running_shoeDo you ever feel like you’re just reacting from one event to the next, all day and end the day frustrated that you don’t have time to think? Do you have physical exercise built into your routines? If your answers are yes and no, or yes and not really, then this post is for you! We’ll look at why you should add running to your routine and how to do it.

To come up with great insights, you need thinking time

Imagine spending all day moving from task to task, or reacting to one event, then another and then another – also known as firefighting. Now imagine you also have a challenging problem to solve that requires some creative thinking, connecting different pieces of information together to come up with an insight that can solve the problem. Coming up with that insight requires time where you throw things around in your mind; connecting ideas to things you’ve heard in meetings, or connecting feedback received from one stakeholder with something you’ve seen or heard elsewhere.

Juggling concepts and data around and building connections to come up with an insight takes time. How are you going to do that when you spend all day moving or reacting from one thing to the next? On your commute home? No, you want to sleep! After dinner? No, you want to spend time with your family! You can see it can be very difficult to find this elusive time to think.

However time to think is required in order to come up with insights that solve challenging problems!

How can running help with thinking time?

As soon as you take those first few steps on your run you start to feel happy and free of demands on your time. Your mind drifts towards those challenges and your start turning things around in your mind. As you run, you analyse the situation you’re in. As you run, you build connections between various pieces of information in your memory, conversations you’ve had, meetings you’ve been in and sometimes even experiences you’ve had.

All of a sudden you’re 10 mins into your run and you’ve come up with an insight that will help you solve that challenging problem tomorrow.

Now all you need to do plan your tasks to make sure one of your Most Important Tasks includes action towards implementing that insight. If you don’t get time to think, you’ll be reacting from one event to the next and your brain won’t be able to come up with any breakthrough insights because you’ll be so pre-occupied with dealing with the urgent tasks in front of you every day.

Another great benefit of course is the release of endorphins when you exercise. This makes you feel happy, which also positively affects your ability to solve challenging problems. Running will also help relieve stress and help you stay healthy. I even came up with the name for this blog while I was running!

What about other forms of exercise like weight training?

The difference between running and weights at the gym is that running affords time to think whereas if you’re lifting weights then you’re fully absorbed in that activity and you won’t be doing any creative thinking while you’re concentrating on the exercise. Alternatives to running may be swimming, or perhaps meditation. It just needs to be an exercise that serves this dual purpose of thinking time and fitness. If your goal is solely around fitness, then running should only be one type of exercise that forms a part of your exercise system.

So, how do I incorporate running into my routine?

Everybody finds different ways to fit exercise in their day. Some run during their lunch time, some run before or after work. Set aside a time that suits you and just make it into a regular routine. You can make it a goal to run 2 times per week for a month, setup 8 post it notes – one for each run, and move them from ‘ready’ to ‘done’. Seeing this progress will help motivate you.

Once you’ve started enjoy it. It’s the enjoyment that will keep you doing it a lot more easily than relying on rock solid self-discipline, or some reward you’ll give yourself in the future.

What if you’re extremely busy during the day and don’t have a moment to spare? How about the weekends? I found success running twice a week on the weekends. While this isn’t the most ideal from a fitness perspective, it doesn’t interfere with the work week, I still benefit with time to think and it helps to contribute to staying healthy.

Just be careful not to overdo it with running because too much impact will cause damage to your knees and feet.

Have you boosted your productivity with exercise? Or are there other activities you’ve found that can create the same effect?

Exploring further

Great 2 minute video from THNKR explaining how to run – I’d advise following this and not overdoing it and causing impact to your knees or feet –