Toxic Productivity: Less striving = more success in home, work and life

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“Dream big,” “strive for more,” “don’t settle,” “aim higher..” are phrases a lot of us have ingrained in our minds as we strive to live ambitiously ambitious lives.

We get so caught up on ‘doing more’ and ‘doing better’ that there is an enormous pressure on ourselves to be continuously pushing forward.

But this attitude hasn’t just shaped our direction in life but our daily world is filled with ‘to-dos’ and unrealistic goals.

I understand because I am one of those highly motivated ‘big thinkers’ who always expected myself to be productive, achieving and to better myself each hour of every day.

I have sustained this level of determination no matter what hurdle I have faced in life. I would berate myself if I didn’t finish my daily tasks and my never-ending to-do list.

I, like you, have been trapped in the rat race of ‘toxic productivity.’ Setting unachievable goals, pressuring myself to be developing in life and career and working all hours to cram everything in.

Even when I have been exhausted, I have swug endless coffees or even energy drinks, to help me ‘power’ through the day and night.

My body would be shuddering in pain from exhaustion and my heart would be beating hard with all the caffeine, but I would keep on dreaming and achieving in my career.

I even took my accounts to file when I was hospitalised! 

Except I never felt accomplished, I never felt like I had achieved anything.

“You need to pace yourself,” I have been told this numerous times before by loved ones, but this time it was different, it was from a Doctor specialising in chronic fatigue.

After dragging myself through more than a year of lethargy in my body but over-ambition in my head, I have finally been diagnosed with fibromyalgia which has similar symptoms to M.E. and such fatigue may also be felt by those experiencing ‘Long Covid.’

But there is no real cure for the widespread onset of pain in my body and mind, there are only management techniques, such as pacing myself and gradually increasing exercise and activities.

Essentially, it is important to manage your energy levels so you don’t overexert yourself or succumb to the pain completely and don’t do anything at all.

This came as quite a shock for a stubbornly motivated Yorkshire lass. How was I going to reduce what I do when I was already not achieving everything, I had set out to do?

Toxic Productivity: is when we strive to achieve and aim to be productive at all costs. Toxic behaviours are damaging to yourself and toxic productivity is when we expect ourselves to stay focused and achieve even at the detriment of our health and wellbeing and during challenging times. 

This is when I realised, I have a problem with toxic productivity and all my workaholic ways were just ‘sticking plasters’ on not feeling ‘good enough.’

Now my body puts a stop to ‘progressing’ and instead, I would be bed ridden if I over exert myself.

What I have actually found, however, has been a good lesson in life, especially after this last year of pausing more, having less options and having to be patient and reflect…

Whether or not you suffer from chronic fatigue, it is important to break this cycle of toxic productivity by planning your day and life around your energy levels. When do you function best? What are your priorities?

I am actually a lot more productive in less time because I am doing focused segments of work, exercise and family time.

Rather than trying to ‘multi-task’ which is impossible because all we are doing is switching tasks. I use the Pomodoro technique of doing a task for 25 minutes then having a 5-minute break, then when you have done four bursts or ‘Pomodoros’ you have a 20-30-minute break.

Pomodoro technique is a time management technique to segment your time into 25-minute focused slots with a 5-minute break in between. Then after 4 Pomodoros you have a 20-30 minute break. 

When we are in difficult periods of life, it’s easy to put pressure on ourselves and feel worthless of not doing ‘enough’ or comparing what we do to others, but if 2020 has taught me anything, it is to be more appreciative, content in the moment and task I am doing and, realising there is much more to life than a quick hit of dopamine and perceived success.

Health is Wealth! 

So rather than encouraging my children to strive for the extraordinary, I am going to inspire them to appreciate the ordinary.

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