It’s the new year and New Year resolutions are being set and noted in our notebooks, and notes-taking mobile applications to some of us. Just like you, I set out to make 2023 a different year; one about being more intentional about my health and surroundings; be it physical, mental, or social health.

Related: Didn’t Hit Your 2022 Goals? All Is Well

For those who know me, I usually are referred to as the most passionate and hardworking chap they know, or at least most of them and to some I come off as a “workaholic”; and they could probably be right. From my high school, I remember my class teacher commenting on my End of Term report that I was hyperactive; (initially felt like oba the teacher had an issue with me) only to later find out what the statement meant. So ideally, I am among those people who feel a form of discomfort from being idle or having nothing to do, and often find myself looking for an activity to keep me engaged.

Also, because of my fear of “poverty” and lacking, I usually end up finding myself running many random errands just to make extra cash or “secure the bag” as is the saying these days.

It’s like work and being busy became my life; and live to work, work, work, work like the chorus in the 2016 Rihanna smash hit “Work”. Browsing the internet recently, I landed on a term “Toxic Productivity”; and decided to reflect on whether I could be experiencing the same minus realizing it.

For some toxic productivity may not be work-wise, but could be finding yourself too engaged, could be in house chores (not that its wrong to help with them) or reading too much or being too heavily invested in a particular activity and neglecting rest, or even pleasure; that’s where issues are and some include a burn out, among others, as we are going to explore.

What exactly is toxic productivity?

The idea of “toxic productivity” refers to circumstances where work consumes all of one’s thoughts and time. Such a mindset toward one’s activities suggests a lack of time for any type of leisure, including hobbies, weekends spent with loved ones, enough sleep, and even healthy eating.

A person experiencing toxic productivity gets completely immersed in their work and forgets how important it is to pay attention to himself and let his brain switch to other activities.

Why It Is Dangerous:

Toxic productivity not only brings about danger for both employees, and employers but also for the people they interact with. After a few weeks, a person who spends all of their free time working will run out of energy and get burned out. It also results in a decline in performance at work and in their other engagements. Over time, the individual also finds themselves unable to complete even the simplest of activities. It also cripples creativity.  

Signs and causes of a toxic productivity

Burnout is one of the phenomena that develops after a time of toxic production. Understanding the symptoms and reasons for this concept is essential if you want to avoid exhausting yourself to the point of complete helplessness and chronic exhaustion. Below are some of them:

Signs and How to Counter Each:

  1. Thinking only about work. If your free time is all about work, this could be one of the signs of toxic productivity. Try to keep track of your thoughts to reduce work fatigue.
  • Weekend/holiday overtime. Don’t deprive yourself of downtime to rest. You won’t feel any better if you work on the weekends or on your vacation. You will eventually experience burnout from working overtime, which will be difficult to handle. Keep in mind that unhealthful workaholism and undue hurry are the enemies of your calmness.
  • Chronic fatigue. Have you noticed that you continually feel worn out and that you didn’t get any rest during the weekend? If there isn’t a clear cause, it’s possible that excessive workload increases are to blame. Check your to-do list, cross off everything you don’t need to, or rearrange your timetable. Overwork and burnout risk will be decreased as a result.
  • Feeling guilty while resting. Remember that you have the right to a complete rest during your free time. A person who is accustomed to working continuously without regular breaks and days off could experience guilt whenever even a small amount of additional time arises. This shows that hazardous production is already well-established as a habit.
  • Fear of losing your job. Unhealthy workaholism may result if you worry about losing your job. Make an effort to determine the source, cause, and context of these concerns. Failures on brand-new initiatives or conflicts with coworkers are not always the root cause of fear of losing your job. Be as aware as you can of your feelings and experiences since often our fears have deeper roots than we realize.
  • The search for additional work. Another sign of toxic workaholism is trying to fill every minute of the day with the things that will make you the most productive. You are not required to be productive or active every minute of the day. Yes, a lot of people desire to live as long as they can, but you also need to take care of your body and health. A person requires a good night’s sleep in order to resume critical responsibilities with renewed energy.
  • Activity does not bring satisfaction. Lack of satisfaction with the work you complete is another indicator of burnout. It’s time to learn to appreciate your own work if you’re no longer satisfied with your deadlines and projects. Count the number of completed tasks and do not divide them into important and useless. Keep in mind that whatever you do is essential to living.


