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I don’t like to use the term “life hack.” It’s cliched and honestly, most life hacks aren’t very useful. Like cutting a hole in a toilet paper roll to use it as a makeshift speaker isn’t a “hack” that makes your life easier. It’s just MacGuyver-ing yourself out of a situation where you don’t have proper tools that you would normally need. That said, I think I’ve figured out a legitimate life hack.
I’ve seen the code of the Matrix and cheated the system. How? Well, if you’ve been waiting for the evenings or weekends for your trips to the grocery store, you’re doing it wrong.
Once I was like you other deal closers, eschewing my mandated lunch breaks in favor of doing some extra work. Why squander precious time eating when you could be productive and combine lunchtime with work time?
Yes, we desk eaters are a proud and glorious bunch, but something was still eating away at me. This is time I was given. Time that I have earned. And while I’d love to just eschew that lunch hour, work through it, and dip home early, I found myself kept to the end of the day by meetings and needing to do that one last task for tomorrow. I was, essentially, giving extra time to the company for little to no gain. And although I have no qualms about devoting extra time when needed, when you’re salaried you don’t have the luxury of that extra work getting you any benefit other than some praise from upstairs or doing quality work. So how could I combine my desire to be productive for myself with the extra leisure time I wasn’t using?
For a time, I considered the gym. After all, a lunch-time pump is a time-honored tradition to get the nerves out while still being productive. If your building has or is near a gym, like mine is, the lunch gym session can seem great. Unfortunately, with my prodigious sweats, a couple of midday changes can leave me looking like James McAvoy when he’s having a panic attack in Wanted for the whole afternoon. I knew that there was still some way to better use my lunch time. And then it clicked.
You see, within a two-block radius of my office, there are two grocery stores. While I couldn’t bring myself to waste my effort and the company’s time dicking around by just taking a break while I ate, I could instead use that time for my personal benefit. After all, that 30 minutes is rightfully mine. Who says I have to spend it eating and not picking up needed groceries? My friends, it has been revolutionary.
It’s been about a month since I’ve started this ritual, and the amount of time and energy it’s saved me is incredible. You know those tense moments you’ll have during the work day, where you’ve been staring at a problem and can’t figure it out? You’re stressed, wound up, tired, and just overall unproductive.
A trip to the grocery store is the perfect respite to unwind, but still be productive. There’s soft muzak, some nearby comfort food if you want a desk snack to bring back. If you’re missing anything, you can take care of those quick purchases during your break. Pop in your headphones, listen to a podcast, and mindlessly browse the shelves as those work worries and cares flitter away. By the time you reach the front of the checkout line, you’ll feel like you just went through a day at the spa.
Another benefit of this practice is that you will have to limit your purchases if you are shopping during your lunch hour. Not only do you likely not have a car to haul back all of your loot home (unless you want to take a long siesta to the store then home), there is likely limited space in the communal fridge/freezer, meaning you can’t load up on a pallet of frozen chicken nuggets from Costco.
In addition, this routine forces you to carefully consider what purchasing choices you make, in terms of how you will come off to the rest of the office. After all, the prospect of needing to walk your haul through the office, past your boss and the cute girl in marketing, will definitely make you reconsider if you want to be showing up with two packages of Oreos. And if you’re a bit wary because of certain embarrassing necessity purchases (toilet paper, medications, any feminine hygiene products) never fear. You can just hide those things at the bottom of a bag, or save them from a post-work trip.
Still, those minimal risks of embarrassment and judgment from co-workers are outweighed by the productivity and efficiency benefits of a lunch-time trip to the supermarket. After all, nothing will relax your mind and get you ready to take on an afternoon of work like tapping melons to see if they’re ripe or not. And if someone can tell me what sound a ripe melon is supposed to make when you tap it, that would be greatly appreciated because I’m basically just guessing. .