Outdoor Activities to Refresh Your Mind and Focus Your Work
Featured image taken by Isaiah Hicks Photography.
By now we have mastered the WFH set up–we’ve picked our makeshift desks, we make good coffee at home, maybe we hired a new “coworker” (shout out to all you new pet owners), we block out our work days and make efficient to do lists, we plug into our favorite working playlists on the Common Desk Spotify, and practice all the tips and tricks to stay productive at home. But maybe, like me, you feel a little wrung out, uninspired, or just plain tired of the grind. Thankfully, there is a way, accessible to most, to tap into fresh focus and creative inspiration: getting outside and moving your tush!
Science has proven time and time again that exercise improves focus. Okay, sold. Next, Positive Psychology claims our “deep-rooted affinity” toward nature provides access to a peace little found elsewhere. So moving outside throughout your workday might be just what you need to reset your perspective and energize your work. Here are a few ways you can start weaving outdoor activity into your workday.
Start off your morning with exercise.
Now, this doesn’t have to look like a two hour pump session hitting new personal records and sweating buckets (although it could if you are into that). Simply getting your heart rate up and blood flowing for 20 minutes will wake you up better than a cup of joe. Maybe this looks like a hike on the trails near your house, or a jog through the neighborhood, or a sunrise yoga flow on your porch. Here’s a 20-minute full body workout and an app to find local trails to get you started.
Take a walk for a creativity reboot.
A 2014 Stanford study says that “walking indeed boosts creative inspiration.” This is old news, but in case you missed it, the study found that creativity levels were higher for those that walked, both during and “shortly thereafter,” compared to those that remained sitting. Some of the greatest minds, like Ludwig van Beethoven, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and Charles Dickens carved out times for long walks and thinking caps. Want a brain boost? Walk the walk. Next time you feel stuck, notify your team and go offline for a quick trip outside.
Slay the day with a midday activity.
Need help getting over that midday hump? Power through with a virtual exercise class. Each week, Outdoor Voices releases online events that will make you sweat. Check them out here. Don’t have time for a class? Swap out your third cup of caffeine for 50 jumping jacks. Since we are focusing on outdoor activities, take these outside and enjoy the fresh air!
Have a picnic.
When the weather is nice, upgrade your normal lunch break to an outdoor picnic. I know this isn’t a physical activity, but you’re doing some lifting from your plate to your mouth, so we’ll count it! Having a dedicated time to enjoy your lunch away from screens will give your mind time to rest and regather so you can finish out the day strong, rather than fizzling out. So grab a blanket or a towel, maybe a speaker for some cool tunes, and, of course, your lunch, and lounge on the lawn. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, revamp your quarantine lunch with a new recipe.
Make your conference call a moving one.
Remember when Stanford said walking improved creativity? Let’s take it step further with a walking conference call. One of the perks of working from home is not having to be confined to a particular meeting space. Although some Zoom meetings require you to be at your desk, camera on, choose a few that you can call in through your phone and take as you walk a few laps around the park. It doesn’t need to be a brisk pace, just allow the sunshine to warm your skin, the wind to blow gently on your face, and your blood to start pumping, giving you a free pick-me-up and fresh scenery. Steve Jobs was known for his walking meetings, so we are pretty certain this is effective.
Commit to a step challenge.
Do you hate working out, but love competition? Gather up a group of colleagues and see who can accumulate the most steps in a week. Get your steps in with your morning run or maybe even during your trips back and forth from the pantry–they won’t know the difference! This extra activity and competitive edge will sharpen your mind and breathe new life into your work.
Wind down with an evening workout.
After a full 8 hours of screens and emails, checked boxes and focused productivity, my mind is reeling with information overload. I look forward to my workouts at the end of the workday to unwind and release any stress the day brought with it. Since working from home, this has been more critical than ever. Having a physical separation from the building that I work in, even just for an hour outside, solidifies the end of the workday and compartmentalizes work with work and the time I spend in my home for the rest of my evening with leisure time. Follow a few fitness Instagram accounts for some inventive, no equipment workouts or ride your bike and explore new areas of your city.
Try one or try them all! I hope these outdoor activities refresh your mind as much as they focus your work. If you need help with accountability, join our Fitness Club through our WFH membership.