• Tom Marshall

The Joy of Physical Work

Using your body and mind together engages all of your being. Mind-body cognition is one of the most underestimated physiological phenomena. As my 6th life principle goes: “Body and mind are one. Nourish your body to create a healthy & productive mind.”


We didn't evolve to stare at a bright square box for 8 hours per day. Work used to be physical by default. Hunting and gathering were our main activities (as I’ve discussed in a blog about standing up for our health.)


In the more physically active spirit of our ancestors, I’ve spent three days fixing up the outside of an old school building. It felt regenerative for both my mind and body and I was in a continuous flow. Climbing up a scaffold with a wrench in one hand felt exhilarating (see photo) - probably because of the risks I carried without a helmet or insurance.

In the white-collar office world, we are so disconnected from the fruits of our labour. When I worked as a consultant in the corporate sphere, I made PowerPoint decks that presumably generated value for someone - but it felt invisible. While painting, I literally saw the difference I was making. A real-life progress bar filled up as I spread the black paint over the faded white surface (yes, they wanted the entire outside black, just like the song).

Am I suggesting we should all switch to professions that involve manual work?  Of course not. But think about how you can build physical activity into your work. Not just for your health, but also your productivity. I’ve experimented with standing desks and I often take calls while walking. And how can you reconnect with the fruits of your labour? Seeing and feeling the impact your making provides a sense of satisfaction that motivates you to keep going, even in difficult times.