My husband Jeremy has an almost limitless amount of patience for my shenanigans. On that cold November night, he had been the one to pick my son up from soccer practice. He took care of dinner and helped my daughter with her homework after cheer practice. I barely looked up from my computer when they walked in the door.
I emerged from my desk at 10:41 pm feeling proud of everything I had checked off of my to-do list. When I walked into my bedroom, my husband was propped up on the bed watching TV with our children asleep beside him. “They were waiting for you,” he said. “They wanted to say goodnight but couldn’t wait up.”
The look in Jeremy’s eyes as he woke the children up to take them to bed made me feel so ashamed. “This is the last time,” I promised. But even the dog, who barely looked up with I entered the room, knew it was an empty promise. In my heart, I knew that I needed to stop putting productivity over my family. But I felt powerless over my addiction to being productive.
When I met with my life coach the next day, I shared my guilt about my workaholic tendencies with her. Her response was the reality check I needed. “You’re in a dangerous cycle,” she said. “We all have a need for connection and acknowledgment of our efforts. But you’re putting a need to produce results over true connection with the ones you love the most.”
Are You Sacrificing Your True Self?
I know I’m not alone in my desire to check things off of a massive to-do list. However, the truth is that it is really easy to become addicted to “life hacking” your day. For many of us, our workplaces are set up to promote extreme productivity. Your boss and co-workers notice when you’re breezing through a project. They’ll stop by your desk to praise the hard work you’re doing. But soon, you go from wanting to cross things off of your list to make your life easier to using productivity as a way to determine your self-worth.
Productivity can become a bottomless pit where you’re constantly looking to accomplish more and more so you can feel important and fulfilled in your life. Although receiving acknowledgment for your work can feel great, it’s a slippery slope when your self-worth and identity become attached to the opinions of other people.
If this is you, it’s time to start asking some hard questions: What would you be doing with your precious time if you could feel that you are enough just as you are (and just as you are not)? What would shift for you?
How to Stop Your Addiction to Productivity
Don’t Expect a Quick Fix
How we feel about ourselves is dependent upon the automatic voice in our minds telling us how we should act and what we should do. When this Inner Critic is left unchecked it can wreak havoc on our sense of self-worth. But too often, we think rediscovering our sense of self-worth is as simple as turning on a light switch. In reality, this is a muscle that takes commitment and repetition to build.
Are you setting productivity goals because you believe you need to be fixed? It’s possible that the goals you’re setting for yourself come from your Inner Critic. When you understand how to stop giving this inner voice all your power, you gain clarity about what you want personally and professionally. Instead of being addicted to the praise of others for your hard work, you alone set the direction for what you do next.
Spend some time each morning identifying the top two things you want to accomplish each day and then structure your day for success. Put reminders on your phone, your desk at work, or other places you’ll see them each day. Recognize that there will be moments when your urge to check something off your “to-do” list shows up. But when you understand what’s behind this urge, you can ask your inner circle for the encouragement or support you need instead of spiraling into that constant need for acknowledgment of your work.
Jumping off of the productivity hamster wheel takes hard work and dedication; It’s definitely a marathon (not a sprint). However, every area of your life can be impacted by your increased awareness of why you’re focusing on productivity. When you take ownership of the habitual ways you think about your career and life, the payoff is enormous.