How to be Productive and Happy, Vol. 2 of 3

Last week I wrote about an experiment I'm running to see how my productivity changes when I replace the things I need to do to feel happy, with more work. On Sunday I completed week 2. I worked about 70 hours last week and continued my routine of waking up, eating breakfast, going to the office, working for 12-14 hours, going home, eating some food, sleeping for 7 hours and then repeating.  The last two weeks have not been fun and I've noticed my mood slowly deteriorating the longer this goes on.

Usually my routine includes daily yoga, a bit more sleep, at least thrice weekly Jiu Jitsu, and some social activities. Last week I skipped it all.

What I noticed during week 2 is there's definitely an adrenaline rush that accompanies working all the time. I'm calling this the "Busy High". It's the feeling of exhilaration that accompanies working long hours and doing nothing else. However along with the Busy High, I also noticed a decrease in my mental clarity. I didn't perform as well as meetings or on the phone, and my ability to see the big picture got clouded.

So now I'm characterizing the output-quality curve for my brain. I can get more output but it comes at a lower quality. For someone in a strategic role in a startup this is dangerous because even small decreases in 'quality of thought' can obviously produce much worse outcomes for the business as a whole.

incidentally, I think the output-quality curve for my brain is symmetrical: on the other end, a decrease in output (for example working only 2 or 3 hours a day, also produces a decrease in quality). This is because the rate of progress on any task is so slowed that getting around the build-measure-learn loop takes too long. And so for me there seems to be a sweet spot that maximizes the product of output x quality and it seems to be around (surprise, surprise) 8 hours per day.

I guess this is why Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hanson counsel to fire the workaholics in their book Rework - because the "busy high" (maximizing output) actually hurts productivity (maximizing output x quality).

Productivity vs. Hours Worked

I noticed some other things in week 2, but I gotta run so I'll write about them in a later post.