If you’re feeling like the last few years of your life have been swallowed up by your job, friends and family are likely telling you to get a better handle on your work-life balance.
While this is generally sound advice, it’s rarely enough to help us actually do so without some kind of intervention. One thing that can be helpful in this regard is knowing more about what drives us to overwork ourselves in the first place (and how it may be affecting our health).
I’ve found that there are four key drivers behind toxic productivity: fear of failure, fear of missing out (FOMO), fear of losing relationships due to time spent working, and lack of confidence in one’s abilities.
While these aren’t the only reasons why people become workaholics — for example, some people truly enjoy their jobs or have ambitions that require long hours — having insight into what drives these behaviors can help point out which factors might be contributing most strongly in individual cases.
What Is Toxic Productivity?
Toxic productivity is a term that describes someone whose lifestyle and behavior are driven by an obsession with work and productivity.
It’s not uncommon for people to feel like they have too much to do in one day and end up working through their lunch breaks or staying late at the office once a month or so. But toxic productivity isn’t satisfied unless he has two hours of daily planning time and only works three days per week, then spends the rest of his free time putting out fires.
Toxic Productivity is motivated by fear rather than ambition; he believes that if he doesn’t work hard enough now, the business will fail—or worse yet—he’ll be fired!
This type of thinking sets up an endless cycle where you have no time for relationships outside of work or recreation because you’re always busy doing something productive.
If left unchecked long enough (and without support from friends), this type of behavior could lead you down an unhealthy path: one where you miss doctor appointments because they interfere with your work schedule; one where your children see less than half their father because he spends every waking hour focused solely on his career goals; one where even though your marriage is healthy overall, deep down inside there’s still some resentment building between partners due to not spending enough quality time together anymore
What Causes Toxic Productivity?
When you’re caught up in toxic productivity, your mind is filled with negative thoughts that can be crippling.
Here are some of the most common fears that plague people who are stuck in this cycle:
- Fear of failure
- Fear of success
- Fear of missing out (FOMO)
- Fear of being left behind or not making progress quickly enough
- Fear of not having enough time
- Fear of the unknown Fear of being judged by others
- Fear of not knowing how to do something Fear of having too many options to make a decision
Toxic Productivity During The Pandemic
In the past, a pandemic was the type of event that brought people together. Now, it’s one of many stressful forces that are pulling us apart.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of toxic productivity during an event like COVID pandemic, when there are so many things we need to get done and everyone is rushing around trying to do them. But the truth is, when we’re stressed out and exhausted, we can’t do good work—and we definitely don’t want to be doing bad work!
Working from home is supposed to be a blissful experience, right? You can wear your pajamas all day, stay up late watching Netflix, eat whatever you want… it’s the perfect opportunity to recharge and get things done.
But what happens when your boss expects you to be working at full speed during COVID pandemic? How do you balance the need for productivity with the desire for rest and relaxation?
That’s where toxic productivity comes in.
How You Can Identify Toxic Productivity?
Identifying toxic productivity is tricky because it can look like you’re working hard and making progress, but you’re actually not. If you think you might be in a toxic productivity cycle, consider this:
- Do you take breaks? If not, then chances are good that you are in a toxic productivity cycle. Just as important as taking breaks during the day is setting aside time to rest at night so that your mind has an opportunity to process what happened during the day and prepare for tomorrow’s work.
- Does everything seem urgent? If so, then there’s a good chance that things are not urgent at all. In fact, most things aren’t urgent—and if something feels truly urgent when it hits your inbox or pops up on Slack or appears on your calendar invite (which happens far too often), ask yourself why this thing needs immediate attention rather than waiting until later in the day or even tomorrow morning.
How Is Toxic Productivity Harmful?
Toxic productivity is a symptom of a deeper problem, which means that it can cause you to lose friends, family members, and jobs. If you’re in the habit of pushing yourself too far and not taking care of your health or mental wellbeing, toxic productivity might be getting in the way of your success.
Toxic productivity can make us miserable—but we don’t have to stay this way forever. It’s time to learn how to stop letting our work dominate our lives and become happier people instead!
How To Get Out Of Toxic Productivity Trap?
But how do you get out of the toxic productivity trap? Here are some tips:
- Take a break. Sometimes, you need to step away from your work and focus on something else. There’s nothing wrong with taking a vacation or spending time with friends or family. Just make sure that when it’s time to go back home, you’re ready to get back into it!
- Exercise (or play). Physical activity helps improve your mood and reduces stress levels, which in turn helps make more rational decisions about when and how much work gets done. Plus, exercise can make us feel good about ourselves—which is important because feeling good will help us stay productive in the long run!
- Call a friend/family member/pet (if applicable). It doesn’t matter who calls whom; just pick up the phone when they call so we can chat for awhile! Talking with someone else will give us something interesting to think about other than our stressful tasks at hand…which might lead us towards finding new ways of doing this task better next time around
- Ask for help. It can be hard to admit that we need assistance with something, but it’s often the best option for getting things done. Whether it’s delegating tasks to someone else or simply asking for advice on a particular issue, asking for help will free up our brains so we can focus on other things
- Get plenty of sleep. You know what they say: “Early to bed, early to rise…” Getting enough sleep will help us feel better in the morning and throughout the day. It can also give us more energy throughout our day!
