Four signs you could be suffering from productivity anxiety

Do you feel like you should be doing something all the time, and feel you’re not doing enough if you’re not overwhelmed? Read on for four signs you could be suffering from productivity anxiety. 

It’s no surprise to learn that our mental health has become explicitly linked with a toxic notion of ‘getting things done’. After all, we’re a society obsessed with productivity, which has only become more pervasive in the wake of the pandemic.

According to research by Microsoft Surface, 59% of women and 37% of men feel they are not able to do, be, or achieve enough. These insights highlight the unhealthy nature of what is known as ‘hustle culture’ – the glorification of constantly working in order to fill our lives with a sense of achievement, and shaming those who don’t follow the same standards.

While there is no harm in working hard to cut down your to-do list, feeling compelled to maintain a relentless level of productivity may begin to take a toll on mental wellbeing, triggering productivity anxiety and leading to burnout.

Four signs you could be suffering from productivity anxiety

This constant need to be ‘doing’ something can quite quickly result in burnout, resentment of your work, or even mental health issues, such as anxiety in other areas of your life. Here are four tell-tale signs that you’re suffering from it and what to do about it.

1) You never take the time to truly rest

Resting should never feel like a crime and is essential to retaining optimal productivity levels. If you’ve come to this realisation but still find yourself stuck in the cycle of ‘doing’, try and shift your mindset to find the value in taking time off.

Adding things like ‘take a bath’ or ‘spend an hour reading’ to your to-do list can help you to no longer push these important leisure activities to the side.  

2) You find yourself constantly comparing to others 

What’s the one thing we absolutely can control? What we do with our time. Time is consistent and predictable, unlike our lives and careers.

Constantly comparing yourself to others can in turn increase anxiety, focussing on yourself and your own abilities can help to maintain a more consistent daily routine and allows you to control the controllable in your own life compared with those around you. 

3) You never feel like you’ve done enough

If you’re suffering from productivity anxiety it’s likely you will never be satisfied with what you have achieved, which can leave you feeling fatigued and exhausted.

If you feel the need to be constantly busy and notice yourself being extremely critical of your performance, start looking back on a weekly basis of your achievements and take time to celebrate the amazing progress and accomplishments you have achieved. 

4) Your goals are unrealistic

Setting yourself goals that are unrealistic is the perfect fuel for productivity anxiety. Setting small short-term goals that help you in time to achieve your biggest dreams, will make looking forward seem more manageable. And if things take a little longer that’s ok too, not everything will go to plan.

Just remember that what you’re doing right now is enough, no matter how long it takes to achieve them.

How to cure productivity anxiety

So what can you do if you’re suffering from productivity anxiety? Firstly, try not to panic as this can intensify symptoms. Next, examine how you approach work. Here are some tips to help you cure productivity anxiety.

Avoid perfectionism

Are you guilty of perfectionism? While it’s important to strive to do everything as well as you can, there’s a big difference between doing your best and feeling like you need to complete tasks perfectly. Sometimes the expression ‘done is better than perfect’ is worth remembering.

Do less

If you have many tasks you need to complete, identify which are important to focus on, and spend more time and care on those. Never take on more than you think you can cope with. One way to identify what to work on is to use the four Ds approach:

  1. Do – Set a time aside to work on tasks that only take a few minutes to finish. Quickly accomplishing a series of smaller tasks builds your momentum for working on larger projects.
  2. Delay – If a task doesn’t need to be completed immediately, reschedule it to work on later.
  3. Delegate – If there is someone else who cam complete a task, delegate it to them. Don’t feel that you need to personally do everything.
  4. Drop – Ask yourself honestly whether a task needs to be completed. What would be the consequences if you simply dropped it?

Set firm boundaries

Are you susceptible to service creep? Do you often find colleagues or clients asking you to do more than you’d originally planned or quoted for? Or moving work off their to-do list onto yours? Don’t feel bad about setting and enforcing your boundaries.

This can include how much work you do, hours you work and how much responsibility you take on. If word gets round you can be strong-armed into doing more than you should, you can find people dumping their work onto you.

If you suspect this is happening, start saying no! Being nice and helping people out can come back to bite you when you’re overworked, anxious and at risk of burning out.

Learn how to manage your stress

It can also help to find ways to manage your stress levels and anxiety, and ensure your life is well-balanced with plenty of non-work related activities and interests. You can read 17 quick stress-busting ideas here.

Lavender oil also has a long-standing association with relieving symptoms of mild anxiety, such as stress and nervousness. Over 15 clinical trials have shown that a daily capsule of uniquely prepared lavender oil can relieve the symptoms of anxiety in just one to two weeks.

Kalms Lavender One-A-Day Capsules is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the temporary relief of the symptoms of mild anxiety such as stress and nervousness. 

Photo by Joice Kelly