A 24-year-old who spent 10 days working in complete isolation discovered a key insight about productivity

SolitudeFlickr/Leland FranciscoWithout other people, there’s no reason to be productive.

Everyone has days when they crave complete solitude.

When your officemate has his headphones in, but you can still hear the heavy metal. When your roommate comes crashing into the apartment at 4 a.m. on a weeknight.

In these moments, it’s tempting to think that you’d be so much happier and more productive if only you could take a break from other people and live life your own way.

Writer Chris Bailey, now 26, did just that two years ago, when he spent 10 days living and working in complete isolation in his girlfriend’s dad’s basement. And he hated it.

Bailey is the author of new book “The Productivity Project,” which describes his year of experimentation with different productivity strategies, like meditating for 35 hours a week and working for 90 hours a week.

Living in isolation was one of the most difficult experiments, he says, but it did teach him one key lesson related to getting stuff done: People are the reason for productivity.

“Without people around me, my motivation to get work done plummeted,” he writes. At the time, he was blogging and working on his book.

While living in the basement, Bailey writes that he became “overwhelmed with gratitude for everyone who had helped him” get there.

That included his girlfriend and her dad, who gave him a home after he’d run out of funds to continue his project; the people who read his blog; and his friends and family, who provided a support network and imbued him with the confidence to pursue his passions.

Bailey writes: “I quickly realised that the people around me weren’t just the reason my project existed — they were who my project existed for.”

In an interview with Business Insider, Bailey said he “doesn’t recommend living in isolation,” even if it means that you’ll come to the same profound realisation he did.

Instead, you can take his word for it and start focusing on the benefits of your relationships both within and outside the workplace.

As evidence of the link between interpersonal relationships and productivity, Bailey cites research that found people are seven times as likely to be highly engaged at work when they have a best friend there.

In his book “The Best Place to Work,” psychologist Ron Friedman explains why workplace friendships boost productivity: “When colleagues are close, a poor effort means more than a dissatisfied customer or an unhappy manager. It means letting down your friends.”

Even thinking about the people you’re making a positive impact on with your product or service could help. A now-well-known study co-authored by Wharton professor Adam Grant found that, after call center employees at a university met the scholarship students who had benefited from their fundraising efforts, they were significantly more productive.

As Bailey writes, “People are why we do what we do, and why we push ourselves to accomplish more.”

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