It’s a safe bet that we’re all familiar with the pressure to make the most of every minute and the ‘we all have 24 hours brigade’ are certainly not helping matters. Toxic productivity is an unhealthy desire to be productive at all times. It is similar to hustle culture and workaholism with sufferers feeling an overwhelming sense to be productive all the time.
Here are the signs of toxic productivity, and ways to break the cycle.
Signs of toxic productivity
- An overall feeling of failure even after completing a task or goal.
- Difficulty letting go even when something is complete.
- Judging your success based on what you haven’t done.
- Feeling guilty when you’re not working.
- An inability to relax even during social situations or feeling restless whenever you feel you’re not being productive.
- Feeling abnormally tired, even after getting adequate rest.
- A persistent feeling that you’re just not doing enough.
- Relationships are suffering because you spend less time with them (family and friends).
- Forgetting obligations and personal responsibilities while lost in work.
- Being increasingly stressed and anxious.
- No longer engaging in hobbies.
- Your self-worth is attached to productivity.
- Having unrealistic expectations of yourself.
- Being overwhelmed by feelings and unable to work.
- You work so much that it harms your health.
- Together, all these harm your quality of life and overall well-being.
How to break the cycle of toxic productivity
Left unchecked, toxic productivity is guaranteed to wreak havoc on your physical and mental well-being. Burnout is another certainty. Experts also believe overworking to be a sign that someone is struggling with high-functioning depression. The person uses work to cover up feelings of low self-worth, guilt, sadness, and/or decreased energy.
Here are a few things to keep in mind and practice to break the cycle of toxic productivity.
You are not the work you complete
Resist the impulse to base your self-worth and acceptance on your accomplishments. It’ll take significant effort on your part to undo society’s conditioning, but it can be done. Baby steps.
Recognize the root problem
Everything has a root cause, including toxic productivity. Try and get to the bottom of why you’re feeling this intense pressure that’s pushing you to overwork yourself. Why are you working so hard? What are you afraid of?
Set realistic goals
It’s not possible to maintain the same level of productivity daily, life happens. Some days are better than others, a truth that’s often obscured when you’re caught up in the toxic productivity cycle. Adjust your goals accordingly to accommodate the events in your life.
Know when to stop
You are not a machine so you can’t be on all the time. Cut yourself some slack and know when to stop. If you notice it’s taking you longer to do something than it normally would, take that break. Rest and come back to it. The more you keep working while tired, the higher the likelihood of making mistakes and having the work take even longer. Toxic productivity has the negative effect of making you keep working even when you’re too exhausted to do a good job.
Don’t fall into the trap of putting aside your needs and wants when life gets hectic, and you’re overwhelmed with work. Be vigilant about protecting your downtime. Toxic productivity tries to convince you that you should be working at all times and that time spent on your personal needs and desires is wasted time. It’s not.
Don’t compare yourself with others
Another tough one that’s easier said than done. Toxic productivity forces you to compare yourself to others and you always fall short. Your type-A friends and everybody on Instagram (#Hustle, #KillingIt, #Blessed) appear to be conspiring to make you feel like the loser you’re secretly afraid you are. Do whatever it takes, including deleting apps and leaving groups to save yourself from what amounts to “success porn.”
If you’re able to, try and find a way to achieve a work-life balance. When all is said and done, the things that really matter are your well-being and your family and friends. Cut yourself some slack if you find yourself falling into old habits. Breaking out of the toxic productivity cycle is a lot of things and easy is not one of them. Remember that you’re not the only one struggling, that there’s nothing especially wrong with you. Plus, you are so much more than your output or productivity. Be kind to yourself.
We need to stop glorifying the culture of overworking ourselves. Rest is important too.
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