Thursday, March 8, 2012


(This is part of my occasional series on what I learned in attending and teaching coaching seminars.)

In the world of IT, we don't tend to move much. I know I will use IM to chat with someone just a few feet away, rather than walking over, or fill both my water bottle and teacup in the kitchen at the same time, rather than walking back half an hour later.  But movement helps in so many different ways.
  • Exercise – Even though the “knowledge worker” doesn’t need to be physically active, exercise is important for overall health. One’s immune system improves, sleep comes more regularly (and naturally), and walking from the car to the office (even with a few flights of stairs thrown in) doesn’t seem so bad.
  • Change of view – Staring at a computer screen for hours on end can cause strain to our eyes, so moving around, staring out a window, or whiteboarding a process with team members can give our eyes a needed break.
  • Clear thinking – The model just isn’t quite jelling with the requirements. Something’s missing. Don’t keep staring at the UML diagram. Take a walk. Go get a cup of coffee, or just listen to the sounds of spring (they’re starting to arrive here in Denver). When you return to the model, the connection or relation may start to make sense.
  • Memory – Did you know that you associate new information with your physical location? Not just the where (bland conference room in Anytown, USA), but what you are doing (especially if it’s not a normal action), can help you learn. Our 17-year old son still remembers body movements associated with the seasons that we showed him when he was two.
  • Perception based on physical and social state – A warm cup of coffee helps to provide a warmer association with a person. A hill seems less steep when you’re viewing it with a friend, rather than alone.
Movement and your physical location can generate new ideas, help you over stumbling blocks, help you remember new concepts, and build relationships. There’s even evidence that, if you are sitting inside a box shape taped on the floor, you will be less creative than if you are sitting outside that same box tape outline.  What are you waiting for? Get outside the box, and get moving!

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