Amidst all the advice for achieving riches or greatness, or both, there’s an often overlooked practice that’s as simple as lifting up your feet.
Last week, I discussed how the simple act of walking can clear your mind, improve your focus, boost your mood, reduce your anxiety, and help you generate creative and productive solutions to the most seemingly intractable problems. This week, I’ll be sharing some tips for integrating a walking practice into your daily routine so you can reap these benefits.
As I mentioned in the previous article, not only is there significant research showing that walking can benefit you in multiple ways. We also know that some of the richest, most productive and most creative people got their best ideas while walking. As Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the world’s most world-changing philosophers (and an avid walker) claimed, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”
Steve Jobs did much of his creative thinking while walking around Apple’s campus. He also was famous for holding brainstorming meetings while walking. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg often interviews potential employees during walks in the woods. Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, takes walks to find creative solutions. Real estate billionaire Harold Grinspoon walked every day and held many of his meetings on the go. As does Jeffrey Weiner, LinkedIn’s CEO. And Virgin Group’s Richard Branson.
Even if your goal is not to make a billion dollars, a surprising number of world-class scientists, philosophers, composers and authors have been walkers. And these days, if a high performer isn’t walking, it’s probably because he or she is out for a run. No matter what your goal, getting outside and moving your feet can yield huge dividends to your focus, your creativity and even your financial bottom line.
If you want to know more about the specific benefits of walking and the research behind it, simply click here to read last week’s article. For tips on how best to incorporate walking into your life and experience those benefits, simply read on.
1. First Determine Your Walking Schedule. Some studies show that even a 10-minute walk can leave you refreshed, calmer and more alert. On the other end of the spectrum, Nietzsche walked with his notebook in hand for as much as 8 hours a day. Your mileage may vary. If you feel pressed for time, you’re better off starting with 10-15 minutes. A short walk every day is far better than setting a goal of walking for an hour a day and then losing steam after a week. Ideally, a longer walk is better, but only if your schedule can sustain it.
As important as deciding the length of your walk, is determining the context. You can walk just after you get up in the morning to set the tone for the day. Or you may decide that a walk in the evening helps bring closure to the work day.
Some incorporate walking into their commute – this works especially well if you take public transportation as you can exit the bus or train a stop early and walk the remaining distance (if you drive, consider walking from the parking lot and back for a few minutes before you enter the building or leave for the day). This is also a great way to incorporate walking seamlessly into a busy schedule, and put you in a good frame of mind as you start or end your day.
2. Ditch the Cellphone. Walking while checking text messages or chatting on the phone won’t cut it. As Cal Newport describes in his excellent book, Digital Minimalism, one of the greatest benefits of walking is cultivating solitude, which significantly benefits our mental health. Scrolling through WhatsApp doesn’t create much solitude, and you’re not going to get your next great idea while glued to your screen.
And if you have a walking partner, the benefit comes from communing with them, which is kind of hard if you’re communing with your cell phone. If you need the phone for security or other logistical reasons, put it in a backpack or other place that is easily accessible, but not so easily accessible that you’re going to mindlessly reach for it while you’re walking. While you’re at it, turn off notifications so you’re not tempted.
3. Natural is better. Although any form of walking is beneficial, you will reap the greatest benefits walking in a quiet setting surrounded by nature. Of course, if the weather does not permit walking outdoors, by all means take a jaunt through your office building. But get outside whenever you can, and find the greenest spot available to you – a park, a walking path or even a tree-lined street.
4. Spontaneous is also good. As already mentioned, you want to schedule walks to ensure that you will really make them part of your already busy routine. However, a spontaneous walk can do wonders for your frame of mind. When you are sitting at your desk (or wherever you sit) and are stuck on a problem, experiencing writers block, or can’t seem to get focused, consider taking a short 5-10 minute walk to clear your mind. You will usually come back much better equipped to move forward productively.
5. Mix it up. If your surroundings make it possible, find several alternate routes. Seeing the same exact scenery day after day can make you complacent. You’ll be more inspired to take a walk if you have a choice of settings and can introduce some novelty into your routine.
Are you still reading this article? Not out there walking yet? Time to move away from the screen and get those feet going.