People who know me know that I read a few books a year, and a lot of that happens at lunchtime. Twice in the past week (and once for a minute on Twitter) I was discussing reading with someone, and mentioned that I read at lunch, and both times in person the people I was talking to were shocked, as if reading at lunch was some kind of achievement.
"How do you manage to do that?"
My initial thought was, "I open the book. Then I look at the page," but then I started thinking that maybe this really was something that people had trouble figuring out. Since I manage to get in a good hour of reading time three to five lunches a week, I thought about it on my way home tonight and broke down some basic rules of reading at lunch. These are the things that I do when I don't have a lunch meeting or a lunch invitation:
1) Leave your workspace. If you stay at your desk, you are still working. If you shut your door, people are going to knock on it. If you leave your door open, people are going to think you're a slacker who sits around your desk reading instead of doing work. Even if people don't knock, the phone will ring. You can let the calls go to voicemail, but then you know that you're going to have to listen to them after lunch, and you'll be tempted to listen to them now to get them out of the way. Again, there's a simple solution: leave your workplace during lunchtime. Take your book and lunch with you, or take your book to the place where you buy lunch.
2) Own your lunch time. If you get an hour for lunch, take the entire hour. If you have a half hour, take the whole half hour. If the first assistant gets twenty minutes and you get fifteen when she returns, because someone must man the desk and answer the phones at all times, then take your fifteen minutes. It is your time. You have earned it. It belongs to you. Yes, you have a lot of work to do. You'll still have a lot of work to do after lunch. Let it sit for an hour. If you're in the middle of an emergency or your director suddenly needs a report before a meeting in an hour, stay and handle what needs to be handled, but then take a lunch, and take the whole thing.
3) Leave your phone. Unless you're reading a book on your phone, you don't need your phone. What's the point of leaving work to go read if you bring work with you? If you're going to do that, you might as well just stay at your desk.
4) Be prepared to say no to people. I eat lunch at the dining facility closest to my office most days of the week. I know ninety percent of the people who eat lunch there, so at least once or twice a week someone will ask who I'm eating with, and then ask if I want to sit with them. Most days, I politely decline. "No, thanks, I'm going to read," sounds a little better than, "No, thanks, I have a book," but use whatever fits your style.
5) Be prepared to sometimes say yes to people. Every once in a while, when people ask if I want to sit with them, I say yes. If you say no every time, eventually people will stop asking you. If that's your goal, by all means ignore this rule, but if you still want to have friends and friendly coworkers, it's ok to randomly say yes. Just be sure to mention that you were planning to read, so that next time they see you with a book they won't be offended if you say no to their invitation.
6) One hand for food, one hand for reading material. These should not be the same hand, unless you like your books smeared with lunch.
If you're planning to read at lunch, I hope this helps.