focus: walking, disconnection & focus

‘An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.’ ~Henry David Thoreau

The simple act of walking can be a tremendous boost to your focus, productivity, clarity of mind, not to mention your health and waistline.

Recently a fellow blogger wrote to me talking about how many pounds she lost on vacation because she walked all day long — something many of us have experienced. She ended by saying, “If only I could find the time to walk 6 hours a day.”

That got me to ask — why not? Why can’t we work out a routine where we walk all day long?

What follows are a couple of radical but incredibly fulfilling and productive changes from most people’s daily routine. I think they’re worthy of consideration if you:

  • have any control over your schedule;
  • can work from different locations;
  • want to get more active and trim your waistline; and
  • need to find new ways to focus and get important things done.

I recently tried both these routines and loved them, and am working them into my life in different ways.

1. The Walking Vacation Working Routine

I love going on vacation, not only for the food and sights and history and culture and people, but for the walking. You get in amazing shape by walking around all day, exploring, taking frequent breaks but staying on your feet for at least half the day.

Why should we reserve this fantastic routine to vacations? Just because we need to get work done?

Consider a routine that consists of alternating short walks with work:

  1. Walk for 20-30 minutes to a location: coffee shop, library, park, beach, cafe or bistro, peaceful rest spot, etc. Don’t use mobile devices as you walk – remain disconnected.
  2. Work or read for 30-40 minutes: write, take notes, read, respond to emails, design, meet with a colleague or client, make calls, whatever. You can also have coffee, some water, fruits, a small meal, and so on.
  3. Repeat as many times as you can.

This is a bit of a nomadic work schedule, roaming from one place to another, but it has numerous benefits:

  1. When you walk, you can think, which is something that’s hard to do when you’re sitting and distracted all day. When you get to your destination, write down all the notes from your walking contemplation.
  2. When you walk, you can also clear your head, meditate, or just enjoy your surroundings and relieve stress.
  3. You get into tremendous shape by walking so much.
  4. Your work will also be more focused, because you have less time to work. Use the 30-40 minute bursts of work for important tasks that you think about as you walk.
  5. Some stops can be in spots without a wireless connection, which means you’ll get more work done without the distraction of the Internet.

2. The Disconnect and Connect Working Routine

A number of people have announced vacations from the Internet, when they go a few days or a week or even a month without any connection — on purpose. This serves as a way for them to reconnect with life, to find focus and get important things done, and to enjoy the peace of disconnection.

But why make it an occasional “cleanse”? Why not build it into your routine?

Consider a routine such as the following:

  1. Disconnect for a day (or two). No Internet connection — perhaps no computer at all if using your computer is too much of a temptation to connect. Use an actual paper notepad and pen, writing and brainstorming and making pages of notes or sketches. Make phone calls instead of connecting via email or IM. Meet with people in real life, and get outside. Get a ton of important work done. No mobile devices except for actual phone calls.
  2. Then connect for a day (or two). Take all the notes and work you did during your disconnect, and type them up and email them and post them online and so forth. Answer emails and get other routine tasks done, and then prepare for your next day of disconnect.
  3. Repeat. You can vary the number of days you’re disconnected or connected, finding the balance that works for you.

While some may feel this will limit the work they can do, I think it’ll actually do the opposite: you’ll get more done, or at least more important tasks done, because you won’t be distracted.

You’ll also find it a calming change from the always-connected. It’s a peaceful routine.

Conclusions

The purpose of these two routines isn’t to tell you how to work, because we must each find the style and routine that works for our particular job. It’s to show you that change is possible, and that if you think outside the usual, you can find some exciting possibilities.

You don’t need to do these things exactly the way I’ve outlined above, but you can find a blend that works best for you. Perhaps a hybrid routine that uses both concepts, or a once-a-week walking or disconnect period.

Integrating walking into your work routine can do wonders for your fitness and for your focus. That’s something you can’t find if you’re sitting all day.

Integrating disconnection into your work routine will allow you to get even more done, and to find peace of mind.

I urge you to consider both, and see how they can make your life better.

Next chapter: finding focus, for parents