This post was originally published on 12/22/2011.
At the beginning of 2011, my work schedule was light. I could stop work on the startup early without stressing out, I took longer lunch breaks, and I spent the evenings recreating. I watched a bunch of movies that had been on my list for years, I caught up on correspondences, and I thought about and wrote more blog posts. I went to sleep when I wanted, woke up when the sun rose and generally lived it up. From the outside, I was living the lifestyle business dream, if only temporarily, while other projects wrapped up.
I was, however, deeply unhappy. After the first week or two, I found that watching a lot of movies at once was kind of boring, that I could correspond with others much faster than they could reply, and that it didn't take long to write all the blog posts I had been planning. But much worse, I discovered that for me, being productive had a large impact on my happiness and I simply wasn't efficient when I wasn't busy. Without hard deadlines and time limits, coworkers and customers, it was always acceptable to dally and watch an episode of Community. Or stay up late reading Reddit. Or hit the snooze button more than once.
Just to be clear, I didn't have motivation problems at first. I found that the less I had to do, the less I had to worry about using my time efficiently, and this led to a rapid decline in productivity. The whole slowdown process took 2 weeks.
Starting in the summer, work started picking up again. Even though I was working more than full time, I realized I was accomplishing more on my personal projects than I had when a two hour lunch break was no problem and my days ended at 4PM.
In short, I've found that the right kind of productivity (as in, working on projects/work that matters to you personally) tends to increase as you get busier. There is a linear relationship between how much you have to get done in a day and how much work will get done on personal projects.
There's an old saying that goes "if you want to get a job done, give it a busy person." This isn't a new or revolutionary thought, but the inverse is new and revolutionary: "if you want to get a job done yourself, get busier." I can't speak for everyone, but I've definitely found this to be true.
Have others found this to be true? If so, have you found any hacks that increase productivity even more?