Time Tips

Shooting the Wrong Stuff


It’s easy to take pictures of pretty food. And if you’re making pretty lunch food from scratch, then good on you. Be proud!

But the reason that food matters is that it’s the fuel to help you be the You you’re meant to be. What quiet dream are you pursuing? How does it feel to finally say, “I am a writer” or “I am an app-builder” after being curious and wanting to give it a go for so many years?

Those are tougher pictures to take. How will yours look?

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Your Mess Doesn't Scare Valerie Cady

No. Not even yours.

What’s scares Valerie are the unhelpful stories people tell themselves about being an unorganized person. They almost always begin with “I can’t,” and those are very un-Box Lunch Lifestyle words.

Valerie thinks we CAN clear the clutter that may be holding us back, and encourages taking an honest look at the space on our desks or workstations. What surrounds us so much of the day has a huge impact on our mental state. Maybe “mess” works for you, but if it doesn’t, Valerie thinks we can trade any helpless or guilty feelings about our messy spaces for undistracted brains ready to pursue our quiet dreams.

Here are just a few tips from Valeries that you can do in a jiffy:

  • look at what lurks around your workspace (40+ Post-it notes? 10 years worth of filth?) and, if you want, change it using 3-D Vision: Declutter, Dust and Decorate

  • purge your briefcase by dumping everything out and putting back only the things that belong there

  • get rid of three unused items from your desk drawer (You will NOT miss them.)

  • wrangle any Post-its® with passwords on them into her (FREE) Password Log, or commit to a password manager service

  • book a time to start rewriting your “I’m not an organized person” story, or register for a class if you’re nearby

Valerie is a friend, but I don’t promote her work because there’s something in it for me money-wise. (There isn’t.) What’s important to me is that you tell yourself a new story—if you need one—about being an organized person if that’s what stands between you and your quiet dreams. It’s prep work, just like putting new strings on the ukulele before you can start playing again, or cutting up carrot sticks. You can build a space around you that fosters feeling more like the person you want to be.

So don’t let clutter dampen your motivation, and don’t let it become a “I’ll just file this before I do [insert quiet-dream pursuit here]” distraction, either. You don’t have to be Marie Kondo to win. What makes Valerie so good at what she does is reminding us that, when you get to the heart of it, decluttering is about making the things you can simple, personal, and meaningful. Like a better lunch. It’s part of the self-kindness that helps keep us moving forward to bigger—and better—things.

Ellis Paul: Eat Your Lunch. Write Your Song.

When you were a youngster, did you think that a musician’s life was about as glamorous as it gets? Well, the reality of being a musician is harder than you probably imagined back then, but one of the coolest parts can be yours—even if you feel stuck at an un-glamorous desk today.

If you don’t know Ellis Paul, you’re in for a treat. Bob Dylan and James Taylor have nothing on him as a songwriter, and he shares his amazing gift by teaching musicians at all ability levels. If you’ve “always wanted to write a song,” prepare to be inspired.

Photo credit: Ali Hasbach

Photo credit: Ali Hasbach


Here are some ways EP can help get your creative musical juices flowing in 15 minutes:

Forget what your 4th grade music teacher said. You’ll never know if you can write a song unless you try. Today’s not just THE day: it’s YOUR day.

Thank you for this photo, Ali Hasbach.

Get the Ball Rolling


At some point, most of us have said something like, “I know I should eat better” or “I wish I’d stayed in touch with my cousin” or “I really want to get outside more.” But we haven’t done it...yet.

The choices you make at lunch today can mean actually changing things for the better.

Don’t overthink whatever it is you want to do, and don’t churn up a hundred reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t start today. Make some food, enjoy it, and give that thing you’ve been wanting to do a 15-minute chance. Then let yourself feel a little braggish. (I know that’s not a word, but it should be.) Taking one small step away from boredom or restlessness and towards satisfaction is a pretty big win.

C’mon. It’s just one day. It’s just lunch. You can’t fail.

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Did you know there's an app?


There is!

Last week I mentioned Austin Kleon’s 15 minutes of bliss, which I bet most of us would agree is a great idea. But you have to make it happen, and it’s very, very easy to let that 15 minutes become 14, then 12...you get the picture.

