Don't Feel Like Writing Today? Try 'Interval Training'
Ever have those days when you have so much writing or creative work to get done, but you're flat-out overwhelmed and don't feel like doing any of it?
That was me recently until I figured out how I could jolt myself out of that state and get back to writing.
The past couple weeks were really grueling for me as I plowed through a backlog of creative work—writing several articles, prepping for client strategy sessions, and getting a magazine ready for print.
As deadline pressures got more and more intense, I would start beating myself up for not being ahead of the game.
You're better than this! What's going on with you? Do you even have what it takes to pull these things off?
And, of course, that just made things harder for me.
But I tried something different that helped me silence the voices of doubt in my head—and break through that mental logjam.
It's a strategy I’ve adapted from my experience as a competitive distance runner: interval training.
I've learned that "intervals" for creative work can put me in a resourceful state of mind where I'm able to stay calm, get focused, and produce great results.
What is Interval Training?
Interval training for running looks something like these workouts:
- 12 x 400 meters repetitions, 60-seconds rest recovery.
- 5 x1 mile repetitions, 3-minutes rest recovery.
- 20 x 300 meters repetitions, 100 meters jog recovery.
The idea here is that you:
1. Exert high-intensity effort on each individual repetition.
2. Take a break (or back off the pace) to recover between repetitions so that you can maintain your effort for the next rep.
How Does This Apply to Writing?
Interval training for writing and other creative work follows a similar concept. But your “recovery” is not necessarily complete rest; it’s a break from one project to focus on the next one. This way, the change of projects gives you the mental recovery you need to attack your next “repetition” without losing precious time.
So, the process looks something like this:
- Structure: Choose repetition interval—15, 30, 45, or 60 min.
- Projects included: 2 articles, 1 presentation, 1 proposal.
- Workout: Example: 2 sets of (15 min. intervals X 4 projects).
- Project Order: Article #1, Article #2, Presentation, Proposal.
I typically stick to the original Workout and Project Order for the first Set—or until I know I’m making solid progress on all four projects. But then, depending on how things are flowing, I might zero-in on one project where I sense I'm generating the most momentum. It all depends on how I'm feeling in the moment.
What's the Impact?
When I was at the point of feeling totally overwhelmed and stuck, this interval idea was a huge breakthrough for me. I would tell myself, "I don't know exactly how I'm going to plow through all these projects, but I do know that I can do 15 minutes of something. And I've got to start somewhere. So, let's do 15-minute 'reps' on each of these projects and see where this takes us."
The result is that I have made big strides toward clearing out my project backlog—and feel less stressed in the process.
The Bottom Line
The purpose of interval training for creative work is not necessarily about following a prescribed “workout” exactly as you planned it. Instead, it’s about breaking through anxiety and building momentum. Once you feel like you’re "in the zone,” you can give yourself permission to stay in that zone and flow with the creative energy and ideas as they come to you.
Sean M. Lyden is CEO of Lyden Communications LLC, a Strategy and Storytelling consultancy that helps entrepreneurs tell their story in a way that grabs attention, garners trust, and grows their business.
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