May 15, 2021
min read

Toxic Productivity: A Threat in Disguise

Taxing yourself in the name of productivity? Well, It’s not ok.

Think about your daily routine during the course of the Lockdown. Have you been trying to work more and be more productive than usual? Do you feel the urge to work more even though you have done your part? Does seeing people on social media giving their best make you feel guilty for not doing the same. If any of these thoughts come to your head, chances are you might be suffering from toxic productivity. We have been told that productivity is the way to success, so how can it be toxic? We are here to explain.

What is toxic productivity?

In many ways, “toxic productivity” is the millennial term for workaholism- but it’s also a little more nuanced than that old-school phrase. Toxic productivity is essentially an unhealthy desire to be productive at all times, at all costs.

It is the need to go the “extra mile” at work or at home, even when it’s not expected of you. Toxic productivity doesn’t even let up once the task is complete. Once you have finished your work or project, you may feel guilt for not doing more work or putting in more effort. For the afflicted, too much is never enough.

Toxic productivity can make us feel like a failure if we’re not constantly working. When you are surrounded by toxic productivity in your life, you start judging yourself everyday for the things you haven’t done, rather than concentrating on what you have already accomplished.

Toxic productivity during the lockdown

You may have started this lockdown with certain plans of doing something truly meaningful and productive. Chances are also that you may have been pushing yourself to self-improve, basing it solely on your productivity. And finally, it is also
quite possible that you are feeling overwhelmed because you were simply not able to achieve the ‘unrealistic’ expectations you may have setup for yourself.

Toxic productivity may have crept in the lives of many of us during the course of the pandemic. This is primarily because all of our regular routines were put on pause.

Instantaneously, we had unprecedented amount of free time. But why do we want to throw ourselves into work instead of gasping the opportunity to be rapturously, guiltlessly ideal for once? We could our free time to rest, recharge and restore ourselves, but many of us try to work tirelessly in order to feel worthy, fulfilled and in control.

Hustle culture is to blame

Hustle Culture is all about how “busy” a person is. It promulgates a 5:00 am to 1:00 am lifestyle, where the entire day is spent during something “productive”. It makes you feel proud of juggling a million things at one time.

Taking a break is for the weak, the less talented lot

Self-care is frowned upon. The fact that noteworthy people like Elon musk disseminate this kind of culture only adds to its popularity. The problem is that the ‘Hustle Culture’ isn’t as beautiful as it is made out to be. Working 24 X 7 might seem alluring at the first glimpse, but what are you accomplishing if lack of sleep and nutrition is causing anxiety, restlessness, and poor mental health in general?
The internal and external coercion that you’re being subjected to Misfire, leading you to diminish your ability, create unnecessary stress and ultimately burnout. How will you enjoy the fruits of your labour if you are constantly working without a break.

people sitting on chair with brown wooden table

Signs of toxic productivity

It affects mental health – Feelings of anxiousness, restlessness and even depression.
Forgetting obligations and personal responsibilities – For example, not remembering a close one’s birthday or skipping your workout, a healthy meal or taking proper sleep.
Your relationships with people becoming strained - Are you interacting with people half-heartedly? Have you been told that you are working too much? Have you alienated those closest to you, like not responding to text or making
time for them?
You set a bar too high for yourself to achieve and end up being disappointed in yourself.
Feeling like you are on the verge of burn-out. Usually this involves feeling less energetic and concentrated.
Attaching your worth to the number of hours of the day which were productive.

How to avoid toxic productivity?

1. Adjust your goals and expectations

There are days where we feel more productive without commuting & meetings
and at the same time, there are also days where we do not get much done. We should not overcommit ourselves and be honest about what we can realistically accomplish.

2. Redefine what breaks are

Taking breaks doesn’t mean slacking off. These are vital if you want to stay fresh and rejuvenated. Besides, take frequent breaks throughout the day, disconnect on the weekend. If you feel like you need a personal day, go ahead and take it.

3. Focus on positive self-talk

Get into the habit of talking to yourself like you would talk to a friend. Ask yourself, ‘Would I have these some expectations from someone I care for deeply? No? Then you shouldn’t have these expectations from yourself either.

4. Don’t compare yourself to others

During the lockdown period, it is common to see many people posting what online courses they have finished, what skills they have picked up, which is not a problem at all. But toxic productivity comes in when we over-compare ourselves with others because of this information. It is of course good to have done five online courses in a month, but by no means are you a ‘loser’ you have just done three courses instead of five.

5. Establish clearly defined boundaries

Try to stick to a routine where you have a clear working and non-working hours. Even if your schedule is flexible or changing, leave work at work when you’re done.

person holding coffee mug


We have developed a tendency to be self-critical, as opposed to being self compassionate. We have crafted a lot of feelings of self-worth on achievement, accomplishment and being prolific in what we do. If you take that away there’s a
void and voids are hard to deal with.

We have to remember that some people thrive under stress while others don’t. The times are wildly different and we need to recognize that productivity can look different for each person and therefore, stop ourselves from comparing and despairing over how others are managing hobbies and activities during this crisis. We ourselves are the ones who get to decide what’s an accomplishment worth celebrating right now.