Over the last couple of years, I’ve started running again. I used to do it regularly years ago but forgot about it as life and work got in the way. Then 5 years ago I went through a rough stretch of severe anxiety and mild depression, which totally kicked my ass! It was a wake-up call that I needed to get my life and career in shape, otherwise, I was going to turn into a massive ball of stress and tears.
As someone who generally spends a lot of time in her own head, you’d think that running was not the thing for an anxious person. But it really was. You see, when I run, I’m only thinking of two things: breathing and not tripping on my feet. That’s it. I’m able to push everything else away and just think of those two things.
Now, what does running have to do with working smarter? As I’ve gotten better at running, I’m able to add in a few more things to my thoughts. So now it’s:
- Breathe, mind your feet, and what’s next up for my business blog?
- Or breathe, mind your feet, and how can I help my latest tech client with their content marketing?
- Or breathe, mind your feet, and what if we did an email newsletter series to support their next conference appearance?
You get the picture. Being active helps me work smarter and be more creative. It frees my mind and gets the creative juices flowing so that I’m able to come up with new ideas, whether that’s for me and my business or my clients and their tech/sports businesses.
I’m not the only one that’s understood this. Hoby Darling, former CEO of Skullcandy talked about this in an interview with Thrive Global.
When I’m working out in the gym or trail running or skiing, that’s when I get my best ideas. Without that time, I would not be as effective or creative and I would be a lot more stressed.
Darling went on to say that he’s got more energy now that he makes being active a priority and I totally agree with him. Even after an especially challenging run, I feel more energized and creative.
Use fitness and activity to work smarter and get more creative
Here are a few tips on how you can use fitness and physical activity to work smarter and fuel the creativity in your tech business.
1. Schedule your fitness time in your calendar
I get it you’re busy, so am I. So I’ve taken to scheduling my runs into my calendar. I know that on Monday and Wednesday afternoons, I’m out for a run. Could be a quick run or some speed training, but I’m out there. This helps you get into the mental headspace you may need to do the run or fitness activity. It’s also handy if you’re heading out the gym and you need time to get there. Block off the time and just get out there. “It’s important for leaders to show that they support this and that no one is going to think less of you for taking
“It’s important for leaders to show that they support this and that no one is going to think less of you for taking time to work out, as long as you are getting your work done,” says Darling in the interview.
2. Tell people you’re out running or working out
This is not where you get an accountability partner to help keep you on track, but rather, where you simply tell people you’re unavailable during a specified time because you’re getting your fitness on. That way you’ll know not to bother you or freak out if you don’t respond to a message within 5 minutes.
This last part is especially useful for those of you permanently attached to your smartphones and answer every email, IM, or Slack message at all hours.
3.Prime the creative fire with one or two words prior to heading out
Once you get good at running or your fitness activity of choice, it’s time to prime your brain with a few keywords to kick start your brain. This is especially good for running or other long-term activities where your brain is switched off like the elliptical.
4. Get familiar with the voice control on your smartphone
Sometimes when I’m running I’ll have a killer content marketing idea, but nowhere to write it down. I’ve started using the voice control on my smartphone and either create a draft text or note and then check these out once I’m back at my desk.
5. Turn off your brain
Wait, didn’t I just write about two tips where I’ve told you to “work” while running or working out? Yes, that’s sort of true, but for some people, their fitness time is the time where they turn off their brain and are present in the moment. I highly recommend this approach for everyone, as it’s a great time to just be. Live in the moment and look at your surroundings. Listen to your breathing and focus just on what you’re doing right now. Lifting weights. Following the Zumba instructor. Enjoying the sunshine on my face as I run.
This type of unplugging can be extremely fruitful to your creativity as it gives your subconscious brain time to work through problems or obstacles you may be thinking about. It’s sort of like the awake version of REM sleep, which is where our brains process thoughts into memories and a whole bunch of other things. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come up with a solution to a problem after a run!
Regardless of what physical activity you do, I highly recommend you just get out there. Fuel your creativity with some runs this week. Figure out some new content marketing strategies after a spinning or Pilates class.
Physical activity is a great way to work smarter and your creativity, both at work and at home. You’ll get better sleep too, I know I do when I’ve been more active throughout the week.
As I finish this post, I realize it took me a while to come up with an idea for this week’s post and that I hadn’t gone running in a few days. Coincidence? I think not. Now, where are my runners?
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