In any kind of work, mindset is important. It helps you accomplish tasks to achieve the goals you’ve set — earn x amount within the year, get promoted to x position, etc. But it’s difficult to recognize when you’ve put so much body and soul into your work that it’s crossed the line from positive productivity to toxic productivity. Toxic productivity is when you have the “unhealthy desire” to fill every second of your day doing something. It’s the negative side of “going above and beyond.” And when you’ve accomplished a project, you feel like you have to jump on another one ASAP.
The toxic productivity culture has been around for a long time. Remember the endless days you spent pulling overtime pre-pandemic? But now that we’re mostly confined to our homes, it’s as if productivity has kicked into overdrive with more time to work. And it can actually take a toll on you. What are the dangers of toxic productivity and how can you avoid it?
Danger #1: It makes you unforgiving of yourself
Toxic productivity pushes the mindset that if you’re not doing anything “valuable” with your time, you’re wasting it. Downtimes and rest feel like a crime since you’re always asking, “What else can I do?” or “What should I be doing right now?” And when your hard work comes to fruition and you see success with a project, toxic productivity is sometimes that small voice in your head that says you need to do better. “Okay, you’re done with this project, what’s next?” It makes success feel meaningless, just another rung on an endless ladder.
Danger #2: Fast lane to burnout
No wonder the high of toxic productivity can lead to a serious burnout. Giving into the hustle culture is the ticket to burnout that, most often than not, leads to serious mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Understandably, you want to be productive since you’re home most of the time anyway. But we’re not machines. To always be doing something is exhausting. And if you experience burnout too many times, you’re gonna have bigger problems along the way.
Danger #3: It rubs your competitive side the wrong way
Toxic productivity has you thinking that you have to be better than that other guy at work. You have to constantly be online, finish more projects than him, and be an overall better employee. It could also lead to comparing yourself to people actually better than you and pushing yourself when you know you’re lacking. For instance, you idolize a boss so much you push yourself to work the same 18 hours as him. Being competitive is healthy to an extent. When you start harboring a negative mindset, it’s time to stop.
Danger #4: It could ruin your personal relationships
Toxic productivity has got you on a one-track mindset. Like a red cloth to an angry bull, you focus on the target (money, promotion), neglecting everyone around you. It strains relationships. You forget to play with your kids, you’re always on your gadgets even during meals, and you sleep so late you don’t have time to catch up on movie nights with friends. Telling yourself you’re “doing this for your family” doesn’t help. Your productivity should never interfere with your personal relationships.
Now that we’ve established toxic productivity to be a serious problem for many, how do we avoid it?
Make it a point to slow down
Slowing down isn’t the same as taking your 10-15 minute quick breaks while still on your phone. It means intentionally including breaks and relaxation in your schedule. Just like how you scheduled three Zoom meetings back to back, you can also work in a 30-minute downtime. But you have to be disciplined about it. No looking at your phone and sneaking in a bit of work!
And speaking of phones, you already know you should spend time away from tech. Part of what makes working stressful for this generation is that we’re always connected. You’ve got your phone, tablet, laptop, and access to the internet everywhere. There is literally no excuse to not be available. But you have to draw the line somewhere.
Steer clear of media that drown you with success stories
“I made Php 1-M for my first month as a freelancer — you can too!”
“My secret to success is reading 100 books a year. Here’s how you can do it.”
“How to sleep/eat/use social media/play with your cat productively.”
These headlines sound familiar? It’s because you’ve probably scrolled past them on Facebook or got recommended a similar video on YouTube. So many content creators and influencers on social media contribute to the mindset that the only way to reach success is to drown yourself with work. They glamorize sacrificing sleep and taking care of your mental health just to reach that “goal.” Of course, this might be unintentional, most people just want to help others out. But if you buy into that, you’ll constantly be comparing yourself to your productivity gurus and it might crush your self-confidence if you can’t keep up.
Do your brain a favor. Hit that unfollow button.
Set boundaries for work and home
A huge part of why working from home is more stressful is that many struggle to draw the line between work and home. Instead of stressing out at your office desk, you associate stress with your bedroom — what once was your safe haven — because you work there now. The only solution is to implement a strict schedule that lets you clock out at a certain time. If toxic productivity believes in working well through the night, counteract it with a specific time to stop. Trust us, when you free up your evenings and weekends, it’s going to improve your mental state.
Work to live, don’t live to work
Finally, remind yourself that you weren’t born on earth to work like a horse. You have a life outside of work, why not spend it with your pets, family, and friends? Unfocus on your screen and refocus on building a community and making memories with your loved ones. Think about it. If all you do is work since you graduated at 20 years old until it’s time for you to retire at 65, you will spend about 45 years working. And who knows how long you have left to enjoy your life after?
Don’t get us wrong, a great work ethic is admirable. If you can go above and beyond your tasks for the day, why not do it, right? But while pleasing your boss and getting a promotion is a good thing, it simply isn’t everything. Not at the expense of your relationships and mental health.