Every day around 3pm, my brain gets weary. I've tried numerous techniques to counter this challenge: coffee (especially when McDonald's is giving away free smalls), splashing cold water on my face, surfing around online, snacking. Yet I've found one technique to be the most effective: going for a walk.
This post originally appeared on Medium.
The longest stroll I've taken is around 10 minutes, and I just wander around the block. I pass by the open hotel lobby that's air-conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter. By the students on their way to and from art school. By storeowners, by late lunchers, by buildings under construction and their builders. I've even run into friends around the block.
I look forward to this break every day. Not because I don't like what I'm doing, but because mybrain is fried and I'm hitting the afternoon hump. On days I don't take it, I feel like I'm doing my employer or client an injustice — because I can't give them my brain's full output.Even recently, when the temperature dropped down to -30 Celsius, I bundled up and wandered outside — and into Toronto's underground tunnel system.
I recently read Neal Gabler's biography of Walt Disney. When Disney was emotionally broken down by the business of entertainment, upon insistence by his brother and colleagues, he reluctantly went on vacation despite all his problems at the studio:
Walt said that he and Lillian had the "time of our life" because he had reached the point where "I didn't give a darn." He felt he had been liberated from the burden of his own perfectionism.
Because Disney's job — storytelling and managing a company — involved constantly refocusing the brain, and because he was something of a perfectionist, being aimless for a period of time meant he happily stopped caring about work — and gained the power to continue forging onward.
Amidst all the different types of meetings in a workday, and in order to wrestle with all the mental constraints we have to work with (e.g. perfectionism,anxiety, insecurity), a simple 10-minute walk can do wonders for the mind. Fresh air. A change in scenery.
Empty the Cup
Sometimes, it seems like we're just completely being bombarded by corporate propaganda.Think of the office as a miniature city. While not nearly as peaceful as the countryside, venturing into the outdoors at least means an opportunity to take a break from the constant buzzing of e-mails and IMs. On the other hand, it's a new chance to wander aimlessly and take in sights, scents, and sounds that we don't see around the office. As it turns out, even when we aren't paying attention, we see and remember more than we think we do. (Here's Derren Brown proving the power of subliminal media.) Even walking around aimlessly could stimulate your creativity and help connect some weird dots.
Although I've personally foundwalks to be a superb outlet, some people find doing a few push-ups to be their thing. Others go for mid-day workouts. It may sound foolish, but these quiet breaks and the change of scenery can really refresh your mind. It adds a bit more currency to your cognitive budget.
If you don't have any ideas, trywalksfor a week. Every day when that afternoon hump hits (at around 3pm), go for a 10-minute walk (or longer) around the block instead of drinking that extra coffee. More importantly, take some time to renew yourself — seek quiet and be aimless — for a little bit every day.
Why You Should Seek Quiet Every Day [Medium]
Herbert Lui does marketing for clients such as Pivotal Labs, Busy Building Things and Renegades. He is the author of a free guide to building credibility online.