ArticleExecutive PerspectiveSeptember 17, 2020
I Took 1 Million Steps to Stay Positive Through Zoom Quarantine Image

I Took 1 Million Steps to Stay Positive Through Zoom Quarantine

Emmanuelle Skala is the SVP of Customer Success at Toast, and I respect the heck out of her. She recently posted about managing “Zoom fatigue,” which prompted me to share what I’ve done to cope with 2020.

I’ll say upfront that I am super privileged. I have a job that allows me to work remotely and via technology. I live in a neighborhood where I can walk safely and comfortably (except recently given the smoke from the unfortunate fires). I’m the CEO, so I have more freedom than most. And I’ve been doing the job for a long time (almost eight years), so I’m very comfortable with my craft.

All that said, I remember that first day vividly at home during the start of “shelter-in-Place.” For us, that was Thursday, March 12th.

I went into that day thinking, “No travel. Now I can get so much done.”

I remember my EA clearing out my calendar the night before. For a few hours, I had an empty calendar. A few days later:

As I am apt to do, I entered quarantine with a bundle of energy. “I am going to crush this. I can do so many more meetings now.” I quickly entered the same Zoom-mania that Emmanuelle described in her LinkedIn post above. I started my “new normal” of 80+ Zoom meetings per week.

And a few days in, I felt like crap. I was so low energy at the end of the day. I wanted to fall asleep halfway through the day. So I decided to start an experiment.

Inspired by Deidre Paknad, Founder and CEO of Workboard’s tweet:


I decided to take some of my internal calls while walking. I started with 1-1s and converted most of those to calls versus video. And then, I realized I can even walk and watch internal Zoom calls as well. Not only did I enjoy the exercise and nature, but I also found myself much more focused and present than I was at my desk.

To motivate me, I took my daily Slack post (“Quarantine diaries”) to the company and added my step count for the day. I also hoped it would encourage others to take care of themselves too.This created a bit of peer pressure for me to perform each day. “What are your steps so far today, Nick?” I had to deliver!

I ended up creating a routine with some built-in treats:

  • Walk from our house to Philz Coffee in Downtown Palo Alto
  • Walk from Philz to Starbucks in Downtown Palo Alto
  • Walk from Starbucks to Starbucks near our house
  • Walk from Starbucks back home
  • (The best days) Walk from home to CREAM in Downtown Palo Alto for ice cream (yes, I did many calls while having a double scoop of soy mint chip!)
  • Walk home

And over time, I found that my happiness on a given day was pretty darn correlated to my step count.

My record so far was nearly 30,000 steps in a day (which is about 15 miles!) The only thing that brought me home each time was my iPhone battery running out! “Baby steps,” to quote Bill Murray from What About Bob.

2020 is so incredibly hard. Any of the challenges we deal with in tech pale in comparison to what the majority of people are encountering right now. But that said, we all still have to take care of our emotional and mental health. For me, walking has been key to keeping it together during this challenging year.

Picture of Nick Mehta
Nick Mehta Chief Executive Officer at Gainsight

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