If you want a fun way to defend 15 minutes just for you and 15 minutes to eat your lunch, the Box Lunch Lifestyle web-based app is available for exactly $0. A friendly little fighter keeps track of your time, saves your notes, and cheers you on. You can even earn belts as your daily wins start piling up.

Try it and please don’t be shy with your feedback. I’d love to hear what you think.

Also, it costs exactly $0 to share this app with a friend.


Scott Perry: A Stoic's Lunch

I thought I knew what being a Stoic meant, but that changed when I met Scott Perry. (It’s much more than a way to describe your father-in-law’s demeanor, it turns out.) Great writers and thinkers throughout history have shown us how this philosophy can guide how we act.

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Philosophical? Yes. But my very basic understanding of Stoicism makes it about as un-abstract and practical as it gets.  As a coach and a Stoicism authority, Scott often reminds me that I’m in charge of only two things: 1) how I choose to think about my situation and 2) what step I’ll take next. That is:

What story am I telling myself? How will I act as a result?

Scott brilliantly asks the questions that reveal hidden stories and inspire people to create—to bring our gifts out of our heads and into the world. Do what you’re meant to do, and do it on purpose. Actually, you wouldn’t be reading this right now if Scott hadn’t nudged me to get out there and make Box Lunch Lifestyle a conversation with the world and not just an idea for someday. If I want to redefine lunch culture, I have to make it real, right? Now I am.

Scott would love to see what YOU could do ON PURPOSE in just 15 minutes, like:

  • read Scott’s blog post on agency

  • download his (FREE) Creative on Purpose Handbook: a guide to help you see with fresh eyes the point at which who you are, what you do, and where you belong intersect

  • think about the essential questions of Stoicism: What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be happy? How can I be more of both?

  • email Scott and ask to hear The Archer story (He’ll know I put you up to this.)

Scott’s Stoic lunch is 100% Box Lunch Lifestyle: it starts with believing you can flourish no matter your circumstances. Choose, and do. If you want to be a person who gets things done—more than only things that pay the bills—it’s possible. Believe, and know that people like Scott will cheer you on.

Planning for Chaos: A Tip from James Clear

Atomic Habits   is a great, super-practical book. Do I get $ if you read it? No. What matters to me is that it could change how you see what’s possible for you.

Atomic Habits is a great, super-practical book. Do I get $ if you read it? No. What matters to me is that it could change how you see what’s possible for you.

Finish something today, even if the scope is smaller than you anticipated.
— James Clear

In this post, JC talks about a great weapon for fighting typical-day-chaos: reduce the scope, but stick to your schedule.

When it comes to workday lunches, you can often stick to your schedule even when the details don’t come together perfectly. Where is your day’s small win? Can you reschedule your break? If you don’t have homemade food, can you still slow down and just eat for 15 minutes? Can you spend 5 minutes on your aspiration instead of 15?

On chaotic days, don’t teach yourself that you can’t. Show yourself how you CAN. (I know you can do it.)

Psst. If you haven’t already, make a schedule to stick with! Put those 30-minute promises-to-yourself on the calendar at least three days in advance.

Setting the Pace

In boxing, you have a better chance of winning by being the one who sets the pace of the fight. You're at a disadvantage by just reacting over and over again to whatever gets thrown at you, or to the level of boxing intensity that’s comfortable for your opponent.

It helps to get into the ring thinking, "Here's how it's going to be."

You decide how quickly—or in what direction—you want to move. You decide when your first punch gets thrown. Even when you feel overwhelmed, there’s almost always a chance to interrupt what’s not working for you and steer it in a direction that’s…better.

So what does that have to do with lunch?

You’re not completely at the mercy of a typical day, either. Start by being honest about what you know and don't know about each work day’s lunches. How many of them do you know will happen at a predictable time/place? How many lunches are wild cards? Those brawler lunches—who knows what they’ll throw at you. But you can plan for those, too, when you call it like you actually see it. You can still be the boss of lunch.

If you haven't already, be sure those one time/one place lunches are on your calendar ASAP. That’s one way to start setting the 30-minutes when+where lunch pace that works for you. You’re immediately on track to win.

