Battling the "empty plate" paradox

When I’m loaded with work—when I have a “full plate”—my creativity is at its highest. I may be battling deadlines, but my mind fills with ideas for other things I want to do—projects I want to pitch, invention ideas I want to jot down, blog posts I want to write, songs I want to record, etc. And even though I’m busy and my time should be at a premium, I wind up shoehorning in some of these extracurricular projects in between the deadlines. Because my productivity seems to be higher when I’m busy, too. As for the rest of the stuff that I think of but don’t actually get to, I always tell myself I’ll work on them when I get past the last pressing deadline.

But most often I don’t. When my workload is light and I should have all the time in the world to work on those great ideas that come to me when I’m busy, I have a hard time getting to work on them. I call it the empty plate paradox. 

I know that part of the problem is that my mood takes a hit when I’m slow. It has nothing to do with anything I’m telling myself. I’m not fretting over finding more work, or worrying that my clients don’t love me anymore. I’m just happier when I’m busy. And maybe I’m happier when I’m busy because I’m more creative when I’m busy, too. That’s the chicken-and-egg aspect to this I haven’t figured out yet. 

Anyway, the way I’m trying to combat the problem is to trick myself into being busier than I really am. Whatever work I have, I’ll try to overdeliver against the assignment. Or I’ll force myself to write a blog post, or work on a song.

Does this happen to you? How do you fight it? I’d truly appreciate any ideas.