How to increase productivity by thinking on your feet

- August 11, 2023 3 MIN READ

We all know what it feels like to be stuck on some work-related issue. No matter how hard we try to solve the problem, we tend to go around in circles, ending up back to the same place of frustration and despair. We decide to get some fresh air, head outside and within a few minutes of looking up the street, at the sky, at the people walking by, wham, the answer to our problem pops into our head. The big question is – how did going outside lead to the problem being solved? asks Dr Brett Lillie, author of Rediscover Your Athlete Within.

To answer this question we need to go back two billion years. That’s when the earliest humans started to walk upright, which in turn made us better hunters, escape artists and team players. As part of this adaptation, we learned to become highly skilled at thinking on our feet. And this is still the case today.

Movement is the key to unlocking our productivity

Then, school taught us to sit down, keep still, stay quiet and pay attention. So we stopped playing and being interactive, and tuned into our screens, problem-solving more in our heads. Instinctively, we know this; we stand up, yawn and stretch only to snap out of our trance and promise ourselves to break more often. Movement doesn’t just help us to problem solve; it takes us out of our heads, and more in flow. We become resourceful, and creative, and we increase our productivity.

Why think on your feet?

Thinking on your feet activates our oldest and most crucial form of thought, a lost art known to many of the great thinkers. Charles Darwin moved his family out of London and designed his very own walking track to give himself space to think. It was strolling on that track where he was able to move and think and get lost in deep thinking. Ultimately this helped Darwin to develop his theory of evolution.

The research is telling us that thinking on your feet stimulates better recall, better concentration, a higher level of creative state and increases our ability to think differently. This of course, leads to increase productivity and problem solving. Some interesting studies carried out in Japan demonstrate that just swinging our arms can spark creativity.

Taking action

Try these tips for activating thinking on your feet in your daily working routine:

  1. Make a switch, conduct a meeting standing, have everyone use a single large white board rather than laptops, grab a marker and scribble, write, develop a strategy.
  2. If it’s just a two-person meeting, take it outdoors, and literally think on your feet. The conversation will be deeper, more thoughtful, more productive with a different flavour.
  3. We all use standing desks, but keep actively engaged, even just swimming your arms.
  4. Rather than sit, go dictate into your phone, think on your feet,.
  5. Set an alarm to work in block times, take regular breaks, getting up and move your whole body or even a little sneaky dance.
  6. Copy Charles Darwin and include a regular walk into your daily routine specifically for designing ideas, thinking big and becoming more productive in your time box.
  7. The next time you get stuck, recognise that you’re stuck and go outside and walk. See if it makes a difference for you.

Change it up

Instinctively we know that there is a relationship between movement, thinking, creating and doing. When we move, even taking a short walk, the way we think changes. For those of us who want to achieve more, be more creative, solve problems and enjoy the process more as we do it, one of the greatest tools that we all have at our disposal is movement.

So next time you’re struggling with a problem, feeling uninspired creatively or lacking motivation, get up and move and keep moving till the problem is rectified. Make this a habit and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

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