How to Overcome Toxic Productivity

In the last few years, the pandemic has completely changed our view of what it means to be productive. Locked up at home for months on end, working from home, finding other activities to relieve the boredom, staying in contact with friends and family – it felt like there just was not a spare minute. Now that we’re all back in what passes for normality, are you still finding yourself stuck in productivity mode?

Do you have a never-ending to do list? Are you still volunteering for projects and social occasions when your brain and your calendar are already full? If so, you may be suffering from toxic productivity without even realising it.

In the wake of the pandemic, toxic productivity is on the rise. This unhealthy desire to be productive at all times and go the extra mile both at work and in your personal life can become damaging to your physical and mental health. What’s more you can end up judging your days and weeks on the things that you haven’t done rather than the things that you have achieved, leading to you developing a negative outlook on life.

Productivity in general is a good thing – it can help us take our minds off things that may be bothering us and the act of completing a task makes us feel good and in control. However, if you’re filling your every waking moment with being productive, it may be masking stress or discomfort in your life. If you’re 100% focused on being productive you may be at risk of burn out. Also it could make your relationships suffer, as being trapped in a cycle of toxic productivity is exhausting which can make you more likely to be short tempered and frustrated with your loved ones.

So how can you break this cycle of toxic productivity and regain balance in your life? Well that’s exactly what we’re going to look at today. Let’s break free and develop a healthier work/life/relaxation balance!

Acknowledge Your Issues

The first step towards change is always to take a look at yourself and understand how the way you’re behaving may be having a negative impact upon your life. Ask yourself whether you find that you feel consistently guilty about work and not getting enough done. Do you always feel like you’re wasting time when you’re not doing something, even when you’re supposed to be relaxing? Can you relax at all?

Do you wake up in the morning and feel exhausted before you’ve even started the day? Do you think that consistently feeling tired throughout the day is normal? It’s not. However, it’s definitely a sign that you may be suffering from toxic productivity.

Confront your issues and ask yourself, why do you feel the need to be productive all of the time? Are you feeling insecure? Are you using productivity to mask other issues that may be affecting you? Once you start confronting your issues, you can start finding the balance in your life again.

Recognise What Others Really Expect From You

Most of the time, the need to be productive (and the related stress that it causes) only exists in our own heads. That need you feel to impress your boss by putting in hour after hour working, is your need alone. Truthfully, your boss probably does not care how many hours you’re putting in or how hard you’re working as long as the job is done and all your deadlines are met.

You may be also be surprised to learn that friends or family that you’re trying to impress, probably don’t think about you much at all. We’ve all got our own shit to deal with – why waste time thinking about other people’s shit? They’re not judging the cleanliness of your home, they’re not worried about how successful you are and they don’t need you to host an immaculate brunch at the last minute. Truthfully, they’re just interested in spending time with you.

There’s no need to work around the clock or pretend to be some perfect productivity machine. The only person expecting that from you is you. Stop putting pressure on yourself to be perfect – perfect does not exist. Those people sharing their lives on Instagram, looking so perfect and productive are not real. They are only sharing the best bits of their lives, mere seconds out of their day! The rest of it probably isn’t as perfect as you imagine it to be.

Break Away From Old Fashioned, Toxic Values

Our working culture is continually changing. Whereas our parents worked long hours, late into the night and often had to sacrifice weekends in order to get ahead and gain that promotion, the younger generation value flexible working and finishing on time. This attitude does not mesh well with the values that our parents instilled in us. Consequently, we may find ourselves judging our younger co-workers for not putting the hours in and seeking to compensate for them in some way.

But we don’t have to do that. Same as we don’t have to look at our emails in the evening or avoid logging off until everyone has done. We overworked during the pandemic and we’re doing the same thing now. It’s almost like we have work FOMO!

The next time you find yourself working beyond your hours, ask yourself:- “Does this really need to be done now?” Are you simply being busy for busy’s sake. Try logging off and letting yourself recharge your batteries instead. If you don’t get something done, the world isn’t going to end.

Make Self-Care a Priority

Rather than putting productivity at the top of your mental balance sheet, try replacing it with self-care instead. Start prioritising unwinding as you would an important work project. If you don’t get out of this cycle of perpetual productivity, you will burn out. It’s inevitable.

Make time to do the things you enjoy. Don’t put any goals against them. If you like to paint, then paint for the sheer enjoyment of it rather than towards a deadline you set yourself. Learn to detach from targets and pressure and just switch off.


We hope that this blog has given you some thoughts on whether your productivity is positive or toxic. It’s easy to get caught up in a workaholic, productive spiral but much harder to retrain yourself to relax. Take a look at the reasons behind your need to be so busy and see if there are any changes you can make to help you live your life for the better. You don’t need to feel your life to have purpose, you just need to live it.

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