Thank you,  Believers’ Boxing Gym , for preserving this gem. You can hear it in the  BLL app,  too.

Thank you, Believers’ Boxing Gym, for preserving this gem. You can hear it in the BLL app, too.


Gretchen Rubin Reads

I love Gretchen Rubin.

I’ll confess, though, that some days I’m super-jealous of what this woman accomplishes. For example, here’s a tidbit from this morning’s email:

Every Monday, on my Facebook page, I post a photo of all the books I've read that week using the hashtag #GretchenRubinReads.

It surprises me how much satisfaction I take in doing it. I love reading the comments from readers, and I've gotten many great suggestions, too.

I also love to read, but what can I report from last week? I read one-third of one book. It’s a challenging and insightful book, but no matter how much I love what I’m reading, I generally don’t spend as much time as I’d like doing it.

What if I noticed, though, not that GR is whooping me in reading volume but that she gets satisfaction from doing and sharing what makes her feel alive? Why be jealous of that kind of satisfaction? She has it today, but I can have it, too. We all can.

During today’s lunch break, I’ll read another 15 minutes of this book. I’ll be a person who reads, and that matters just as much as how much I can read in a week, or what I eat today, for example. It counts, and I bet GR would agree.

What brought YOU satisfaction last week? Be honest: think real satisfaction, not whether it feels brag-worthy on social media? (And, to be clear, GR isn’t bragging. She’s being GR. She’s setting an example of how good it can feel to live more of the life we’re meant to experience.)

Do you think she makes her own lunch, too? All the more to love.

GR and her sister Liz host  a podcast  that’s a do-not-miss for me, full of tips to make your life a little happier—including  ideas for overcoming a lunch break stumbling block .

GR and her sister Liz host a podcast that’s a do-not-miss for me, full of tips to make your life a little happier—including ideas for overcoming a lunch break stumbling block.

Stella Grizont: Work Happiness One Lunch at a Time

Workday lunches happen at…work. And when I first met Stella Grizont, I didn’t think it was possible to get happy at work. But I was wrong. Stella’s brand of compassion and insight into workplace culture made her the right coach to not just to help me plan for a different future, but to make the most of EVERY SINGLE WORK DAY. And she’s a riot. Listen to any of her interviews and I guarantee her attitude and spunk will make you smile no matter how you feel about your job today.

What’s Stella’s secret? Showing us how we may be looking at things backwards. Instead of first thinking about what you want to DO (specifically in your role at work), try asking yourself how you want to BE (as a human). This is very Box Lunch Lifestyle. That human-ness is something you can have today—at lunch.

Stella has generously shared these ideas for what you can do in just 15 minutes:

I’ve worked with Stella professionally, but I don’t recommend her approach to you because there’s something in it financially for me. (There isn’t.) When I listened to Stella and started to value my own happiness as much as I did my resume, my life began change. I realized that had to be a happier person first before I could be the happier-at-work person. And that could be you—TODAY. (I hope it is.)

Reading More One Lunch at a Time: Cheryl's Summer Solution

Happiness enthusiast Gretchen Rubin reads A LOT. (Just last month she read 18 books. This is not unusual.) If you want to be a person who reads more, check out her Reading Better Than Before habit download or these 13 tips. She clearly knows how to make more reading happen, but two of her tips trip me up:

7. Always have something to read.

8. Maintain a big stack.

In #7, GR says to keep your book handy so you can grab any spare moment to read. That’s good advice. For me, though—and maybe for you—“more reading” will happen during my 15 minutes of lunch You time. So, yes, I’ll need to know where to find my book.

And trust me: I have #8 covered.

But my problem isn’t having enough books. It’s deciding which book that’s hard. I’m usually trying to choose at night when I’m tired and have no decision-making energy left. So I end up NOT choosing, and not reading before I go to sleep, and ultimately not having a book queued up for the next workday’s lunch. Having a full shelf of books waiting motivates GR, but to me it’s a constant reminder of “not doing enough.”

This year’s first pick?  Consider the Women  by Debbie Blue! I’ll start it as soon as I finish  this one .

This year’s first pick? Consider the Women by Debbie Blue! I’ll start it as soon as I finish this one.

