The HIIT Work Program

Inspired by high intensity interval training.

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We live in an age of #moremoremore. It’s a phrase that Garyvee made famous by putting it on a T-shirt and selling it on the Garyveeshop. But one thing that people fail to realize is that more doesn’t always mean better. That’s why you’ve got to read books like Arianna Huffington’s Thrive, that redefines success and creates a life of wisdom and well-being.

One of my favorite phrases from the book is, “There is a distinct upside to downtime.”

It’s ironic I’m saying this as I draft it at 10:25 pm on a 12-hour workday.

But I also went for a one hour run.

And stopped to meditate for ten minutes.

I also spent 15 minutes leisure reading.

And another few minutes journaling.

The one thing I’ll miss about grad school is total freedom over my working hours. I’ve personally set up a system that works for me, and though it could see me working until midnight, it takes an interesting form that I dubbed the HIIT work program.

The naming comes from the High-Intensity Interval Training fitness workout, and the idea is so similar it’s boring. According to this article; “HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a training technique in which you give all-out, one hundred percent effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods.”

Similarly, you focus on work for a set amount of time, but then take a break after that. The most famous application of this is the Pomodoro Technique, where you work for 25 minutes and then take a break for 5 minutes. However, for activities that have you entering a state of flow, I personally find it impractical to stop after 25 minutes, so my routine usually goes for 1.5 hours followed by a good 45 minutes or 1 hour break.

Which explains why I end up having 12–15 hour days. I have way too many breaks in the middle of the day. The main ideas to implement are as follows;

  • When you’re working, you’re totally focused on work.

That means switching off your phone completely or putting it on silent mode.

  • When you’re on a break, you’re totally on a break.

A HIIT schedule could work like this;

8–10 am; work (2 hours)

10–10.30; break (1/2 hour)

10.30–12; work (1.5 hours)

12–13; break (1 hour)

13–15; work (2 hours)

15–16.30; break (1 and 1/2)

16.30–19; work (2.5 hours)

Okay, so we end up with a longer workday which is inconvenient if you have family and a long commute (though if you really think about it, you might actually miss the night rush hour and spend less time on the road). But the breaks also get longer as the day proceeds. So you actually get to do stuff during your breaks like exercise or walk around the block. That way you return more refreshed because let’s admit it, what happens between 15 and 16.30 pm of every single work day?

Most people get into the afternoon slump. If you google, “How to beat the afternoon slump?” you end up with 412,000 results. That time is a period of supreme inefficiency where people hang around the water cooler gossiping and counting down the time to get home.

So with technology making communication easier, maybe we could rethink the typical workday…

Just a bit…

Think about it. As for me, I’ve got to get back to work as I wrote this during one of my breaks.

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Originally published at

Work Smarter, Productivity

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