Toxic Productivity – How To OVERCOME

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.  Today, I am going to talk about a subject that is near and dear to my heart.  Toxic Productivity.  Why is the topic near and dear to my heart?  Because I used to have a toxic productivity problem.  I was the go-to person in the office to get things done.  I ended up doing other people’s work because I was more efficient.  That is great for an ego boost but in reality, it burned me out.  And it caused a lot of resentment.  My managers were wrong to insist that I do the work and I should have said no. That is why today I am discussing the topic on “How to Overcome Toxic Productivity?”

Now let’s stop for a minute.  The following steps are not going to be easy.  But if you perseverance, you will succeed. Now let’s go to the first step.

1.     Your Self-Worth is not Tied To Your Career & Set Bounders

I realize that this step is going to be extremely difficult. Most people belief that their identities are directly linked to their careers.  I think that is why everyone asks what you do when you first meet. But you need to realize that your valve is not linked to your productivity. After all, there is a difference between what you do and who you are.  So, the difficult step of separating your to-do list from your self-worth.

Steps to take:

  • When meeting someone for the first time you need to ask about their other interests, not about their career.
  • Schedule time for non-work-related activities and hobbies.  This allows you to identify yourself with your hobbies and not your work

2.     Learn to Practice Self-care To Avoid Toxic Productivity

Self-care is about doing activities that make you the happiest and healthiest version of yourself.  For some people, that could be a hobby, swimming, going for a run or a massage.

The key is to identify the things that feel the most relaxing to you.  Spend a few minutes asking yourself what makes you feel good. Remember this has nothing to do with work.  It is what you do when time allows.

Here are a couple of steps you can take:

  • Plan a recurring activity with a loved one or close friend.  For instance, you can take a daily walk around the neighborhood or going to the gym. It is great for bonus time with family and friends.
  • Make sure to schedule this time.  It is just as important as a meeting.  Don’t find an excuse not to do this.  Turn this into a habit and not a rare occurrence.    

3.     Just say “NO” To Avoid Toxic Productivity

Learning to say No is tough.  Especially, if you want to avoid disappointing the person asking or you want to avoid conflict.  Or perhaps, you are someone who enjoys saving the day or just plain love to say “yes”.  Especially, if you have always handled things even when you already are spread way too thin.  That is how I was. If something needed to be done, then the job was usually assigned to me no matter what I had on my plate.

The first time I said “NO” was a shock. I had to say No because my plate was already overflowing, and I could not fit in another task.  Saying no was one of the most difficult things I ever did. It took me 30 years to learn to say no. Please, don’t be like me, learn to say No. 

Here are a few steps that you can take to help say no:

  • Combine “No, but…”  This makes it easier for everyone because you can offer another end date. For instance, “No, I can’t have it completed by this Friday, but I can get it to you by Friday of next week.”
  • Use a priority matrix to categorize your tasks and identify which ones no longer need to be completed.  Just delete it from your to-do entirely.

4.     Build Buffers into Your Schedule

If you are like me, it can be difficult to retrain your brain when you continually have approaching deadlines.  This intensifies when the end date coming up is tight, and the pressure to complete the tasks builds.

Now, I realize that you cannot toss your calendar into the trash.  Afterall, deadlines are important for holding teams accountable and keeping work on track.

But what you can do is add extra time into your schedule.  What I mean by this is adding an extra day or two to the deadline.  This allows you wiggle room for emergencies and other life events that come up.   For instance, you know a task takes a week to complete.  So, you add an extra day or two to the deadline.  That way you will not feel like you are constantly up against that due date.

And if you don’t need that extra day or two that gives you room to do something else.  Like start another project or take some time off.

Here are a few practice steps:

  • One of things that helped me was using a time tracker so that I could have a better estimate of the amount of time needed to complete certain tasks. It is a great way to be more realistic when setting your deadlines and building in buffers.  For instance, if something takes you two hours to complete, you can easily add two more hours to your estimate.  Now you can schedule that task to be completed in 3 or 4 hours.  Allowing you a buffer if you need it.
  • Lastly, do not think of your free time as a buffer.  Your buffer needs to fit into your work time. Do Not under any circumstances steal time from relaxation and leisure.

5.     Establish health boundaries.

It is more important now than every to set and maintain healthy boundaries to ensure that your work responsibilities do not interfere with your personal time.    

Here are a few practical steps that you can take:

  • Create an end of day routine so that your brain knows that you are winding down and it can then switch to personal time.  This is really important especially if you take your work home with you. In other words, you mind does not disconnect from work even though you are no longer at work.
  • Just like you schedule meetings, you need to schedule tim for relaxation, hobbies and most of time with the family  Also use the Appointment field in a meeting request form.  That way people will only be able to book appointments with you during the times that you make available on your calendar.


By incorporating these 5 steps into your productivity schedule you can undo those toxic productivity habits that you created.  Don’t be afraid to take a step back and ask yourself how you are feeling?  It is important to check-in with yourself throughout this process.  Also, don’t feel bad if you fall back into the old habits.  It can take up to 3 months or more to break old habits.  Let me know in the comments how you are doing and if these steps helped you.

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