Leave your desk to get real work done — Harvard Business Review
Before I moved to the relative flatness of southwest Missouri from Phoenix, I went on a hike every day on a suburban mountain near my home. It was part of my daily routine, and I’d keep track of the number of days in a row I was able to get it done – I remember reaching 50 a few times. The hike lasted just a little over 30 minutes, but the 500-foot elevation gain made it solid exercise. But it had another benefit: it left me with my thoughts. I’d often come up with concepts for print ads or headlines or creative ways to make fun of my friends on my way up the curvy trail to the peak. Without any office-related distractions such as e-mails, phone calls, and visiting coworkers, I could focus on one “problem” for enough consecutive minutes to usually reach a satisfying solution.
This blog entry in the Harvard Business Review says the same thing. The author talks about fine-tuning a presentation over the course of a few weeks of daily walks around his neighborhood. He cites a 2013 study by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato from Leiden University in the Netherlands that found that people who go for a walk or bike ride four times a week were able to think more creatively than people who didn’t. The author also supports the practice of taking walks with employees for important conversations.
These days, I take far less walks and hikes, opting instead for the treadmill, which I find a good place to read a newspaper or magazine. But when I do hit a trail, I listen to a podcast, which doesn’t leave me alone with my thoughts. I’ve noticed the difference. I can’t remember the last time I stumbled on a solution during a walk. Maybe I should spend some time rethinking my routine. Maybe during a walk.
There’s a reason why ad agencies – and other places where creativity is a daily part of the job – are known for free-flowing alcohol. Not only is sharing a drink a nice way for people to get to know each other, drinking alcohol is a proven way to enhance your creativity. Trust me. I read every article, scientific or subjective, on the matter. As this infographic shows, alcohol affects your cerebral cortex, reducing your focus but freeing you up from all the preoccupations and distractions that usually keep you from letting your thoughts flow free.
Of course, there is a limit to the creativity boost, and the infographic suggests it happens sometime after two beers. I heartily dispute this, though I may need to engage in more research. This infographic, which is based on this article, also has some information about coffee and caffeine’s positive role in helping you execute strategy, but I wasn’t able to focus on it.