Productivity is an addicting thing. Having control over how much you can achieve is extremely gratifying. I'm obsessed. It's why I try to squeeze an extra two hours out of each day. Consider it a constant quest to make each day matter just a bit more than usual.
But productivity poses a challenge.
For me, as more time opens up, my plate gets more full. I inflate the importance of tasks that accompany those added responsibilities. My effectiveness drops, and so does my level of sanity. I finish each day exhausted, without the satisfaction of production.
I find myself working just to work.
When I think back to my first startup, I realize that I was a slave to my work. The team and I commonly pushed 100+ hour weeks. There was so much riding on success, so much peer pressure to "put your time in" that those of us that left before 7pm were berated -- we were letting the rest of the team down. I was just a kid, I didn't know any better.
This is commonplace in the technology world. It's why investors tend to put their money in young founders, those who are in their early to late twenties, are free of family commitments, and don't have the relative experience to know otherwise. I fit the bill.
In hindsight, although I worked more than I do today (in terms of raw hours), I didn't actually produce more -- fuel for the working hard vs. working smart debate. You see, our bodies can only handle so much heads-down production. It's the law of diminishing returns, and it's very real. It's something that downing a few more cans of RedBull can't solve. Trust me, I've tried.
I was 18 then. I'm 25 now. It's taken me seven years to comprehend the topic of pacing myself. This isn't because I'm incompetent, although one could make the argument. It's because I want to achieve so much, and guilt overwhelms me when I'm not working toward reaching those goals. Just sitting on the couch for more than 30 minutes raises my blood pressure. Mind you, this is with the realization that as I work more, I become less productive.
As you'll notice in my 26-hour day, I've tried to build breaks into my schedule that allow me to recharge. Gym in the morning, a large dinner block in the evening, and time to read before ending the day. But it's not nearly enough, I still feel the strain of the busy requirement.
Some people have it figured out. They've perfected the art of turning it off and turning it on when they need to. I'm not there yet, but I'm getting better.
Let's stop glorifying over-work, and start congratulating smart work. The truly brilliant people in the world are those that elegantly balance a heavy-workload and the rest of their life. They're also the most satisfied.
This industry is a race, but it's not a sprint. It's a marathon, one that I hope to be running for a very long time.