Why Is There The Pressure To Always Be Productive?
In today’s world, there is constant pressure to be productive. Our days are typically filled with long lists of to-dos. Productivity has been ingrained in our society.
Due to the pandemic, many individuals are working from home or have lost their jobs. You may suddenly find yourself with more free time due to factors such as not having a commute or no longer having in-person meetings, and it’s normal to feel pressure about being productive with this newfound free time. This productivity guilt can also be known as “time anxiety.” Time anxiety is the belief that your time is precious, and you don’t want to waste a minute of it. People who have time anxiety often fill their days with many tasks and activities that make them feel productive. However, time anxiety can also take a toll on an individual’s physical and mental health.
Productivity And Mental Health
Individuals that feel the constant need to always to be productive often live in a sense of urgency, and may overcommit. When we live with a sense of urgency and are always thinking about our next task, we keep ourselves from focusing on the present moment and being mindful. Overcommitting and overwhelming ourselves with tasks can ultimately lead to chronic stress. Chronic stress can lead to things as extreme as sleeplessness, depression, and anxiety, and when our physical and mental health isn’t at its best, our productivity won’t be either.
When productivity doesn’t seem to be on par with what it should be, individuals may feel guilt. However, a certain level of productivity is important in our daily lives as it gives us a sense of purpose and achievement, which is vital to our overall well-being. It’s important to find a balance between productivity and mental health. It’s perfectly okay not to be productive every minute of the day or even every day.
The pressure to be productive during the pandemic can also be heightened by social media. Many individuals may need to stay productive to avoid their feelings of anxiety and uncertainty about the future. This productivity trend spreads on social media and pressures others with the need to be productive as well. On the surface, everyone is highlighting their most productive moments, but that may not be the reality. Additionally, masking our feelings with tasks and repressing them by constantly staying busy won’t make those uncomfortable emotions go away.
Mental Health Support
If the current state of the world and the pressure to be productive is affecting your mental health, therapy may be an effective solution. BetterHelp can provide virtual mental health support from thousands of licensed therapists. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp therapists, from people experiencing similar issues.
“I've been working with Krista for just a few weeks and she has helped me in areas including anxiety, perfectionism, workaholism and co-dependency. She's been very supportive in providing resources and strategies for building a strong and healthy relationship with myself.”
“Janee’ has helped me identify patterns of behavior in relationships and my tendency to be a workaholic that I didn’t realize had such an impact on my life as a whole. She is understanding, patient, and willing to ask the questions that really make me self-reflect on what I want, what makes me feel fulfilled, and how I’m taking care of myself as a whole. I couldn’t be more thankful for starting working with Janee’ pre-quarantine because she’s helped so much with working through the emotional aspects of deciding to end a relationship, refocusing on taking care of myself and what truly makes me happy, and also getting through these uncertain times given the pandemic.”
Other Solutions Besides Therapy
For some individuals, therapy may not be accessible, or they are not ready to take that step. There are also simple things you can do at home that can improve your mental health. First, understand that it is okay not to be productive every single day. Free time is incredibly important to recharge your body and mind. Allocating free time to do things you like or just to relax can boost your mood, improve performance, and increase overall focus and concentration, making you more resilient when it’s time to be productive. It’s so important to find an equilibrium of free time and productivity.
When we are always thinking about our next task, our minds never stay in the present. Practicing mindfulness can be an incredibly helpful way to bring peace into your life and focus on the present moment. Mindfulness can also relieve stress, anxiety, emotional reactivity, and rumination. When our mental health is in a good state, it is easier to take on what life throws at us. One of the most helpful mindfulness techniques you can do at home is meditation. Try it for a few days and see the difference it can make.
Here is a list of other things you can try throughout your day to feel productive while also taking care of your mental health at the same time:
- Exercise and eat healthy. Your physical health and mental health are a two-way street. If your body feels good, there’s a high chance your mind will too. Regular exercise also boosts those feel-good hormones, which can reduce stress and symptoms of depression.
- Improve your mental health. If you’re not ready for therapy, there are many techniques you can practice at home that can improve your mental health. Practicing mindfulness, for example, meditation or breathwork exercises, can improve your mood, reduce anxiety, and aid in being more present in your life.
