Boost Productivity

You don’t have to sit in a cubicle anymore. So why don’t you move more?

Having spent the last 15 years as a Hollywood film editor (Empire, Burn Notice, Shooter, Glee), I’ve spent much of my adult life trapped behind a computer in the dark. My standard contract calls for a 60-hour workweek…and that’s when things aren’t busy. Long hours, intense deadlines, and a sedentary lifestyle are the perfect cocktail for depression, anxiety, and creative burnout, all of which I’ve experienced numerous times.

Twelve years ago I decided enough was enough. No director, producer, or studio executive was ever going to dictate how I spent my time during work again. That’s the day I took control and decided to stop treating myself like a Pinto and start treating myself like a Ferrari.

After ten years of obsessive experimentation, I created the Move Yourself program to help those living sedentary lifestyles stuck behind computers learn how to ignite their energy, focus, and creativity…without needing extra time in their crazy day to “hit the gym.”

After all, I’m the CEO of my online business, and you are the CEO of yours, likely because you wanted a job that valued RESULTS over the appearance of being busy. So it’s time you treat your body like your business and take control.

For example, while writing this blog post I have been sitting, standing, walking, using an under-desk elliptical machine, jumping on a trampoline, swinging a kettlebell, and jumping rope. Incorporating movement like this into your day won’t just help with your health, it’ll make you a better CEO.

Here’s how.

Be the CEO you’ve always wanted to work for

Online entrepreneurs are the only people I know willing to work 90 hours a week for themselves just so they don’t have to work 40 hours a week for someone else. What we as entrepreneurs ultimately covet is personal freedom from the tyranny of corporate culture that values the “theater of work”: The idea that if you’re being paid, you better look like you’re doing something every minute of the day.

We write this narrative for ourselves that we are sooooooooo busy that we must chain ourselves to our desks to ensure everything gets done. The mere thought of taking a walking break to decompress or think is out of the question…there’s just too much to do!

I don’t know about you, but being trapped in a cubicle all day making sure I have the right cover sheet on my TPS reports is my own personal version of hell.

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Ironically, when we escape our corporate overlords and start working for ourselves, most of us inevitably continue many of these horrible work habits:

  • Sitting for 12 (or more) hours per day
  • Never taking breaks
  • Eating at our desks
  • Trading a trip to the gym for another date night with Mr. Netflix & Mrs. Doritos

Whether you’re building your online business full time or picking away just a few hours a week, the reality is you get to make the rules now. And more importantly, you have the power to reshape your new work habits. You can’t blame your boss anymore…you’re the CEO.

So let’s set you up right: Your first priority as the head of your own company’s wellness department should be incorporating more movement into your workday.

It’s worse than you think

The probability is high that you’re sitting as you read this right now, you will continue sitting after you finish reading, and you’ll most likely be sedentary for up to 13 hours today (add in sleeping, driving, and eating…that’s up to 21 hours per day of not moving).

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Chronically sitting for as little as 30 to 60 minutes at a time without a break can lead to disastrous long-term health consequences including diabetes and cancer, and it can even lead to early death.

Even if you have miraculously found an extra hour before or after work to jog, bike, or even throw in some HIIT training, you still aren’t offsetting the negative effects of being sedentary for the vast majority of your day. Recent research has shown that it requires over an hour of intense exercise to offset the negative effects of sitting for only 6 to 7 hours.

I don’t know about you, but 6 to 7 hours isn’t even a half-day for me.

Now it’s not like this is going to make you say, “Wait, sitting is bad and I need to be more active? Huzzah!” and then immediately run out the door for a quick jog.

The idea that being sedentary is detrimental to your health is old news. But what might influence some habit changes is the positive impact that moving can have on the growth of your business.

Behold the power of movement

Your brain functions very similarly to a muscle: With chronic lack of physical activity, your brain can atrophy. Conversely, the more you feed your brain with movement, the more it will grow.

When you move, especially when you do quick bursts of high-intensity exercise (even for as little as 60 seconds), your brain releases the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Every bout of activity is like taking a small dose of Prozac and Ritalin mixed together, except no prescription (or covert meeting with your local 10th-grade dealer) is necessary. Small bursts of exercise have been proven to help people successfully regulate anxiety, depression, and attention issues.

