Strategically Working in Bursts to Maximize Productivity

Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to fill time.  So if you have 10 hours to finish a project, you’ll take 10 hours to finish the project.

Following from that line of thinking, I like to work in bursts.

Bursts are super intense working sessions where you are incredibly productive.

A 30-minute burst can be as – if not more – powerful as a regular 8-hour day.

For my entire formal education, I was a last minute worker.  I always hated myself for it but it’s who I was.

The bittersweet part of it was I could get so much done in such a short amount of time.  As I was condensing 3 weeks of what should have been consistent work into 1 night of fast and furious makeshift work, I would remark to myself how awesome my project/paper could have been had I just started a day or two before the night before.

My point is not how much GPA I left on the table; it’s that we are capable of extremely productive, but small – even micro – time windows where we can accomplish insane amounts of work.

Of course, there’s no way to continuously work in bursts (if the work isn’t what we want to do).  There are always peaks and valleys – no one’s going to come close to hitting 100% optimization ever (again, not on stuff we don’t really want to do).

But if we just embrace 100% all-out, frenetic pace work for 45 minutes a day, it’s going to kill 4 hours of low to medium intensity work.  And that’s where our equilibrium resides – in the low range.

The other benefit to bursts is you only have to pre-commit a small amount of time, say 30 minutes to an hour, but once you sprint through the work, you catch productivity momentum and you run through another 30 minutes or more of simply being caught in a high productivity tunnel.


Pick a project you don’t want to do.  For example, cleaning the house.  Allot 1 hour to it and promise yourself you don’t have to do anything beyond that 1 hour if you do it.

Go crazy for 1 hour cleaning your house or a portion of it.  Just do as much as you can.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.

The results will be amazing and you’ll probably keep going even though you promised yourself you could stop.

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