What is Toxic Productivity? (And Are You Suffering From It?)

Have you felt a general slump in your productivity since the start of the pandemic? If so, you’re not alone. Toxic productivity has entered the lives of many as they balance remote work and home life without much social interaction to balance it. Let’s look at how this new brand of “workaholism” may be impacting you.

What is toxic productivity?

Toxic productivity is the unhealthy desire to always be productive and at all costs. If you’re feeling the need to go that “extra” mile at home and work — to be useful even when it isn’t expected of you — then you’re likely experiencing toxic productivity. Often people who experience this aren’t able to relax or let up after they’ve conquered their to-do list. They may feel guilty or as though the effort they’ve put forth all day is never quite enough.

Why are so many feeling the weight of toxic productivity now?

Toxic productivity has taken hold of many people now because regular routines were put on pause during the pandemic. You may have gone from having a busy daily routine to having huge amounts of free time. As a result, a toxic pattern of productivity may have occurred where you threw yourself into any and all work you could find instead of seizing the opportunity to be idle.

Rather than using your time outside of work to rest, recharge, and restore yourself, you opted to fill those hours with additional work. Your intentions were good. It may have helped you feel worthy, fulfilled, and empowered at the time by learning a new skill, starting a new business, or gaining additional knowledge. Although toxic productivity does take our minds off of the immediate environment, it’s temporary at best. And it masks the true stress and discomfort that we’re feeling.

What to do if you’re experiencing toxic productivity?

Like most things, the first step to resolving toxic productivity is acknowledging that you have a problem. Here are some of the red flags.

  • Do you have work-related guilt?
  • Do you always feel like you should be doing more at home or work?
  • If you not doing something “productive,” do you feel like you’re wasting time?
  • Do you feel constant fatigue and exhaustion, even in the morning?

If exhaustion is your norm, this can be a sign that you’re in the cycle of toxic productivity. Instead of asking yourself, “What should I be doing right now?” Ask yourself, “What can I do or create with ease right now, and what would I need to do to create this with zero stress?”

Remember that constant hard work and productivity is often in our own heads. Your boss may not even know that you’re consistently putting forth 100 percent–going the extra mile may run you into the ground with little reward. Take those extra meetings off your list and put “self-care” on it instead. You’ll notice it does more good for your mind, body, career and relationships.

Final thoughts

As you continue to feel the residual effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, take care of yourself. Toxic productivity is just one part of the “hustle culture” mentality, and it can begin to take a toll on your mental and physical health if you’re not aware of it. For more support, visit the Quarterlife Center for additional resources.




Build the Life You Want. Counseling and Coaching for Your Quarter Life Crisis: Tailored for adults in their twenties and thirties — quarterlifecenter.com

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Quarterlife Center

Quarterlife Center

Build the Life You Want. Counseling and Coaching for Your Quarter Life Crisis: Tailored for adults in their twenties and thirties — quarterlifecenter.com

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