For those of us whose industries revolve around communication and connection, lunch meetings are ubiquitous. Whether we woo potential clients, check in with mentors, or meet new contacts who can help our businesses, many of us default to lunch meetings because restaurants are neutral ground, lunch is a built-in "free hour" during the workday, we connect over food, and a host of other reasons. But what if your lunch break is better used as...a break?

Many of us work long days in the office, spend at least an hour commuting, dedicate time to our kids, pets, spouses, etc., and then run errands in the morning and evening. Time for self-care is limited as it is. If you add a lunch meeting to the mix, you have no significant time set aside for personal growth, which is vital for leaders. Before you add another lunch meeting to your calendar, think about the benefits of keeping some of your lunch hour to yourself.

Improve your body and mind.

Company leaders set the example for employees, both in word and in practice. If you spend every second of your day working and don't prioritize your health and wellness, your employees may adopt the same mentality and burn themselves out. That's a recipe for high employee turnover and diminishing quality of work. Your team should understand, from your example, that stress management, mental clarity, and physical health aren't negotiable.

On your calendar, schedule a recurring lunch appointment with yourself, and make sure your team knows that you won't be available at that time except in the most dire of circumstances. During lunch I go to the gym and focus all of my attention on that effort. Other people might go on a walk, do yoga, or take a quick bike ride. If you prioritize exercise during lunch, you clear your head and pump your body full of endorphins to take on the rest of the day.

Do better for your business.

Lunch meetings aren't always productive, especially when you're meeting a new potential client. A formal restaurant environment and the fact that you're paying for lunch (or you should be) can put pressure on the conversation that leaves potential clients feeling uncomfortable, even if the pressure wasn't intended. Because I keep many of my lunch hours off-limits, I often meet new contacts and potential clients for coffee. The coffee shop environment is more exploratory and requires less of a time commitment from both parties. The flexibility of coffee meetings also allows me to schedule important tasks at the times when I'm naturally most productive. I write, conduct podcast interviews, and do anything that involves critical thinking in the afternoon because I'm naturally inclined to get more done then, and I have an energy boost from my midday workout.

Schedule your next would-be lunch meetings as coffee meetings holding them at different times in the morning and afternoon to determine what schedule makes you the most effective. If the second wind from exercise helps you get more done, schedule important tasks for later in the day. If you're productive in the morning and see mid-day exercise as a time to decompress and begin winding down for the day, schedule your meetings in the afternoon, since conversation is stimulating on its own.

Though lunch meetings can be helpful to grow your company, your physical and mental wellness will ultimately have a much greater impact on your business. Schedule some of your lunch hours to take care of yourself, and your increased energy and productivity will benefit you and your business in the long-term.