Here’s my summer solution:

I write on slips of paper a dozen or so titles I’m honestly dying to read. Then between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when I’m ready for a new book, I pick one from the Book Cup. There’s no risk of being disappointed because I love all the choices, and I don’t have to force myself to think when I’m sleepy. I just start whichever one gets picked, and if I don’t love that book, I abandon it for the next one. So instead of wishing and wondering about those books, I am the person who actually reads them.

If Lunch Timing Doesn't Look Right to You

This photo taken by a Box Luncher despite inferior lunch-break light. (It looks pretty amazing to me.)

This photo taken by a Box Luncher despite inferior lunch-break light. (It looks pretty amazing to me.)

Maybe the personal aspiration you long for the most simply can’t happen at lunch. You can’t surf. You can’t go fishing, or go to Florence. You can’t take photographs during the golden hour. But that doesn’t have to stop you from making your lunch break work for you.

Your Box Lunch Lifestyle is about “better” instead of perfect, and “real” instead of just wishing.

If you want to take photographs, you can have that camera in your hands and shoot something for 15 minutes even if the light isn’t magical. You can learn to speak Italian. You might even be able to tie flies during your lunch break.

Surfing? That’s a tougher one. Maybe your aspiration isn’t the Monday-through-Friday kind, so your lunch break pursuit will need to be just a little deeper down your list of “want to” options. Still, you’re eating better, and—just as importantly—you’re practicing the kind of showing-up-for-yourself discipline that can change everything. And when you see your runner-up dreams happening, then you’ll become the confident, motivated person who says, “I do stuff that matters to me. And now I’m a person who’s going to learn to surf.”

Avraham Byers: Better Budgeting One Lunch at a Time

Fifteen minutes isn’t a lot of time, but it’s enough time to START—even when your personal aspiration feels kinda serious.

For example, if you want to be a person who worries less about money, it’s 100% possible to be that person. At lunch. Avraham Byers, a generous and super-funny guy, can show you how to get money smart in less than 15 minutes a day.

This is Avraham. He’s hilarious. Smart and hilarious. And generous.

This is Avraham. He’s hilarious. Smart and hilarious. And generous.

How do you start? In just 15 minutes you can:

  • talk with him (for FREE) about your money struggles and get 3 actionable tools you can use immediately

  • download his (FREE) eBook Your Magic Number: One Simple “Daily Number” That Will Put You In Control of Your Money Every Day (Note: You can easily read this in just two lunch breaks. It’s entertaining. You’ll like it.)

  • spend 15 minutes working your own Magic Number magic

Will this feel the same kind of fun as pursuing a hobby or creative project? Maybe not. Do I get some kind of cut if you work with Avraham? No. I just like this guy, and his approach makes solid Box Lunch Lifestyle sense.

Lunch is the perfect time for whatever quiet dream matters to you, even the meatier ones, or ones that maybe you don’t talk about with other people. If it’s satisfaction you want as you’re falling asleep at night, progress towards this kind of meaningful “I wish I was” will help get you there.

Fighting Phone Distractions

There aren’t many for-managers business books that I respect, but I loved Michael Bungay Stainer’s The Coaching Habit. He gives great advice, and in a recent email he offered some for how to be the boss of your phone—something that desperately wants your attention during lunch. Here’s what he says:

My phone had started to wield the same power as Frodo’s One Ring of Power. I’m not sure if that means Apple = Sauron, but I do know I kept finding the phone in my hand, with no real understanding of how it got there. Reading Make Time proved to be a catalyst for change. It made me completely redesign my phone. Not just tinker with it, but strip it down completely.

The two big moves I made:
I removed email, all browsers, and every social media site except Instagram. That means that now when I pick up the phone to do something, there’s really nothing to do. I’ve removed what the authors Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky call the “infinity pools,” which had previously sucked me in.
I set a 10-minute-a-day limit for Instagram and for the one game (Upwords) that I have on the phone, via the Screen Time control in Settings.

What two things could you change to turn phone time into more You time?

He also provided a link to another stop-being-a-slave-to-your-phone site that will only be funny to someone with a fighter’s attitude and who swears like a sailor. If you email me, I’ll share it. (I won’t tell anyone.)