Today, I am going to talk about a subject that is near and dear to my heart.  Toxic Productivity.  Most people associate the word “productivity” as positive.  After all, it means that you are crushing your to-do list and making the most of your day.

But what happens when your obsession for getting things done goes too far?  That is when you fall into the toxic productivity trap.  Before I go any further let’s start by defining toxic productivity.

What is Toxic Productivity? 

Toxic productivity is a mindset that develops as a need to constantly do something productive.  For example, you may feel that you cannot rest or have any downtime because you should be doing something productive.  Your mind just can’t turn off thinking of those things that you have not yet completed.  It is when productivity goes beyond realistic expectations, and you become fixated on constantly being productive.

In other words, you can think of toxic productivity as an addiction to productivity.  Being productive comes BEFORE anything else in your life. From the moment you wake up, until the moment you go to bed you use that time for meeting your productive objectives.  There is no downtime.  It impacts your mental health, physical health, quality time with the family and friends, and the time that you spend doing hobbies.

The Damage of Toxic Productivity

To make matters worse, the always on attitude is NOT sustainable and leads to increased anxiety, ruins personal relationships, and workplace burnout. 

If you want a perfect example of someone who has toxic productivity, then go to Ali Adbaal’s YouTube Channel.  He has taken it to the extreme which is not healthy at all.  In fact, when he does watch a movie, he will skip the slow parts of the movie so he can get that movie finished faster! 

5 Signs of Toxic Productivity

Everyone wants to be productive and make the most of their time.  So, how do you tell if you are going over the edge into the dangerous obsession zone?  Well, that’s where these five signs come into play.

1.     Lack of Energy and Exhaustion

A key indicator that maybe you have reached that dangerous obsession zone is when you keep being productive even though you know that you should stop. You are burnout and exhausted but the drive to get the next task completed stops you from taking a break.  You say to yourself, I just need to complete this one task and I will stop.  But that one task turns into two or three.  Pretty soon, your energy level and tiredness kick in and yet you continue.  You have been at it for 12 hours or more but cannot stop. 

2.     You Feel Anxious During Your Downtime.

When you do take a moment to spend relaxing, you feel the desire to move on the next item on your to-do list. Don’t even think about sitting on the couch to read a book, as you just feel guilty doing that. When you just sit in the chair and think that I need to go do something productive not sit in this chair. If you feel anxious during your downtime that is a sure sign that your productivity has turned toxic.

3.     Your Success Feels Meaningless

You just finished that massive project you have been working on for months!  Yet you do not feel fulfilled or accomplished.  You have this overshadowing desire to do more!  So, instead of taking a moment or two to enjoy your achievements you move on to the next thing on your never-ending to-do list. When your success feels meaningless is another sign that your productivity has turned toxic.

4.     You Are Overwhelmed with Work-Related Guilt

Have you noticed that you plan to accomplish way more that can be realistically achieved in a day?  These expectations don’t just set you up to feel that you didn’t get anything accomplished today.  They set you up to feel overwhelming guilt for not being productive as you expected.  These unattainable plans set you back.

You then convince yourself that the workload is not the problem, it’s you.  You have not been as productive.  This cycle of self-loathing for a lack of focus or efficient as you should be is self-destructive.

5.     You Set Unrealistic Expectations

Your self-loathing cycle is because you failed to set realistic expectations for the day.  Your unrealistic expectations were not only ambitious, but they were also impossible.  You need to set realistic goals.  After all you cannot complete a humongous report, clean your office, review the kid’s homework, and solve all the world’s problems in one day!


We all want to be as productive as possible, but we need to remember that we are not machines and cannot be productive 24 hours a day.  After all, we need downtime to reset our minds, and replenish our body with rest.  If you can relate to two or more of the five signs of toxic productivity, then it is time to take a step back and re-evaluate your productivity habits.

Be sure to click on the notifications button so you don’t miss next week’s video where I discuss how to overcome toxic productivity.  Until next week, please be safe.

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