Personally, I’m not most productive when I’m sitting at a desk. I learn better when I’m in motion–always have.
Luckily, our society is moving toward a new concept of work unconstrained by offices or desks. In 2016, 43% of U.S. workers said they spent at least some time working remotely. More employees are being given the leeway to work when and how they’re most effective.
Which is great news, because I’m at my best when I’m up and moving. That’s why I spend time each day performing a very simple, yet powerful, exercise–walking.I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was in grade school. And as I got older, I was placed in special classes that were designed to keep me up and moving. One of my math classes had us work outside so we could measure the area of a field, calculate distance, or experiment with basic physics.
That idea of hands-on learning–of movement intertwined with thought–has been a thread throughout my life. I just think better while in motion, and I’m not the only one.
Being in motion helps you loosen up, ideate, communicate, and work through complex problems
People operate on different frequencies throughout the day. We all recognize when we’re not in an optimal state for work, mindfulness, deep thought, or creativity. When I feel stagnant, it’s like I’m humming at a lower wavelength. I’m not as happy, active, productive. But when I’m vibrating at a higher frequency, everything falls into place. I’m in a flow where ideas come easier and problems aren’t as challenging.
For me, walking is a way to initiate that flow state.When I lived in San Francisco, I deliberately chose where I lived so I could be within walking distance of my office. But not too close. I wanted to be far enough that my morning walk would take about an hour. That was my favorite part of the day. I got in motion, listened to music, and raised my frequency before I got to work. Walking energizes me and helps me work through issues and ideas. It’s the simplest way for me to put myself in the proper state to solve a problem.
When you change your environment, you open yourself up to new ideas and encounters
If you sit in the same environment all day, you’re probably going to fall into your habits. You won’t be stimulated to think differently or take a new approach. If you want to find a novel solution to a problem, you have to deviate from your standard line of thinking in some way.
I’ll often take a walk if I’m stuck thinking through a problem or initiating something. The change in environment gets my brain moving and alters my perceptions. I don’t structure the walk–the walk is the structure.
I’m taking a walk because I know there’s something on my mind that I’m trying to work through. It’s not a regimented process. I just try to be mindful of my intentions for the walk when I begin.
That’s why it’s good to leave a little room for creativity and serendipity. You don’t have to set out by saying, “At the end of this walk, I’ll have solved this specific problem.” You’re just trying to change your environment and open your mind to new possibilities.
Walking gives you the time you need to process information and choose the way you respond
I really enjoy walking after an important meeting, because whether it went well or it went poorly, I still need to process and digest it. Some people like to jump right into follow-up emails and action items from the meeting, but I think it’s beneficial to take a step back. Or a few thousand steps.
Meetings are stimulating. They can get heated. Conflicts and stress can arise. I find that it’s a good idea to go for a walk afterward and be mindful of whatever just happened before I respond. It’s the same concept as “sleeping on it.” The goal is to give yourself some time and space between your initial reaction and your response. Walk home after the meeting, go grab some tea, get moving while the information is still fresh and you can digest it.
I know this isn’t going to be for everyone. There are plenty of people who don’t work well in motion. They feel ungrounded. They like sitting in the same place and having the same routine every day. Everyone’s different. But if you do have the time and the flexibility in your day to “walk on it,” then I would highly suggest taking that stroll.