Break Out Of Productivity Shame

By Siew Ching

Stop feeling like you’ve not done enough…

You think you’ll start your workday super productive and achieve everything you’ve listed in your to-do list. But between picking up calls, answering emails, attending to queries by your boss, lunch, a snack break and notifications after notifications – by the end of the day, you feel like you’ve not achieved anything at all.

You go home, feeling like you could do more and accomplish more. Then that feeling spirals out of control and you start analysing how you’re not working hard enough, berating yourself for not giving it 110%. How will you ever hit your goals if this continues, you think.

Stop right there! That’s exactly what we want to talk about – Productivity Shame. You know the feeling – that you never did enough and you have a sense of guilt when you are not working. The thing about productivity shame is that no matter how many hours you work or how many tasks you cross off, you always feel like you’ve not accomplished anything at all. And even if you make some progress, you feel like you should have done more to achieve better. It is also the guilt you carry around – the shame you feel that you should be working instead of watching a movie. Rest is for the weak, you think!

No wonder you feel all that burden! Unfortunately, with the hustle culture that’s brooding in our society, we often feel like we’re not achieving as much as we should compared to our peers. And when you share what you’ve done so far during a progress report, you can’t help but feel like you’re being judged and compared.

Here’s what you need to know – there will always be work and even if you complete what you set out to do, there will be more work later! So instead of crushing your motivation, find a way to work around productivity shame. There’s no reason why you should feel like you’re a slacker – attending to emails, updating your boss about the latest progress on a project – all that is work! And watching Netflix at the end of the day? Hey, that’s what you deserve for putting in all those hours at the office.

Nobody expects you to work round the clock – so here’s how to break out of productivity shame once and for all:

#1 Stop linking your self-worth to your achievements
The more you get done, the better you feel about yourself – sure, why not? Unfortunately, your days don’t often go as planned and you know what, that’s OK! Because there are other days where you can put in the extra hours if needed to complete what you need to do and when you are done, it’s also perfectly OK to take some extra time off to recuperate. Linking how much you’ve achieved daily is what’s going to drive up your productivity shame. Instead, always tell yourself you’ve done enough and that there will be more time to continue your work.

#2 Set realistic goals
10 things to complete in a day? How about 5 instead? And if you completed item 5, great, go on to item 6. Everybody wants to be productive but remember, you’re not a superhuman. It’s better to focus on doing things right and better than doing a lot of things simply to appear and feel like you’re productive. Be rational and set your goals according to your capability for the day. Some days you’re productive and that’s great. Some days you’re a bit zonked out and hey, that’s OK too. Remember, you’re just human.

#3 Are you productive… or are you busy?
They may seem similar but there is a difference – being busy means always doing something. Being productive means you’re producing something. If you are trying to do everything because you don’t want to look like you’re slacking off, that’s being busy and that is feeding your productivity shame. Instead, focus on goals and deliverables, not tasks. At the end of the day, you want to have something to show other than just the ticks you have on your checklist.

#4 Stop comparing yourself with others
Sure, it’s helpful to benchmark yourself with your peers but if you don’t do it properly, that comparison is going to hurt more than help. Constantly comparing yourself can lead to envy, lowered self-esteem, and the obsessive focus on why you’re not as good as the rest. Instead, compare yourself to… yourself! See how far you’ve come. Use this to motivate yourself to strive for better. Focus on personal growth, not other people’s growth.

#5 Listen to your health
Feeling tired, burnout, depressed and can’t sleep – yups, that’s productivity shame taking its physical toll on you! Prioritise your physical and mental health over everything else. Don’t expect to work back-to-back on sleepless nights and irregular meals. Besides, if you’re not feeling great, it’s difficult to be productive.

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash.

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