Dealing with nasty invisible scripts, can’t find the willpower to focus on writing your next blog post, or maybe you have a massive case of “imposter syndrome”? Before shutting your website down, simply try 60 seconds of jumping rope before giving up and going back to corporate America. When I’m feeling blocked, depressed, or my focus is all over the place, I will often force myself to take a walk around the block, do a few push-ups, or run a few flights of stairs.

Beyond the release of neurotransmitters, the other very important chemical that is released during movement and exercise bursts is called BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF is considered “Miracle-Gro for the brain” by doctor and author Dr. John Ratey — meaning the more of it that is released, the faster your new neural connections can grow, the better your memory becomes, and the faster you can learn new information, thus ultimately making you smarter over time. Furthermore, something as simple as taking a 15-minute walking break can have a tremendous impact on your creativity. According to this Stanford study, walking can increase your creative output by an average of 60 percent versus simply sitting.

Rather than fighting the inevitable afternoon slump with another trip to Starbucks, try taking a brisk walk around the block instead. Want to take things to the next level? Throw in 30 seconds of HIIT training such as push-ups, lunges, or burpees. You may find you are more focused and energetic for a longer period than what would have resulted from your Mocha-Frappa-Caffa-Latte-Double Espresso-Chino.

Here’s even more good news: According to Dr. Joan Vernikos, the former head of the life sciences division at NASA, as well as the author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, “Movement every 20 to 30 minutes, even movements as simple as just standing up and sitting right back down, interrupts the negative effects of sitting. So it’s not really so much about the fact that you’re sitting, what’s important is how much time you are sitting without interruption.

You have no excuse not to

It’s time to stop giving up on things that require more time in your day that you can’t do because “CEOs don’t have time for breaks,” and instead start modifying things you already have to do during your day anyway…just do them more actively. I call these “easy wins” because they add up quickly, they are less intimidating to implement in your daily routine than afternoon gym sessions, and they are easier to transform into long-term habits.

Anyone can implement the following easy wins no matter how crazy the schedule, and the greatest benefit of making these small changes is they actually buy you more time because of your increased levels of focus, creativity, and productivity.

Some of these might sound (and often look) downright silly, but the point is that you are no longer “chained” to your desk unless you CHOOSE to be.

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If your legs and lungs work, use them!
  • Commit to walking during all of your phone calls (Bonus: Take walking meetings). The increased energy surge you get from walking briskly will be interpreted as passion by whoever is on the other end of your call, be it a team member or prospective client.
  • The next time you need to outline a blog post or brainstorm your next product, instead of doing so in front of your computer, take a 15-minute walking break and dictate your thoughts into your phone. When you return to your desk, the simple process of writing out your verbal thoughts will help you further synthesize your creative ideas, as well as even come up with new ones.
  • Surround yourself with simple tools that promote more movement and make your day more fun. A few of my staples are a foam roller, a trampoline, a jump rope, and kettlebells.
  • Set a timer on your phone or install one on your computer (my favorite is BreakTime) that reminds you to step away every 30 to 60 minutes. My general schedule is 50 minutes of focused work followed by 5 to 10 minutes of taking an “activity break.”
  • If your doorway accommodates it, install a pull-up bar. Then five minutes before your next client meeting or deep work session, bust out a few pull-ups (or even just hang). The adrenaline rush will fuel your brain far longer than coffee or Red Bull and everyone will wonder where the boss “gets all that energy!”

Now that you’ve presumably escaped the “9 to 5” and leapt into the world of online business, your measurement of success no longer has to be defined by your participation in the “theater of work.” Your success can now be defined by the products you create, the revenue you generate, and ultimately the customers’ lives you change. As the CEO of your business, you finally have the freedom to stop focusing on spinning your wheels looking busy and instead start maximizing your energy, focus, and creativity for the sake of your business growth.

And luckily, movement is the engine that drives all three.

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This is so solid. Thank you.

I’ve got a VariDesk at the office. I should use it more often. And I love my twice-daily laps around the block when I’m not working from home. Ironically, I tend to put down roots when I work from home, but it was nice to learn even just starting small by standing up and sitting right back down or doing 30-60 seconds of exercise can make all the difference in the world.

We all have to start somewhere. Clarity, confidence, calm. These are all built through activity.

Hey Brian,

Happy to help. The VariDesk is a great start, but you are correct – it only makes a difference if you use it. :)

Starting small and building from there is the key!

Be well.
Zack Arnold

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