Julie Mitchell's CoachNotes



Boost productivity: Make footprints in the sand

Footprints in the sand lead to better work performance!

Footprints in the sand lead to better work performance! Photo by J. Mitchell (Location: British Virgin Islands)

Feeling stuck? Stressed when you need to do your best? Is your creativity blasted? Are you distracted? If you’re mobile and near water, get back on track with a beach walk! Any outdoor trek is a step in the right direction, but my preferred path to better work begins with surf.

In 2003 my International Coach Federation (ICF) colleagues beached their routines for a lakeside CoachWalk experience. They were eager to learn about integrative coaching (connecting mind, body, emotions, spirit) and I wanted to test-walk my theories with respected peers. Also, it was fun to hit the beach in the name of professional development.

Since then, an ocean of evidence affirms what we discovered, and what trailblazers have known for ages. Walking in nature improves attitude, creativity, mindfulness, clarity, strategic thinking, learning, problem solving, focus, mood, and more. It’s good for you and your work!

Curious about taking your work for a beach walk? Here are 7 tips to get your feet wet:

  1. Be safe. Make sure you’re fit for walking on coastal terrain, e.g., uneven sand, rocks, or shells. Beware of hazards and be prepared to call for help. Once, while barefoot on silky white sand, I stepped on broken glass. Ouch.
  1. Choose the right time. Consider whether others will be crowding the coast. Show up early for sunrise. Try “not good beach weather” days, off-season, or less popular spots. Avoid distractions (the fascinating range of bodies on display, roaring jet-skis, volleyball games).
  1. Give your brain a break; have no objective. Allow your mind to be empty, free and open. Let your thoughts meander, coming and going like the waves. Trust you will feel restored, energized, and more focused following the walk.
  1. Alternatively, have a realistic, next-step agenda. (Yes, I’ve contradicted no. 3, above.) A beach walk rescue and recovery talk may be just what you need when facing an unexpected event or sticky situation. Invite a colleague or thinking partner to help you “walk through” the issue.
  1. Be present and engage your senses. This will come naturally if you slow down and pay attention to nature’s wonders. Stop, look, and listen. Enjoy glorious shades of blue, green, brown or gray. Feel the sun, see the clouds, hear the birds, and breathe in fresh air. Appreciate the soft sand or cool refreshing water.
  1. Explore pace and space. Weave in and out of the surf, stay close to the water, or make tracks through nearby dunes. Vary your stride or stop altogether. First steps may be heavy with fatigue, but later you may feel invigorated and inspired to stretch, skip, or jog. Have fun.
  1. Maximize walking momentum. If an idea popped into your head mid-walk, note it before you forget it. Return to work immediately. You’re likely to be more awake, inspired, efficient, accurate, and focused.

I encourage you to experience the wonders of beach walking. Your footprints in the sand may lead directly to better work performance!

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March Forward: Walk at work!


Walk at work this Spring. Ideas, productivity, and energy will blossom!

Hooray for Vernal Equinox, new moon, and eclipse day. Spring forward (or, as a drill sergeant might say, “Forward, March)!

It’s an ideal time to make your move at work, improving health, fitness and productivity. Take a walk and discover what innovative thinkers have known for centuries.

Spring walks blossom with possibilities. Going outdoors is a breath of fresh air, a Spring-cleaning for stale, stuffy ideas and sticky work situations. Walking in nature stimulates creative thinking and opens minds that may be closed (bored, distracted, or tired) within confined cubicles or conference rooms.

Workers who walk return to their offices (customers, patients, clients, students, machines, or devices) inspired and energized. I’ve witnessed this countless times. Research underscores multiple benefits of workplace walking.

As winter fades, I invite you to explore a wooded trail or park convenient to work (or trek around the parking lot). Try it on your own, or invite a colleague. See what happens.

Hate walking? Have outdoor allergies? Consider a brief workplace “change of venue” as an alternative way to get moving on a project (an open, inspiring, light-filled space — such as a museum or indoor botanical garden — may do the trick).

Want to learn more about taking your work for a walk? Contact me for a free phone consultation.


Try a walking meeting by yourself (no company required).

Photo from a memorable and restorative, solo walk in Orkney, Scotland.

Photo from a memorable and restorative solo walk in beautiful Orkney, Scotland.

Do you need to give your brain a break?

Yearning for distraction-free creative time?

Feeling overwhelmed with too many “to dos” and too little time?

Have you considered strategic planning on your feet? Trust me: It can be done!

Are you motivated by research warning of too much sitting being linked to aging, weight gain, and — I would argue — slow, muddled thinking? If so, you are just one walk away from better health and ideas.

Walking meetings have taken off like crazy since I started using them through CoachWalks, 12 years ago. I knew then — as others have known for centuries — that a walk in the woods, walk in the park, walk around the neighborhood, “walk and talk at work” or a “moving meeting” can work wonders.

I’ve addressed how to get started with walking meetings, but I have not shared what keeps me going as an entrepreneur, consultant, and leadership communication coach: I’m at my best on my feet. I count on solo walking meetings for business planning and more.

How do solitary work walks help?

1) They get me outdoors, open to whatever I might experience (sights, sounds, inspiration)…

2) If I can’t think, walking shakes off doldrums, a bad mood, fatigue and other versions of being stuck.

