7 ideas to help you fix your relationship with toxic productivity

Rethinking productivity — Part 2

Photo by Dominik Reallife on Unsplash

In Part 1 of this article, I talked about the problems that we might encounter when it comes to productivity and why it’s important to look for helpful strategies to address our obsession with productivity.

I struggled with it for most of my working life and would therefore like to share with you what has helped me to build a healthier relationship with productivity.

1. Determine your values

I believe that one of the most important things that helped me to be clearer about my work and life goals was to determine my values. They have given me clarity and focus in relation to the things that really matter to me. My values also help me to decide on the things I should spend time on and the things I shouldn’t spend time on. They also regularly help me to come back to centre when I’m starting to go off track. There are various value determination exercises available, the one I’ve used is by Dr John Demartini.

Now that you’ve defined your values, you can carefully look at the tasks and demands which are coming your way and determine if they are aligned to your values or not. For example, if I’m asked to support a start-up that is aiming to sell mass-produced animal products, I’m going to politely decline as one of my highest values is building and supporting purpose-driven businesses which are kind to people and the planet.

2. Set boundaries

Setting boundaries are very effective to protect your time and yourself from overwhelm. Of course, it’s useful to know your values and make decisions based on them but if you fail to set boundaries at the same time, for example with your clients, you may still end up feeling overworked and resentful.

It’s very useful to set boundaries in relation to your working hours (i.e. the hours you spend online) and the hours you are not working (i.e. the hours you spend offline). Try to block out this time in your calendar and stick to it.

3. Prioritise rest

Sleep and taking regular breaks can help us feel restored and energised to do the work that matters most to us. Unfortunately, hustle culture often devalues rest and celebrates if you work late into the night or at weekends. However, over time, this way of working could be detrimental to your wellbeing. The same goes for taking regular breaks. Make sure you build in restorative breaks throughout your day, including having a lunch break away from your desk.

4. Limit Social Media use

Accessing my relationship with social media has helped me to be more productive as I’m spending less time on tools that are so often wasting my time. But more importantly, I’ve been able to escape the comparison rat race which used to make me feel that I’m not enough in business and in my work — not successful enough, not productive enough, not interesting enough, and so on.

I encourage you to critically look at your relationship with Social Media. How much time do you want to spend on it during a workday? How do you feel after a session scrolling through Social Media? How much value does it bring to your work?

5. Connect with others

When we are being uber-productive, we also often find ourselves working alone. We set our to-do list and follow our schedule. Especially during the last year, it was easy to disappear into your own bubble. But regardless if you are an introvert or extrovert, we are all inherently social creatures and long times on our own can also impact our mental health. It, therefore, helps to step out of your bubble at times and perhaps go to a co-working space or connect to like-minded people online. Feeling that you are part of something bigger moves us beyond the silo thinking and also opens up your world to new possibilities in the form of collaborations or new work opportunities which could be much more impactful and transformative than what you could have achieved by working in your own bubble.

6. Integrate mindfulness

Mindfulness practices can be really helpful to support our focus and bring balance to our working day. If you don’t already do it, I encourage you to integrate at least one mindfulness practice into your day. You can simply start with a 10-minute meditation as part of your morning routine. This will help you to be more present and feel more grounded as you start the day. Another suggestion is to take 3 deep breaths at various points throughout the working day. It’s an opportunity to stop, connect with yourself, be present to the moment and perhaps also help you notice in case you are overworking again.

7. Find a non-productive hobby

For many of us, doing nothing at all is difficult to do, because even if we don’t work, we often fill our time with things that keep us occupied. We find ourselves glued to our phones or watch Netflix all evening. However, for our brains and bodies to reset, stepping away from our work as well as our devices and doing something that doesn’t require us to be productive, would be ideal.

What are your hobbies? Perhaps it’s watching films. But I challenge you to think of something or try something new where you have to step away from your screen — for example, being in nature, drawing, reading for fun (and not in order to learn a new productivity hack), or spending time with family and friends. Or, as hard as it might be, doing nothing at all.

I hope you found these ideas helpful and perhaps there are other strategies that you use to not fall into the toxic productivity trap. Feel free to share them here.