Welcome to “How I Stay Sane,” a weekly column where real dads talk about the things they do for themselves that help them keep grounded in all the other areas of their life. It’s easy to feel strung-out, and unless you regularly take care of yourself, the parenting part of your life will get a lot harder. The benefits of having that one “thing” are enormous. For Marc, a 40-year-old dad personal finance blogger of two who lives in Pennsylvania, a thrice daily walk around the block helps him optimize his day and teach his daughter the benefit of good exercise.
I’ve been working from home for ten years, well before my kids were born. In late 2017, I started going for walks during my workday. The idea, to me, had come up maybe a year or so before that. I would sometimes, but not very consistently, take my daughter for a wagon ride around the block at lunch. Working from home, I wanted to spend some time with her. But it wasn’t really about the benefits of exercise or getting fresh air.
But late 2017, I was experiencing a lot of stress around work. One day I just felt like I needed to get outside, get some fresh air. I went on a walk. It was really relaxing. It only took ten minutes out of my day and it recharged me. I had a lot more concentration when I got back. To my surprise, I really enjoyed it.
We live in an area that has a lot of trees. It’s real quiet. There’s not a lot of cars driving by. It’s a great place to get outside. Ever since I went out on that one day, it just became a habit. Right now, I’m walking about twice a day, sometimes three times.
My schedule is largely the same. I start my day with administrative tasks: my email and social networking. Once I get done with that stuff, I go out for 10 minutes. That gives me a restart. After that, I dive into the most important work of the day. Later, I try to go out again, in the early-to-mid afternoon. By that time, I’m starting to fade a little bit, so the walk is crucial. Once I feel like my concentration is slipping, I’ll try to go out again around 2 o’clock. And then that gives me enough concentration, then, to finish out the day.
It’s worth noting that I do not have my home to myself all day. My wife is a stay-at-home mom. My daughter is in kindergarten this year, so she’s in school most of the day, but we also have a 3-year-old son who goes to pre-school for a few hours a week. So my wife and son are home a lot, and in the summer, my daughter is around, too.
At this point, when I go on my walks, they’re pretty much always alone. I do it for that reason. During the day, I feel like I’m working so fast, trying to get so much done, that I don’t really have the time to stop and think. When I’m walking, obviously, I can’t be working. It gives me a chance just to think a little bit. It gives me a chance to slow down. Consider things that I may not even be thinking about when I’m working because I’m just rushing to get things done.
I do think about work when I’m walking sometimes. I problem solve, plan, brainstorm. But sometimes I’m not thinking about anything. But usually, I am. I don’t really get the chance to think things through slowly throughout my normal day. It gives me a little bit of time to think about my priorities. What tasks I need to be working on. I have a to-do list that keeps me focused for the day, but walks let me think beyond that list. What do I need to do going forward? It’s a chance to think, rather than to just let my mind wander.