If you are like me, you are a better decision maker and more productive as the number of tasks assigned to you increase. There's something about a full to do list that sharpens the mind and clarifies the senses.
I wonder if this is true for you, fellow reader, but it's definitely true for me. As my tasks and responsibilities increase, my productivity and desire to be productive increases. As the amount of work increases, I enforce a more rigorous and conscious discipline about what I do with my time, where I spend it, and what things I delegate to another person or delegate to another time. My decision making is more focused and it seems my filters and the thinking process I use to make decisions is sharper.
Conversely, when I don't have as much to do, I am not nearly as focused and my decision making takes longer and is frankly not as crisp. When I have more free time and more available time on my calendar, my work suffers because its more difficult to get to that next quantum level of excitement and energy. I guess there's a mental investment required to get to a certain level of productivity - and if the benefits in terms of the work finished don't seem to justify the mental investment, it's harder to be productive.
I'd like to call this the Availability Conundrum. It's another one of those factoids that may be apparent only to me, but the basic premise is - the more time available and the fewer the deadlines, the less investment I have in my work, and my productivity suffers. Conversely, I find that as my workload increases my energy and effectiveness increase correspondingly. If these observations are true, they also give the lie to "I'll get to it when I have more time" because when I have "more time" I don't have the enthusiasm or energy to do those things.
Here's what I've done to combat this and try to stay more focused and disciplined. First, recognize that some days you simply need a mental holiday. I use these days to file, draw pictures of new systems or ideas that I'd like to pursue, recap or close out any left over work from old projects and so forth. Second, take on things that will add real value, so all the work I do (as much of the time as possible) has a very high value add to the company. This keeps my energy level up. Third, work on as wide a variety of things as possible within my responsibilities. This also keeps me interested, learning and engaged. Fourth, stay as "busy" as possible with tasks but lock in time for reading and learning, and spending time meeting and talking with the people I work with and report to. Never become too busy to spend time talking to and listening to the people around you. Finally, make a choice about your work and it's importance in your life. If you are as productive as you can be at work, then you can leave each day knowing you accomplished a lot, and spend some great time outside of the work environment recharging the batteries for the next day.