My book Engineer Your Own Success has been picked up by IEEE-Wiley Press and we will be publishing an Updated and Expanded Edition in the Fall of 2014. I have a lot of new information to this edition including an entirely new chapter entitled: Stay Focused, Organized, Productive, and Stress-Free. The following is an excerpt from this chapter. If you are on my mailing list, you will receive a heavy discount on the book once it is available.
Most people today have so much going on in their careers and lives, they often don’t have or make the time for exercise. Before I had kids, I used to go to the gym every morning before work. Now with three kids and my own business, the gym is a distant memory. However, I recently made a change in my life where I have incorporated practices to exercise both physically and mentally. This change has had a very positive impact on my life, especially with respect to stress reduction. I am in no way trying to push my practices upon you. In fact it’s imperative that you establish exercise routines that work for you. But I hope, at a minimum, this section provides you with inspiration to do so.
Every morning I wake up at 5 am and do two things: one for mental exercise and the other physical. I start off my day with a meditation session. This session lasts anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. It allows me to clear my mind and start the day fresh with respect to thoughts in my mind. This has greatly improved my ability to focus throughout the day.
Immediately following my meditation session, I spend 10 to 30 minutes doing what is known as T’ai chi ch’uan. T’ai chi ch’uan, usually shortened to Tai Chi, is an internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and health benefits, and it involves two primary features. The first is a slow sequence of movements, which emphasizes a straight spine, abdominal breathing, and a natural range of motion. The second being different styles of pushing hands for training movement principles of the form with a partner and in a more practical manner. I discovered Tai Chi through research and purchased a DVD online (affiliate link) which I follow every morning.
Studies have shown that among other health benefits, Tai Chi improves balance control, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness. The practice can increase psychological well-being including reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression, and enhanced mood in community-dwelling healthy participants and in patients with chronic conditions . I have experienced many of these benefits myself.
The other form of physical exercise that I perform each day is walking. I take a 30 to 40 minute walk every day. The walk is usually fast paced and done outdoors, as opposed to on a treadmill, weather permitting. This has probably had the biggest impact on my physical fitness. I read a book once called The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma (affiliate link). It is a wonderful fable that describes a top trial lawyer’s journey into the Himalayan Mountains where he discovers his true self while living with a group of wise sages. While the book is fiction, it talks about the physical fitness of these wise sages and claims that their main form of exercise was rigorous walking every day. This led me to research the benefits of walking.
I found through research that by simply walking every day you could improve your overall physical and mental well being dramatically. In one case study that I found, Italian researchers enlisted 749 people suffering from memory problems in a study and measured their walking and other moderate activities, such as yard work. At the four-year follow-up, they found that those who expended the most energy walking had a 27 percent lower risk of developing dementia than the people who expended the least. This could be the result of physical activity’s role in increasing blood flow to the brain .
I usually try to walk every day at lunchtime or incorporate family time with walk time and walk my daughter to school, or take a walk with my wife. You can also increase the amount of time you walk during the day through your typical errands. For example, when I have to go to the store, I walk to the store if possible or park as far away from the store as I can to force myself to do some walking. At times, I will listen to podcasts when walking so I am improving both mind and body at the same time.
These are some of the exercises that I have implemented into my daily routine to help keep both my mind and body in shape. In order to implement these types of practices into your daily routine, you will have to create these new habits. In order to create new habits, you will have to engage in the same activity 21 to 66 days in a row. This is exactly how I formed my meditation, Tai Chi, and walking habits and you can start implementing your own exercise habits too. For a long time, I neglected working out because I didn’t want to sacrifice working time to do so. However, I have since found out that these practices, while reducing my work time, have made the time that I work extremely more productive and enjoyable. C. Wang, et al., “Tai chi on psychological well-being: Systematic review and meta-analysis,” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 10, p. 23, 2010.  G. Ravaglia, et al., “Physical activity and dementia risk in the elderly,” Neurology, vol. 70, no. 19, Part 2, pp. 1786–1794, May 2008.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
The Engineering Career Coach