How to Get More Done by Walking Away from Your Desk

Keep your productivity, focus, and energy high

Are you stuck?

It’s one thing to be heads-down, in the zone, focused on a problem, and making great progress. But what about when the progress stops?

When you’re up against the wall, pushing harder is only going to cause problems. You’re going to wear yourself out. Sometimes, a change of pace is exactly what you need.

So go take a walk.

Photo courtesy of © iStockphoto/mediaphotos

It doesn’t have to be long. Just lap the floor once or twice. Go outside and circle the building. Walk down the street for a refreshing beverage.

Getting up and taking a short walk has great benefits for your productivity:

  1. Boost your metabolism. Get your blood flowing. Take deep breaths. Studies have shown that you can get most of the benefits of a standing desk by just getting up and walking around. When you come back to your desk (sitting or standing), you’ll be more awake and alert.
  2. It’s naturally Pomodoro. The Pomodoro technique alternates between working for 25 minutes, then taking 5 minutes of rest. When your pomodoro is up, get up and walk around. Then come back and see how much you can get done in the next 25 minutes.
  3. Think it through. I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve spent all afternoon trying to get something working and not getting anywhere, only to figure out what was wrong as I was walking out to the car. (Sometimes I’ll rush back inside to fix it right then, sometimes I’ll just add the epiphany to the top of my list for tomorrow.) When you’re at your desk, it’s hard to stop and think a problem through. You want to try out every little idea as it comes up. When you step away from your desk, you’re more likely to figure out what’s wrong with an idea before you’ve spent 10 minutes heading down that path.
  4. Talk it out. Grab a coworker or three. They need the same productivity-enhancing breaks from their work as you do. If you can align your breaks, you can bounce ideas off of them. Or just chat and bond as a team. Either one works, depending on whether you need a win in Quadrant 1 or Quadrant 2.
  5. Changes in latitude, changes in attitude. A change of scenery helps keep your mind operating at its peak. Staring at your desk for too long, your brain starts getting bored. It likes variety. Work for a while, then change things up. Don’t give yourself time to slip into autopilot.

Taking frequent breaks (twice an hour) can seem counter-intuitive, but it works. Our productivity naturally ebbs and flows. When you’re at a low point anyway, why not go recharge and renew yourself for a few minutes?

Even when you’re in the zone and making incredible progress, you’ll be able to sustain that productivity longer if you’ll get up and take a break from time to time. Try it out. Your task list, brain, and heart will thank you for it.

Question: What’s your favorite way to take a break when it’s time to get up and stretch? How has it made you more productive? Share your experiences in the comments below!

About

Colter writes software and blogs about personal growth and productivity. He lives in Silicon Valley (California) with his wife and children, recently took up golf, and watches mostly British TV shows.

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