There is always something, isn’t there. Something that you need to get done. And there are two types of people. Those who keep a diary, jam packed with tasks which the owner needs/wants to complete before a certain time. While there are those who don’t keep a diary, and are equally as busy, yet instead their heads are carrying the things which need to be done. And if you don’t keep a diary, then I can make two assumptions. One, that your head is filled up with things which need to be done, and two, you probably wish that you kept a diary! Who else here is the latter?
Because let’s face it! Most of us know what it is like to be constantly busy, and in fact many of us too take so much pride in it, to the extent that we decide to track down literally everything we do. Just think, people tracking their steps, people tracking how much water they drink each day not to mention all these guides which enable and encourage people to get as much done as possible each day, ensuring that they stay up on their toes. From this, it is rather clear the general message is that the more we achieve, the more worthy we are…
Why are we Like This?
Before we begin, the reason why most of us are so good at chatting to others when we are supposed to be doing work, have this natural tendency to aminously scroll through our phones or just drift off into a daydream, is because we are human! So how come we are so good at shaming ourselves for being this way?
Partly, it could be down to a feeling of lack of control in the world we are living in, which means we choose to engage in productivity culture so then we can at least measure something which is within our control. Another reason is because we are in this world where there is so much pressure to achieve, that many feel that they must do whatever, even if it involves sacrificing their health, to achieve as much as they possibly can (which can actually be counter productive). A similar reason is that many highly link what they achieve to their self worth. In ways, this may seem like a positive, because it makes us feel as if we are in control of something that’s not only healthy, but really it is enabling us to become “better” versions of ourselves, and fundamentally more “successful”. Therefore it is not too surprising as to why it is seen as a much better alternative to engaging in physically unhealthy behaviors.
But What Actually Caused This?
The previous paragraph may explain why we seem to like the idea of being productive, but what was it that actually taught us how important this is? Well it is suggested that it could be as a result of neo-liberalism, which highly values output and productivity. Subsequently, as people grow up into a system which highly encourages being busy all the time, while trying to get more done in a shorter period of time, it means that as adults it is hard for us to step back from this culture and focus on the more important aspects of life. And of course if we are having difficulty in our lives, at least we can attempt to compensate this by being more productive.
Productivity as a Measure of Output
The economic system we are in highly focuses on the accumulation of money and possessions, which dictates the private capital. This can lead us to wanting to measure anything which we achieve, which can be dangerous because many can use this as a way of measuring their self worth. Just as an example, I know from experience that a lot of people (including myself in the past) have used grades as a way of defining their self worth. This is ridiculous when you think they most certainly do not begin to give the full picture of the person’s skills and capabilities. Not to mention, their value as a fellow human being!
This has probably been exasperated as a result of the pandemic, as job security has worsened, and many have wanted to find other ways on how to make a little extra income. One of the ways this can be done, is by making our hobby into something which we can profit from, which can involve selling things like art online. Again, in my view there is nothing wrong with attempting to make a little money online from a hobby, especially when you consider the current economic situation. But when this becomes the key focus rather than any thing else the person gets out of it, then this does become a problem. Plus what happened to taking time for ourselves? Because as the pressure on people to try to make money from their hobbies increases, things which people do to supposedly unwind become less enjoyable and can feel more tiring. Which can potentially lead to burnout.
Why is this an Issue?
Thinking about it, it is ridiculous how anyone can think of their self worth as a measure of how much they get done. Yet I feel that this is the case for so many. Firstly it can mean that what we really get out of our leisure time is constricted, because instead of us really using it as a time to wind down, many are choosing to measure how much of a certain activity, such as exercise, can be achieved within a certain time. And while there nothing wrong with wanting to get better at something, it is not good either when we are unable to do anything just for pure enjoyment. In one instance, someone outlined how they aimed to read 26 books in a year, therefore chose to create a spreadsheet to track her progress. It became such a good idea among her friendship group, that she ended up sending this spread sheet to many of them as well. As already said, there is nothing wrong with us wanting to track our progress, but when we get to the stage where this happens with practically every element of our lives, not to mention the pressure on sharing it online, it can lead to leisure time leaving us feeling more drained rather than less.
Finally, at the end of the day, we are all human. And in-spite of all the pressure there is to get as much done as possible, we need to remember that this is not how we are naturally supposed to be.
What Is Toxic Productivity (and How Do I Avoid It)? — Create + Cultivate
Being obsessed with being productive … is unproductive – The Washington Post
The problem with productivity culture is that we aren’t robots (yahoo.com)
Problems with productivity culture | Lifestyle | iowastatedaily.com
Why Are We So Obsessed With Productivity? – The Gloss Magazine
Why Are We So Obsessed With Productivity? (fastcompany.com)
8 thoughts on “Productivity Culture”
I think a much better focus would be efficiency, to get the things we HAVE to do out of the way faster and leave more time for what we WANT to do.
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I completely agree. I think there is some focus on efficiency, but sadly there is still a lot of pressure as well on filling up any free moment with doing something “productive”.
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Yeah, it sucks.
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This is something I’ve definitely struggled with, especially when my ED was at its worst. I HAD to be productive all the damn time, to the point where I was exhausted and miserable. Finding balance in my life was a process that took literally years. It sucks that we live in a society where we feel like we constantly have to be doing something to be worthy or fulfilled. As you said, we’re only human.
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This is a really great post and gives us a lot to think about! I’ve always been a naturally highly productive person but toxic productivity really grinds my teeth. Working smarter not harder is something I’ve really leaned into these last few months. Being more efficient and not being “busier” so to speak x
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Thankyou for your comment and I totally agree. There should certainly be more of a focus on efficiency rather than on being busy all of the time, because then we literally get more done, and we have more free time 🙂
I think undivided attention is the key to productivity. Multi tasking aka, doing several things at the same time gives us the illusion of productivity when actually we achieve way less that way. And yes, I agree, this is so hard to detach ourselves from this and from the feeling of guilt that ‘doing nothing’ brings. I am also so fed up with our culture of glorifying busyness, people gloating about how busy they are like it’s a badge of honour.
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I agree, while there are some tasks which can be done well while multitasking, generally it makes us more stressed and less productive. While the fact people feel so guilty for doing nothing, really, is horrific and it shows the degree to which being busy has been glorified.