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

There Is No Wrong Way.

While walking the other day, I spied this sign. Of course, I had to walk towards it. I’ve always had a bit of a contrarian streak within me. Even as a kid, if my sisters were going one way, I went the other —just to see what would happen.

I did my entire walk the “wrong way” that day. I enjoyed crossing paths with other walkers, runners and cyclists and being able to greet them “face-to-face” with a smile or a nod. If I’d been walking the “right way,” I would have missed those human interactions, so important in today’s world.

One of my earlier posts, Walking (and Working) Backwards, came to mind. In that post, I explore some possible advantages to starting a project somewhere in “the middle” or even, at “the end.” There is certainly more than one way to approach a problem, reach a goal or generate a new idea.

On my “wrong way” walk, I recalled yet another of my earlier posts. In it, I recount “The Rules” attributed to John Cage, one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century. Many of his works disrupted the way we think about listening. To Cage, music was everywhere and could be made with anything. Chance plays a big role in many of his works.

Although Cage’s “Rules” are geared towards students and teachers, we can all learn from them. His Rule Six is my favorite. “Nothing is a mistake.” I need to remind myself of this, regularly. There is no “wrong way” to accomplish anything.

I also love the ambiguity of Rule Ten. “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules.” I couldn’t agree more. Whether it pertains to our work or our play, there are no rules. We’re all learning and adapting as we go — especially lately.

There Is No Wrong Way.