Day 10 // I’m Addicted to Productivity

by | Jan 13, 2023 | The Creative Experiment

My name is Becky, and I am a productivity addict. Whilst that might sound a little tongue in cheek, in today’s video I’m discussing the dark side of productivity, why I’ve always struggled to “rest” and what I’ve chosen to do about it.

In this video, I share how I kept a daily diary for a year, tracking my moods, energy levels, and productivity. Through this process, I discovered that my self-worth was tied to how productive I was.

I discuss how productivity is often seen as the standard for measuring our worth, which can lead to an unhealthy addiction to productivity.

I share my personal experience of feeling like I was unworthy of love if I stopped working, and how I realized the importance of resting and listening to my body’s needs.

Join me as I discuss the dark side of productivity and the importance of finding a balance between productivity and self-care.

Video Transcript

So this is another first. I’ve obviously never introduced a video like this before in that there’s going to be a little clip here and then we’re going to launch into the main thing. But the reason I’m doing this very quick introduction is because when I started filming today’s video, as you’ll see, the light was nice and dappled and I thought, you know what?

I’m going to get the blinds open and I’m going to give the curtains open. But as you can see, the sun has fully come out. And at this point it completely flooded my face with light. So towards the end of the video, my face gets completely blown out by the sun. But when I record, I actually don’t have the picture on the screen, so I don’t know that’s happening.

I’m hoping it doesn’t detract from the message. But if it does, I mean, if this is a lesson in overcoming your perfectionism, because my desire is to rerecord this video, but I’m not going to do that yet. You just get to watch how the sun slowly blooms. So, yeah, I hope you enjoy it.

So coming up to a year now, I have been keeping an evening diary where every night when I go to bed, the first thing I do when I actually get in bed is pull a little diary and just write a very short summary of how my mood has been that day, how my energy levels have been, how my mind has been.

And I initially started this as a process of tracking my natural cycles to understand when I have creative peaks and troughs when I have, and getting peaks and troughs. And it was through this process of tracking that I totally realized that, yes, I absolutely do follow a natural cycle. But what I also discovered from doing that diary is habitually, as I was reflecting on whether the day had been a good one or a bad one, the way I would judge that was based on how productive I felt I’d been.

So if there was a day where my energy maybe was a bit lower and I hadn’t got as much worked on as intended or I’d had to take a break, I would write, Today has not been a good day. Today has been a bad day. I didn’t manage to get everything done. And I would say it was probably only after about eight months of doing this, actually writing this every night in my diary that I realized what I was doing.

And I realized that there was a fundamental part of me that judged whether I was good or not based on how productive I’d been. And it’s something that I only actually realized when I was flipping back through the diary to see, you know, I try and identify these patterns to compare. And I just noticed that this is what I’d been doing.

It was something that I wasn’t conscious of in any way whatsoever. But this realization that my self-worth was tied to my perceived levels of productivity was a massive shift for me, was a complete realization of how I had been utterly addicted to the feelings of being productive. And it’s no surprise, really, when you consider how we typically are raised, typically are supported to adulthood through things like education, through a typical job whereby your productivity is the standard and it’s the measuring stick for so much about you for how the world perceives you because if you work in a job and you are more productive, you are rewarded with, well, supposedly rewarded with things like pay rises, promotions because you’re seen as a hard worker. And that obviously feels very reassuring. It’s nice to receive that affirmation of your worth and it starts in school as well. With homework, you complete your homework. There’s a sense of, again, affirmation, validation. Well done. You’re a good girl. You did your homework. I can see that you’ve clearly spent time studying.

You’ve revised for exams. Well done. You’re a good girl. And I was someone who did very well in school. And I think upon reflection, it’s because I derived a lot of of my sense of worthiness. And ultimately, I’m going to say livability based on those feelings of achievement through productivity and moving into my business life, which I’ve been doing the five years this year I’ve been self-employed, as it were, the director of my own company of one.

It’s a pattern that I’ve brought through here, but it’s not a pattern, although it I think in the short term made me feel happy and also had some incredible rewards and incredible upsides to this incredible benefits to embracing productivity. I think it also plays into a myth that if we are productive enough, then we will succeed at whatever we want to succeed.

But if we are unproductive, that’s the opposite, right? We’re going to fail. And I know for me, the complication with this is that productivity in and of itself, I don’t believe is a bad thing. Understanding how to get the best out of yourself, understanding the conditions in the environments and the tools and habits that you can create to set yourself up to be more productive again in and of itself.

Not a bad thing, but the confusion and the dark side of it definitely came for me where my sense of worthiness and liveability became directly linked to how productive I was. And so for me, trying to rest, trying when my body tells me I need to rest, I actually feel crap. It feels really bad in my body because although I know at times I need to rest, although I know at times that trying to push through will be counterproductive.

