“Interval training” is a model where instead of one long but moderate effort, an athlete will exert many brief, high-intensity efforts during a training session, each followed by a short rest. Pioneered in the 1930s by German running coach Woldemar Gerschler, who led multiple runners to Olympic medals, interval training has since been the dominant training system for elite athletes in all sports. But it turns out this doesn’t just work for athletes. Author Brad Stulberg’s recent article, “To Get Better at Managing Your Time, Borrow a Training Strategy From Elite Athletes,” shares the work of behavioral scientist K. Anders Ericsson, who studied what separates the great performers—artists, musicians, chess players, doctors, athletes, etc.—from everyone else. His most important finding:
“It’s not that the best performers put in more practice time than their peers (often, they don’t). Rather, it’s how they practice: with full attention, focused on high-quality work, and in chunks of 60 to 90 minutes separated by short breaks. In other words, interval training.”
Here’s the best article I’ve found on how to apply this model to studying. And remember, those elite athletes aren’t checking their text messages while interval training. A high-intensity, focused effort for anything also requires that you eliminate distractions.