Toxic Productivity: Everything You Need to Know

Toxic Productivity: Everything You Need to Know

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," and we should acknowledge that maybe this old-timey proverb was onto something! 

The pandemic left many of us in a difficult place, both mentally and physically. As we tried desperately to shift our physical environments into a virtual space, we had to overcome and sometimes succumb to many unforeseen challenges. As humans, we are extremely social beings. While this feature has a lot of positive impacts, it has its negative side effects too. We've been conditioned from a very young age to calculate our self-worth in comparison to others. Although this phenomenon was prevalent in physical presence, it increased two-fold online. 


Due to the pandemic, our major source of social interaction was social media. Now, we all know that Instagram and Facebook may not be the most credible sources of information; any picture can be edited, and any achievement can be faked. However, all these facts do not stop us from comparing our real-time lives to those seen online. Toxic productivity is one such gift given to us.


What is Toxic Productivity?


Toxic productivity, in simple terms, is the unhealthy obsession with being productive to the point of overworking, instilling the need to ensure maximum utilisation of all the 1440 minutes every day. Any time spent not working can seem like a waste. You might have come across other variants of this in the form of workaholism, hustle culture and, in some cases, high-functioning depression. What starts as self-loathing and guilt can quickly spiral into what experts have termed high-functioning depression.


What Are the Red Flags to Identify Cycles of Toxic Productivity?


• You feel constantly anxious, depressed, or restless.


• Personal time seems unproductive, and you find yourself overlooking personal needs like rest, sleep, or even spending time with family or friends.


• You tend to set unrealistic work expectations for yourself in relation to your situation, like a seven-day workweek.


• You constantly feel less energetic and tired; in other words, you are always on the verge of burnout.


• You attach your self-worth to how productive you've been throughout the day.


How Did Toxic Productivity Go Unnoticed for So Long?


The glorification of "hustle culture" as the only means of success can be a significant cause. Hustle culture implies that overworking and clocking in extra hours with no regard for one's physical and mental well-being is the only sure-shot way of achieving success, indirectly conveying the message that those who fail to do so will remain one step behind their peers. 


Hustle culture is scientifically proven to be toxic, as it puts the body in a state of "fight or flight," which is basically a state of constant stress. This releases the stress hormone, otherwise known as cortisol, in higher amounts for a prolonged period of time; the only way to deal with this elevation is to rest. However, hustle culture does not allow rest, making burnout an unavoidable eventuality. If your body keeps up this cycle, it will result in lasting detrimental side effects such as anxiety, depression, heart disease, and memory impairment, to name a few.


How to Separate Yourself From Toxic Productivity?


• Like any other addiction, start by acknowledging that you have a problem and acquire enough knowledge and awareness to understand the cycle you are stuck in.


• Set your goals and priorities, write down what is important to you and what you are working towards.


• Be aware of and establish your boundaries, and do not shy away from clearly communicating them to others.


• Your mind is a mystic palace; let it wander, take micro-breaks to gather yourself.


• Rewards are a wonderful impetus, but we often feel guilty about rewarding ourselves, so we tend to push it to later. Avoid that, and reward yourself now, free of a guilty conscience.


• Do not compare yourself to others, as you might not have the same circumstances. While engaging in this activity, you tend to attach your self-worth to materialistic things or results, continuing the harmful cycle.


"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," and we should acknowledge that maybe this old-timey proverb was onto something! Take a mental health day when you need it. Work hard, rest hard.


Shravya, Content and Communications Specialist at Kaam De, is a journalism graduate with a deep-rooted passion for academic research and writing. Her entrepreneurial spirit and love for feminist literature are hard to miss. She’s always up for a good conversation on gender studies, travel destinations, or even the latest movies!


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