Home + Work: It started with a weekly walk

Photo courtesy Unsplash

The first time my friend Sam invited me on a morning walk — on a work day — I thought, Wow, I can’t believe I’ll be away from my email for at least an hour. I was in my networking era, actively looking for business friends and, according to Sam, she had been trying to meet me at various events for months. Apparently, I earned myself a bit of a reputation for the Irish exit, something I heard and gladly took as a compliment. 

But when she suggested the walk, well, it felt scandalous. Bad. Indulgent. During working hours? How could I be so bold! 

But another part of me knew I needed to be brazen. I needed to build a work schedule around my life and my goals, not a schedule that mirrored the one my former employers held me to. I was about three years into my business at that point, and I had taken corporate me out of the skyscrapers and onto my couch to do almost exactly what I’d done in those offices I spent hours commuting to. 

Emilie is better at creating a schedule that works for her than I am, or at least it seems that way to me. Her business is built on delegation, so she has at least one networking lunch a week. I, on the other hand, felt such an ongoing need to prove my worth through endless productivity that I’d tote my laptop and phone everywhere I went just in case someone needed me

On that first walk, I wrapped my fingers around my phone in my coat pocket. My palm got sweaty and that poor little device nearly overheated. I needed the comfort of keeping it close— just in case

And when we said goodbye and I walked into Workhorse Coworking (my first Edmonds client) to check in with all the people who didn’t actually need me as much as my ego wanted them to, I went through my checklist of all the apps: iMessage, email, Slack. Huh, I thought, not nearly as many alerts as I thought there’d be. Plus, the building is still standing.

That first walk was two years ago last month. 

It took just one more week for me to literally and figuratively loosen the grip on the phone in my pocket. We invited another friend to join us—a local business owner, MacKenzie, whose shop we’d seen on our first walk, each of us commenting that we’d heard about her and wanted to talk to her more. 

Each week, we walk at least 10,000 steps. We’ve taken shelter at The Red Twig a few times because of rain, but we’ve walked through wind storms, snow storms, and around high tides. We are not fair-weather walkers. I just did some basic math to confirm that we’ve walked over 1 million steps together. 

And what I realized over the two years we’ve been meeting each week for our informal walking club is that not only did my body, mind, and soul need those walks — my business needed them, too. 

I’ve realized I’m not meant to sit and wait for the next client to call, my worth and my productivity are not mutually exclusive, and that the advice and collaboration of my peers move my business forward much more powerfully than any busy work ever could.  

I’ve learned running my business isn’t a linear ROI game, at least not for me. I’ve continued to evolve my schedule to accommodate what I need out of my life instead of letting outside perceived pressures dictate how I spend my time. I’ve blocked those weekly walks on my calendar so very few things keep me from them. And I’ve pocketed a lot of sea glass. 

My phone has moved out of my pocket and into a small rotation of fanny packs I wear so I can be hands-free.

It’s funny how these things come to be. 

I am endlessly grateful for my weekly walks. I didn’t know how often or how long they’d last when we started two years ago. Now? I never want them to end.

— By Whitney Popa

Whitney and Emilie

Whitney Popa is a writer and communications consultant in Edmonds and Emilie Given is a virtual assistant agency owner in Lynnwood. They write this column together to share work-from-home ideas. They love where they live and are grateful the virtual world allows them to achieve more work/life harmony. They also co-host a weekly podcast where they share their entrepreneurship journeys while learning about those of others. You can learn more about Emilie here and more about Whitney here.


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