Walks Conceive Great Thoughts

How to get things done - Part V

Walking Imaage

In my last post, we learned about how distractions masquerade as work.

When this happens, real work gets delayed, and we end up doing a lot without being productive.

I hope you found my tips helpful and were able to modify the suggestions to fit your working style.

Today, we are going to discuss the important role of movement and rest to help us work better.

Movement and Rest

I sat at a desk for 8 years, and now sometimes I wake up with tingling sensations in my hands. The ironic part is that I used to train employees on ways to identify and manage repetitive strain injuries in the office. 

Suffice to say, I am religious about the advice I share with you here. 

If your workplace requires you to sit 8+ hours a day, then you need to find a way to move around.

Sitting in one position is harmful for the body. Research also shows that it negatively impacts our mind.

“Those who had exercised during the preceding month but not on the day of testing generally did better on the memory test than those who had been sedentary, but did not perform nearly as well as those who had worked out that morning.“

The New York Times, 2012

Static postures, a result of sitting too much, reduce blood flow to the outter most extremities of our body. We can mitigate this issue by fidgeting or moving around.

This may seem contradictory to the idea of modulating distractions, but it's not. Stopping work and employing movement to increase blood flow is an enabler for productivity. 

I would argue that movement is a boon as long as it is applied strategically. For example, when I was working on my book, I stretched my hands every 15 minutes. I used simple stretches like opening and closing my fist several times to increase blood flow to my fingers. I also stretched my hands to lengthen any contracted muscles. 

Fist Image
Hand Image

Pictures by: The Huffington Post Canada, 2016

If you don't want to stretch your muscles on a given interval, then your body will let you know. You just have to listen.

For example, if your mind is struggling to come up with new ideas during a brainstorming session, it's time to move around. 

Whenever I am stuck on a problem for more than 30 to 40 minutes, I go for a walk outside.

The corollary is also true. If your workplace demands a lot of movement then you need to stop and rest on some frequency. 

Muscles are not designed to withstand repetitive motions or static postures for prolonged periods. Try holding a penny an arms length away from you body for more than 5 minutes. 

Rest and motion are equally important. The imbalance of the two has a price.

I would argue that’s why athletes need surgery to repair cumulative traumas caused by repetitive impact that have not been allowed to heal properly. Same with singers, and why you hear about some needing vocal nodule surgery after continuously singing without proper rest. 

Of course, don't forget that everyone is designed differently and our bodies injure and heal at different rates. Also, I am not a health professional, so be sure to speak with a qualified person about any discomfort or ailments. 

The best thing to do is pay attention and listen to your body. 

Find a schedule of rest and motion that works best for you. 

If you want to continuously improve the balance of movement and rest, be sure to spend time reflecting on the strategy you employ.

Self-reflection

I strongly encourage you to reflect on the actions you have taken for this experience to ensure you find some value in it. 

For example, if you sit at your desk all day, ask yourself: 

How did I improve blood flow to my outer extremities today? Did this help me get things done?

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Has movement (or rest) improved my creativity today?

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Did I take enough breaks (for those who move for work)? Did taking breaks on a consistent interval actually help?

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This experience was designed to help you work better by balancing work and rest. So, ask yourself:

Did finding a balance improve my productivity? How did I measure what I got done?

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Please revisit the framework and make adjustments as needed. 

Most importantly, replace the strategies that didn’t work with the exact opposite of what you did originally.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”

Friedrich Nietzsche