A Hack to Manage Your Energy: the #raddesklunch

One of the things that depresses me most is when people say that they're "never not working". From experience, I know that a workplace is toxic when people skip lunch, stay late, and work on weekends. This round the clock productivity is a sick capitalist badge of honour, a red flag of fuck no. 

Somehow, this mentality has spread to our creative endeavours. We fall into the trap of measuring our dedication by the number of hours we sit in front of a computer and we punish ourselves if the sentences don't flow or we don't hit a high word count. This kind of behaviour doesn't get results and makes the work seem like drudgery. Let's be real: there is no reason to suffer while writing. It's not like we're on our hands and knees scrubbing floors for ten hours a day. 

The key question I've been asking myself is: how can I put in the work and get the writing done without putting in extra inefficient hours? 

A few months ago one of my awesome colleagues at my day job mentioned the concept of managing energy rather than time:

"The core problem with working longer hours is that time is a finite resource. Energy is a different story. Defined in physics as the capacity to work, energy comes from four main wellsprings in human beings: the body, emotions, mind, and spirit. In each, energy can be systematically expanded and regularly renewed by establishing specific rituals—behaviors that are intentionally practiced and precisely scheduled, with the goal of making them unconscious and automatic as quickly as possible." 

This can be accomplished without spending money--it's about establishing a system that fosters good habits. 

I came across one way of renewing my energy during the work week: I pack a #raddesklunch. (Check out my Instagram, where I document some of my more successful homemade lunches.) The #raddesklunch is different from a Sad Desk Lunch, which I imagine is eaten very quickly, alone, and out of a plastic container.

My Tips for a Successful #raddesklunch

1. Use real cutlery: I keep a fork, spoon, and a pair of chopsticks at work.

2. Invest in good dinnerware for the office (I know, this requires spending money, but you'll be using it hundreds of time over the course of a year): I have a giant porcelain bowl from Muji that works for every meal.

3. Make lunch dates: Before I discovered that I had a number of food allergies, I went out to eat with colleagues nearly every single day. When I could no longer go out, I started a Slack channel, #raddesklunch, to gather people who had brought their lunches or were getting takeout.

4. Go for variety: Don't eat the same sandwich or leftover pasta every day. This Buzzfeed post about mason jar salads is an excellent place to start. I challenge myself to come up with variations on a simple salad with brown rice. (I'm also a fan of quantity. I need to eat a large amount of food midday or I get really hungry an hour later. Your food needs might be different so take a moment to figure out what your body really wants.)

5. Cook most of your lunches over the weekend and freeze them, so you don't have to do this every morning or night.

Here's one of my lunches broken down into three phases.

This is a simple salad with arame sea vegetable, carrots, cucumbers, and romaine lettuce with a lime juice, sea salt, and sesame oil dressing. I pack nuts in a separate container to keep them crunchy until lunchtime.

This is a simple salad with arame sea vegetable, carrots, cucumbers, and romaine lettuce with a lime juice, sea salt, and sesame oil dressing. I pack nuts in a separate container to keep them crunchy until lunchtime.

When the time comes, I tip the entire container over into my bowl. The dressing gets evenly distributed.

When the time comes, I tip the entire container over into my bowl. The dressing gets evenly distributed.

Then I top with pecans, round up colleagues so I'm not eating alone, and dig in.

Then I top with pecans, round up colleagues so I'm not eating alone, and dig in.

Now after lunch I have the energy to work hard and stay focussed until it's time to go home. On the weekend, I make sure the meal I have at midday comes at a time I need a break from another activity, like writing or cleaning or errands.