The Obsession Over Constant Productivity

Let’s be honest, we are crazy about being productive all the time. Whether it be after a long, exhausting day at work or after restless weeks of studying for a final exam, we fight the strong urge to jump into our beds and get rest, because we remind ourselves that we would not be “productive.” Ignoring the dark, visible bags under our eyes, we tell ourselves to sit up and get some work done, despite our fatigued selves. While the idea of productivity may give people happiness and stand as a purpose in life for some individuals, other individuals have become overwhelmingly obsessed over being productive at all times, especially in the midst of the stay-at-home era. 

The term “productivity” has been defined in a variety of ways, but at its core, being productive means getting things done in the most efficient manner possible. Being truly productive is setting out to do something consciously and completing it well. On the other hand, many people fail to come to the realization of what productivity is not. Productivity is not about doing more work; it is not about working harder, but rather working smarter. Productivity is not about the quantity of the work done, but rather the quality. By completing an increasing number of tasks, you will feel as though you are highly productive, but chances are that you are not completing all those tasks in an efficient way, which is contrary to being productive. If you are being truly productive, you will not have to struggle with any form of stress. 

white pen on white notebook
(Credit: mimi lalaa)

There are several signs that determine if productivity is negatively influencing your overall well-being. To begin with, you will feel a continual sense of not being able to do enough. This dread of failure is accompanied by a general restlessness, and you end up working so hard, sacrificing your personal relationships, physical and mental health, and sleep cycle; as a result, your entire well-being suffers. You may find it tough to take a break because you associate it with weakness. There are times when you do not mind skipping meals because you believe your work is paramount and should be more prioritized. You fail to set boundaries regarding how much you work, and you’re familiar with how others would say the phrase “You’re always working!” when they see you.  

The mainstream media nowadays also have a negative impact on us and how we see productivity, increasing competition on how productive people can be. While scrolling through our feed on Instagram, Facebook, or other social media apps, we often encounter posts where other people are constantly doing things to be more productive and to make their lives more meaningful. We start to believe that productivity is the sole thing that defines our worth, and we start to value how productive we are over how happy we are. Influenced by the media, we do not realize that we are just draining our own selves, setting impractical expectations of how productive we can be, specifically during the pandemic. In fact, according to Kruti Quazi, a licensed counselor and certified clinical trauma professional, “Many folks feel the burnout of throwing themselves into their work and that the only way they’re productive is to be ‘on’-constantly being on phone calls, on Zoom meetings, or on your laptop for schoolwork or your job. These are impractical and unrealistic expectations to set for yourself and that can have a deleterious effect on your physical and mental well-being.”

There are a few methods and processes that can be practiced to prevent the toxic influence of productivity. Firstly, we have to realize that it’s okay to take significant breaks when we are not in the correct headspace to complete tasks. We should not feel guilty when we choose to do nothing for a specific amount of time to reset our brains for better good. To be productive without being overwhelmed, we have to avoid multitasking and finish tasks one by one thoroughly and efficiently. Rather than comparing our productivity to others, we have to recognize that everyone’s definition of productivity is different and that we do not have ro reach specific expectations to validate our own worth. To improve our overall well-being, we should practice self-care often and make it a habit rather than a choice. Taking measures to prevent producity from overpowering your well-being is crucial to a happy and healthy life. 

While productivity can contribute to a more purposeful life and is highly admired by people, there is a certain threshold between healthy and toxic productivity, which has been crossed multiple times, especially during the recent lockdown period initiated by the pandemic. We are people who can be easily affected by unrealistic expectations of productivity set by ourselves and society, often measuring our days merely based on productivity. What we tend to forget is to take a break and to do less, in order to be more productive. Sometimes, doing less is doing more. 


Feature Image: Green Chameleon

Tiana Thwin

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