Interleaving: 21,110 push-ups and increasing productivity

Another departure from my First Friday Breakfast with an Author. After a few writing marathons and working on increasing productivity over diverse endeavors, I wanted to share my game plan and results. I’d love to hear your ideas too.

But first: my breakfast is a small cheese blintz smothered with banana slices, raspberries, blueberries, shaved almonds, and a shredded basil leaf.

Two years, nine months ago, I wrote a post about doing pushups.

Guess what?  I’m still doing them. Today I did my 21,110th pushup. Woo hoo!

Pumpkin on the vineIn the Eating Elephants post, I mentioned that I did tasks between sets like emptying the dishwasher and polishing the baseboards. By the time I finished my upper body strength training this morning, I’d emptied three pails of last night’s dishwater on backyard plants, completed one cognitive exercise, prepared the front rooms for vacuuming, took my supplements and fed the cats, removed and trashed the remains of a delicata squash plant and a pumpkin vine that filled the side yard from front to back when it was lush and nurturing fourteen gourds. I also tussled with the Mennonite heirloom tomato plant which had a yard-long root and had dismantled its cage in three parts. Our wrestling burned more calories, but in the end, it won. Just as well–the yard waste bin was full.

I faithfully attended gyms for over thirty years but now I wonder why. I can accomplish more by integrating exercise in my life than I ever did in those mainly sterile environments. (The one exception: my Johnson & Johnson gym in El Segundo. You guys rock!) Speed walking in the hills around my house keeps me in touch with neighbors and their dogs, seeing the jacaranda bloom and the fall of avocados, oranges and dates, sharing produce from our gardens, and enjoying the sun and all that free vitamin D. Core and strength training at home allows me to also keep house maintenance under control and experience adventures in the garden between sets.

Not to mention that after 21,000 pushups, I’m hovering between reasonably competent and an expert. Hooray!

With the OCC RWA PROs group, I’m doing writing marathons which includes hourly sprints and reporting numbers at the top of the hour. I finished a paranormal romance at 61,000 words during a marathon. I drove a 7500 word Young Adult Dystopia novel to 59,000 words during another marathon.  Do I write for the entire hour? No, I interleave.

I sprint for fifteen minutes. When the timer buzzes, I spend fifteen minutes doing marketing or remodeling the guest room, cleaning baseboards, pruning rose bushes, and tearing down boxes in the garage.  I sort books to donate to libraries, nursing hospitals, or senior centers and clothes for soup kitchens or community centers. Then I’m back for another writing sprint.

For those who say no one can focus and produce anything in fifteen minutes, consider this. 35,000 words in one four day marathon.  57,000 words in a five day marathon.  Not bad plotting and prose either.

This month I’ve taken a thirty day challenge to clean up my prose. I’ll write a blog each week reporting what I did and payoffs realized.

Here’s to us all living rich and productive lives with healthy and strong bodies!

Happy everything.

About mlknowlden

In 2011, I left engineering to write full-time. Between the years 1992 and 2011, I’ve published 14 stories with Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine that have featured the hypochondriac detective Micky Cardex and two stories that did not. The 1998 story “No, Thank You, John” was nominated for a Shamus award. Many of these stories have been included in anthologies and translated in multiple languages. With Neal Shusterman, I’ve also published a science fiction story for the More Amazing Stories anthology (Tor) published in 1998 and co-authored with Neal Shusterman an X-Files Young Adult novel (DARK MATTER) for HarperCollins in 1999 under the name Easton Royce. For Simon & Schuster in July 2012, we published an e-novella UNSTRUNG in Neal's UNWIND world. I have graduate degrees in English and Electrical Engineering.
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6 Responses to Interleaving: 21,110 push-ups and increasing productivity

  1. WP3ICEdOkkT12cepx+9VgfBEc9YAYgs2N6ZuuJ88Xvc= says:

    It was good to return to you Elephant post and revisit how to learn something in 20 hours. I will apply that….

  2. W Brian Coles says:

    Great post Michelle. “Interleaving” is a fantastic term btw. I wonder if another powerful benefit is the oxygen and perspective gained from constantly stepping away (the leaving part) from the writing before diving back in. I find that I like to pepper my day with writing instead of just barreling through. I lose perspective like having my hand too close to my face. Anyways, always an inspiration!

  3. Kaye Klem says:

    <> Had you named it?? Sounds like a formidable adversary. Hope those tomatoes [sp?] were good. I must be losing it. I no longer know whether it’s tomatos or tomatoes. The spellcheck here prefers tomatoes… ???

    • mlknowlden says:

      Yeah, tomatoes have toes. How does it feel to share the spelling issue with a Vice President? The Mennonite tomato plant remains and I’m glad it fought me. It’s been producing tomatoes like crazy!

      Thank you for commenting!

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