Photo courtesy of Amy Roseveare
There are a lot of things which seem to be completely unrelated to personal finance, but still have a large effect on your finances. One of the best things that you can do to help improve your finances is to realize that you need to look beyond those things that have a direct link to money, and also consider all of the things you do which have indirect effects. A great example of this is a daily walk.
I walk virtually every morning these days. The length of the walk depends on where I happen to be, but usually it’s between 2 and 5 miles. While I don’t have a specific time I take off each morning, I try to leave before 10:00 am. I started this habit simply because I knew sitting behind a computer all day in a small room writing articles wasn’t healthy, and I thought getting out at least once a day would help. What I didn’t realize at the time was the huge number of additional benefits that it would provide, and how it has helped me financially in the long run.
Going on a daily walk wouldn’t seem like a way to better your finances, but that’s exactly what it does for me. While all the benefits that I derive from a daily walk may not apply to you, my guess is that more than a few will. It’s when you can see how your daily routines help or inhibit your finances that you can really start to begin to make significant progress in getting them in order. Here are some of the benefits I derive from taking a daily walk:
My walks give me a chance to be more creative than I would be without them. It’s not just me. A new study by The Journal of Experimental Psychology found that students who walked were able to substantially increase their creativity (as much as 60%) after they took an 8 minute walk. I’m far more creative when walking because there is no pressure to start doing the next thing. I’m free to let my imagination run and let it go where it may, allowing me to come across new and innovative ways of presenting articles that I may not have ever thought of before. The walks give me uninterrupted time to ask the question, “What if I tried this?” which I probably wouldn’t ask myself nearly as often if I were always in front of the computer writing.
One of the greatest benefits of my daily walk is that it helps me relax. No matter how busy my schedule is that day or what deadlines I may have, getting out and walking a few miles takes away much, if not all, of the stress I have. Being less stressed allows me to be in a state where I’m able to do the things that I need to get done more efficiently and thoroughly. I don’t rush the projects, but simply work on what I know needs to get done. Anyone who stresses about things knows that the stress can greatly reduce your effectiveness, and taking my walk is one weapon against the stress of my job.
Getting out into the fresh air allows me to clear my mind and mentally prepare for all the things I need to do that day. It gives me the opportunity to rank the importance of the things so that I can spend my time wisely on those which are most important. It also allows me time to consider what type of preparation I will need to do to accomplish the tasks for that day. This allows me to be more efficient when doing them, since I’ve already thought through all the steps in my head. This also helps me avoid doing things that could have been costly in both time and money because I accidentally forget an important step, which may not have been obvious had I simply started doing things without thinking through the preparation process. By giving me a time to think about the day in a relaxed atmosphere, I end up being better prepared and more efficient throughout the day.
I’m not exactly sure what it is about walking, but it’s one of the times when I’m able to come up with solutions to ongoing problems that need to be solved. I think that since it’s just me walking without any of the other distractions I would have around me when I’m working, I’m able to process all the information much better. More often than not, I will return from a walk with a workable solution to a problem that I needed to solve, but was having trouble figuring out what to do about it in front of the computer. Again, being able to solve these issues in a timely manner makes me personally more efficient, and it makes things run much more smoothly than if they lingered unsolved for an extended period of time.
One of the reasons that I get so much more done on days that I walk is that I have a much better focus. The walk helps me determine exactly what I need to do that day so that I’m not stopping to constantly evaluate what I need to do next. I know what I need to do and can focus on it. Once done, I know what is next on my list and can focus on that. The day’s plan is settled and that focus helps me get so much more accomplished than I otherwise would.
Since my walks help me relax, prepare, solve problems and focus, I’m far more productive when I get back from them than I would be if I didn’t take them at all. Even when I’m gone for as much as two hours, the increased productivity will more than make up for the time that I’m out walking. It’s amazing how much less time I spend procrastinating or sitting in front of the computer trying to decide what to do next when I take a walk. In the end, this helps me get more done and earn more, while also being better organized in the work that I do.
Walks are also a great way for me to get motivated for the day. I think about the things that I need to get done and how I will accomplish each of them, and I gain motivation to attempt as many of them as I can. I find that when I don’t walk I end up focusing much more on how much I seem to have to do, which sometimes seems like an insurmountable mountain. When I walk, I get some time to prepare, and I’m in a much better mental state to tackle the day’s list than if I simply rolled out of bed and began working at the computer. I know from experience that I simply have a lot more motivation to tackle the challenges of the day after I have taken a walk.
One of the most difficult parts of my job is coming up with new and interesting ways to present information about personal finance. This is always a challenge, but I find that most of the ideas I get for possible new articles comes while I’m walking. It’s time when my mind can wander and not think about other issues if I so choose, and often results in inspiration for a new take on some aspect of personal finance. It was from a recent morning walk that this particular article developed.
One of the problems that I’ve always had working in front of the computer was getting in some daily exercise, and a daily morning walk has solved the minimum part of this issue. It helps ensure that I get at least a little bit of exercise every day, no matter how hectic my schedule may be. While it certainly isn’t enough exercise so that it’s the only thing I need to do, it’s a great minimum to have. I used to rely on a gym membership for this minimum amount of exercise, so the daily walk has allowed me to cancel this and save me the membership fees. Walking quickly taught me that I much prefer to be outside to get my exercise rather than indoors, and so I have changed my workout habits to accommodate this.
I personally find my daily walk to be one of the most rejuvenating things that I can do. My attitude toward what needs to be done is often night and day from what it is before I go on my walk. It has almost become like a trigger that tells me, “Okay, it’s time to work and get things done.” I know on those few days when I’m not able to take a walk, I am so much more exhausted by the end of the day and never seem to be able to get on a roll like I do when I do get out.
Overall, my daily walks make me a lot healthier than I would otherwise be. I know that my body doesn’t feel nearly as good when I miss my walk for an extended period of time. I also find that I gain weight when I don’t regularly take my walks. Not only do I feel physically better, my anecdotal evidence seems to show that I don’t get as sick or have other health problems nearly as much when I make sure to get outdoors.
As an added bonus to all the above, I usually find about $100 in coins on the ground each year while walking. While this is not a huge amount of money, it’s also not something to sneeze at. Even better, on the days when I actually find coins during my walk, all the above positives seem to get magnified as there is simply something that makes me happy when I find a random coin.
As mentioned earlier, chances are that walking for you might not bring all of the benefits that it does for me. Even so, some of the benefits are likely to also apply to you, and you may very well find others that are specific to you that I didn’t mention. What’s important to remember is that activities you do on a regular basis can have a profound effect on the way your day functions, and this will ultimately have an effect on your finances. As the above shows, while walking doesn’t have a direct link with money management, it affects a lot of things that will impact my finances.