Often when we plan out our goals, we think in year-long chunks of time, either personal goals in January or academic goals in August. If you’ve ever done this, perhaps you’ve noticed that it’s really difficult to keep those goals. A cycle I’m familiar with goes like this:
- Commit to a huge life-overhaul, personal transformation sort of goal for the year.
- Go for it gung-ho for two or three weeks in January.
- Burn out in February.
- Forget about it in March.
- Remember and try again in April.
- Be hit-or-miss in May.
- Get distracted in June.
- Remember again in August and try hard.
- Have too many other things on my plate in September.
- Remember in late October.
- Feel like it’s too late now.
- Give up until January.
This year, I’ve found an way to avoid this cycle, to keep motivated, and to have goals while remaining flexible.
- an intervening time or space
- a pause; a break in activity
- a space between two things; a gap.
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Intervals have two components: a period of focused, intense activity and a pause or space between the bursts. The applications for intervals are broad, and usually not applied to planning or goal setting.
When I’m trying to lose weight and get back into shape after having a baby, I turn to the couch-to-5k program. It’s an easy way to do interval training, which gives you the greatest results for the least amount of work. The idea behind intervals is that you work at your highest capacity, giving all you got, for a very short amount of time. Then you have a recovery period. You alternate periods of intense effort and recovery. When you exercise this way, you boost your metabolism and achieve longer afterburn than with any other method.
Programmers and others in high-tech companies have started implementing this concept in their work environment. They call the intervals “sprints,” and it’s known as Agile Development. The idea instead of spending a huge amount of time and money on upfront engineering-like design of software and continual documentation along the way, they roll out software that meets the requirements as soon as possible, then debug and add features in short sprints – sending out a new version each sprint to keep the software in continual improvement. At the end of every sprint, they also evaluate how they did, where they’re going, and how they can improve not only the software, but also their processes.
After exercising in intervals and talking to my husband about how his company implements Agile methods, I started wondering if there was a foundational principle I could apply in other areas of my life. I have often heard it said that life is a marathon, not a sprint, but how does one train for a marathon? Through sprints and rests. Even within a marathon (hypothetically for myself), runners will run faster for periods of time and then take a “break” by slowing their speed to catch their breath and build up stamina for another burst.
So why not apply those same principles to how we plan and work out our plans? Interval planning to the rescue.
Learn how to make an interval plan
In this series, which will run on Fridays through May, I’ll talk about each of these components of an interval plan.
The pieces that go into an interval plan.
Determining your interval length.
There is no one-size-fits-all length of an interval.
Never skip the rest and evaluate period of your interval. It is truly vital.
How to do it.
Getting it done.
What to do during your rest period.