One of my favourite and most hated methods of exercise is interval training. It is a favourite because it is short, sharp, gets the job done, and is accompanied by one hell of an endorphin rush afterwards. It is hated because it is hard graft. Lung-busting, dizzying, nausea inducing and muscle screaming hard work.
The principle is simple. Short, extremely intense (maximum effort) exercise, followed by periods of rest. The idea is that you get your heart rate approaching it’s maximum, and then reduce your heart rate back down again, and then repeat the process. I have read a few different takes on how this is beneficial. My favourite is from an evolutionary standpoint (perhaps spurious, but nonetheless poetic). This states that working out until you cannot go any further mimics prehistoric physiological limits reached when, for example, being chased by a big predator. Reaching your physiological limit in this context could mean death, so the body has a natural mechanism that augments the body’s physiology in response to a near death situation. This improves your fitness and your ability to escape the predator more effectively next time.
Interval training mimics this physiological limit and is a catalyst for fitness gains. How true or scientifically founded this hypothesis is is anyone’s guess. I do however like the symbolism of this argument, and it, kind of, makes intuitive sense.
Interval training can also be applied to productivity. The cycling of intense, concentrated effort, coupled with complete rest and relaxation can be a really effective way to get work done. I am talking half an hour all out work, followed by 15 minutes break.
This could amount to heavy break time if you follow this during the day. We live in a society that has an innate desire to look busy. There is a vanity and laziness associated with this. It is physiologically impossible to remain switched on for 8 hours a working day. We have all been there – cycling between computer windows to appear busy. It is neither productive nor necessary. A better method involves the following steps: –
1) Spend at least 15 minutes at the start of every work day clearly defining what success looks like for that day and what you need to do. I genuinely would not be tempted to exceed 3 items of importance.
2) Split the required tasks for these three themes up into half an hour blocks.
3) Schedule a 15 minute walk after each block.
4) If one task takes more than half an hour, still allow a 15 minute break after half an hour. Finish your half an hour mid way through something you are doing. You will have always been told to finish what you started before taking a break. Well, don’t. When you pick back up your work, finishing off an incomplete sentence of aspect of the work will provide you with context, clarity and momentum to carry on. The hardest part is getting started, but it will be easier if you already know what to say.
5) Remove all distraction. Disconnect from the web, turn the phone off, stick your headphones on and concentrate fully and intensely for 15 minutes.
6) Prior to your break, write down a question related you your work in your notebook. And mull over it during your break unconsciously. You will ignite your creative juices by doing this.
These activities couple well with the post yesterday regarding digital distraction. Your aim should be to avoid input early on in your day like the plague – not until you have taken control and been proactive about what you want to achieve. Only than are you allowed to experience input. Avoid all messages, emails, phone calls, app notifications etc etc. Plan your day out the way you want it to go, and schedule a time to bulk respond to all of this inertia.
You will be glad you did.
Interval training can really ramp up your productivity if used ruthlessly. It is a prime way to revise, complete assignments and to do uni work. Try it in the not too distant future. I guarantee, it will pay off.