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Signs You Might be Suffering from Toxic Productivity

What is toxic productivity?

Toxic productivity is the impulsive and unhealthy desire to be productive at all times, even at the cost of sacrificing other priorities. The need to always be productive causes people to mitigate time for resting, practicing self-care, and spending time with loved ones.  

Productivity is central to the competitive, fast-paced culture ingrained into university, and this has only become more obvious since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 2020, education has largely taken place remotely and at home, blurring the lines between students’ academic and personal lives, and in many cases causing students to sacrifice valuable self-care time in order to complete more schoolwork.

Signs you might be suffering from toxic productivity:

Toxic productivity often results in exhaustion, increased self-criticism, and an overall poorer relationship with work. If you can relate to the following, you’re likely suffering from toxic productivity.  

You feel guilty whenever you’re not working. Any time you spend time on Netflix or Tik Tok, you feel guilty for “wasting time”. Even when you have accomplished lots of your goals for the day, you still experience work-related guilt about not doing more.

Inability to stop working at night or work-related anxiety before bed. It’s time to go to sleep, but your head is spinning with all the tasks you still need to accomplish.

Your personal relationships have suffered because your attention has been on work. Your loved ones and friends may feel neglected in your relationship because you haven’t made time to spend together.

What can you do to combat toxic productivity?

Toxic productivity is one of the most common causes of student burnout, which can lead to a lack of motivation, anxiety, and in some cases, depression. To avoid the constant blow to your mental health, here are some ways you can start to change your mindset about productivity.

Create work goals that are realistic and attainable. Focusing on realistic goals will help you to feel more accomplished and build a healthier approach to daily productivity. Setting more achievable goals is also a great way to prioritize which work tasks are most important, rather than overwhelming yourself and trying to accomplish every task at once.

Reconsider your work-life balance. Ask yourself, are you spending enough time maintaining the relationships that are most important to you? Do you enjoy hobbies and non-work-related activities? Remember that finding this balance will be an ongoing journey, and as you go through different phases of life this will change. The best thing you can do is be adaptable and remember to put your mental health first.

Establish work boundaries and put self-care on your to-do list. Rather than waking at the crack of dawn and working until 3 A.M., ensure that you’re getting enough time for sleep and rest. Set aside time for other things that make you feel happy and motivated, like exercise, a morning routine, or some yoga. Putting personal tasks on your to-do list is a great way to ensure that you’re setting out the necessary time to get these things done, while still feeling productive. Setting a schedule for self-care can be helpful if you’re struggling with establishing a healthy work-life balance.

If toxic productivity continues to negatively impact your life and mental health even after trying to establish a healthier work-life balance, do not hesitate to seek out help from a professional. 

Faith Caswell

Western '24

Hey! My name is Faith and I'm a second-year student at Western. I'm currently doing an honours specialization in English literature and a minor in history studies. I'm passionate about gender equality and advocacy and I'm so excited to be a part of this amazing team!
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