Need to clarify your mind? Try reading The Racing Post

For TBWA\Manchester's chief executive, a good day starts with his secret work weapon: a horse betting paper.

Today starts with the 4.05 at Catterick.

Or to be more correct, today starts with a two-hour commute that is once again longer than necessary. Two hours sat in traffic and mulling over the things I need to address in the coming hours and days. An hour into my journey and my head is full of work stuff; full of pressing problems and upcoming opportunities. Much of the physical journey passes me by and I’m getting frustrated that I’m going to be later than I wanted. It is ever thus.

Finally. I arrive at the office. Grab a coffee. Switch on my computer. And get to work.

Except I don’t get to work. I open The Racing Post, the daily newspaper for the horseracing and betting industry, which amongst many things includes the detailed race cards and form for every horse race in the UK and Ireland. And it is my secret work weapon.

Anyone who knows me also knows I like a punt. But this is not about betting – I seldom bet unless I’m watching a race. This is about stepping away from thinking about work and setting my mind to solving a totally unrelated problem. I pick a race where I think the favourite can be beaten and set about choosing which horse I believe will win the race. I hate simply picking favourites – there’s no fun in that and if you were betting you’d lose in the long run anyway.

I started doing it to stop myself diving headlong into the day. I started because it’s something I enjoy. But I later found out there’s a science behind it. Various studies show that brief diversions vastly improve focus when trying to solve problems or develop creative solutions. And I’d recommend everyone to find their own brief daily diversion.

It’s a daily ritual. A daily discipline. It takes 15 minutes, but in that time my thinking is reframed and I come back to the work questions ahead with a clearer sense of focus. It works, even when my selections fail.

And the Catterick 4.05? The bloody favourite won. But there’s always tomorrow.

Fergus McCallum is chief executive of TBWA\Manchester  

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