“Staying motivated is the key to success”, “Keep hustling”, “The grind doesn’t stop”, “Work harder every single day”. How many times have you scrolled past enumerable quotes with #productivity as the caption? Platforms such as LinkedIn and Instagram are breeding grounds for individuals to display their accomplishments which are openly accessible to people from all over the globe. Individuals showcase their multi-tasking abilities as they are doing a full-time ‘9 to 5’ job. They tend to complete their educational degrees, partake in extra-curricular activities, and organize extravagant volunteering projects all at once. We, as a society, applaud such profiles, disregarding the individual hiding behind the seemingly-perfect resume. It is essential to ask ourselves; Is being productive always healthy, or can it turn toxic?
As a society, we often tend to glamorize over-working. An individual working on multiple projects with absolutely no time for self-care is credited higher than one who has a healthy balance between work and leisure. Social media further enhances this concept of ‘Toxic Productivity’, referring to the obsession with self-improvement by setting unrealistic goals and standards for ourselves. Toxic productivity leads to constant feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Our contemporary lives have wired us to be ‘constantly available’ online, which increases the pressure to appear a certain way. Psychology suggests that toxic productivity is directly linked to self-worth. Millennials on Instagram promote an unrealistic level of motivation with quotes such as “The more you are awake, the more you make”. As neon signs saying ‘work harder’ fill student dorm rooms, such an excessive productivity mindset goes against mental health advocates.
Another such psychological concept that is widely used regarding toxic productivity refers to ‘burnout’. Burnout is often referred to as an ‘occupational phenomenon’ that results from chronic workplace stress when goals have not been reached. In this way, toxic productivity is a psychological and physiological phenomenon, having symptoms of energy depletion and exhaustion. After a point of overworking, an individual may face this stage of burnout leading to mental alienation from work and reduced efficiency professionally. Promoting such levels of toxic productivity and organizational burnout causes harmful consequences on mental well-being in the workplace.
Being a victim of this hyper-productivity mindset is very common in today’s age and often remains unnoticed. When an individual is in this frame of mind that focuses on one task after another, it often blurs the reality of one’s mental health. Here are 3 signs to identify if your productivity is turning toxic:
Feeling guilty while taking time-off. If spending time with family or friends makes you feel guilty with internal running dialogues such as “I should be finishing my work”, it may be a sign of burnout despite hours of working.
An Imbalance between professional and personal life, if work is harming your relationships, as you prioritize work over self-care and family, this may likely turn unhealthy.
Having unrealistic expectations. Setting unrealistic goals will lead to extreme disappointment in oneself, driving you to the point of toxic productivity to reach such expectations.
Reflecting on one working patterns and mental health can help identify toxic productivity. After this step of identification, it is crucial to overcome this whirlpool that one gets sucked into. A few ways to help you avoid over-working and burnout are:
Give yourself breaks. Initially, it may be challenging to take time for self-care. However, once you begin giving yourself these much-needed breaks, you will notice a natural increase in your efficiency and productivity.
Practice positive self-talk. Remind yourself that your self-worth is not determined by your productivity. You are worthy and take a step back from your to-do list’ to reinforce this positive mindset towards yourself.
Assert and define your boundaries. Create clear boundaries and practice assertiveness. If you wish to maintain strict work hours, do not hesitate to say ‘no’ or switch off your phone after work. Creating such boundaries will give you a level of peace and provide a certain degree of comfort.
We, as a society, have programmed individuals to always ‘hustle’ and more-and-more work done without leaving any time for ourselves. This ‘to-do list’ driven world when turns toxic. It leads to making one feel unproductive and goals unaccomplished even after hours of working. This addiction to overworking has become more prominent after the onset of COVID-19. The pandemic led to individuals working from home more than they ever had before. However, it is okay if you didn’t spend lockdown starting a new business, writing a novel, losing unrealistic amounts of weight, or even picking up a new hobby. Bringing professional life into personal spaces has caused chronic do-ers to mix their identity with their achievements. This leads to turning the global health crisis into an identity crisis. We need to stop glamorizing overworking. The lack of sleep, healthy diet, relaxation, and exercise is not admirable or applauded. Don’t let people online tell you to do more or be more. Our online lives force us to re-evaluate our self-worth based on our productivity. Young adults use the lack of self-care and wear burnout as a badge of ‘honour’, and this mindset needs to change.