Toxic Productivity Is Not Your Friend

Hyper-productivity isn't sustainable for everyday use.

What's your favourite productivity hack

Mine's my Notion database, and panic — I'm most productive when I've got a deadline approaching. Whether it's a to-do list, a cup of coffee or an app that blocks out social media, we've all got ways to boost productivity and keep us motivated. 

Productivity's great — it's a daily high we all chase, the elusive Super Productive day. Of course, they're not as rare as you think but have you ever given much thought to how much you need to do to engineer that perfectly productive day? 

Winner winner, chicken dinner 

Thanks to the 'rona, we've been working from home for the last eighteen months. This loss of routine (office commute, workspaces, and time to socialize with colleagues) has rewarded us with blurred boundaries, aka more work. Stanford found that there's been a 13% increase in performance — almost a whole day's output — and a 77% increase in productivity thanks to work from home.

Our resident billionaires have always made a case for extreme productivity with long-ass days and sermons about the powers of waking up when it's still dark. Apparently, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey likes to have only one meal every day — dinner. The gap between his meal(s?) and the time he saves instead of having breakfast and lunch is handy for productivity and focus. Idk about Dorsey, but I think spending 15 minutes having breakfast and lunch is probably better than 'focusing' more, but you do you, Jack1.

Get rich for maximum productivity

There's a case to be made that when you don't have chores to do or people you physically need to care for, you can go about doing whatever you want with your life. Being rich is the ultimate productivity hack.

That's why I cannot stand it when people say that we've all got the same 24 hours as Zuckerberg or Gates. We absolutely do not. Zuckerberg doesn't have to decide what's for lunch and then dinner as I do. He doesn't have to invoice my clients and then chase payments. He doesn't have to dust his bookshelves every day because Bombay dust is a beast. 

So, these productivity tips from rich folks are nice to read but horrible in terms of practicality. But what happens when you're constantly being drip-fed by this toxic productivity culture?

Toxic Productivity FTW

Whenever I procrastinate, I like to make myself feel extra bad on Insta reels. There, inevitably, I'll come across at least four reels of people who've Got Their Shit Together™. Unlike these tech moguls, these are (mostly) ordinary people. 

They wake up at normal hours2 every day, somehow manage to exercise even though they're already super fit and eat the cleanest meals I've ever seen, and are just, generally, on top of everything. So, watching their reels is my way of shaming my body and brain — "Look! They're doing it; why can't you?"

They make it look simple enough — sleep on time, get up on time, make a to-do list, put on a productivity playlist, and boom! You're on your way to crushing all your tasks. But of course, if it were that easy, we'd all be doing it. 

It wasn't until conversations with two friends that I realized we'd all internalized these reels and articles about increasing productivity. I pride myself on being reasonably self-aware, and I work in marketing, so I expected to know when I was being 'influenced'. LOL.

Unknowingly we'd begun associating our self-worth with how productive we'd been that day. Our productivity pushed us to do more, work longer hours, and in the process, we destroyed our mental and physical health. 

Often, I can't go to sleep until I do something for myself. Whether that's reading fanfic or watching a funny video, I will do it, even if my eyes burn. Welcome to revenge bedroom procrastination — this is where you're internally so pissed that you didn't get enough time to spend on yourself that you're giving up the only thing you can control — sleep. 

Do you know the kicker? As a freelancer, I set my own schedules. So, I can sleep in. But then I come online and see my fellow freelance influencers sharing how many articles they've written already, and it's not even noon. So, immediately, I want to chase the same productivity high they're experiencing, and that's how I find myself working till midnight when I don't even need to. 

The Ideal You

It's not just me. Google Trends shows that the search volumes for "productivity" and "time management" peaked at an all-time high in 2020. We're all desperate to be more productive. We want to manage our time better. While that's admirable, we're easy prey for these influencers with aesthetically shot reels and TikToks of their beautiful desks, affiliate planners, and whatnot.

What all these reels/TikToks do is set an unrealistic expectation in your mind. Create a Notion database; soon, you'll be 30,000 words into that book you wanted to write. Buy the cute keyboard with light-up buttons; typing will be more fun, and that way, you'll be more productive. Wake up at ass o'clock and have orange juice instead of coffee, and you'll be more alert for your first zoom meeting of the day. These are the ways to create your Ideal You — the one who's always productive. 

Here's what we don't see (and what they smartly don't show) — these reels take so much time to film and edit. They're carefully curated clips of their life — it's not golden hour all day for them, is it? They’re not at all as sorted as they appear to be. It's all a sham, but it's presented to us when we're so vulnerable. We've been stressed about a pandemic that's hell-bent on teaching us the Greek alphabet with its variants and hella burned out from working more than we should. 

You cannot be productive every day. It's just not sustainable. Your best, most productive day will look different every single time because your capacity changes. 

"If we become reliant on our productivity to tell us how much we are worth as a human being, we are going to find it very difficult to maintain a sense of value when we are resting." — Zoe Aston. 

If you try to be hyper-productive every single day, you're going to run yourself into the ground. 

Even your best, most trusted productivity hack won't be able to prevent that. 

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Stuff to check out this weekend! 💌

Ironically, I had to really sift through my links today because I have a bazillion on how to increase your productivity and create the perfect schedule and all, oof. 

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When you're as rich as he is, you can do whatever you want and say whatever you want.