How Walking Can Help You Be More Productive

The idea for his book, “The Energy Bus”, came to Jon Gordon during a walk. It has now sold more than two-million copies. Since that day Jon has written a bunch of other best-selling books and the process is largely the same.

Jon walks to get his ideas and then sits at the computer to write the books.

In 2014 a couple Stanford researchers wondered if there was a link between walking and creativity. Turns out there is. In fact, there was a 60% greater creative output for those walking versus those sitting. If you want the details of this study you can check it out here.

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, used walks for a lot of his brainstorming. I wonder how much of the iPhone, iPad, and Mac computers, that so many of us love, are the result of these walks.

While not in the same idea-hemisphere with Jon Gordon and Steve Jobs, I too have discovered the power of walks for thinking, creating, and processing life. It has become my go-to method for figuring something out.

I wrote about how I used a walk to figure out what to give Ava for Christmas when she was getting treatment for cancer. It needed to be special and I am a terrible gift giver. The gift actually moved her to tears and she still uses it every day almost 18 months later. Best walk ever!

All of these blog articles happen during walks. I get the ideas and general outline while walking and then sit at the computer to write. I even use walks to plan my week. Walking gives me a clarity that I don’t have when I’m sitting. That clarity helps me prioritize what I want to accomplish each week.

Walking helps me sort through the busy and focus instead on the important. The creative ideas, plans, and solutions that come to me during those walks energize my actions. I get more done than ever…and I’m actually less busy now. That’s a wonderful combination.

I’m convinced this greater capacity for creativity and clarity is available for you too. There’s real science to indicate when we walk we think better and with more creativity. Even if there were no health benefits from walking I would still aim for 20,000 steps a day simply because of the time it gives me to think and the productivity that results from this quality “think time.”

I want to challenge you to give it a try this week. If you have a problem you want to solve, a plan you need to make, or there’s something you want to create take a focused walk and see what happens.

Obviously, we all think and process life differently. The way I use my brain to figure things out is going to be different from you. That means I can’t give you a step-by-step guide. But, I can offer some recommendations to help you maximize your walking and thinking time more effective.

SET ASIDE ENOUGH TIME

The more time I have set aside the quicker the ideas happen. It’s counter-intuitive, but if I’m not thinking about how quickly I need an answer my mind is free to get there faster. For me, that means having at least 15 minutes, although a 30 minute walk is even better.

WALK ALONE

This might seem obvious, but I know a lot of people prefer walking with others. They even see the benefit of collaborating with someone else. Steve Jobs certainly did. That said, I suggest walking alone occasionally to see how effective that is for thinking, planning, and creating.

When Ava and I walk together we often come up with some of our best ideas for things that impact both of us. But, for my personal planning, solving, and creating solo walks are more effective.

I would also suggest leaving the dog home. I don’t have a dog, but I’ve noticed how much attention dog owners give their pets while walking. I recommend as few distractions as possible.

WALK SOMEPLACE FAMILIAR

I love exploring when I’m walking. Big cities are my favorite. It’s also when I get the least amount of quality thinking because of all the visual stimuli. My best thinking happens when I’m walking in a space that’s familiar, and maybe even a little boring.

I actually get some of my best ideas when I’m walking in my basement. It’s boring as dirt which allows me to think distraction-free. Our neighborhood is also good because I’ve pretty much explored it all and it can serve as walking wallpaper.

FOCUS ON ONE THING

I’ve learned not to solve all of life’s issues in one walk. Instead, it’s way more effective to pick one thing to focus on. Is there a problem I need to solve? Is there a plan I need to make? Is there something I want to create?

Knowing what I want to focus on makes my thinking time far more effective. Harry Truman used to walk every morning while he was president. He said those walks helped him prioritize his day. He didn’t use those walks to figure the rest of his presidency, just the one day in front of him.

And, this is the great thing about using my walks to plan, process, and create. They help me to focus on the important things. This allows me to be more productive and less busy chasing non-important distractions.

ONE ACTIONABLE IDEA

I always want my walks to produce at least one idea I can take action on. In fact, if I’m walking to figure something out, I won’t stop till I have that actionable idea. That’s what happened with the “Christmas Gift” walk.

It was the Saturday before Christmas. Once I decided I needed to give Ava a special gift I started walking. I determined I would not stop walking until I knew what I would give her.

Ten minutes later I stopped walking. Ten minutes after that I was in the car headed to the store.

TAKE ACTION

It does me no good to finish my walks with great ideas if I don’t take action on them. Coming up with ideas and outlines for blog articles is useless if I don’t then sit down and write them.

I’m prone to “inspiration addiction.” I don’t know if that’s a real thing, but it is for me. I love planning and the excitement that comes from knowing how these plans can transform my life. Maybe you’ve felt this around New Year’s Day when you come up with a bunch of goals and resolutions. It feels wonderful, but it’s ultimately useless if you don’t follow through.

Don’t let your good ideas evaporate without taking action.

TAKE THE CHALLENGE

Walking for fitness is great. But, I’m convinced walking for ideas is even better. If you take this challenge and stick with it I believe you will eventually become more productive and less busy. I also believe problems won’t feel as intimidating.

Because you can always go for a walk.

ONE MORE CHALLENGE

Whether you’ve recently re-discovered the joys of walking or you’ve had a daily Fitbit goal for years, I want to challenge you to take it up a notch for 30 days. Download this free guide to The 30 Day Walking Challenge and choose from three different levels.

If you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the Fitbit Inspire HR. This is the Fitbit I use to track my 20,000 steps a day. The Inspire HR also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress.

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(By the way…if you use the links in this article to make a purchase this blog will receive a small commission. It won’t add anything to what you pay, but letting you know is the right thing to do)

Finally, this blog is designed to help you embrace walking as a fitness activity. Walking is sustainable, flexible, effective, and fun. Every week I post new articles with stories and helpful suggestions.

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