Toxic Productivity is something you’ve probably heard of in some form or another. You may know it by its other names….. hustle culture, workaholic, action bias…. The names keep changing. It was a thing before the lockdowns and Covid, and it’s not going away anytime soon. But.. What exactly is it?
Toxic productivity is the feeling that we have to be busy/productive/doing SOMETHING all the time. If we’re doing nothing then we’re failing. That kind of vibe. But this way of thinking can lead to a decline in your mental and physical health if you’re not kinder to yourself.
Where did it come from?
It is said that Millennials are the first generation that have been labelled with Toxic Productivity (but then again they’re also called the laziest and most entitled so they can’t win!). But Gen Z (that’s you!) are also at high risk of getting wrapped up in hustle culture – if you haven’t already. In lockdowns (yawn I know, we’re all sick of talking about the lockdowns) it felt like we all had to be learning something new, or doing something that we’d always meant to do but never had the time. (I’m looking at you never-used-ukulele-gathering-dust)
Sometimes it can feel that if we just sit down and chill out we are somehow ‘wasting’ our time. But don’t be too hard on yourself – that couldn’t be further from the truth. Our brains need time to process, switch off and sometimes to think of nothing. Sometimes our brains need a few hours (or a good long day) to settle down and organise our thoughts.
What can you do to avoid Toxic Productivity?
There’s no magic cure for it, but one of the best ways to tackle it can be just listening to yourself and how you feel. Sounds easy right?!
As a sufferer of toxic productivity myself, I find it really hard to say no – whether that’s to social or work demands. One of the best things I’ve found to say no is to book things out in my phone calendar. I can literally see the days fill up, and less and less days are left blank. Once I notice I have more plans than days – I look at what I’ve said yes to, and adjust the month’s plans as I go.
With work, I’ll be honest about my workload to my colleagues – and we’ll figure out what is and isn’t a priority. More often than not, people aren’t aware of how much you’ve got on! Once you talk to your colleagues they can see why you’re so busy and might be feeling a little overwhelmed.
If the social calendar is full up – I check who I’m seeing, when and what for. To be honest? I’ve cancelled a fair few meet ups with friends if I can’t make it work. But always being honest i.e. ‘I’ve double booked myself, I’m burning out, would you mind if we meet up another weekend etc’ has made sure my friend doesn’t get annoyed with a change of plan – just make sure you give loads of notice and be truthful. If I don’t want to cancel, we might just meet up halfway if I can’t get to them, or we’ll have lunch/dinner together instead of a full day’s hang.
LISTS! Having your to-do lists written out can help your brain not constantly worry it’s going to forget the important things. You can share your lists with people to see if they can help take something off your plate.
Avoid the ‘hustle’ influencers
Ah the old social media blame game. We’re not saying stay off it at all – we’re just saying maybe avoid those influencers promoting the ‘hustle’ culture. Even if it’s just for a few days (sometimes those accounts can be inspirational). But if you find yourself logging on and feeling really crappy, then maybe it’s time to mute or unfollow the people making you feel bad about yourself. Everyone is different and on their own journey, so let’s be kind to ourselves and not compare – yeah?
Listen to YOU
It’s those moments when you might feel a bit burnt out or overwhelmed. Listening to your body and how it feels is the best thing that you can do, if you don’t stop and rest – your body will do it for you, and it probably won’t be at a good time! It can be difficult to know if you’re burnt out from being productive all the time, but if you’re finding you’re always waking up tired, you’re a bit snappy with loved ones or you’re just feeling a bit ‘meh’ all the time and can’t be bothered to exercise you might be getting a little burnt out!
Take some time to relax your way – and book it out on your calendar. It can be an hour, half an hour, a day, half day, A WEEK! – whatever you feel like you need and stick to it! Enjoy the current moment, everything else can wait.
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