Are You Suffering From Toxic Productivity? These Are the Warning Signs


Although some would say 2020 was not all that bad, many of us are in the camp that it was an absolute shitshow. And a year on, a large number of us are still feeling the effects of it all, even though the vaccine rollout has commenced and travel borders are reopening (thanks New Zealand).

Working from home, once a fun side perk of the pandemic (possibly the only one), has quickly become a chore — we’re so stressed from work, so unbalanced when it comes to work-life balance, that some of us have even resorted to faking our commute, just so we could get out of the house.

We’re finding it hard to disconnect digitally from work, we’re over-functioning, and we’re burnt out. Are you camp shitshow yet?

A side effect of the pandemic (not a good one) is the fact we feel we have to be useful at all times — it’s called ‘toxic productivity’. According to HuffPostit’s more nuanced than the old workaholism; it’s an “unhealthy desire to be productive at all time, at all costs”.

Talking to the publication, business coach Simone Milasas says that toxic productivity can make us feel like we’re a failure if we’re not always ‘on’, not constantly ‘doing’. “You judge yourself every day for what you haven’t done.”

The pandemic, subsequent lockdowns and closures of… well, everything, gave us more free time (especially for those who may have found themselves on JobKeeper or JobSeeker). But with that free time, it didn’t seem we relaxed. We picked up new hobbies (remember that time everyone was baking bread?)

Yes, being productive can take our minds off the stressful events that surround us, but it’s a fine line between feeling good about getting things done and, well, toxic productivity.

If you’re wondering how to tell if you’re suffering from toxic productivity, there are a few warning signs that are easy to spot. Look for work-related guilt, feeling (often) that you should be doing more, and the feeling that when you’re unoccupied by a task, you’re wasting your time.

More physical signs include fatigue and exhaustion. Exhaustion is not normal, no matter what people try and tell you.

As for what to do once you’ve recognised that you’re suffering from toxic productivity? Give yourself a break — literally, and mentally. You don’t need to jump straight into the next task; it doesn’t help in the long run.

Attempt to put in more actual self-care. Maybe it’s writing in your journal, exercising with your kids, or catching up on the latest MAFS episode. It’s up to you how you choose to take part in self-care.

Organise some time off work if necessary — you can always take a break in New Zealand.

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