Are You Productive or Toxic Productivity?

20 Jun, 2022 | Read in 6 minutes

Toxic productivity can happen to anyone. Follow this article to identify toxic productivity and how to solve it!


When the Covid19 pandemic came, the standard of living seemed to have changed 180 degrees from usual. Everything goes online, including work. We must change the habit of working in the office daily to the front of a laptop at home. At first, it was fun because you could lie down while working, right?

Unfortunately, this Work From Home (WFH) culture has given birth to various diseases. Whether it's a disease that attacks the health of the body or mental health, you must stay productive, keep your spirits up, and find new hobbies.

Are you aware that being productive can also be disastrous? Productivity that used to be a positive thing has now turned negative. Negative productivity is called toxic productivity.

What exactly is toxic productivity? Let's get acquainted first!

The Gap Between Productive and Toxic Productivity

According to Dr. Julie Smith, toxic productivity is an obsessed behavior with self-improvement and will feel guilty if it doesn't do much.

There is a fine line between being productive and being toxic. The difference's thinness makes you sometimes unaware that you have experienced it.

For example, you have finished a meeting and made a monthly report while at the office. When you come home, you want to rest immediately. But you still have to check your work email because you haven't checked it all day. Unknowingly you do it, even though the task can be done tomorrow. You're engrossed in your email and forget that it's past recess. Do you know that you are already suffering from toxic productivity?

When your friend asks, “why don't you rest now? It's time for a break, right?" You answer, “I have to do this right now, or I don't have time anymore. I can't be lazy because I can fail. Congratulations, you have signs of toxic productivity, namely Hustle Culture.

It feels like you did the right thing, right? You've worked hard, you're still productive, you don't feel lazy to do anything, and you're not easily satisfied with your current achievements. That's the thinnest difference between productive and toxic.

What's The Problem with Toxic Productivity?

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

Productivity that is packaged incorrectly will lead to various diseases—from minor illnesses, such as drained energy that results in burnout and physical fatigue. Let's recall that in 2019, WHO officially added “burnout” to the international classification of occupational diseases.

Toxic productivity also creates excessive competition in the work environment. People will compete against each other about their achievements. In contrast, the culture in the workplace should help each other employees.

In addition, toxic productivity also causes stress and heart disease or diabetes in the case of an unhealthy 'lifestyle.' Worse yet, it can result in a death like high death cases due to overwork in Japan. So are you sure you want to continue the toxic productivity culture?

How to Identify

Because the boundaries are too thin, you need to know how to identify toxic productivity. This unhealthy behavior can occur in yourself and the work environment. The signs are varied. You have to be more sensitive about this.

You can identify this toxic behavior in general. Here are the signs you need to watch out for:

  • Rapid mood swings
  • Unrelenting tiredness
  • Begin to depend on coffee or else
  • Never feel enough
  • Jealousy of a friend's accomplishments
  • Unable to concentrate longer

Toxic Productivity in Yourself

Toxic behavior in yourself will be easy to experience when you work with a hybrid or remote system. In addition to the primary job, you also have a 5 - 9 pm job. Here are signs you need to watch out for:

  • Ignoring fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping due to a lot of thoughts
  • Feeling very busy, but nothing done

Toxic Productivity in the Workplace

It's harder to identify toxic productivity at work than yourself. This toxic behavior is considered normal and becomes part of the work culture. Complicated does not mean unrecognizable.

  • Allow for overtime every day even though work is done
  • Difficult to socialize with co-workers
  • Lack of support for colleagues who are promoted
  • Excessive expectations
  • No reward from the office
  • No appreciation

What causes it

Things that cause this toxic behavior can certainly be avoided. But before learning how to prevent it, you need to understand what triggers toxic productivity.

  • You are constantly comparing yourself to others. Including the achievements and privileges of others.
  • Content on social media that looks productive.
  • Motivational sentences that turn out to be triggering over productive, such as "Get Up Otherwise Your Comfort Zone Will Kill You" and "Success is in my DNA. I don't have a choice. I will fight till the end."

So, How to Escape?

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

So how to overcome toxic productivity? Let's get into the list:

1. Just doing nothing

There's nothing wrong with doing nothing, as long as it's within limits. Let your mind and body rest for a while. You can stare at the clouds while enjoying iced chocolate or write things that make you happy in your journal.

2. Dealing with your emotions

Much productivity comes from a fear of something, such as guilt, failure, feelings of worthlessness, and self-deprecation. It may seem cliché, but learning to acknowledge your emotions and deal with them is the way to go. Give yourself positive affirmations regularly.

3. Try to stick to the schedule

Be firm on the schedule you have made. You must have the courage to start and end work when it's time. Make a routine schedule that includes your daily activities.

4. Always stay positive

Remember that achievement is not the only tool to measure success. Get rid of this assumption if you want to be healthy and productive. Embed that a process is also essential, not just the result. You deserve to be happy and prosperous in your way.

5. Self-reward

Yourself is important. It's not only other people who deserve the prize, but you also deserve it. Schedule yourself to have a fun time. Either once a week or once a month. Remember that working continuously will not increase productivity.

6. Self-care is a Must

Schedule time each day to take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself is healing that you can do to avoid toxic productivity. Relax. At first, it feels like a waste of time, but believe me and do it continuously for 30 days, and then it will be worth it.

7. Good time management

Toxic productivity sometimes occurs due to work demands. You feel short on time, so you must make the most of your time. Now it's time for you to learn about good time management. Learning to have good time management can help you reduce your toxic productivity behavior.


One thing that's ironic about toxic productivity is that it has a positive word in it. That's why it feels like there's nothing wrong with this unhealthy behavior. You think all is good as long as your work is done and the target is achieved.

Tell your co-workers or other friends that the hustle culture is not good. Also, tell them the signs to free them from this bad culture. Slowly start doing the positive things listed above, for example, by beginning to set your daily schedule. Start changing from within yourself first!

Further, you can try a free project management tool to boost your productivity. Try it here and unleash your true potential!

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