Could Your Relationship With Productivity Be Unhealthy?

By The Rescue® Team

Could Your Relationship With Productivity Be Unhealthy? 

 How many of the following statements relate to you?

  • Downtime is wasted time.
  • Downtime makes me anxious.
  • Everything I do must have a point.
  • The most important thing in life is work.
  • The more hours I work, the better I am.
  • Socialising makes me antsy as I would rather be doing something more productive.
  • I hate sitting still.
  • I rarely spend time away from my phone/laptop/computer.

Are some of these hitting home? Being a productive person is important for many reasons. It can keep you active, help others around you, help you reach your goals and help you feel good about yourself. When your relationship to productivity becomes unbalanced, it can start to have the opposite effect.

Suppose you're consistently prioritising 'productivity' over downtime, time in nature, time with loved ones, time staring at the sky, or time doing anything you don't define as productive. In that case, you might be unwittingly wasting more time, heading for burnout, and making your life more difficult. 

How can I know if my relationship with productivity is unhealthy?

Ask yourself what productivity means to you. If your answer is very work-centric or centred around one and only one area of life, there's a chance you're neglecting other equally important things. 

Healthy productivity can help you stay motivated, but if you're prioritising it over things like exercise, self-care, personal relationships and giving your eyes and brain a break from work mode, you could be taking it too far.

Is your self-worth connected to the number of hours you work? This may be an uncomfortable question to ponder, but many people with unhelpful productivity traits may constantly be chasing a sense of achievement as their primary source of self-esteem; you could be trying to fill a cup with a big hole in the bottom.  
Are some areas of your life seriously struggling? If it's been a long time since you've connected with friends or family, watched or read something for pleasure, spent time looking after your body or cooked a meal, you could be funnelling too much time and energy into your professional pursuits or your idea of 'productivity'.
Does your workplace culture reward you for being 'busy' or working overtime? If those around you also prioritise constant 'doing' over taking any time to slow down, it may feel like the norm. You may even feel like you need to amp it up in order to keep up with your industry or workplace. Take a step back and remember it's up to you to prioritise your own well-being, which may mean setting boundaries between your work life and personal life.
Does your mind wander to uncomfortable places when you're not being productive? Unhealthy productivity can distract you from challenging thoughts. You may be constantly moving and doing because facing the thoughts that occur in between is hard. If you frequently avoid downtime, take a moment to assess your general mood and if reaching out to a professional could help you learn to switch off.

What can I do if I'm 'productive' in a problematic way?

Reframe your perceptions of success or productivity 

A big marker of a successful, productive life is balance. The definition of success is subjective, but a general sign of a 'good' life is a mix of physical health, emotional well-being, social connection, financial stability and work satisfaction. 

If you can reframe your end-goal to be achieving a balance that includes relaxing, cooking, exercising, learning, working, socialising and occasionally pushing yourself out of your comfort zone or pursuing new things, then your concept of what it looks like to be productive may change.  

Acknowledge the pattern and consider your brain's chemical reaction

Achieving something can make you feel good. When you're productive, your brain can serve up dopamine which makes you feel great and creates a desire for more dopamine. Constantly chasing this experience of 'doing' to be rewarded can send you into a state of high and near-constant adrenaline, making it harder and harder to wind down and switch off and increasing the need to stay moving without resting. 'Toxic productivity' can behave like an addiction in terms of your physiological response.

If you think you could constantly be chasing the next goal at the expense of leading a balanced life, a health care or mental health professional could help you find the right resources for support.

We love productivity

Being productive is awesome. Setting goals is terrific. Challenging yourself to achieve is important. We even wrote this article about maximising productivity in a busy schedule. 

The danger of productivity is when a narrow or limiting perception of what it looks like can create an unbalanced life. We hope this article can help you grant yourself more permission to slow down, enjoy the little things, and take time to rest. Remember, when it all feels overwhelming, you can reach for RESCUE Remedy® for natural emotional support.

Now, go kick some goals! And then watch a movie or take a long bath!