Do You Suffer From Toxic Productivity? (Part 1)
I've always been busy; ever since I was a child. My parents had me enrolled to something almost everyday. Now that I'm a parent, I can see why. It's really difficult to keep children engaged and entertained! More importantly for me though, it allowed for me to try a lot of different things during my formative years. While there are many things from my childhood that I never "mastered", it did teach me to appreciate nuances of various disciplines.
Being busy became something I would become accustomed to and when I started my career, my habit of being busy ended up taking shape in the form of chasing productivity. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this ended up being rather toxic for me; coupled with an extremely stressful environment, culminated into a Fibromyalgia diagnosis. My focus these days, is trying to find a balance, exercising some of the items that I'll be prattling on about later in this article.
Anything that is toxic is obviously bad for you; leading to negative physical, mental, and emotional health. From my understanding, here are some of things that you need to be vigilant in observing about yourself.
Do you find yourself taking on more than you can reasonably handle? Do you work longer hours that what your job dictates? Do you find yourself skipping breaks and meals? Are you neglecting your personal life?
For small business owners, this is almost inevitable. Especially these days, entrepreneurs start businesses because they are passionate about what they do. We often fool ourselves because, "It's not a job because I love what I do". Not only that, there's a lot at stake too! Not only is it something we're passionate about, but it's also our livelihood, and if we have the privilege of having built a team, it's also the livelihood of others. So of course we're going to be super dedicated to the business.
Of course, small business operators also face a scarcity of resources, which means that we're more likely than most to take on other roles as well. Not only are we the strategist and decision makers, we're also the handyman, the janitor, and any number of jobs and positions that we don't yet have resources to address yet. So between meeting with clients, executing on our services/products, and making sure our bills are paid, we have to find time to scrub toilets, change lightbulbs, and all sorts of other jobs. And every single task takes time!
Lack of Boundaries
Many small businesses start at home; heck Hewlett and Packard started their business in their garage. But building a business from your home also risks that you blur the lines between your business and personal life. Even if you have an office or a shop that you work out of, being an entrepreneur often means that the business is all-consuming. I mean heck, I was on vacation with my family earlier this year and worked while I was away.
You do however, run the risk of not being present at doing whatever it is that you're doing. Checking your email while on date-night. Trying to think of things for your family to do for the weekend while you're sending an email to a client. When things start blending into one another, and with a home and a family, there's always something that needs to be doing.
Self-Worth Tied To Productivity
Even if you don't own a business, there are many people who face toxic productivity. Do you equate success and achievement with personal value? People who do this run the risk of anxiety and guilt when they're not constantly productive.
This is particularly harmful when you do start to feel a little bit of that burnout, because that anxiety and guilt can start to spiral. I remember how upset I was at myself when I was feeling a bit burnt out. What made things worse was my Fibromyalgia; pushing myself to be productive when I wasn't "feeling it", caused my flare ups to be worse. People with Fibromyalgia are also more susceptible to depression. And being less productive, feeling that guilt, definitely started me on a downward journey into a depressive state.
Comparison and Perfectionism
While I've never been known to be a perfectionist, I did often compare myself to others that were being more productive; trying to figure out how and/or why others could do more with the 24 hours that they had. For me, the answer was unfortunately quite often, sacrifice sleep; which of course, again, played into the recurring theme within this post: Fibromyalgia.
But it's not just comparing yourself with people who are more productive than you are. People who are perfectionists will quite often run the risk of toxic productivity. By focusing on perfecting the item that you're working on, you might not be giving yourself enough time for the other items on your growing list of things to do. And if your level of productivity is tied to your self worth, all of a sudden, even though you've completed something to perfection, you still feel that anxiety and guilt because you haven't been able to accomplish ALL of the things on your list of things to do.
I'm pretty sure there are more symptoms of toxic productivity, but these are the ones that I felt are most prevalent. Not only does toxic productivity effectively make you less productive in the long term, it also negatively impacts your physical, mental, and emotional state. It negatively affects your ability to enjoy life and your personal relationships.
In our next article, we'll talk about some strategies and tactics towards countering this toxic productivity. In the meantime, if you've read this and are finding that you are resonating with some of these red flags, take a break, be kind to yourself, and talk to someone. A partner, a friend, or a professional that might help you to work through some of these issues.