Schwartz also recommended that this man return to his thrice weekly workouts.
Again, this is rather easy advice. It was easier said than done, but the executive did manage to start working out again, and to go out to lunch twice in a week.
The larger issue is simple. Who owns your time? Does your job own you or do you own your job? Are you the prisoner of your desk or can you freely walk away from it? As Schwartz put it: "Taking back your lunch is the first step in taking back your life."
I have written about Tony Schwartz in the past. He and Jim Loehr wrote a great article called, "The Corporate Athlete," which explains how executives can improve, even optimize their performance at work. Link here.
His advice is simple and direct, but it also has the virtue of being actionable and effective.
Why does it matter that you break up your day, walk away from your desk, and have a moment of respite at lunch?
Schwartz explains that it helps to clear the mind, to refresh the spirit, and to allow a more energized look at problems and issues. Sometimes when we look at a problem over and over again, without a break, we miss the obvious. Solutions yield to hard work, but hard work does not necessarily mean nothing but work.
As I have occasionally suggested, it often happens that you need to step back from what you are doing and look at it through someone else's eyes. This happens with writers and it happens with executives. When a writer is so thoroughly involved with his work that he cannot find anything wrong with it, he is clearly not working at his best.
And, if an executive does not know how he looks to others, then he cannot manage or lead effectively.
One good way to get some perspective on a problem or on your work is simply to step away from it, to engage in a meaningful social ritual, clear your mind, and then return to it with fresh eyes.