Gigster Insight: Walking for the Health of Your Business
In our family, walking is an important part of our lives. Whenever we can, we try to walk the kids to school, my husband walks every morning for exercise, we make it a habit to always park at the end of the parking lot when we go out (also keeps dings & dents to a minimum), and when the weather is warmer we usually take a walk in the evening after dinner.
Our Human Resources manager, Faiza, also recommended walking in the early mornings to strengthen your vision. She had received this advice from her father who said that focusing one’s eyes on the green trees and plants in the early morning helps keep the eyes healthy and keeps vision from deteriorating. We all know that green is an uplifting color, reminding us of the beauty of nature, the permanence of life, the cleaning properties of plants, and of course good health (remember to eat your veggies). It is a deep, vibrant, and powerful color too, and and now we find out it can help improve vision.
Of course, I also do my Sunday morning walks with fellow entrepreneurs in our neighborhood to share ideas & tips on building our business. We share our experiences that week on what worked and what didn’t work in our businesses. Granted, it’s also a social affair and we do talk about lots of other things from kids, the news, and the local gossip. I don’t mind this. The business talk is a great ice breaker to start off with, especially in the early morning when we’re not completely awake yet. The important thing is that it adds some fun to the walk and makes the business stuff (which can be pretty dry) easy to talk about.
I never liked “walking meetings” when I worked as a staff person. There was always a sense that we were being led around and forced into a walk we didn’t really have time for. This is why it is important to keep it light. Obviously you can’t jot down notes in a walking meeting, so it should never become a mandatory, critical, or forced part of the work day. It should exist to complement the existing work, to offer a break from a stuffy office environment, and a chance for everyone to breathe a little.
Walking for Health
Walking is good for physical health, but it is also psychologically healthy. This is particularly the case during periods of great stress that many entrepreneurs experience when starting their businesses. For many, this involves long hours hunched over in front of computer screens, lots of low-cost travel and cramped conditions in hotels, tedious trainings, and a lot of time away from loved ones. In this environment it is incredibly easy to just hunker down, keep plugging away, and not take any breaks. This is bad for your health both physically and mentally.
Take a break and go for a walk, even if you just have 15 minutes. Go outside and take a look at the greenery or if you are in a big city, take the time to be around other people just walking the street. Even a very short walk outside every couple of hours is better than not doing this at all. I speak from personal experience writing my dissertation for hours on end that this is so incredibly important.
Working from Home
For those working from home, they typically shut their kids & pets out, turn up music or a loud fan, and try to pretend that they are isolated from the world. I know kids (and pets) can be a distraction, especially when they come home from school, but they are also a wonderful opportunity for a break. You don’t want them planted in front of a screen (or in our case, the Xbox) for hours just to be out of your hair.
So go for a walk together every couple of hours. It will be good for you and them. Starting a business from home is incredibly difficult, but even if you become extremely successful, you don’t want the memories from those first few years to be miserable ones? Well, neither do your kids.
Managing Your Meetings
Entrepreneurs also have lots of indoor meetings with clients, customers, staff, lawyers, suppliers, etc. Most of these people we are meeting with are specialists in their specific area, but as a small business owner you usually aren’t. Your job is typically to be responsible for the bigger picture. Your job is to coordinate the work of these specialists so that you can move your business forward with their help, input, and ideas. This may seem simple, but it is not and it is very common to fall into the habit of focusing too much on those things we can’t possibly become experts at – this is their job.
Taking a walk outside right after the meeting is extremely important. You need is a short break to focus your thoughts on what just occurred in the meeting. If you were in the meeting with an associate, this is the time to talk about the meeting during that walk. Compare impressions, make mental notes of the important things that stood out, and let the discussion converge to how this will help your business.
When you get back to your office, you will likely jump right back on your email, you’ll answer calls that you missed and become distracted by whatever advertisements pop up on your computer screen. Don’t do this – turn it all off. Now that you’ve had your meeting, followed by a short walk to synthesize your thoughts, it’s time to jot down notes and anything else that you need to remember. You’ll be surprised how that short walk after the meeting helps synthesize your thoughts.
Walking between stretches of work just makes sense
Walking, especially outside and away from your office, should become an important part of your work routine. The more you do it, the easier it will become and the better you will be able to determine what was important and what wasn’t. Focus on the green plants and let your mind do what it needs to do to store the information where it needs to. You’ll be surprised how easy this becomes with practice.
In my case, those walks are with my kids and while you might think they distract me from my thoughts about the business, they actually don’t. I always come back to the office refreshed and focused. So go for that walk regularly, talk with your kids about completely unrelated things, it won’t matter because your mind is particularly good at compartmentalizing when it is not stressed. That is ultimately what this is about: reducing stress..
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