Skip to content

Toxic Productivity: What It Is and How to Avoid It

  • by

Those in the workforce or education system have come to know productivity as a positive word. It means you are getting stuff done at a consistent rate. How could that be bad? Like everything else in life, productivity is positive when it is in healthy doses. When it gets out of hand is when it comes at the expense of your wellbeing. But, what truly is toxic productivity, and how do you recognize it in time to avoid it?

Definitionally speaking, toxic productivity is an obsession or addiction with being productive, which often results in one’s self worth being measured in productivity. Essentially, it is the inability to perceive when your level of productivity becomes unhealthy and threatens the other areas of your life. Sounds easy enough to clock, right? But, how do you know when your productivity is infringing on other areas of your life? The words “addiction” and “obsession” are not to be taken lightly. Addiction can blind you to the ways in which your life is being pulled apart. The trick to keeping yourself safe from toxic productivity is recognizing and managing the signs of it in your life before they become too difficult to manage.

Sign 1: Family and Friends

The most common and noticeable sign that you are giving in to toxic productivity is a dwindling relationship with loved ones. Working towards the impossible end of being on top of everything at all times leaves very little time for outside relationships. Oftentimes, symptoms of toxic productivity can be synonymous with symptoms of being overworked because the two are so closely related. If you feel a disconnect from your loved ones, be it a scheduling disconnect, social disconnect, or emotional disconnect, it might be a sign that you’ve begun to exhibit toxic productivity. Take time to meditate on what exactly it is that is causing the distance between you and your loved ones. Is it a scheduling thing, or is it an inability to check out of work even when you’re done working for the day? Either way, it is time to make some changes.

Sign 2: Self Care

Toxic productivity can also cause a disconnect between yourself and… well, yourself. It is totally normal for your self care routine to slip every once in a while. However, when that self care routine becomes completely derailed by your commitment to work and productivity, that is a sign that something more harmful is at play. Think about your priorities. Has your desire to take care of yourself lessened as your desire to be productive increases? If so, you might be letting your productivity become an obsession. Understanding what a dwindling self care routine feels like is the best way to clock a case of toxic productivity. Check in on your self care routine and ask yourself where self care lies on your list of priorities. If it lies beneath your desire to be productive at all times, then reevaluate your prioritization.

Sign 3: Self Worth

Quite possibly the most harmful sign of toxic productivity is the twisty of how you define self worth. Self worth is a very subjective thing. No two people define their personal self worth in the same way. You might define your self worth by how willing you are to help others, how you express love to your family, or how you do what you love. There is no one way to define self worth. However, productivity and commercial success are two of the most toxic measurements for defining self worth, as they do not give any insight into who you are as a person and reduce you to your contribution to the economy. Think about how you define your own self worth. Do you only feel like you are a worthwhile human being if you are being productive? If so, you are becoming a victim of toxic productivity, and, more than anything, it is time to take a breather from work to reevaluate your work-life balance.

Productivity does not have to be a scary or unhealthy thing. It is when it starts jeopardizing your ability to happily live out the other areas of your life that it needs to be pared down and reevaluated. If you are feeling overworked and disconnected, it is time to meditate on some of these factors. Ask yourself these questions. If your answer leans towards symptoms of toxic productivity, it is time for a break.