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I think I may have an odd habit. When I'm working, particularly on something intense or that involves a lot of writing (e.g. a detailed and/or stressful email), after a while I tend to walk away from the desk, and round the room or the office, then sit back down and continue. Sometimes I think about the task at hand, but sometimes something else. It's almost a learned reflex for when I get to the end of a writing task, section, paragraph, email, etc.

I go through phases of doing this a lot - maybe every 5 minutes or even less. I think I'm trying to centre myself, and figure out what to write next, but I don't see anyone else doing it - sometimes when I'm in an office with someone else, I think they think I'm a little odd! More pertinently, it feels like I'm wasting a lot of time doing this.

  • Is this a habit anyone else has?

  • How can I reduce it and force myself to focus?

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I'm doing the same :) or similar at least, I walk while pondering. Never thought that as waste of time, actually helps to get to solution –  Balog Pal Jun 25 '13 at 13:47

5 Answers 5

I wouldn't worry much about it. In fact, walking around may be good for your concentration. Research has shown that walking can help increase your focus during the day. Also, moving around is generally good for your health; sitting for long periods of time should be avoided.

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"sitting for long periods of time should be avoided.", else you risk developing repetitive strain injury (RSI) and hurt your eyes. –  Mohamad Fakih Jun 29 '13 at 7:24

Getting up isn't inherently a problem. I get up plenty. But every 5 minutes seems like a lot. I can think of two ways to deal with it.

  1. If you have too much energy to sit - consider a standing desk
  2. If you are just getting up to ship activities, have a to do list or a next task on right in front of you. "Getting things done' has you list the next step. If you can leap right into the next thing, you can reset your mind that way.
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From these two "symptoms",

  • "When I'm working, particularly on something intense or that involves a lot of writing (e.g. a detailed and/or stressful email)..."
  • "It's almost a learned reflex for when I get to the end of a writing task, section, paragraph, email, etc.",

I see it is a kind of anxiety/fear/stress of bringing things to full completion esp. when people are going to see them e.g. email, as you said. This is especially true if you do not have this sort of behavior when doing things that are to be "published" or seen by others, or when doing the early version of the things you want to send to others. So it happens with the final versions only.

Something I tried for myself: I reward myself by leaving my chair and take a walk only after final completion (i.e. sending) of an email or posting something online. Before that, I keep the momentum of concentration by remaining in my chair.

Having said that, sometimes, certain tasks needs a fresh perspective and require that we leave them for a while and reflect on them from another place and with a different emotional state. With experience one is able to distinguish between a task that benefits from a walk (new perspective) and another that is hurt by it (distraction).

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Make a list of things that need to get done - the smaller the better. It might be a lot of little things.

When you want to get up and leave - focus on getting a few more done. Getting my work down into small chunks makes it seem so much easier than everything seeming like a huge project (that I want to walk, no run, away from).

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Technically, it's good after every 30 minutes to stand and move away from the chair. It relaxes your mind, increases retention and helps you prepare better once you return to the desk.

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