10 April 2022
Toxic productivity is the outsized desire for productivity at all times and at the expense of our other priorities, ranging from family life to hobbies.
I’ve noticed that in past times of stress or the buildup towards exams, I have driven myself slightly insane. People who are close to me agree. It’s as if all emotional and caring parts of my brain were shut off and I developed tunnel vision; all I could see was my end goal - exam day. I had an overwhelming sense of guilt if I did fun or nice things. I’d be out with friends when we’d all agreed in advance to take an afternoon off studying to refresh ourselves and our brains from the hard work, but amidst our light-hearted conversations, all I could really hear was a voice inside my head pestering me that my time could be put to better use. You should be focusing Kam. I felt that if my time wasn’t continuously spent being productive, it was being recklessly lost or wasted. “You’ve got this, you always do!” “You’re going to be fine” “We have so much time” “You’re working too hard” - nothing anybody told me could make me feel comforted. The only time I felt relaxed and in control was when sat in front of my laptop, working “hard” to reach my goals. As long as I was studying, I was doing “enough” for myself. I was “enough”, and I belonged on this course.
Hours were spent in new hunts house library and the exam period passed, but the flood of relief and chill I had been desperately anticipating did not come. It was at this point that I started to notice some of my own habits and attitudes, which were preventing me from fully relaxing and recovering from my high-intensity period of revision.
For example, I often turned fun activities into something productive. Starting to read new books for my own enjoyment turned into a goal-setting challenge with myself, where I would try to read so many books in a certain space of time. Going for walks to relax turned into a daily step count goal.
I found it difficult to stay at home and do “nothing”, as sitting still felt impossible and unproductive.
It may almost sound silly to some, but my productivity burrowed itself so deep into my mind that I became vacant, struggling to process both my own emotions and of those close to me. I’m glad that I am now aware of this pattern I have, and I was surprised that a few friends could relate to how I felt. I think everyone can take away from this the importance of talking, writing, and communicating what you’re facing. However strange it may be, or alone you may feel, chances are there’s somebody else feeling the exact same who knows what might help you or can at least keep you company while you figure it out together.
I know now that resting doesn’t mean you’re doing nothing or wasting time. Rest is an essential activity for anybody, and we cannot function without sufficient amounts of it. It’s a form of kindness we owe ourselves. As for the toxic productivity, I’m working on it - any tips would be appreciated.