Our working lives are dominated by ‘productivity’. Work is a non-stop struggle to do more, produce more, achieve more, create more. All the time, on time, and of course, on budget. The age old maxim is that if you’re not actively, visibly, working on something, you’re not being productive.
But all that work is exhausting. In fact, counter intuitively, ‘working hard’ may actually reduce how productive you are. Turns out the single best way for you or your team to maximize your productive output, is to stop working. Yep. Burn out is real, and if left undiagnosed/untreated, can cause irreparable and permanent damage.
Fortunately, there’s a fix. It’s called ‘walking away’. Literally. Don’t just stop doing what you’re doing at your desk and sit there. A quick visit to the coffee room for a cup and a chat isn’t going to do it either. No. Close your laptop, turn off your phone, exit your workspace, and go for a walk. Get away. Go outside. Nothing quite clears the head like a good 20-30 minute walk. Longer if you have the time. Besides, those blood clots aren’t going to go away on their own. Go outside and get some exercise.
For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of walking, it usually goes something like this. The first bit is simply breaking away from the desktop doldrums. Fresh air, temperature change, outdoor noises, and the joy of increased physical activity. But then after a few minutes as the walking routine settles in nicely, the magic starts to kick in. While meandering along a park path or a city street (they both work equally well), while passively taking in the sights around you, you will find yourself surreptitiously ‘solving’ work problems. Without even trying! Strategies crystallize, solutions become obvious, and previous work obstacles just fall away.
Quite often the more we force a solution by ‘working harder’, the more stuck we tend to become. Sure, go ahead and lay the groundwork with detailed plans, whiteboards, work teams, etc — but when it comes to being truly creative and brilliant, just go for a walk.
I can’t explain how it all works. I’m a lowly coder, not a neurosurgeon. However, what I do know for certain is that walks help. There is no surer way to solve problems and boost productivity than by walking away from it all.
In fact, I find I do all my best work when I’m not working, and I think you will too.
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