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Productivity has been defined as “the efficiency with which output is produced by the resources utilized”, by P. N. Rastogi. For companies, more productivity means more profit, so there’s an incessant search for the optimal combination of resources, in order to receive the best results possible.

Recently, we’ve witnessed this culture of productivity transcend organizational contexts, infiltrating our daily lives. “Hustle culture” is widely spread through social media and, in general, more accessible to people at a much younger age.

However, there’s a fine line between positive, comprehensive productivity and ongoing toxic environments that cause more damage than good.

The truth is, oftentimes when people who are deeply involved in this culture spend too much time on anything non-work-related, they feel guilty or ashamed because they let their worth depend on their level of productivity.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with an “overachieving mentality”, which is usually promoted among students and young professionals – we’ve even seen how people have been starting to succeed as entrepreneurs very early in their careers by being involved and concentrated not only on their studies but also other “productive hobbies”. But it becomes a problem when literal students, sometimes underaged still, are feeling burnt out.

It’s scary how common we find comfort in completing task after task every single day and the more we complete the better we feel about ourselves as if our only purpose is to be competent and useful. Even during the pandemic, which so badly impacted our mental health, we’ve sheltered ourselves in this mentality and conditioned ourselves to the point of feeling guilty when we spend a whole day just watching a tv show or playing video games.

Toxic productivity is very similar to workaholism and it encourages people to exhaust themselves as much as possible with the promise of guaranteed success. Sacrificing sleep, busy schedules from top to bottom and limited social interaction is seen as hard work and boast worthy. This has caused people to have trouble enjoying vacations or any kind of leisure time.

This is why it’s so important to have balance and awareness of our own capabilities. By overworking ourselves, we’ll end up contradicting our actual goals and losing sight of our purpose. Because productivity, on a personal level, is about self love, not shame. We’re not supposed to prioritize it over our well being, we’re supposed to use it to improve ourselves and achieve our professional or academic goals.

Everyone has an answer to “how much is too much?” – and they should live by it.