There is a concept in fitness called the target hear rate training zone. There are easy ways to calculate this and slightly more complex. The idea is that, depending on your fitness, you work out at a percentage of your maximum heart rate. If you are not fit that might be 50 to 60%. If you are slightly fit, 60 to 70% and more fit, at higher levels.
The old adage that there is a fat burning “zone” is wrong. Newer information says that, if you want to increase your metabolism for hours after your workout, exert more energy in a shorter time, and improve your cardiovascular fitness, you should do something called HIIT. This stands for High Intensity Interval Training.
This means that instead of running or walking at a nice steady pace for a half hour, you would warm up for ten minutes and then alternate “very hard” for a minute and then “easy” for one to three minutes for a total of fifteen minutes and then do a cool for ten minutes.
Now, lets take these same concepts and apply them to accomplishing something, work or chores, or writing. The first step in either training system is finding out what your resting heart rate is and what your maximum heart rate is. You then calculate a percentage of that for your training zone.
What about work? We know what our resting work rate is. That’s zero. We sit on the couch doing nothing. How many of us know what our maximum work rate is? How many of us have ever worked as hard as we can for a measured period of time, just to see what it’s like?
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I would like all of you to try the following. Pick a task, a mental task, plan it carefully, and then work as hard as you possibly can at it for an hour. Then stop and reflect and take notes. You have now discovered your maximum work rate over an hour. You know what you are capable of. You know what it feels like. Could you keep this up for a full day? Very probably not, at least not until you have trained up to that level. Wasn’t it amazing how much you accomplished?
You could work at this pace for a half hour and back off and work at it for a half hour and back off and so on. This is the way most of us work anyway, isn’t it? The only thing is most of us don’t really know what our maximum output is because we have never pushed it.
Another way to work is to figure out what your max is, and work at a doable percentage of that for a full day. Or a half day, because we all need a nap now and then. If, in physical exercise, going at a higher pace in intervals burns more energy, does the same thing apply with mental energy? Probably. So instead of sprint rest, sprint rest, try “slow and steady wins the race.” Boy that sure sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Action Items/Activity Triggers
1. Plan some piece of work very carefully.
2. Work at it as hard as you can for an hours.
3. Measure how much you accomplished.
4. Understand that you now know your maximum work rate.
5. Work at a a chosen percent of this on your projects.
6. Understand that in an emergency, not self inflicted I hope, you can work at a much higher pace for a short period of time.
7. Accomplish much more!