While there’s definitely nothing wrong with being productive (I am all for it, actually), if you obsess about it and it starts affecting your physical, mental, and emotional health, as well as your relationships, then it becomes unhealthy and toxic. Toxic productivity is that feeling that if you don’t accomplish something, then you’re a failure or that you’re not enough. It’s the cycle of the never-ending grind, and yet never feeling satisfied. You set unrealistic expectations for yourself, so even if you have already done something, you still feel guilty because you think you should have done more. It can affect people around you too, when too much exhaustion and anxiety make you snap and let it out on others.
“Most people’s minds are almost always too busy for them to feel their skins being caressed by the wind or the sun.” – Mokokoma Mokhonoana
Aside from the hustle culture, which admittedly is what defined my 20’s (full time job + side hustle + traffic), we become more susceptible to toxic productivity with the current pandemic scenario. We stay at home a lot, and despite this being an opportunity to slow down, we feel like we have to achieve something. Also, with people working remotely, we are expected to be available to be contacted, even on non-working hours of the day.
So how can we curb this tendency and avoid toxic productivity? Below are some ideas.
Make time to rest, and rest guiltlessly
Humans need rest. Even our devices and computers need time to recharge (even servers need some downtime for maintenance). So don’t feel like you’re wasting time when you’re resting. Rest should be a normal part of your day, not a luxury that you skip on a regular basis. But what if you need to hustle in order to pay the bills? Unfortunately, your body will tell you that it needs a break – usually by just shutting down. For me, it’s usually a terrible headache (sometimes nausea), then I would need to sleep for 10-12 hours to get better. It could be much worse for others. So please don’t let it come to that and let yourself rest without the guilt.
Set realistic goals and expectations
We usually give ourselves unrealistic goals and put pressure on ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with aiming high and having big dreams, but you don’t have to do everything right now. It’s okay if you haven’t ticked off everything in your to-do list. Tackle the things that you can do today, and leave the rest for tomorrow. Remember that hours clocked in does not necessarily equal quality work produced.
Set boundaries and honor them
In a world of connectivity, know when you need to unplug and disconnect. If you’re done working for the day, set that boundary and don’t answer work emails late at night. It’s okay to do that once in a while, but making this a regular thing will ultimately lead to burnout.
Remember to play
Life isn’t just about working and hustling and accomplishing things. It’s also about having fun and enjoying the company of your friends and family. Have fun doing the things you love and don’t lose your sense of humor. Personally, the Mister and I do a lot of “adulting” like working and paying the bills and doing chores, but we do joke around and laugh a lot too.
Remember that you are enough
You do not need to work so hard to deserve to rest and to feel worthy. You already are. It may be hard to believe that when you get a lot of criticism from other people and from your inner voice (this could be the loudest), but you are enough everyday.