Bad chair, good idea

I like to pace. Sometimes I pace when I need to think about something difficult.

Pacing back and forth is a pleasant way to avoid thinking about something difficult—similar, I suppose, to saddling up a horse and galloping out of the office.

But oddly enough, I often get ideas this way.

“Our brains evolved to help us find food and escape predators . . . (not to) sit in a chair,” says Angeline Lillard, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia (Boston Globe, 1/13/08).

Stuck on a problem? Don’t get stuck in a chair—move.

In addition:

1) Gesture. Actors who gesture, or move, remember their lines better, according to research by psychologist Helga Noice and her husband, director Tony Noice (Boston Globe, 1/13/08). Remember that at your next presentation.


2) When you’re on the phone, stand up. Your voice will project better and you’ll sound more energetic. Pace back and forth too, and don’t forget to gesture. Basically, you want to look as if you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

3) Invest in a really bad chair. I have a wonderful chair—it’s got a cushy seat and lumbar support, and I could sit in it forever.

But this chair is all wrong. It’s killing me—or at least killing my ideas. My last chair was a wooden, rickety affair, and it was painful. That’s the kind of chair you want—one you can’t sit in.

4) When you’re on a plane, stand up and move
every hour or two—that’s standard medical advice. You may not get any new ideas, but you’ll prevent swelling.


Airline seats are usually uncomfortable anyway. In fact, the airlines should really start marketing their chairs as office furniture. Possible slogan: “We can’t make any money flying planes. Our future, obviously, is chairs.”

Tip: To sharpen your brain, move more, sit less. By the way, I wrote all these ideas “in one sitting.” I think it shows.

© Copyright 2008, 2015 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.

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