I’m Unplugging From the Markets

On Sunday, I unplugged from the grid — completely.

For 90 minutes I separated myself from all technology. No cell phone, no headphones, no screens whatsoever. Only the sound of my shoes crushing the gravel trails and autumn leaves.

Ok, you caught me. I did have my Garmin watch and a heart rate monitor.

But I barely even checked my splits as I jogged through our local National Park.

And you know what? It may have been the most productive hour and a half of my week!

The Benefits of Checking Out (for a while)

I’ve always been surprised at how different my brain works when I get away from my desk.

For some reason, challenges that I may not have been able to figure out while “working” suddenly become a lot clearer when I’m in the woods.

And things that I have been thinking about writing suddenly organize themselves into a coherent story line. I even came up with the idea for THIS article when I was running.

There’s a lot of research explaining why people can be so productive away from their workplace.

From what I’ve read, our brains switch into a different mode when we step away from a traditional office.

Maybe it’s the scenery changing the way our brains process information.

Maybe an increase in heart rate and blood flow help to jar thoughts loose.

I don’t know exactly what causes it, but I do know that I’m a healthier, happier and more productive person when I take the time to get outside and get some exercise.

Here are three quick benefits that I’ve enjoyed from unplugging from technology and getting some exercise.

1: Clarity and Creativity

Most of the work I do these days involves investing in markets. You might think that is purely a quantitative process requiring no creativity. But that’s not true at all!

Often, I find myself leafing through charts, graphs and news articles during my morning research, trying to make sense of all the different things that are going on in the economy.

I’ll be frank. It doesn’t always make perfect sense when I’m in the “information gathering” stage.

But often, over my lunch break I’ll step away from all of this research and get some exercise.

It’s often during these times that the different news articles and market actions start to connect.

I can see why investors are making certain decisions, and start to understand where particular stocks might trade because of these trends.

An added benefit is that this “creative” process often leaves me with some new ideas about how to write about these opportunities that I’m seeing in the markets.

Chances are, if I stayed at my desk and forced myself to focus, I wouldn’t wind up with nearly as much clarity and creativity as I get from giving my mind the freedom to digest this information at its own pace.

2: Endorphins

A friend of mine put a sarcastic post on her social media stating that “you never see a runner smiling.” Her point was that exercise is painful and no one really enjoys it.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

If you’ve ever talked to an avid runner (or cyclist, or weight lifter, or other “weekend warrior” athlete), you’ve likely heard about the immense joy they get from doing the exercise they love.

This summer I had a nagging foot injury and couldn’t run for several weeks. I actually felt like I was dealing with minor depression because I missed the endorphins my body produces when I’m active.

Yes, I know it takes a special kind of “crazy” to spend my free time running 10 miles through the woods.

But you don’t have to be that kind of crazy to get the benefits from unplugging.

Even just a lunchtime walk around your building, or reading a chapter of your favorite book in the park can do wonders for your mental perspective.

3: Relationships

A third benefit of “unplugging” comes into play in the way your relationships will change.

And I’m not just talking about the people you meet while exercising. (Although I will tell you that some of the most meaningful relationships in my life have either started — or become much stronger — through physical exercise).

Spending time away from technology has helped me think a lot about how to be a better dad for my kids. Often I’ll focus on one of my children while I’m on a run, and really think about what he or she is going through and how I can best help or encourage them.

It’s come down to the point where occasionally if I’m in a “blah” mood, one of my kids might say “Dad, you need to go for a run!” — and usually they’re right!

Productivity is Only Part of the Picture

It took me longer than it should have to understand the value of “unplugging.”

Maybe it’s because I’m something of a left-brained person who values logic and productivity. So I love having technology handy that allows me to check email, read research, make notes for my writing, and stay in touch with family members.

And those are all GOOD things!

But too much of any good thing can be damaging. And in our society, we’ve simply got too much technology, too much access to information, and too many alerts vying for our attention.

So with that in mind, maybe it’s time we focused a little more on unplugging from the barrage of information, and giving our minds a little more time to process, create, contemplate, and just enjoy the life around us.

What say you?

Do you have a particular way you like to unplug? Have you had similar (or different) experiences when you get away from your phone, desk, routine?

I’d love to hear about it! Drop me a message on Twitter… https://twitter.com/ZachScheidt

Here’s to a clear and healthy mind!

Zach Scheidt