The act of stopping the act of putting work down, the act of stepping away when I know I could continue to push through feels bad because my body, my emotions, whatever patterns are within me, associates, productivity with love. So if I stop, if I rest, I am therefore unworthy of love. I am less lovable, I am less accepted.

My worth as a human is diminished by me resting. And I think it’s an interesting way to look at our relation to productivity. And mine personally resonate like my story personally resonates with the idea that I was addicted to productivity. I was addicted to the feelings of being productive because they made me feel good. They made me feel worthy.

They made me feel like I was excelling and achieving and moving forwards. But setting that aside, the point where it becomes unhealthy is when we override what our body actually needs. Because we’re chasing that high, we’re chasing that feeling. So it is no surprise, just like you would consider normal addictions, when you start to change that pattern and change that behaviour, you will experience a level of withdrawal.

And on a certain biological level, it’s because your body is primed to experience those emotions, is primed to deal with the levels of adrenalin that you might get, that rush of dopamine that we get from feeling productive. And so when we start to shift into a state which decrease our levels of adrenaline, which decrease our levels of dopamine, our body will crave it because it’s like, Hey, look at a cellular level.

We have totally adapted to be able to function in these conditions with high levels of these hormones. And so if you suddenly decrease those, your body doesn’t know how to deal with that. We have a an overproduction of the receptors for these hormones within our body, a cellular level. So it’s absolutely normal to feel like shit when you are resting if you have never really given yourself opportunity to be in that state before.

So sometimes resting, even though you know, is good for you, it’s what your body needs. You’re exhausted.

We often are unable to step back because it feels uncomfortable. And I think this is why we hear so many stories of people pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing because of the addiction to this chemical cocktail of the hormones associated with feeling productive. And then it’s only when we actually hit rock bottom or a body reaches breaking point and we crash that we actually stop.

But I think by becoming aware of this, we can do two things. One, we can give ourselves compassion. When resting feels bad, we can acknowledge that it’s okay that this feels bad. I’m going to choose to do it anyway. But I also think it allows us to dictate our own pace. So if you’re somebody who has worked Monday to Friday, 12 hour days consistently, and you suddenly think, Right, I want to take every Friday off, I want to finish at 5:00, that’s probably not going to feel okay in your body.

So instead, you might consider how you can gradually work your way towards that point, how you can slowly increase your tolerance for rest.

Can’t remember if I’ve said one or two things there, but the foundation of what I was trying to say is, one, you can adapt your journey to it and to with this increased awareness, you can give yourself compassion in those moments where it feels bad and often it’s something that I myself has been doing. And now I am much better now than I was when I first made that realisation.

My tolerance to rest is much better. My sense of worth and productivity, while still not healed or completely fixed or completely detached is certainly loosened, and mainly in the sense that when those feelings of I’m really struggling to switch off, come in that level of awareness allows that little bit of distance to go up. I think I know why though, and that’s okay.

I can re-affirmed myself that even though I’m resting, doesn’t change my self-worth, even though I’m not as productive as I might like to have been, doesn’t change how lovable I am. So if you resonate with any of this, if you’re somebody who feels like, Yeah, you know what? I think I probably am also addicted to productivity. Maybe you start to bring awareness to that relationship that you have with productivity, and maybe when you’re not productive and you’re feeling the urge to go back to work or keep pushing through, maybe just start by going, I’m going to give myself a five minute break and then I’ll go back to it.

If I feel like it or I’m going to sit with these feelings of discomfort in resting for 10 minutes. And if the end of the 10 minutes, I still feel like I have this urge to go back and carry on working. You can do that. I still sometimes do that. I still sometimes know that the only way I can get relief well, one of the ways that I get relief from those feelings of like, Oh gosh, I need to do this working.

I’m really tired. This is in me. And if I don’t do it, I’ll do it. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about learning to navigate your personal relationship with these things and more intentionally choose about how you choose to respond to uncomfortable emotions instead of being driven by patterns and habits that formed over however many years of your life, we can start to really look at what do we want, not what does society say, How do we want to exist?

What do we want our days to look like? There’s like a whole other side to productivity that I want to talk about, but I’m not going to do it today.

All I will say actually, is that productivity is a bit of a myth, as in there’s a popular narrative in society that if you are able to maintain a certain level of productivity, you will be able to achieve, have do everything. And to be honest, that’s just bullshit. I’m not going to run towards that into that any more.

Right now. But yeah, your productivity does not determine your worthiness. And if you find yourself judging your days on whether it’s been productive or not, then this is an invitation for you to examine that relationship.

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