I was at my computer at 6:00 am this morning. Three and one-half hours later I was stuck! I was facing a difficult client meeting and it was requiring extreme concentration and creativity to deal with the issue in a constructive way. But, I just got stuck. So, I got up and took a long walk.
Fortunately, I was in a location where I could walk in solitude on a very quiet path through the woods. I took a 45-minute walk. Let me break that walk into thirds for you.
Conscious of my surroundings.
The first third of the walk I was totally conscious of the sounds of my steps, the slight breeze rustling through the trees and the few jays that loudly proclaimed my presence. Nothing else. All my work thoughts were subconscious.
Over the next 15 minutes, the concentrated work I had done that morning began to blend with the solitude of my walk. I can’t fully explain it other than my mind began to produce some very high-level understandings. In that 15 minutes, it became clear how I should organize, structure and present the materials.
Blended Experience – Organized Plan
The last 15 minutes of the walk was spent enjoying a little bit of both. I once again became conscious of the sound of my footsteps and jays, but at the same time, I began to see the structure for the meeting, the key points to be emphasized and the steps to success.
Upon returning to my computer the next half hour of work was just incredibly productive. I took all of that thought process from that deep 15 minutes of understanding, put the structure together and began filling in all the pieces. Moving from being stuck to a very satisfying completion with some deep work in between.
Getting past Stuck
When we find ourselves stuck after 3-1/2 hours of concentrated work, most of us will stick with it, stay at the computer, keep hacking away, work until we get at least what feels like a conclusion. And yet, walking away is likely to be the most productive approach. Not to our email. Not to the break room. Not to our news feeds. Just getting up and walking out. Walking through nature in complete silence for 30-45 minutes. That’s when the deep work happens.
Word of Caution
Please understand. I did not decide to spend 15 minutes on each phase of that walk. What I’m sharing with you is my reflection on how I moved from being stuck to some very satisfying work. I didn’t plan to take a walk to solve my problems. I planned to take a walk. Taking a walk lead to some very satisfying productivity.
Deep work! That’s the key. A good walk in the woods. (Note: the book Deep Work by Cal Newport is a great resource.)