Grabbing lunch with co-workers is a great way to forge deeper connections — if you aren’t chowing down with your head down in your phone, that is. Nothing says this is a waste of my time like bringing your device to the table. That’s exactly why you’ve committed to putting your phone away during meals, so you can be fully present and bolster your connections with others. That doesn’t mean following through is easy, though. If your workday routine feels too hectic to leave your devices behind at lunchtime, take a look at these two habits that could be holding you back. Plus, you’ll find some pointers on how to plan ahead so you can enjoy phone-free meals with your team.

Compiling a massive to-do list 

It’s a routine many of us know all too well: You sit down at your desk in the morning, check your email, and begin crafting a to-do list with no end in sight. Before you know it, lunchtime rolls around and you’ve hardly made a dent in your deliverables for the day. To make the most of your time (or so you think) you bring your phone, and your work-brain, to lunch with your coworkers. It actually could be the way you’re approaching your to-do list that leaves you swamped when you should be taking a break and connecting with your colleagues.  

At first, it can feel worthwhile to have a written account of the things you need to get done — and in many ways, it is. A 2018 study in Perspectives on Psychological Science shows that writing lists can help us remember things when we are stressed. However, writing down your tasks without a sense of prioritization or time can actually limit your productivity and leave you working through moments that you could be using to connect with your colleagues. Instead of aimlessly jotting things down, try writing down your priorities at the top of your list, and alternating between stimulating and draining tasks. Perhaps most importantly, try identifying low-priority tasks, or tasks that can be delegated, relentlessly prioritize them, or stop doing them! Once you have a better grasp on how and when you’ll get things done throughout the day, you’ll feel less pressed for time, and will leave your phone behind when grabbing lunch with your team.

Feeling uncomfortable with incompletions

When lunch rolls around, you might feel disheartened if you haven’t accomplished everything you wanted to get done in the first half of the day. That feeling might push you to take a working lunch, even though you committed to putting your phone away at meals. While you might initially feel frustrated, having an unfinished task or two could actually be a sign that you’re successfully prioritizing throughout your day. Maybe you were unable to schedule a meeting, but you completed an important report that’s due at the end of the day — in this case, you were able to get through your most pressing assignment and can schedule the meeting tomorrow, when you are re-energized and have a new set of priorities.

If you are uncomfortable with incompletions, it’s time to reframe your mindset. Arianna Huffington, the founder and CEO of Thrive Global, says if you complete absolutely everything you need to get done each day, that’s a sign that your job might not be sufficiently challenging. Have patience with yourself, and avoid negative self-talk when you don’t get something done. When you’re tempted to bring your phone along to lunch — or any meal — throughout the day, remember that incompletions are part of the process, and will ultimately help you grow. Leave your phone behind and take some time to connect with your colleagues over a meal. 

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  • Jessica Hicks

    Managing Editor at Thrive

    Jessica Hicks is a managing editor at Thrive. She graduated from Lehigh University with a degree in journalism, sociology, and anthropology, and is passionate about using storytelling to ignite positive change in the lives of others.