3 Reasons Why Sprints Are Better Than Marathons

Marathons and sprints are often used as analogies to differentiate how you look at things — primarily as short- or long-term perspective.

In digital marketing, you’d often hear gurus tell you that SEO is a marathon because it takes months to years before you start seeing substantial results.

That’s why you’d also hear this phrase applied to marriage, raising kids, life, career and pretty much anything under the sun.

But sometimes, it pays off to think and use sprints rather than marathons. Here are 3 reasons why sprints are better than marathons:

  1. Shorter period means you get feedback quickly
  2. Forces you to focus intensely
  3. Do more sprints

Quick Sidebar: What You Probably Don’t Know About Marathons

Unless you’ve tried running a marathon (or trained for it properly), you would have not noticed the prevalence of feedback mechanisms.

  • Heart rate monitors
  • GPS
  • Run details like pace, distance covered

Some apps even track the distance you’ve ran so you know how much mileage you’re getting out of your shoes.

Feedback is a necessity in life.

The more feedback you get, the better you become at whatever you’re trying to do.

Oftentimes, people use it as a way to look at the time perspectives. But if you think about it, there’s more to it than that?

Alright, now, back to why you need sprints…

Shorter Time Frame Means You Get Feedback Quickly

High performing athletes all have coaches. Jordan. Woods. Federer.

Even the best of the best have coaches.

This is something that the professional world lacks. Managers and bosses often leave you alone and don’t provide feedback, save for that annual requirement. Which, by then, is already useless.

Like I said earlier, feedback is essential in our lives.

  • touch a hot stove, you get immediate feedback; if you don’t, you’d get burnt
  • step on the gas pedal/break, you get immediate feedback.

And there’s so much more.

Feedback helps you do two things:

  1. Keep doing what you’re supposed to be doing (positive feedback)
  2. Avoid doing what you’re not supposed to (negative feedback)

Translation: the more feedback you get — positive and negative — the faster you can make changes.

Touching a hot stove is negative feedback so you don’t keep doing it.

Same thing goes for positive feedback.

The more “corrections” you make, the faster you improve.

Yet management and career, the lack of both positive and negative feedback is one of the reasons why individuals take a long time to get good at their jobs.

Key takeaway: perform sprints to get better faster.

Are there areas in your life or work that you’d like to level up?

Pick one.

Then, decide on a timeframe. 7 days. 30 days. 2 weeks.

Whatever it is, choose one then head on to the next section.

Sprints Improve Discipline and Forces You to Focus

Sprint in project management (more specifically in scrum) is a planned amount of work that you need to complete within a specific amount of time.

You’d often read about sprints taking 1-4 weeks but, as mentioned above, shorter are better. 5-10 days seems to be a sweet spot.

But that’s up to you.

I did a 30-day writing challenge last January.

My measure of success is one published article a day. The time frame I chose is, as you guessed, 30 days.

It’s as simple as that.

By giving yourself constraints and a very clear goal, you remove all distractions.

Your brain starts to focus all its energy into completing this one thing.

At the beginning, you will feel some sense of fun and challenge. After a few days, it will become harder.

That’s what I experienced in my writing sprint last January. After a couple of days, I was struggling to come up with stuff to write about.

But I stuck with it and persevered.

I move things around. Woke up earlier. Slept earlier. Spent less time watching Netflix.

Key takeaway: set a single, actionable goal within a specific timeframe that is meaningful.

I could have chosen my goal as to write 50k words in one month. But that doesn’t help me at all.

All results are external. So words don’t matter. Nor are writing 30 articles.

Published posts are a step beyond written articles. You have to format it properly. Add some images or screenshots.

And release it publicly. That’s the point.

What’s the key metric that you want to accomplish that’s meaningful for you and your business?

You Get to Do More Sprints

Because of the nature of sprints—short time period—you get the benefit of doing more of it.

And that’s why I’m taking another stab at a 30-day writing sprint.

After all, the results of my previous one was a success. And I’m hoping to replicate that this time around.

Google Search Console Performance

In just 3 months, my organic traffic grew by 76%. That’s just after publishing 30 articles in 30 days last January.

The first reason for sprints is to get feedback faster. The more you do sprints, the faster you can learn which ones to do more and which ones to improve further.

Sprints allow you to do that.

Key takeaway: after you finish your first sprint, analyze it. Take down notes of what you learned. Continue doing what’s working and stop what’s not.

Conclusion

Sprints are better than marathons because you can do more in the same amount of time.

You get to put in high quality work and get immediate feedback on what’s working and what you need to improve on.

Have you tried sprints in your business? Or are you planning to do one soon?

Let me know.

Ariel Lim

Ariel Lim

Management consultant / MBA / Inbound marketer who helps startups generate leads, create and execute strategies.

2 thoughts on “3 Reasons Why Sprints Are Better Than Marathons”

  1. Wow that’s some impressive results on your organic traffic! Makes me think I should give sprints a go for my own writing. As a blogger trying to grow my traffic, I like your point about making ‘published posts’ the key metric, I was previously trying to write 1 hour a day but got no results i.e published blog posts to show for it so that discouraged me but reading your article makes me think a new metric for output would be more effective.

    Reply
    • Changing your perspective often helps. I did the same before. Followed the generic advice of others. But to see results, you’ve got to think of yourself as a business. That means tracking the right metrics. Writing is simply an activity but getting published posts is a result.

      Reply

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