Question: I’m getting so much done, and my team is happy with me, but I still feel like I’m not doing enough.
There’s an irony here: the exact same workload can feel onerous or energizing. What you want is to ride the wave of your own natural energy cycles. The low points actually DRIVE the highs so if you try to take them away, the wave just flattens down to nothing.
If something feels imposed from without, you’ll naturally resist it. Conversely, when the work takes you over, it becomes irresistible, and you WANT to keep going (which can be good or bad…). How do you do this? By riding your peaks while they last, knowing that they will return again.
But here’s the big secret:
End each workday at a high point, which is a point of completion, even if it means stopping early. Your high points are when you feel energized. Don’t start a new task just because you have another 15 minutes to kill before leaving for the day. Ending a task in the middle just leaves you hanging and you can’t relax at night.
There’s a trade-off between frequency and amplitude. You have some control over each. I like to work in 2-hour jags but sometimes go as long as 12 hours. Really excruciating projects might be 5-minute increments at the beginning, until things start to roll. Longer sprints might go in a 3-week cycle of cranking followed by several days of sloth. A lot of this is tracking yourself and seeing when you seem to do well and feel good about it, and when you don’t.
However, the longer and higher you go, the more downtime you need, and the more profound that downtime must be. Neglecting this law will kill you outright. No lie. The Japanese are even worse off than we are when it comes to this, and they even have a word “kairoshi” that means dropping dead from overwork. All those stock options won’t do you any good 6 feet under the ground.