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The High Cost of Overdoing It: Recognising the Signs of Productivity Burnout

Updated: Jun 24

a woman in midlife struggling with productivity burnout

Do you often find yourself pushing harder and harder to be productive, only to feel exhausted, stressed, and unfulfilled? If so, you might be experiencing productivity burnout. It's a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that comes from overworking and trying to do too much. Unfortunately, many people overlook the warning signs of burnout until it's too late.

In this article, I'll explore the signs and symptoms of productivity burnout and offer tips on how to prevent and recover from it.

Let's take a closer look at the high cost of overdoing it and how to recognise the signs of burnout before it's too late.

There are three key drivers that lead to productivity burnout:

Productivity pressure leads to poor performance

Today's modern world is highly pressurised and demanding. We feel compelled to constantly produce and meet deadlines, often foregoing breaks and making space for downtime.

We often compromise the quality of our work due to insufficient time for planning, analysis, execution, and reflection. This reactive approach can lead to errors, unnecessary expenses, and a decrease in productivity, performance, and desired outcomes.

As individuals struggle with these challenges, it is common for them to feel a lack of motivation and be unable to perform at their best. Consequently, companies may not be receiving optimal output from their employees.

This becomes a toxic space to operate from because we feel the pressure plus the subsequent guilt of not working optimally. But in actual fact, we are just so exhausted and overwhelmed that it becomes impossible to produce really good work.

Using constant productivity as a distraction

Are we using our obsession with productivity as a way to avoid reflecting on important questions about our lives? Questions like whether we're truly happy, in the right job or relationship, or if we know what we want for our future.

Furthermore, we may be relying on our job to provide us with our self-worth and identity, which can also contribute to the constant pressure to be productive.

The link between productivity and self-worth in society

In our society, productivity is often equated with worth. We are taught that our value as individuals is based on our ability to produce, achieve and perform. From a young age, we are conditioned to strive for success and to be busy at all times. We are told that success and happiness come from being productive, and that idleness or rest is laziness. This conditioning can lead us to base our self-worth on our productivity levels, causing us to feel inadequate or worthless when we are not constantly producing or achieving. It can be challenging to break free from this societal conditioning and to redefine our worth outside of productivity, but it is essential for our mental and emotional well-being.

“Productivity is the currency by which we measure our own self-worth,” Anat Keinan

How to recognise productivity burnout

It's hard to find proper and sustainable balance between work our personal lives. As the world gets busier and more is demanded of us, we need to take stock of what's happening in our lives.

As stated above, there are quite a few symptoms which mean you are on the Toxic Productivity roller coaster. This is not meant to make you feel worse or a failure. It's a time to notice them, be gentle with yourself and then start working on how to improve your situation.

They are:

  1. The never-ending compulsion to be doing things, even when no-one is asking you to

  2. The need to go the “extra mile” at work or at home

  3. Feeling guilty for not doing more on a task

  4. The obsession with finding the next "productivity hack", overusing technology to stay ahead.

  5. Is overworking affecting your relationships? Are friendships and relationships bearing the brunt of you not prioritising them because you're so busy with work?

  6. Working long days in order to complete unfinished tasks.

  7. Taking productivity, personal development and wellness to the extreme - all in an effort to be the absolute best. A compulsive need to workout, setting up multiple alerts and push notifications, over-subscribing to self improvement emails and podcasts, reading vast amount of blogs and books to be better and keep improving.

  8. Feeling like a failure if not constantly working on something - work or personal development related.

  9. Attaching self worth to what you're accomplishing.

  10. Feeling like a martyr then feeling resentful - "If I don't do it, then who will?" and "I always seem to be doing all the work around here".

  11. Feeling jealous of other people's success, especially what is being projected in social media.

  12. Not being able to set clear boundaries around work and personal life.

  13. Weight gain from increased cortisol levels.

  14. Not taking any vacation days or sick days because you fear looking lazy.

  15. Inability to relax during free time and feeling guilty because of that.

  16. Having unrealistic expectations of yourself and then being really hard on yourself when you don't meet them.

  17. Being sleep deprived.

  18. Not following healthy routines like eating, sleeping and exercising regularly.

  19. Being glued to your screen, waiting for the next ping or thing to react to.

  20. Zoning out by endlessly scrolling social media.

  21. Feeling constantly overwhelmed and emotionally dysregulated - highly strung, sensitive to light and touch with accompanying anxiety.

Get help

If you're battling with overworking and the negative effects of stress and burnout, maybe it's time to talk.

If you would like to set up a 30-min, no obligation, free consultation, click here.

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