30-20-10 Productivity


Cross-training isn’t just for sports and exercise. Whenever I learn a new skill I look to see how it can apply to other areas of my life.

This summer I read a New York Times article about a 12 minute 30-20-10 interval training workout that I’ve been using ever since.

The way it works is for the for 30 seconds you exercise at a moderate pace.

Then for the next 20 seconds you exercise at a faster pace.

For the final 10 seconds you go as fast as you can. You repeat this until minute five, when you go very slow, or stop completely, for two minutes.

Then you resume the intervals at the seven minute mark and continue until you reach 12 minutes, when the workout is over.

This is an effective interval training exercise because the intense interval is only 10 seconds. Studies show that people who replace two of their running workouts with this one each week stick with it longer and shave time off their average 5K time.

There is also no possibility for getting bored because you have to constantly pay attention to the time. It keeps the brain busy.

I find that this approach works well for work too.

At the beginning of the work day, set aside the first 30 minutes to warm up. Catch up on emails, check Twitter, drink coffee, read the latest posts on your favorite blogs, get loosened up, all without feeling guilty. You are priming the pump.

For the next 20 minutes you focus and shut out most distractions. For the final 10 minutes you go all out to finish the task.

These time intervals are rough approximations but you get the drift. This also works for when you have blocks of time set aside to work on a project. If you think you have to immediately begin with intensity, or work at a constant pace, you’ll end up becoming more distracted.

Sometimes, especially near lunch time, I find it hard to shift gears after an interval of time when I’m in a slower warm up mode. So instead of picking up the pace with my work task, I walk away from my desk and do a 12 minute 30-20-10 walk/run on the treadmill. That invigorates me enough to come back and work with great focus.



New York Times article about the workout.

Photo credit: Matt Gibson




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