  • Perfectionist syndrome. A person who has such a condition may be more prone to developing toxic productivity. This influences how happy they are with their accomplishments. Excessive perfectionism is a symptom of a student syndrome that can prevent a person from finishing activities. Burnout might result from the pressure to do everything on schedule and without a single mistake.
  • Imposter syndrome. A person with this syndrome is unable to acknowledge his accomplishments. He might believe that no task is completed adequately. Don’t undervalue your accomplishments and be patient with little setbacks. Everyone makes mistakes since it’s in their nature to do so, but this in no way diminishes your other accomplishments. In case you deal with Imposter Syndrome, here’s an article to help with that.
  • Busy culture. Now I am guilty of succumbing to this. A culture of hustle and bustle is emerging and expanding in the modern world. The appearance of perpetual mobility is caused by irregular work schedules, information overload, and persistent monitoring of other people’s social networks. One might want to adopt this way of life since it seems like everyone else around them is active and occupied.
  • Financial difficulties. Recurring financial difficulties can affect your productivity. The habit of living under stress and worrying about your financial situation aggravates burnout. Faced with such a problem, don’t devalue your accomplishments, even if they don’t bring in the desired income. Don’t blame yourself for it and punish yourself with more tasks. Fatigue certainly won’t help you cope financially.

How To Recover:

You must keep an eye on your health and learn how to appropriately schedule time for both job responsibilities and rest in order to prevent this. Below is more steps you and I can take and help us counter toxic productivity, rest and recover:

Plan. To prepare ahead of time and avoid confusion later, create a daily or weekly calendar. Make sure to divide up your tasks and give each one the appropriate time. If you feel exhausted and apathetic, don’t overestimate your energy. Over-planning can only lead to irritation and self-dissatisfaction because you won’t have time to do everything.

Don’t forbid to rest. In no case should you refuse to rest. Not having a day off can blur the lines between work and the rest of your life. The body of each person should have time to recuperate, quality nutrition, and good sleep. This is a simple but very important tip; without which it will not be possible to get rid of burnout. The basic needs of a person must be satisfied so that there is strength for new achievements.

Unplug. Perhaps this is the most challenging thing to do, given we are in a digital era, and are most times connected; but as a way of taking a break from the work settings, it is okay to give yourself a social media break; just to focus on living in the moment, or resetting to clear your mind or refresh your mind; this can be in form of turning off you data or Wi-Fi, putting your phone in ‘Do Not Disturb” mode or voluntarily keeping away from it for a bit.

Set priorities.  It’s time to accept that there are some things you simply cannot do. Decide what you want to do first and set priorities. If you already know in advance that you won’t have time to do something, don’t take on a large number of tasks. Don’t overlook prioritizing because it’s simple to become disoriented or forget things in a sea of different tasks.

Celebrate Yourself. Even if the work you completed didn’t seem particularly important, remember to give yourself credit for it. Don’t believe toxic productivity’s perception that there hasn’t been any progress or movement.

Separate work and leisure. Keeping leisure and work apart is another straightforward but important rule. You shouldn’t let amusement keep you from working; instead, set aside a few hours each day to take care of business. This will prevent you from having to finish everything up on the weekend. This rule also works in the opposite direction. Refuse calls from coworkers, overtime, and other extra responsibilities while on vacation to prevent fatigue.

Stay in touch with your friends and loved ones. Keep in touch with your loved ones so that you don’t become too immersed in your work and lose touch with reality. Keeping in touch with people enables you to divert your attention, discover new things, and simply enjoy yourself. Your loved ones will support you through your difficulties and will alert you when there are indications of toxic productivity. Maintain communication in order to make life exciting and engaging.

There you have it! And just like Mark Black states it:- “Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.

Written with context from Ameyaw Debrah.  

Read Also: Superiority Complex – The Granny of all Toxic Phenomenon