HIIT Training for Work-Life Balance

I started HIIT training in my work life, and things went great.

Most 9-5 jobs are nothing more than 8 hours of semi-productive work, and even that might be a stretch. We probably waste half of it stuck in meetings or checking email, but hey, you’re still getting paid right?

But what about the value of the time we spend in work limbo? If we could 8 hours of work done in 4 hours, shouldn’t we?

I stumbled across this thought while isolated in my house during this coronavirus quarantine. As a side note, for those of you who have loved ones or friends working in the medical field, please remember to thank them for their hard work. I can only imagine the challenges they’ll continue to face for the next few months.

While I was locked away, I cracked open a copy of Tim Ferris’ “The 4-Hour Workweek” (I highly recommend it). Prompted by the many exercises sprinkled throughout the book, I began to think about how I value my own time. Am I wasting precious hours engrossed in work that isn’t aligned with my values?

Even outside of work, I have other goals. I want to travel, I want to learn Chinese, and I want to improve this blog. So although it might be easy to rationalize the 8 hour workday by saying that we get paid no matter what, in doing so we leave out the fundamental opportunity costs of our time.

So I set up an experiment. I chose to create an online course. I didn’t set a long-term deadline for this goal. Although it would’ve been easy to say I wanted to get everything done in two weeks, I wanted to try a different approach, if only for my own curiosity.

I first identified a very specific and short-term task I could complete to start making progress, thought about how long it would probably take, then gave myself less time than I wanted to get it done.

For example, let’s say I wanted to write the scripts for a section of the course. In my mind, I knew I’d be comfortable finishing everything in about 2, maybe 3 hours. So I gave myself an hour, set the timer and scrambled to get it done.

Holy shit, did I start making strides. In one week, I’ve now finished recording all of the lecture videos, edited almost all of them, hired a virtual assistant to help with the course rollout, and started another website to test a new product idea. I did all of this while maintaining contact with other human beings (in groups of less than ten, of course) and keeping stress levels minimal.

The reason for this is twofold:

1. Giving myself aggressive deadlines forced me to cut out all of the unnecessary crap that wasn’t mission-critical.

2. While long deadlines give me time to start thinking my way down a rabbit hole of resistance and self-doubt, aggressive ones induce a sort of healthy panic that snaps the mind into focusing only on how to meet the deadline.

I liken this method of work to a HIIT or Tabata workout because you end up working in short bursts of high intensity, followed by short periods of rest. 100% work, then 0%.

The result is you’re about 4X as productive with your time, and much less stressed. And what if you don’t hit the deadline? Completely irrelevant, because regardless of whether or not you hit the mark, you’re still making an exponentially bigger impact than if you’d said, “I want to finish writing this article by the end of the week”. So don’t get down on yourself, and definitely don’t get complacent. Set a goal that you want to get done by the end of the day and set out to get it done in the next hour. You’ll be amazed by what happens.

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