Shauna Bickley

Working smarter, not harder

Posted on Saturday 21st November 2015 by Shauna Bickley

According to the exercise experts, it’s important to push beyond your comfort zone to stretch your capabilities. For example, rather than walking or jogging at the same pace, intersperse it with walking faster or running flat out for a minute.

Rest or recovery periods are also important, as they allow muscles to recover and build. Regularly changing the exercise routine helps us from getting bored and means we are working different muscle groups.

I’m not the world’s greatest when it comes to exercise, and the word athlete has never been used in the same sentence as my name, but I do try and maintain some sort of exercise routine, even if at times it is simply walking after work.

When I’m stressed by work deadlines the first thing to go is my morning exercise. Once I’m immersed in the work, I forget to take small rests to change my posture and stretch muscles. At the very time I need to work smarter, I’m working harder and the stupid thing is, it doesn’t work.

Working for longer without proper stretching, breaks and exercise doesn’t help produce more.

The recovery period is also important in exercise and it is equally as important in the mental/work side of our life. Thinking uses up a lot of energy.

My daily work is writing – training materials and technical writing, and then I come home to try and complete a novel. While the type of writing is different, the physical posture is the same.

The other day I was having trouble trying to draft a few paragraphs of information. I started the particular section several times, deleted most of what I’d written, and then in desperation I wandered down the hall to fill my water bottle. I stared out of the window for a minute or two, spoke to a fellow worker and then headed back to my desk. Hey presto, the few paragraphs that were bothering me flowed much faster and I moved onto the next task.

If I asked where you are or what you’re doing when you get inspiration, I’ll bet it’s in similar ways or situations to me. I’m inspired when I’m out walking, exercising, thinking about something else, or I’ll sometimes wake up with the answer. Most times it’s not when I’m in front of the computer.

However, even knowing this I’ll stay at the computer struggling to create some work related material, or trying to decide what my protagonist should do next.

Here is a quote from Leonardo da Vinci. ‘Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power of judgment. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller, and more of it can be taken in at a glance, and a lack of harmony or portion is more readily seen.’

Who am I to argue with da Vinci?

2 comments so far

  • Great post, Shauna and what a great quote. Well done Leonardo!
    Like you, my problem is often getting lost in the ‘ writing zone’ and not moving for longer than is good for me! Even if I set a timer to remind me to stand up and stretch, I either shout at it “yes, in a minute, I’m on a roll, here!” or I don’t hear it at all!
    I bought a Fit-Bit Zip last year which logs my daily steps and it’s shocking how few I do if I don’t make a point of taking a walk at some time in the day (the recommendation is between 8-10,000). Because some days the weather’s bad and I don’t get out, I’ve taken to walking around the house while on the phone and it’s amazing how many steps you can clock up that way.
    Well – it looks like the sun has made an appearance this morning so I’ll be off for that all important walk very shortly!

  • The timer is a good idea. When I’m working at home I often set mine for around 50 minutes. I do it partially to remind myself to have that short break to stretch, but also sometimes as motivation to work/write for that length of time without using the internet. That’s a huge time waster for me if I’m not completely in the zone and look at emails or websites when I should be writing! Also a good idea with the Fit-Bit zip and walking around the house when you’re on the phone – it all adds up.

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