The Benefits of 15-Minute Walks
Walking gets me unstuck, walking diffuses, and walking meetings are great meetings
2020 is a Dumpster Fire year that oddly has also given me some of the greatest gifts. Exhibit A: with both of us working from home, I’ve spent two normal years’ worth of time with my wife in eight months. That time is invaluable, and I’ll always be grateful for it.
One of the most surprising gifts this year has given me is teaching me the importance of taking a walk. Remote work brought with it more flexibility, and I’ve been more mobile during the day than I would have been in-office.
Short 15-minute walks have become a critical part of how I work and create. Post-pandemic, I want to find a way of keeping that ritual alive — and here’s why I think you should try it, too.
Walking Gets Me Unstuck
Nothing clarifies muddled thinking better than walking. When my thoughts are jumbled (often), or when I have Writer’s Block (every week), I take a walk. The burst of motion reassembles my thoughts more clearly without me actively trying to do anything, and injects creativity that would not have occurred sitting at my desk (err, kitchen table) staring at my screens. Without those walks, this weekly newsletter wouldn’t happen.
Remote work places more reliance on written communication, and more written communication introduces more opportunities to read negative tone into messages from colleagues. Does “OK” mean “OK,” or does “OK” mean “whatever (eye roll)”? The urge to fire back a heated reply is real, and it’s a problem.
The only thing that stops me from hitting the Send button is taking a walk. I now have a rule: if I still want to fire off the message I was going to send after a 15-minute loop around my neighborhood, I’ll send it.
I almost never send it. By the time I leave our cul de sac, I’m calmer. The walk coaches me: get over it, stop reading tone into messages, and get back to what’s important.
Walking Meetings are Great Meetings
Before COVID, Rabbu’s CEO Emir Dukic and I had ‘walk and talk’ meetings 2–3 times a week. Often we have to talk about difficult topics — problems with no clear answers, important decisions with no roadmap, or challenging personnel issues. While we initially headed outdoors because our office has limited privacy, we found that there’s a huge added benefit — we’re able to be more candid. The setting is less formal, and we’re not looking at each other the whole time, which reduces tension that might otherwise be there in our conference room. It liberates the conversation, and it naturally de-escalates.
Maybe it’s no surprise that 2020 would be the year to teach me this lesson. It’s been a year of tests, and we all need therapy occasionally. In 1999, a study out of Duke University found that exercising three times a week is likely as effective in relieving the major symptoms of depression as anti-depressant medications. I’m a believer.
Do yourself a favor — hit the streets more often.