anecdotes about your weekend adventures. However, if you’re not taking full advantage of your midday hour-long break, you’re missing out.

Lunchtime is truly your best time to make meaningful progress in any area of your life because it offers some flexibility in your daily routine. By the end of the day, people generally have important plans to spend time with friends or family, hit the gym, or binge-watch Netflix. While those are all important parts of life that help us maintain balance, there’s little room left for self-improvement.

Your lunch break is your opportunity to fit a little something extra into your life. Here are a few ways to take control of your life, one lunch hour at a time.

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1. Hone an interesting skill.

Have you always wanted to learn to code or speak Spanish? What if you spent 45 minutes, 5 days a week, working on that new skill? Imagine the progress you could make.

Even better, send out an email inviting co-workers to start a learning group together. Commit to a “brown bag” lunch where each of you brings your lunch and signs up for a course. There are free and paid online courses to teach almost every skill imaginable, and learning with others keeps you accountable.

If you get stuck, co-workers can be a great resource as guest experts. For instance, if you’re trying to learn code, invite the IT person (or programmer) over one day to help your group get over a hump. If you want to learn Spanish, invite a Spanish-speaking co-worker to chat for an hour and correct the group’s pronunciation errors. This will allow you to socialize with co-workers and maybe even develop skills that can boost your career trajectory.

2. Reconnect with old friends.

For many of us, when we get busy or stressed out, the first thing to fall to the wayside are our relationships. We say to ourselves, “I can give them a call next week”, or “I’ll answer that email later.” However, more often than not, time keeps speeding by and it’s been too long since we’ve seen or talked with our non-work friends.

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Your lunch hour is the perfect time to catch up with people you care about, be it your college roommate or your mother who’s left you seven messages this week alone. Talking to people outside of the office will remind you that you’re more than an employee. Not to mention, it will ensure your relationships remain strong and you have the support you need during tough times.

Plus, it’s just fun to laugh about old times with friends. Laughter will always make your day better.

3. Develop a 30-minute exercise routine.

No matter what shape you are in, a little midday workout can really impact your day. The exercise can range from a brisk walk to a full strength-training routine (depending on the availability of a nearby gym). If there’s nothing close-by, ask your supervisor if you can use the conference room or another vacant space.

Terrific free resources, such as Fitness Blender videos, exist to help you fit in a great short workout with zero equipment. Just 30 minutes a day allows you to accomplish the entire 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity recommended each week (5×30=150). Plus, it still leaves you time to freshen up before heading back to work.

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4. Create something. Anything.

These days, there is so much to consume that we often forego the thrill of creating. Why cook when we can eat out? Why write when we can scroll through Buzzfeed or the New York Times? However, the act of crafting something can boost your ability to think outside the box and inject more positivity and originality into your life as a whole.

The act can be purposeful (following a specific pattern to knit a scarf), or meandering (doodling on a napkin). It can be ambitious (write the first few pages of a novel!), or smaller in scale (keep one of the increasingly popular adult coloring books in your desk drawer).

Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. No one expects you to recreate the Sistine Chapel at your desk. Doing something creative is just an exercise to help you relax and clear out any cobwebs that might be building in parts of your brain you’re not used to using.

5. Nap.

Never underestimate the power of a cat nap, especially if a particularly stressful week has left you sleep-deprived or overworked. A quick lunchtime snooze might be the best thing you can do with your time.

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Research shows that a 45 to 60 minute nap boosts brain power in areas like memory and learning ability. What’s more, the ideal time period to take a nap is between 1-3PM (a.k.a. lunchtime). You might be surprised how well this shut-eye prepares you for the rest of your day. While everyone else is pouring their third cup of coffee in the mid-afternoon, you’ll be rejuvenated and ready to go.

Depending on how easily you can fall asleep in strange places, it might take a while for you to be comfortable using your keyboard as a pillow. Follow these 7 steps to take a perfect nap every day. If your boss protests, explain that napping is proven to improve concentration, alertness, and productivity. It also eliminates afternoon lethargy and gets your whole day back on track. If they would still prefer you to not sleep in the office, you can always take a nap in your car.

Conclusion

Simple changes to your routine can do amazing things for your mind, body, and soul. Just remember, your actual job productivity should not suffer. After all, the purpose of these activities is to make you better, not hold you back. You might have to give up eating at your favorite diner and switch to bagged lunches to make everything fit in your hour, but the rewards are well worth it!

What are some easy, but life-changing activities you can do during your lunch hour? Share in the comments below!

Featured photo credit: pascalmwiemers via pixabay.com

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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