- Learn a new skill. If you find yourself with downtime, it may be the perfect opportunity to learn a new skill that you’ve put to the side or even improve one you already have. This is an optimal way to increase productivity while also giving you a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
- Journaling is another great tool that is easy to do and costs practically nothing. All you need is a pen and paper. Keeping a journal allows you to release any negative emotions you’re feeling while helping you define and analyze them, which helps you heal.
Our society is constantly putting pressure on us to achieve more and do more. This can become exhausting for both our mental and physical health when we feel like we should always be doing more, and therefore are never doing enough. It is okay- and in fact important- for you take time for yourself and realize that this pressure to always be productive is not realistic.
If you’re experiencing pressure to be productive and it’s affecting your mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. BetterHelp is an online therapy platform that can match you with a licensed therapist who can provide you with tools and guidance to improve your mental health and overall well-being.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why do I feel the need to be constantly productive?
The sense that we must always be productive in some form or another is multifactorial. The fast pace of American society often makes us feel as though we must always be doing, moving, working, achieving. Additionally, newfound extra time in the wake of the pandemic and things like working from home or limits on going out can make us feel uncertain with what to do with this time, and as though we must be doing something, else we’re in some form or another not functioning well enough. Social media and the ability to constantly see what others are up to can also fuel the need to be constantly productive.
Underlying issues like familial problems, grief, trauma, and depression can all push us to be continually productive as a means of avoiding the thoughts and feelings brought on by these issues.
Is it possible to be productive all the time?
For a short period of time, yes. However, eventually you will burn out. Our brains and bodies are not structured to be productive and able to function at full capacity every moment of the day, and require rest and leisure to recharge, repair the brain and body, and sort and store memories and the day’s events.
In fact, there’s a biological reason behind this need for rest and relaxation! Predatory mammals, including humans, on average need more rest for longer periods of time than prey species. This is because predators tend to be quite active and cover comparatively large distances during the periods when they’re awake, resulting in great energy expenditure. This is particularly true for more intelligent predatory mammals, such as humans and other primates, felines, canines, and even birds like owls and ravens, as using one’s brain to plan and calculate takes a considerable amount of energy. Consider, for example, a lion – lions spend nearly 20 hours per day resting and relaxing, but during the time when they are active, they are hunting, stalking, sprinting, carrying prey, battling for alpha roles, caring for young, and moving to new locations – all of which are energy-expensive endeavors.
What is toxic productivity?
Toxic productivity is the drive to constantly be productive and doing something, at the expense of things like self-care, adequate rest, and engaging in fulfilling hobbies. It can be somewhat compared to the term “workaholic,” but is not limited to just the work environment. Someone with toxic productivity may feel incredibly restless and stressed when they have free time, and rather than relaxing or doing something they enjoy will focus on things that are perceived as “needing” to be done, such as cleaning, or working on a work or school project in the middle of the night when it could wait. Toxic productivity can also result in feelings of inadequacy, or little to no sense of accomplishment or success when tasks are completed.
This productivity becomes particularly toxic when it involves the avoidance of thinking about or working through health issues, such as trauma, depression, relationship troubles, or physical ailments. When productivity is used to avoid other aspects of our lives, it can greatly hinder our happiness and growth.
How do you deal with toxic productivity?
Ways to mitigate toxic productivity involve doing things throughout the day that boost your mental health. These things can include exercise, mindfulness and breathing techniques, therapy, writing in a journal, or learning a new skill or learning about a new topic. All of these things have the ability to feel productive while also promoting a greater sense of wellbeing, self-connection, and physical and mental restoration.
Additionally, you can try techniques like making lists and time-boxing. Create a list of the things you want to complete on a particular day. Be honest with yourself about time, and be sure to include at least a couple of things for you (these can be things like “ten minutes of yoga” or “read for fifteen minutes” or “take a shower,” whatever you feel would be a good form of self-care for yourself). Once you check these things off the list, that’s it! Stop. Give yourself permission to just be and relax, and do something fun or catch up on sleep or your favorite TV show that you haven’t watch in weeks. Time-boxing means that you determine ahead of time how long you will focus on particular tasks, so that you’re less likely to be over-productive. You can do this via writing it out or using an app. For example, you could time-box a study sessions: “study from 3 pm to 5 pm.” Once this time limit is up, take a break! It’s important to also time-box things relating to self-care, as discussed in list-making above.