I’ve only recently came across the term Toxic productivity but I could resonate straight away. I’m the type of person with a massive to do list, never ending bucket list and extremely high expectations. If I sit down to relax my mind will race thinking of what I should be doing right now, and thinking that I’m lazy, haven’t done enough to deserve a rest and that this is a waste of time. Sounds familiar?
Since lock down started this behaviour became more noticeable. It seemed like I had even more time to achieve all those things of my bucket list, right? I cramped an enormous amount of work into each day and I still felt like I hadn’t quite done enough during the day. It won’t come as a surprise to you that this didn’t last very long. I “crashed” and didn’t want to do anything anymore! I would think “What is wrong with me?! Other people seem to manage to do even more!”
That’s when I came across the term Toxic productivity.
When something is toxic it is harmful to you and your daily life. The need to be productive can be toxic. We life in a society where productivity is valued and busyness is glorified (also outside of lock down circumstances). We don’t tend to be impressed with someone who is resting but rather with someone who’s been working all night.
Especially at the moment, when you scroll through social media, there is so much content on what we should be doing with our time. We end up comparing ourselves to all those other people and think we need to do the same. Ending up with an unrealistic long to do list. Soon we start to feel overwhelmed. If you are the kind of person that still manages to do it all and that’s what you enjoy– that is great! This is more about being expected to do everything during a pandemic. It is only human to struggle currently and you are not a failure for not being able to complete your whole to do list in the middle of a pandemic.
What is toxic productivity?
It is an unhealthy and extreme obsession with productivity. Productivity can become toxic when it is never ending and never enough.
There are two extremes to toxic productivity. On the one hand, you work so much that you end up with no time for anything else. You will work and work and still think that you haven’t done enough yet. On the other hand, you end up being so overwhelmed by your feelings that you aren’t able to focus on one task, trying to achieve everything at the same time but ending up feeling awful when you can’t.
What are the signs of toxic productivity?
- Your health and personal relationships are affected by how much you work. Also, you might be suppressing essential needs such as having lunch or going to the toilet because you feel like you are wasting your time.
- You have unrealistic expectations for yourself. We expect a certain level of productivity even though outside circumstances might have changed.
- You might struggle with resting and taking a break. You hardly ever take a break but once you do, you feel guilty or a sense of restlessness. Maybe you experience feelings of lower self-worth when you aren’t productive or start comparing yourself to others who seem to do more than you.
- You might have the tendency to attach your self-worth to how productive you are, which isn’t very healthy. It is great to have goals and be determined, but your sense of worth can’t be defined just by that.
What can we do about Toxic productivity?
Have you noticed any of these behaviours in yourself?
First of all – if you resonate with this, please let me assure you – you are not alone! And secondly, you can change it.
So, how can you improve your relationship with productivity?
- Set yourself realistic goals and consider the situation that you are in. For example, at the moment there might be extra challenges, such as working from home, home schooling etc. that will bring along more distractions. This will affect your ability to think clearly and you need to calculate more time in to complete certain tasks.
- Rethink the meaning of rest and acknowledge that rest is necessary and useful and not a waste of time. Being well rested will help you reach your goals more effectively. Make sure to take regular breaks throughout the day. Give yourself time to recharge.
- Practicing mindfulness is a great way to connect to the present moment and yourself. You learn to observe and accept what is going on around you without judgement. Becoming more aware of your body’s needs.
- Try to listen to friends and family as they usually have your best interest at heart. If they start telling you that they you are always busy and doing too much, chances are that they are right.
- Try to set yourself clear boundaries around work, such as no phone whilst eating, having regular breaks every few hours, family time etc. – whatever works for you.
- Practice being kind to yourself. When defining your self-worth by your productivity you might end up chasing one accomplishment after another. Giving you a temporary sense of worth but quickly wearing off and you need another accomplishment to make you feel valuable. To change this thinking pattern, recognize that your self-worth lies in who you are and not how productive you are. Talk to yourself like you would to a close friend – and slowly change your self-talk. If you struggle with this you could consider getting support from a therapist.
Finding out about “toxic productivity” has really helped me notice my own toxic behaviours and allowed me to slowly shift my thinking patterns. I believe, it is something that we constantly have to work on, especially when using social media a lot. Try not to compare yourselves to others too much. It’s your own journey and remember that rest is important and your self-worth doesn’t depend on how much you work.
Lots of love xxx