9 Signs Toxic Productivity Is Impacting Your Life

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Red flags that you may be suffering from toxic productivity

To help you identify this pattern of behavior in yourself or loved ones, we asked our experts to share their top signs of this problematic mindset.

Downtime makes you anxious

Whether it’s crashing on a couch with a movie or taking a walk through the woods, time spent chilling and relaxing is crucial for everyone. If you find yourself unable to take a break or if you can’t unwind during unscheduled time, that’s a problem.

You wonder, “What’s the point?”

If your friend asks you to go for a walk and your immediate reaction is to question why you need to, that’s a bad sign.

People dealing with toxic productivity only want to do things for a purpose. For instance, they don’t want to just walk, they want to walk 20 miles a day to train for hiking the Appalachian Trail. “Not everything you do has to have a point,” says Ferszt.

Your hair is a mess and you have bags under your eyes

Focusing on productivity over all else leaves little to no time for self-care. So things like a hot bath, a nap, or getting your hair done all fall by the wayside. So too may other important parts of self-care like paying bills on time, keeping the fridge stocked, and fulfilling obligations.

Socializing makes you antsy

Sitting around and shooting the breeze or catching up with loved ones is normally a fun experience and a vital way to reconnect with other people. Toxic productivity can make you feel like you’re wasting your time because you’re not accomplishing anything.

Success feels meaningless

Ostensibly, being successful is the whole point of being productive, but people dealing with toxic productivity end up getting caught in a cycle of being productive just for the sake of productivity. This may mean that when you finally accomplish your goal, it feels hollow, empty, or not good enough. Or you may feel too burned out to appreciate it.

You can’t remember the last time you felt joy

Joy is a simple feeling of delight, but it’s easily missed when you’re laser-focused on a goal. Even if you picked the goal because you thought it would make you feel happy, going overboard can make you lose the joy in it.

If you continue, you may move into a state of depression or anhedonia, a condition in which you don’t feel any pleasure. “You can lose the ability to participate and engage fully in the range of experiences that life has to offer,” says Ferszt.

Your kids are in a different activity seven days a week

If productivity is something you value, it makes sense that you would want your family and friends to also be productive. However, that can become toxic when you’re constantly pushing those around you to work harder and accomplish more.

Watching others have fun annoys you

Toxic productivity may become so extreme that not only do you hold yourself and your loved ones to impossibly high standards but you may feel a deep disdain watching anyone “squander” time doing something that appears unproductive to you.

Your bedside table is full of self-improvement books

The massive beauty and self-help industries are dedicated to the idea that you aren’t good enough as you are but if you work hard enough (and buy enough products) you can get better.

It can feel like you’re running an endless treadmill of always trying to be a smarter, richer, prettier human being—yet never quite getting there. This can shred your self-esteem, leaving you feeling worthless.


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