What Is Good Productivity?
Good productivity is about being effective, not just efficient. It’s about making the most of your time and being happy with what you’re doing.
It doesn’t matter if you’re working hard if you don’t actually get anything done. Your work shouldn’t feel like a chore—if it does, then something needs to change!
Productivity is about having time for yourself so that when you’re at work, you can do your best work possible without feeling burned out or overwhelmed by stressors in your personal life (like worrying about paying bills).
So Why Toxic Productivity is a Dangerous Trap
Toxic productivity is about chasing an ever-receding goal.
Toxic productivity is about chasing an ever-receding goal. It’s about overworking, or working harder and faster than you should be, for no other reason than that someone else says you need to.
It’s not just about getting more done; it’s about doing more things because they’re there to be done. The goal is not to get more organized or make your life simpler—it’s simply that if there are things that need doing, then obviously you need to do them as soon as possible.
Toxic productivity is driven by fear, not ambition.
What do you do when you need to get something done? If you’re like most people, your instinct is probably to put your head down and power through it.
You might even procrastinate until the last minute so that there’s no time left for second-guessing. This kind of productivity may seem productive—but it can actually be counterproductive.
When we operate under an assumption that everything must be done right now, we end up working harder than we have to and falling further into our own traps as a result.
In fact, toxic productivity has less to do with getting things done and more to do with how we go about doing them: In order for toxic productivity to work at all (and believe me: it does), we need some sort of fear or anxiety driving us forward.
Toxic productivity can become addictive.
Toxic productivity is a form of addiction. It’s not the kind of addictive substance you can go to rehab for, but it’s an unexpected addiction nonetheless.
The thing about addictive substances is that they’re hard to see as an addiction—it’s easy for people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs to think, “I just love these things so much!” when in reality they’re drowning their sorrows or trying to escape from their problems.
Toxic productivity can be just as difficult to identify as an addiction: maybe you’ve been working on that side project for years and now find yourself unable to stop working on it (or even thinking about work), even when there are more pressing issues around you.
Or maybe your job has become so stressful that staying at the office all night seems like the only way out; but really, all it does is prolong those feelings of stress and dread until they come back again tomorrow morning with another pile of work waiting for you.
Toxic productivity leaves no room for relationships or recreation.
If you’re working hard for the sake of productivity and not happiness, you’re in a dangerous trap. You might think that if you work more, everything will be better—but at what cost?
Working too much leaves no time for relationships or recreation, which can help you relax and recharge. It also deprives you from being creative and trying out new things because it’s hard to be creative when you feel like an automaton who only exists to do work.
Finally, it leaves no time to take care of yourself physically or mentally. You could start feeling depressed and stressed as everything piles up on top of each other like an avalanche; this is what happens when toxic productivity takes over your life!
Toxic productivity will make you ill.
You’re at work, and you have a deadline to meet. The problem is that your boss has been breathing down your neck all day long.
He’s been telling you how badly he needs this finished by tomorrow morning, and so the pressure is on. You’ve been working late into the night, burning through work as fast as possible in order to do what he wants.
But then suddenly it hits: before long, the onslaught of stress begins to take its toll on your body—you’re exhausted from staying up all night; some days later comes a bad headache; then there’s an upset stomach…and now it’s starting to feel like maybe there is something more serious going on here than just “being tired.”
Workaholism is not the same the solution
The problem is that working harder doesn’t always lead to more success. You need to work smarter, not harder.
There’s a difference between working hard and working smart. The latter means doing the right things at the right time with your energy and resources so you can achieve your goals faster than if you were just grinding through everything on your plate all day long like a hamster running on its wheel (which would be pretty sad).
Workaholics have a tendency to focus on quantity over quality—they keep putting out fires rather than dealing with big-picture issues that could help them prevent or avoid problems in the first place. To get out of this toxic productivity trap, it’s important to balance work with play and relationships—both inside and outside of work — so that you’re not burning yourself out before reaching peak performance levels.
This is a tough topic, but I hope you can see why it’s important to talk about.
Toxic productivity is a trap that can lead to burnout and illness, not to mention being miserable! But there are good ways to break free of its clutches: by taking time off from work or finding a new perspective on what truly matters in life.
It might sound like bad advice at first, but trust me: if you turn off your phone for an hour each day and spend it with family or friends instead? You’ll feel better than ever before.
Mo Fayez is an engineer by trade with more than 15 years of experience in management, passionate about Management coaching, self-help, and productivity. He has a passion for teaching and helping others become the best that they can be. He also enjoys training people to become more productive at work.Learn more about this blog that Mo has created in 2021, and why he decided to start this blog. If you want to send Mo a quick message, then visit his contact page here.