How Lunch Saved Me

As I built CCAW, I wore multiple hats, especially in the early days. It’s part of the entrepreneurial journey and I was fine with it until we reached $5 million or so in annual revenue. As the team and the company’s complexity grew, I began to struggle. It was common to have back-to-back meetings, approve large payments, take calls, and talk to a steady stream of team members who wanted my feedback on an idea. Every day. I was mentally exhausted at the end of most days.

One day when I took time to reflect, I realized what the problem was. Not wearing multiple hats—I was used to that and often enjoyed the variety. The issue was constantly switching between mental modes. One moment I needed to think strategically and high-level. The next moment, tactically about a specific problem. And then back to strategic thinking. I’d often be working on something requiring deep concentrated thought and abruptly stop because someone had a question or I needed to run to a meeting.

Over time, I concluded that I couldn’t keep working that way. I was functioning, but it was wearing on me. I felt like the quality of my work had declined. I decided to address the issue and make a change.

I tried a few approaches that didn’t help much. Eventually I hit on something simple that worked. I realized that lunch was the most consistent part of my day. It also served as a natural mental break and change of scene. So, I segmented my days: before lunch and after lunch.

I could focus better in the morning, so I decided to work on things requiring concentration (strategic planning, presentations, new initiatives, etc.) before lunch. I’d find a quiet space in our co-working building most mornings and work until lunch. Just before lunch I’d join the rest of the team in the office. After lunch I worked in the office on tactical tasks, held meetings, and did everything else.

The difference was like night and day. My days were productive and proactive instead of chaotic and reactive. I was able to make consistent progress on all fronts. Because I wasn’t constantly shifting mentally all day long, I no longer felt mentally exhausted. I was back to enjoying the variety in my work.

I doubt if this approach will work for everyone, but it worked for me. If you’re juggling lots of things, consider: are you managing them proactively or reactively?