Sprint. Then do nothing.

How we work generally is counter to how we work best as humans. What we generally do is to keep slogging at something until it is done. We plod, we endure, but we definitely don’t rest until this darn thing is finished.

It is much more a marathon than a sprint. And my hunch is for a lot of that marathon we are tired out, we lose concentration and we aren’t at our most creative.

We would be much better off if we learnt the art of sprinting. Short intense bursts of work, followed by a good period of rest.

Let me take you through the example that persuaded of this: An experiment in the 1940’s measured men loading pig iron onto a train freight cars at The Bethlehem Steel Company. Each man didn’t stop until they managed 12 1/2 tons. By noon, they were exhausted and could do no more.

The next day, they were told to load the pig iron for 26 minutes. Then rest for 34 minutes. They rested more than they worked. At the end of the day, they had loaded 47 tons. That’s almost 4 times as much as working flat out.

It feels counter intuitive, but sprinting intensely followed by a good rest will deliver better results than plodding along relentlessly.

I took this thinking to get fitter by using sprints. Some background: I run. I like to run. It keeps me fit. It reduces mountains and turns them into molehills. I like that. But the way I have been doing it for years wasn’t getting me fit. I had reached a certain point of no more gain. I was maintaining but not going forward.

I was running 3-4 times a week. (20-25 mins in the week. 45-55 mins on the weekend.) Then I tried something different. I did less but got fitter. Who would have thought, huh? I would sprint for 60 seconds. Then run for 20 mins. Then sprint for 60 seconds at the end. Then on the weekend do a 60 minute run with 3 X 60 seconds sprints. My fitness advanced. I can just feel it. It is called High Intensity Training. The body needs to be pushed. It needs peaks. But it needs rest too. And the rest period is as important as the peaks. So now rather than running at a steady pace for an hour, I use sprints to make me fitter and run less.

As creative people we should learn to work in sprints, and, this is the hardest part, then learn how to take rests in between the sprints. We need to learn the importance of doing nothing.That’s the hard bit. Because we have been trained to think that putting all the hours in is the best way to get things done.

But, maybe. just maybe, there is a better way.