Walking (and Working) Backwards

Did you ever try walking backwards? I did the other day. Well, not actually walking backwards…Backwards

I take a walk daily. I’ve been doing so since I was a little girl. It feels so good, so natural and it’s such a simple way to exercise my body and my mind.

The other day, on a whim, I decided to start at the end of my usual route and walk from there to where I usually begin my walk. I know…that wasn’t exactly rocket science, but it was interesting to take in everything in reverse, to see the “backs” of things: trees, buildings, signs, everything.

As I “reverse-walked,” I couldn’t help but see things differently. I spied a hidden garden that I’d never noticed before. I saw sunlight glistening on a building, giving it a dazzling glow that I’d been missing all those years I’d been approaching from the opposite direction. And, I couldn’t help thinking that I should walk backwards more often, literally and figuratively.

What might I be missing each time I start a project at “the beginning”? Could I achieve a better result if I started somewhere in “the middle” or, even, at “the end”?

Could I be a better problem solver if I consciously worked backwards? By clearly defining what the end result should be, could I reverse-engineer the steps needed to reach that goal?

Certainly, as a musician, I recall teachers suggesting that the best way to learn a piece of music is to “learn it backwards.” In other words, start from the final measure, then append and learn a few prior measures, little by little, until you find your way back to the beginning. This works particularly well when memorizing anything.

Might I be more creative if I consciously “work backwards” more often? It’s incredibly easy to fall into the habit of sticking to a system, especially when that system has been working well for a long time. If I reverse my creative process, might my results be, dare I say it, more creative?

The simple exercise of taking my walk from “back to front” has reminded me that there is more than one way to approach a problem, reach a goal or generate a new idea.

I need to practice walking backwards more often.

What analogies can you add to this list?

by Rebecca Cochran

Walk. Look. Create.

footprintsI’ve been walking daily since I was a little girl. I have my father to thank for that. I relished my evening walks with him during my adolescent through teenage years. We’d set out, just the two of us, every evening after dinner, walking, sometimes talking, always observing the world around us. When we’d return, we were ready to tackle the dinner dishes and relax into the evening.

Walking is a gift. It is something most of us can do for free. Walking doesn’t require any special talents. We don’t have to buy any special clothing (although a comfortable pair of walking shoes is recommended). Most of us can simply head out our home or office door and just walk.

Walking is nature’s cure-all. No matter how I feel when I set out on a walk, I always feel better by the end. If I’m tired when I start my walk, I’m rejuvenated when I finish. If I’m feeling overwhelmed with work or personal issues when I begin a walk, I am clear-headed and focused by the end. And, of course, the long-term physical benefits of moderate-impact aerobic activities like walking are well known.

As an adult, no matter where I’ve lived – city or suburban setting, no matter the climate, I’ve always kept up my walking ritual. A daily walk, even a short one, is a must for me. I’m not one to listen to music or the news while I walk. I focus on my stride (to create a sort of natural rhythm). And I focus on my surroundings, trying to notice things that I’d miss if I were driving the same route.

I walk best alone. (Sorry, Dad.) Friends regularly invite me to join in their walking ritual, but I usually decline their offers. The benefits I derive from walking come when I’m able to think and observe in silence.

The simple act of a daily walk allows me to solve problems. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve begun a walk thinking I had a big problem to sort through, only to determine, 10 minutes in, that I’d been blowing the issue way out of proportion.

And, best of all, I regularly experience creative breakthroughs when I walk. These breakthroughs happen when I’m not even trying. The act of walking and focusing on my stride clears my head. Ideas flow naturally. Dots connect themselves.

Walk. Look. Create. It’s really that simple.

by Rebecca Cochran

ONE

When was the last time you concentrated on accomplishing ONE task in 24 hours?

Have you noticed? We humans seem to be hardwired to “multi-task.” It’s as if we’re trying to prove to ourselves that we’re invincible.

To combat this lately, I’ve been consciously practicing the strategy of focusing on ONE work-related project daily. Rather than pretending to manage a long “to-do” list every day, I’m choosing ONE main item to accomplish each day. The item might be ONE that’s truly deadline driven (most aren’t), or ONE that has lingered on my list way too long and deserves closure. No matter the reason, I’ve discovered that when I devote my energy to ONE daily goal, my “to-do” list shrinks quickly.

At the end of each workday, I select the next day’s ONE project. That makes it easy to immediately dive into that ONE project the next morning.

Of course, not every project can be completed in ONE day. I’ve learned to break larger projects into sections that can be accomplished in a single day.

And sure, I’m regularly pulled away from my ONE task, be it responding to an immediate client need or taking part in a pop-up conference call. By knowing what my ONE task is for the day, however, I’m able to easily switch back and complete it.

By giving myself “permission” to focus on ONE main project per day, I’m feeling a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in my work. I’m able to commit to client deadlines more readily. Rather than allowing myself to be pulled in many different directions each and every day, my greater focus is allowing me to work more quickly. And, I think my work is better overall.

Let me know your thoughts. Does the ONE strategy work for you?

by Rebecca Cochran