The Power of the Mid-Afternoon Walk

Every afternoon, sometime around 2-3 PM, I always go for at least a 20 minute walk or run.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I run. I’ll run at least a mile and a half with a few three mile runs sprinkled in. When I get back, I usually spend about 15-20 minutes sitting in or around our pool to cool off.

On Tuesday and Thursdays, it’s a walk. I walk. I go out to my mailbox, which is a little over a half mile round-trip. When I get back, I’ll usually get distracted with some yard work (hedges always need to be trimmed) and get back in to work around 3-3:30.

I started this habit a few years ago because I realized that my activity level dropped when I started working from home. I started using a Fitbit and saw that I was getting only around 7,000 steps a day. There’s no official recommended number of steps but 10,000 seems to be the general consensus of what’s “good.”

Whatever the reason, I knew that 7,000 just wasn’t cutting it.

To help increase the number of steps, I started taking walks and settled on mid-afternoon as the ideal time.

Looks like a mighty fine day for a stroll!

Looks like a mighty fine day for a stroll!

Why mid-afternoon?

You understand your own body. I know that in the morning I’m fresh, my mind is sharp, and I use that time to do as much work as possible. I write and I build in the morning.

After lunch, I have a bit of that food coma mixed in with just being up since 6AM and my energy levels fall. I don’t have as much creativity and energy to write, so I don’t. I find that coding and integration are trickier, so I don’t. Instead, I fiddle around on social media, check my email, and go on my walk.

If you’re a night owl, maybe a morning walk would work better. You know your body, listen to it. 🙂

Why is the mid-afternoon walk so powerful for me?

First, it’s exercise. You should be doing 20 minutes of exercise, five days a week. A walk isn’t necessarily as strenuous as a run but it’s more strenuous than a “sit on my fat ass in an office chair.”

Next, it helps me recharge my brain to do something else (studies have shown physical exercise beefs up the brain). On my walk I can enjoy being in nature, hearing the birds chirp, watching the squirrels scamper away, and just get a break from work. I get to stop thinking about it and just focus on something simple and physical. One foot in front of the other.

During the times I’m not struggling with a problem that I need a break from, it let’s me put on my CEO hat and think about big picture items. It let’s me take a mental inventory of what I need to accomplish and how that fits with the overall goal. The drawback to this is that I can’t write anything down but part of me believes that only the strongest ideas will endure the run or walk.

Is it for you?

When I worked at Northrop Grumman, I remember that a co-worker would always go on mid-afternoon walks around the building. The building was pretty big and the walks were a solid 30-40 minutes. I found it difficult to accept taking a 30-40 minute break, on top of a lunch break that was usually an hour, but he made time for it each day (I suspect he wasn’t staying after hours to make up for it!).

While I didn’t take long walks while working, there would be times I’d get up and just walk around the office for a few minutes. Sometimes it was good just to stretch my legs and move, even if there wasn’t much actual exercise going on. The breaks themselves were good and better than surfing Facebook (which was blocked anyway).

Do you go on an afternoon walk or use some other break to recharge and reset? Please share!

 

 

Why I’m Writing Richlifeology

Marbles

A year or so into working at Northrop Grumman, I attended a leadership seminar in which four lifetime employees (20-40+ years of service) sat at the front of the room and talked about their experiences there.

The oldest was an engineer. A guy with hundreds of patents to his name. A true legend that would impress anyone and I immediately felt thankful for his contributions to the company, to radar technology, and to our nation.

Seeing him up there warmed my heart because he was exactly where he was supposed to be in order to make the biggest impact on the world.

Immediately next to him was a manager, John, with twenty years of experience. He was a smart guy who spoke plainly, which was new for us given the corporate-speak we’d been used, and he told an allegory that has stuck with me ever since.

Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/92435716@N00/54171376/">Andrew Morrell Photography</a>

Searching for glass balls on the internet is very very risky. Marbles are better.

In front of you sit five balls labelled work, family, health, friends, and spirit.

The work ball is made of rubber but the family, health, friends, and spirit balls are made of glass. Your purpose is to juggle all of these balls in the air. If you drop the work ball, it just bounces right back up without a scratch. If you drop the others, they’ll get scuffed, cracked, or shattered beyond repair.

I would later learn that this allegory is attributed to Bryan Dyson, former CEO of Coca-Cola.

The most poignant part of the roundtable discussion was when John was asked if he’d do anything differently. To a group of young ambitious engineers hungry for career advice, John said that he’d work less. He’d spend more time with his family. He’s focus more on his health.

It had the biggest impact on me, I just didn’t know it yet.

I was fortunate in that I didn’t drop too many balls (or that when I did, they didn’t break) but I did let work dominate.

I identified with being an entrepreneur first, rather than a father or a husband or a golfer or a runner or whatever else. I love my family, I enjoy golf, I run, and I certainly put in the time and am present – but I saw work as the purpose.

For me, a Rich Life meant financial success in business.

I let it be my purpose and when it was removed, I felt an emptiness. I wouldn’t classify it as depression but I know now what people mean when they say depression isn’t sadness, it’s emptiness.

A Rich Life is more than work. It’s more than promotions and it’s more than raises. It’s about getting the most out of life so that when you look back, you aren’t looking at broken glass balls or an emptiness after decades of work.

It’s about building your life so that it’s well-rounded and balanced. It’s about being able to focus on family, friends, health, and spirit – in addition to work.

I don’t know what the answer is. This is a tough journey for me too.

After I sold a business, I immediately went to create others to fill the time and emptiness. It worked, for a short while, but unless I figure out how to build a Rich Life I’ll be back in the same place again. I need to figure out how to strengthen those glass balls, to stretch that allegory even further.

It’ll be exciting, sometimes scary, and I’m not sure where we’re going but we’ll have fun. I hope you’ll join me.

– Jim