Productivity (Part 2 of 3): The Marathon Mentality

Part 1 of the Productivity series covered The Sprinter’s Mentality, cycling bursts of intense focus with planned rest periods. Part 2 of the Productivity series is on The Marathon Mentality.

 

As long as you never stop, you’ll reach any destination. With enough time and consistency, even rainfall can erode a mountain.

 

That may not sound sexy, but it gets the job done.

 

For our purposes, a marathon is a running at a fast and consistent pace for an extended period of time with no rest. This is how The Marathon Mentality works: consistent work with no rest for several hours.

 

There’s no set techniques or established methods like The Sprinter’s Mentality, so I decided to create one.

 

Here are the Commandments of successfully using The Marathon Mentality:

 

Commandment #1: Set A Clear End Time

For me, the biggest problem with spending hours, an entire day, or an all-nighter working on tasks is that it gives me the illusion of unlimited time, and I don’t focus. I work a little, but I piss away most of my time on hours of YouTube videos.

 

Examples of this in action:

  • You have a whole month to write your research paper
  • You have the entire day to do your homework
  • That report isn’t due until tomorrow

 

Set a clear end time, and constantly remind yourself of it when you find yourself getting too distracted. It helps astronomically if your end time is relatively soon.

 

Have ever found yourself in a situation when you have a school assignment or project due soon, and you’ve hardly done any work for it? Looking back, do you notice how focused and efficient you are the closer the deadline is? How you don’t fuck around with social media and other time wasting bullshit?

 

The Marathon Mentality is PERFECT for these times. I’d go as far as saying that you’re productivity is at its absolute peak using The Marathon Mentality when there’s a looming deadline.

 

Commandment #2: Music For Productivity

It’s common practice to listen to music during work. Depending on the type, music can improve your mood and help you focus, increasing productivity.

 

There is one thing though: you need to listen to the same track. Listening to different music has too much novelty that will distract you and hinder productivity.

 

Building on that, the best way to use music for productivity is to listen to the same 1-3 songs repeatedly. This is a mental trick I got from Tim Ferriss’ book Tools of Titans.

 

The rationale for doing this is that hearing the same 1-3 tracks repeatedly puts you in a meditative state where you’re able to concentrate more effectively and avoid getting distracted as easily. Meditation sometimes uses repetitive noise to help enter a meditative state by having people hum “Ohm” repeatedly.

 

All of the athletes, entrepreneurs, billionaires, and inventors interviewed in Ferriss’ book all had some form of meditative practice, whether it’s actual meditation or using this trick of listening to 1-2 songs repeatedly.

 

For me, I like to use this technique when I write blog posts. I switch back and forth between Sprinter’s and Marathon depending on how I’m feeling on that particular day. When I use The Marathon Mentality, these are the 3 tracks I listen to repeatedly:

 

  1. DragonBall Z Budokai OST- Battle Theme #4: Challengers
  2. Transfromers: The Movie- “You’ve Got The Touch” by Stan Bush
  3. “No Easy Way Out” by Robert Tepper

 

Since these are YouTube videos, I put them all in a playlist, labeled the playlist “Focus Music”, and I play it in a separate window with “repeat playlist” activated.

 

Bonus: Watching TV?

Watching TV can also include movies and YouTube videos on a TV or a computer.

 

This may seem counter-intuitive, but it CAN work. Back to Tools of Titans, Tim Ferriss advocates the music repeating method while also watching a movie on mute repeatedly. He wrote his book “The Four Hour Workweek” while watching “The Bourne Identity” over and over again.

 

I’ve personally tried this method, and it DOES work. But I have something else in mind:

 

Do your work while watching TV.

 

The trick is to use this method as a productivity supplement, when you don’t actually have an immediate deadlines. Back in college, my buddies would actually work on projects while watching a movie in our suite. I saw one of my Capstone group members studying and working on homework in between classes or whenever she was waiting for our entire group to arrive for a team meeting.

 

Now, they set aside many hours and commit all their effort to completing their work just like you and me, but the fact that they almost never stop working, that they work even just a little bit during break, skyrockets their productivity to the stratosphere. Speaking of working even on break…

 

Commandment #3: Don’t Take Any Breaks

Marathon runners maintain a consistent pace from start to finish without stopping, and that’s exactly what you need to do here.

 

DON’T TAKE ANY BREAKS

 

Going to the bathroom is fine, so is occasionally getting some water or coffee, but that’s it.

 

This is THE most important commandment to follow. The other commandments build off of this one. If you take only one thing away from this blog post, make it this.

 

Work non-stop from start to finish. You don’t necessarily have to keep working until ALL your work is done, but you should devote most of your day to maintaining productivity.

 

Why is this so important? The Marathon Mentality isn’t focused or structured like The Sprinter’s Mentality. Since any breaks you go on are unplanned, it’s very easy to become distracted and spend way too much time on break.

 

And just like that, work that should take you 2 to 3 hours takes twice as long. You lose precious free time meant for your hobbies, interests, and relationships. You’re personal life goes to hell. You’re left unhappy, unsatisfied, and unsure of what to do with your life.

 

Let’s take students as an example. Wouldn’t it be much better to finish homework in 3 hours of intense, focused effort and have the rest of your nights to yourself, then spend 6 or more hours of half-assed, distracted effort and have no free time? Don’t you want your work done for the day so you can enjoy your free time, rather than not be able to enjoy your breaks because the work you still need to finish is constantly gnawing away at the back of your mind?

 

This will be covered in greater detail in Part 3.

 

Sprinter’s vs. Marathon

First, I have to admit that The Sprinter’s Mentality is generally superior to The Marathon Mentality.

 

Consistent use of The Sprinter’s Mentality can treat ADHD symptoms and be an effective form of mind training. It gives you an accurate idea of how long certain tasks will take you, so it let’s you plan out your days better moving forward. The Sprinter’s Mentality’s planned breaks prevents feelings of mental burnout; it has short-term and long-term productivity benefits. And, it works for most situations and tasks.

 

Sure it’s got issues, but they’re very circumstantial and short-term.

 

The Marathon Mentality is the opposite. Its problems are easy to run into, and its benefits are circumstantial. The Marathon Mentality is only really effective in two situations:

 

  1. A deadline coming up very soon.
  2. When relaxing and watching TV.

 

The first situation is risky. Sure, your productivity and your work output may be the highest they can ever possibly be, probably even greater than The Sprinter’s Mentality. It’s amazing the shit you can get done. But, the deadline could be too soon. There’s too much work, factors you didn’t consider, and otherwise you can’t complete everything on time.

 

The second situation isn’t meant to yield high productivity. You’re in a situation where you’re passively and halfheartedly getting shit done. It’s supposed to be a supplement to the ACTUAL work.

 

Even with all this, The Marathon Mentality can shine under the right circumstances, and still offers many productivity benefits.

 

Final Words

And that’s Part 2!

 

Set a clear deadline for yourself, the sooner the better. Listen to the same 1-3 tracks over and over again. You can watch TV and still get some work done. And, don’t take any breaks before your intended end time. Work straight from start to finish.

 

Part 3 will conclude the Productivity series this Sunday.

 

All the best,

Brandon

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