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High Intensity Interval Productivity Exercise Experiment

By December 23, 2013One Comment4 min read

I am semi obsessed with productivity. I always feel like I could be more efficient with my time. It’s not really that I want to get 5x more done than everyone else, but rather I feel like the stuff I’m doing should only take 1/5th the time it ends up taking. Recently I’ve been experimenting with various life-hacks. I noticed if I stare at the computer too long I lose complete focus and never end up finishing the tasks I had set out to accomplish. I also noticed that days where I exercise in the morning, I am more productive for hours than otherwise. This coincidence led me to experiment with mixing exercise with productivity. There is another hypothesis at play here, few people can commit to 30-60 minutes of exercise a day, it is just unrealistic for most people to stick to.

So the underlying hypothesis involved in this experiment are the following:

  • Exercise stimulates blood flow to the brain
  • Tasks need to be broken down for quick wins
  • We don’t have time for long workouts
  • Quick exercises can be done from anywhere

So this concept I suspect has been attempted before, I mean I’m not a fitness expert, and I thought of it, I’m sure actual experts have thought of this well before I did. So here is my micro-workout plan that you can use to be more productive and get fit.

Step 1: Break down your task list into tiny chunks. (e.g. you need to write a chapter of your book? break it into an outline, footnotes, bibliography, and then several pages). Try to make each task consumable in 10-15 minute increments.

Got your list? I use a white board for this so that I can scratch items off easily.

Step 2: Start with a task and begin the cycle as described below.

So here is how it works, after each task you will do an exercise.

Example workout

Task #1 – Write content for section A of site B (10-15min)
Exercise #1 – 50 pushups or 90 seconds worth of pushups (whichever you can do)

Task #2 – Write content for section B of site B (10-15min)
Exercise #2 – 50 situps or 90 seconds worth of situps (whichever you prefer)

Task #3 – Answer emails for 10 minutes
Exercise #3 – 15 pullups (if you have a pullup bar around, if not sub for another exercise)

Task #4 – Read for 10-15 minutes (research, or blogs, or whatever reading oriented task is on your list)
Exercise #4 – Air squats for 90 seconds (shoot for at least 50)

Task #5 – Watch a ted talk video for 10-15 minutes (gives your brain a rest from active thought, shifts to stimulating passive mode)
Exercise #5 (can also be done while you watch the video if you prefer) – Dips for 60 seconds. Use either your desk or a chair to do dips, make sure the object you’re dipping from is stable.

Task #6 – Back to an intellectually intense activity
Exercise #6 – Lunges for 90 seconds.

There is a pattern here, basically you cycle through mentally strenuous and physically strenuous activities. By one hour into this experiment you should have cranked through 4-5 tasks, and done 7-10 minutes of exercise. After an 8 hour day though, those 8 minutes of exercise per hour average translates roughly an hour a day of exercise over the course of the day. Wait did you see what just happened? You got an extra hour of exercise into your day, without negatively affecting your productivity, or even really breaking a sweat (work your way up, start with 1 minute exercise intervals and go up 10 seconds per interval each week).

So what kinds of exercises can you integrate into this cycle? The goal is to diversify the muscle groups you are exercising, and also to do this daily.

Some ideas:

  • Pushups
  • Situps
  • Air Squats
  • Wall Press
  • Core rocks
  • Dips
  • Lunges
  • Planks
  • Jumping jacks
  • “Dumbbell row” (this could be done with any heavy office equipment, maybe the printer?)

If you guys try this, let me know. If you guys want to know more on how to do all these things, I can post links to videos of how each exercise is done correctly.

Some other tips to take into consideration:

  • Keep a large bottle of water on your desk (you want to be hydrated)
  • Keep healthy snacks (nuts or protein, no sugary snacks or complex snacks) around to munch on.
  • Invest in a simple yoga mat you can roll up and keep under your desk.
  • If you want to get weights you can, that’s your call.

Alright, now go get some stuff done!

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