So Keith’s away, and it’s our turn to play! A great big thanks to Mr Robinson for letting me play in his neighbourhood while he’s relaxing on the beach. It’s going to be tough filling his shoes, but I’ll do my best.

As Keith mentioned, I’m a designer and marketing guy. I have a particular interest in understanding the mechanics of branding. I’m fascinated by how our brains remember and interpret events, and how our efforts in design and marketing impact purchase decisions. (If this sounds even remotely interesting, you may want to read a post I wrote back in April titled The B Word)

This interest in making sense of my own thought patterns has led to some insight into how and why I go through periods of high and low productivity.

Like Keith, I work from home. I’m pretty new to it as well, with less than a year of full time non-commuting under my belt. I’ve managed to learn a thing or two along the way. I’d like to add my own tip to the excellent list you started a couple of days ago. It’s this:


Stuck on a problem? Move. Staring at the screen? Move. Not sure what to do next? Move. Brain down? Move.

When you work in an office, there are a ton of reasons to get up from your chair. When you work from home, most of those reasons disappear. I’ve found it takes tremendous effort to remember to lift my butt off the chair. As a reminder, I’ve got a post-it stuck to the side of my monitor that reads “Move your ass!”. It works! I try to get up when switching between clients too. I find it helps mentally close one file and open another.

Moving gets the blood flowing, which in turn gets the ideas going. I keep five or six blank sheets of newsprint taped to my office wall so that I can jot down notes when I’m moving around my space. It’s an incredibly effective tool, and one I highly recommend.

Moving gets my body involved a bit in my work too – forgive me if this sounds all new-agey and grosses you out – but living exclusively in my head, I find my ideas can get stale. Moving my body helps to remind me that our human motives are not purely mental; a fact that’s particularly tough to remember when I haven’t moved for 14 hours!

Finally, moving keeps me healthy. When I first started working from home full time, I was thrilled by the extra couple of hours I had saved from the evil commuting monster. I used those hours at my keyboard, where I promptly developped a nasty case of repetitive-stress injury. Moving gives me an opportunity to shake my hands out, stretch my shoulders, and give my hands a bit of a break.

Ok, I’m going for a walk!

11 Comments on Get up and move

  1. Mike S. says:

    Ah yes, the all to important movement of our bodies. Since I’ve been working from home for a year and a half now I started to think back about how often I actually do this. The answer? Not often enough.

    Thank you for the reminder. Now I have a better reason to get up and walk around.

  2. Ken says:

    Not sure how feasible this is, but by where I live is the Palisades Mall, a HUGE mall that surprisingly is a refreshing walk around. Four floors and an endless amount of lights, stores and etc, especially most things are closed help clear my head. It doesn’t look like your typical mall either which also helps bring about different ideas.

  3. J Wynia says:

    A while back when my diet was in its most aggressive phase, I started taking to answering the question, “What supplements are you taking” with “The most useful dietary supplement for me right now is this great product called GOYA.” What is GOYA? Get Off Your Ass. It’s amazing stuff.

  4. Eric says:

    I just started reading this blog on saturday it’s quite interesting. I still work at an office which is somewhat close to my house but I do end up bringing a lot of work back home with me. I redraw architecture details and I can spend an hour trying to figure out the certain radius for a window. I usually get up every hour and take a 15 minute walk around my neighborhood or go give my two dogs a run for their money. Moving keeps me from going insane!

  5. Wejn says:

    Hey Peter, I’m kinda amazed you got rid of RSI so easily — I’m struggling to get rid of it for past two years (or so) with not much progress (it’s better, but still far from “acceptable”).

    Any ideas on the subject would be greatly appreciated ;-)

  6. I work full time in an office, but I also go to school and notice that taking breaks while doing homework or studying has really helped me a lot, usually when I’m stuck on some weird bug in a project. Getting up and moving around clears my head and lets me look at it again with fresh eyes. I was also surprised to see a decrease in homework time when I took more breaks; I felt more productive!

  7. Peter Flaschner says:

    Hey Wejn: I used an incredibly annoying, yet effective software tool called MacBreakZ to force me away from the keyboard every few minutes.

    I also bought a really nice keyboard drawer that allows me to adjust my typing angle to vary the tendon movement.

    I found ice packs on the forearms worked well too.

    At one point, I was doing all my work using a Wacom tablet and the Mac’s native handwriting recognition software. I literally hand wrote a couple of websites!

  8. Casey says:

    This is a great reminder to me as I always seek to get out of my chair at least each hour. I have read studies where the human brain can on average hold up to 45 minutes of solid information. After that it goes in one ear and out the other. Thanks for the great article.

  9. pjh says:

    I’ve been using WorkPace for Windows, a similarly annoying but helpful product. (

  10. Anders says:

    On the topic of software for notifying you of regular breaks I can really recommend Workrave I’ve been using it for a long time and find that it really helps me get some healthy breaks away from the computer screen. Plus it’s open source so it’s absolutely free!

  11. Silvia says:

    Another thing that works for me is to have a glass of water (have to go to the kitchen) wash my hands and brush my hair at least before lunch time and shower. Because I live in a tropical country, I take a shower about 6-7 pm and it refreshs me mentally, too.

    “the human brain can on average hold up to 45 minutes of solid information” I think it depends on the person, some people say 75 min or more. One must observe his own pick curve.

    The best thing I know for repetitive-stress injury is acupuncture, but exercise and diet (no fries during crisis and less fat)are complementary. They also work as preventives measures.

Leave a Reply