5 Cool Skills to Pick Up on a Lunch Break

By David Nield on at

If you often get the feeling there just aren’t enough hours in the day, then the lunch break your bosses should generously afford you could be one opportunity to make more of your time (and it beats listening to co-workers talking about sports you don’t watch). Give yourself thirty minutes a day five days a week and you could be well on your way to being a polymath by picking up one of these five skills.


1) Coding Languages

Whether you want to make websites, apps, or both, there are myriad ways to learn how to do it over the web or through your smartphone (and we’ve covered some of them before). From YouTube channels to paid courses, there’s a lot of choice out there for the budding programmer, and your approach will depend on what you want to learn and how quickly.

A site such as Codeacademy is good for beginners who don’t want to pay anything, whereas Treehouse is more advanced and comprehensive and requires a subscription (though you do get a free trial). It’s probably a good idea to make sure you really do want to learn to code before you start, because it can end up taking a lot of your time and effort.


2) Spoken Languages

Picking up a spoken language, like Spanish or Arabic, might seem like an obvious lunch time improvement course, but it’ll be best if you’ve got somewhere where you can practice your pronunciation in peace (so maybe not your open plan office space). It’s up to you if you want to follow courses on the web (if allowed by the office IT policy) or through an app on your phone, and there are a pile of free and paid-for tools for you to pick from.

Duolingo is one of our favourites because it’s free to use and starts at the very beginning with most of the popular languages; plus, it’s easy to track your progress. Other apps worth a look include the likes of Babbel, Memrise, and Busuu (which claims to help you speak a language with just 10 minutes a day), though you’ll probably want to try a few before you settle on the language course just for you.


3) Photoshop or Word

If you have an industry-standard software package installed on your office computer, or you’re able to bring in your laptop, then use your lunch hour to master it - if you choose wisely, those extra skills you acquire could help you bag a promotion (or even a better job). In a lot of cases you can teach yourself just by trying out different tools and features.

Fire up your web browser and you’ll find online courses for packages including Photoshop and Word at Alison (free) and Lynda (paid-for) and a bunch of other places to suit whatever level you’re at. If there’s a strict internet policy at your office, you could be able to swing access to one of these sites if you promise it’s going to make you a better worker...


4) Self-publishing

The first step to writing a novel is just sitting down and putting words to the page. With a little discipline that should be easy enough to do daily on your lunch break. But once the book is done (and you’ve had a very understanding friend or family member edit it) you’ll still need to publish.

Highbrow has a nice course to teach you the rudimentary ins and outs of self publishing, and because they’re delivered to your inbox you can check them on your office computer or your phone as you like. The course lasts 10 days and takes five minutes a day. If you need something more comprehensive to get a foot on the self-publishing ladder, give the (paid) 44-lecture course on Udemy a try.


5) Anything you’ve forgotten from university

For some of us college was a while ago, and some of the most needed skills have been forgotten—along with that one drunken weekend you never left your dorm room. To brush up on old college lessons you can head to a site like Coursera and enroll in an online course covering anything from computer science and programming to law and psychology. The courses are offered by colleges like Penn, Stanford, and Duke, so your mom will be very impressed with what you’re learning while you chow down on a salad at work.

There are a few similar sites you can make use of if Coursera isn’t your bag. We’ve already mentioned Udemy above, but Khan Academy is another fantastic option and features short bite-sized tutorials on a broad range of subjects.