Toxic Productivity

Monday 10 October

It can be super hard to balance everything – jobs, school, studying, gym, socialising, you-time. I have found that especially at uni, this can build up and up until overwhelm defeats you.

At school, we never learn how to balance all these things (your life) or how to prioritise it.

I heard a very good metaphor for how to deal with balance and productivity: imagine your mind is on a treadmill, at full pelt. You physically cannot keep up the pace, sprinting endlessly. Eventually you will fall off the treadmill and burnout. You can’t keep going and going. You’re doomed for failure and burnout, and that’s the hard truth. You must learn to take breaks, slow the pace down, walk, or even come to a halt. We can’t keep moving. Breaks are vital in the essence of productivity. Here’s a tip: Take breaks for yourself – otherwise you’re setting yourself up for burnout.

A lot of the time we think the best way is to just keep going. Just keep studying and working hard until the time comes, and we know it will come, when we simply cannot do it anymore. Then we become stressed and frustrated that we cannot study anymore in that day, or even week or month if the burnout has become that extreme.

How do you recognise you’re heading towards toxic productivity + burnout?

Everything becomes a chore: Studying becomes tedious, our fitness journey becomes an imposition, social time and me-time becomes something out-of-reach.

By viewing our daily life as a chore, we start to lose the spark of why we are doing this. The romanticisation of life is gone.

You feel anxious when you try to relax: you might recognise that you need a break, or you’ve scheduled Netflix time, for example, at the end of your day. But you feel anxious and agitated, thinking about all the things you need to be doing.

You need to recognise when you need to take a step back and allow time for recovery and downtime. This is vital. It’s letting your body + mind rest. You cannot keep going unless you take regular breaks. It’s not a crime, it’s crucial in maintaining progress and balance.

You say no to social events and hanging out with friends: you think that all that matters is your routine and being productive. You deprive yourself of nights out and dates and catch-ups with friends or family.

How do you think they would feel that you keep cancelling on them? What about your mum? Do you want to tell her again that you’re studying and can’t see her…and you haven’t seen her in weeks due to studying?

Prioritise social time as this increases our serotonin and also provides downtime.

Positive productivity tips

  • Separate work from home – your home/uni room should be a space to take a break from work. Get your studying done on campus or in a coffee shop and use the space, your space, as time for you.
  • Recognise when you need a break (and honour it!)
  • If you still want to have a schedule, actively schedule in downtime (every day) and use it, freeing your mind from study or everything you need to get done
  • Acknowledge your achievements and successes
  • Give yourself hours in the day for work – whether that’s your 9-5 job or studying. Don’t overdo it.
  • Learn to say no – to extra work, or excessive social time, more jobs. You can’t beat toxic productivity if you keep saying yes to more things and you’re plate gets fullers and fuller
  • Schedule in self-care. For example, I use Sundays as a reset and a me-day to focus on recovery for my body and brain.

Break up with hustle culture and toxic productivity. Take it slow – the tortoise beat the hare, remember?

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