3) I feel virtuous and more healthy because I’m moving and getting my heart rate up!

4) Once I’m in the flow of walking and have emptied my brain, I’ve created space for whatever is next on my agenda. When I’m back in the office, I’m energized, focused, and working more effectively.

5) I’m enjoying nature and in my own small way I’m engaging in a green, sustainable business practice (using natural light instead of office lights, wearing my jacket on a chilly day, instead of turning up the heat… you get the idea).

Need more encouragement? Check out this New York Times article on the benefits of restorative walking (no agenda or thinking necessary). I particularly like that it cites research from Scotland, one of the best places I’ve walked!


“Walk-and-talk” meetings grow in popularity

Beach walkers meeting in southwest FL.

A friend sent me this link from the Globe and Mail. It’s worth a read.

I loved learning about how fit workplaces are being promoted in Canada, and it’s the first time I’ve seen the job title “chief exercise officer.”

It’s gratifying to witness a growing movement for more movement at work. When I started Coachwalks℠ in 2002, very few people embraced the idea, and some told me I was crazy. Fortunately, I had open-minded clients willing to take a chance on walking with me. We’re still walking!

A growing body of research confirms what inspired me to offer the walking option to leaders I coach: walking meetings boost creative thinking, teamwork, efficiency and health. The Globe and Mail article reports on how walking improves “executive control,” too, including working memory and planning/organizational ability. Great news for those of us who feel organizationally challenged. 😉


Ideas take flight: How to get started with walking meetings

Walking meetings are taking off, for good reason: Innovative ideas take flight when people get moving!

Recently, I’ve talked with several leaders about how to encourage walking meetings at work.

There is no one “right way” to take your work for a walk, but to get started in your organization, consider these guidelines:

Motivation. Research affirms walking meeting benefits: People are energized, group interactions shift (positively), problems are solved, calories are burned, and creative ideas are born. Walking is good for mind, body, spirit, and your business!

Location. Choose a quiet, safe, familiar, and distraction-free environment. Make sure your path is “walking friendly” for everyone involved.

Intention. Plan your walking meeting agenda mindfully. Focus on identifying one, specific “next step” in a project by the conclusion of your walk, or try narrowing several possibilities to the “top three.”

Participants. Start small, inviting one colleague to a walking meeting. Experiment with up to six people, walking with partners, or three abreast, to ensure everyone is heard and feels included.

Results. Capture ideas while walking, using a small notepad, smartphone or other portable device. Before the walk, assign responsibility for distributing follow-up/action plans after the meeting.

Comfort. Consider participants’ fitness level, preparation (including appropriate clothing), and potential obstacles, including skepticism or anxiety. Walking meetings bring out the best in some folks, but they are not for everyone. Ideally, they should be proposed as a positive, relaxed option to traditional meetings.


Sick of sitting? Standing meetings pick up the pace.

Standing on the beach (southwest Florida).

Yesterday, I sat down with a terrific new colleague in his office. Nothing unusual about that, and sitting was appropriate for the work we were doing. However, by early evening I had been seated all day, hunched over my laptop, in meetings, driving, or at the piano bench for last-minute practice (I’m playing a volunteer gig this weekend, but I digress).

I felt sleepy, fuzzy brained, cramped and unmotivated. Was I coming down with the flu? No. I was simply sick of sitting. Once I was upright and mobile, my symptoms were greatly relieved.

Perhaps it’s due to my age, slouchy chair posture, impatience or a combination of factors, but I feel increasingly uncomfortable and sluggish if I have to sit for long. Here’s an interesting Wall Street Journal article about companies promoting standing meetings. I’m in favor of them, along with walking meetings as healthy, productive options to the usual  sit-downs. I agree that folks may be more present, focused and efficient when standing. What do you think?


Take your work for a walk℠

Do you like walking? Wish you had more time for it? I encourage you to walk for more than the usual reasons (e.g., the dog needs to do his business, it improves cardiovascular health and burns calories). I invite you to take your work for a walk. Walking offers an opportunity to think more creatively about a business challenge. If you choose a quiet, safe path (free from traffic and distractions), set an intention, open your mind, and put one foot in front of the other, you may be surprised at the outcome.

This week, I’ve walked with clients while advising them on leadership, communication or career-transition issues. Since January 1, 2011, I’ve walked daily, sometimes only with my iPhone — handy for capturing “aha” insights — other times with my husband, friends or clients. Each trek has underscored the value of moving away from the desk, office or routine for a change of scenery and perhaps a change of mind.

Often, my best thinking happens during walks. I may start off feeling sluggish and uninspired, but being outdoors and on the move usually shifts my energy and attitude. I’m more efficient and focused on priorities once I’m back in my office.

It took me years to accept this: I’m not good at some habits associated with “productivity” and successful entrepreneurship. I could choose to see this as a problem (and I have beat myself up about it, too often) but now I appreciate my nontraditional approaches to getting things done. Walking works for me and it’s time to share how it works, in case others may benefit. I’ll be blogging more about how I integrate walking and work. I hope you’ll try a business-focused walk and I welcome comments about what you discover on the path.

P.S. I took most photos on this blog during my walks!