Thursday, August 25, 2011

Excellent Lunch Psychology

It's easy to let small barriers stop you from packing lunch every day.  Maybe your lunchbox is dirty, you're out of peanut butter, or you can't find the cutting board to slice your apples on.  Maybe you overslept.  The key to a sustainable lunch-packing habit is keeping this kind of barrier low and providing little incentives to yourself.  If you have to drag yourself through a lot of extra work to pack lunch, you will find yourself buying sandwiches in the cafeteria a lot.  Willpower is like a muscle that can get tired if it's overworked, so the trick is to create easy, automatic habits.  Here are some of the tricks I use to lower the mental effort I have to put into packing lunch.
  • I decide what to pack in advance (even which sides and snacks to throw in) so that I don't have to think about it in the morning when I'm groggy and stumbling around.  I'm not terribly intelligent before breakfast, so it's a lot easier if I can pack lunch on autopilot.
  • I keep a couple of differently-sized lunchboxes around and an ample supply of tupperware in various shapes and sizes, so I never have to fuss around figuring out what to put the food in.
  • I keep nuts and dried fruit in the pantry.  If I run out of fresh snacks like apples and carrots, I can always throw in a baggie of those to go with my lunch.
But even so, packing lunch isn't trivial.  It takes some work, and I tend to get cranky if I perceive an activity as all work and no play.  That's where rewards and incentives come in.
  • I always pack dessert.  
  • I have a cool lunchbox that I enjoy using.  Actually... I collect them.
  • I've also got a brightly-colored insulated lunch bag for tupperware days.
  • I make sure lunch is delicious, so it's worth the extra effort.
  • And I pack a BIG, satisfying lunch.  Because it's not worth it if I do all that work and then I get hungry before I get home from the office. 

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