Most afternoons, I find myself stuck at least once: in a lesson plan, a stack of (digitally submitted) essays, a writer's puzzle, a problem of practice I can't solve.
Now there are rare times when I find it best to push through when I'm stuck.
But more frequently, I find that it's better to take a walk.
I set a timer for half of the time I want to spend — if I want a ten minute walk, then I set it for five minutes — and I grab my keycard and my coat. I leave my classroom, leave my school, and walk to the nearest patch of woods. As I'm going, I either
- A) think on my present problem,* or
- B) try to think on nothing at all.
When my timer goes off, I turn around and walk back to my building and my classroom.
I find that a twenty minute walk is more than 2x as restorative as a ten minute one, but a ten minute walk is virtually always more productive than none at all.**
I'm making a course to help us do things like this intelligently. How do we monitor our inner realms, proactively guarding them against burnout and overwhelm, effectively cultivating within them the sustained will to do our work effectively and healthily? How do we make work behave so that we've got the life space to explore more than the occasional tip or tactic like the one in today's post? These are the questions we'll explore in the course.
I'll be releasing the course in early 2021, but with limited spots. Be the first to hear by signing up here.
*Cal Newport talks at length about walking as a productive meditation (i.e., solving difficult problems) in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
**What I almost always end up doing when I don't take the restorative walk is wandering into an infinity pool like YouTube or the news or Twitter. The fruits of these? Anxiety, frustration, annoyance, laziness. Walks are better.