What Is Productivity shame: The Satisfaction You Need
In the morning, you sit down at your desk, clench your fists, and get ready to work extremely hard. You turn on your preferred Spotify playlist, turn on your laptop, and get a coffee as you get ready to take names and kick some serious butt.
However, things don’t turn out as expected.
You’re cut off by coworkers. Your email inbox erupts. Throughout the day, voicemails, texts, and Slack notifications flood in. You have cooperation overload, and by 5:30 you have only accomplished a little amount of the desired progress.
As a result, you have a deep sense of shame, the conviction that you are always capable of doing better and that your accomplishments are insufficient. You mentally go over the events of the day, reflecting on all the things you could have accomplished and how you’ll never be able to achieve your objectives or meet your standards.
To put it another way, you’re mired in a cycle of productivity guilt.
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What is productivity shame?
There are two elements to productivity shame.
First, the sense that you’ve never done enough is known as productivity shame. You always have a sense of shame about your work, regardless of how many hours you put in or how many items you check off your to-do list. It never seems like enough, even when you do make some progress toward your objectives.
Second, productivity shame is the perception that you are forbidden from engaging in “unproductive” activities. When you indulge in hobbies, watch a movie, or simply unwind, you experience guilt.
When you try to unwind, you feel guilty because you constantly feel like you could be doing something more beneficial. It almost seems as if you are breaking some law or acting inappropriately.
These are both really damaging mindsets. You leave yourself vulnerable to stress, overwork, and finally burnout when you can’t take time to relax and appreciate your successes.
Unfortunately, productivity shame is encouraged by our corporate culture. We’re led to believe that the only way to succeed is to be passionate about what you do and motivated to work harder. What is it?
Why shame isn’t the motivator we think it is
Productivity shame is a bad method to stay motivated at work, in addition to killing your motivation and robbing you of the joy of downtime.
As Brene Brown writes in Daring Greatly:
“We live in a world where most people still subscribe to the belief that shame is a good tool for keeping people in line. Not only is this wrong, but it’s dangerous.”
Consider your personal experience. Does feeling guilty about your lack of productivity motivate you to work harder? Does it increase your levels of happiness, joy, and productivity? Do you feel compelled to work harder by your lack of productivity?
Rather, productivity shame perpetuates a downward spiral. You become less productive because you feel guilty about not being productive enough, which makes you feel even worse. It can be paralyzing if the cycle becomes severe enough.
Again, to quote Brene Brown:
“Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.”
Rather than inspire us to be better, shame destroys our self-confidence and, in turn, our productivity. So what can we do about it?
The 3 main causes of productivity shame (And how to overcome them)
There are numerous causes of productivity shame, some more obvious than others. If we’re going to overcome it, it’s absolutely essential that we get to the root causes.
Cause #1: You link your self-worth to your achievements
Linking your self-worth to your accomplishments is maybe the most underlying cause of productivity shame. In other words, you feel better about yourself the more you accomplish. Your productivity increases and decreases in tandem with your self-esteem.
Your days unfortunately rarely go according to plan. There will almost certainly be interruptions, distractions, and unplanned requests that prevent you from achieving your objectives.
However, if you associate your level of production with your sense of worth, you will experience guilt on a daily basis. You’ll never feel like you’ve accomplished enough.
Cause #2: You’re setting unrealistic goals for yourself
Setting unreasonable objectives for oneself is the second prevalent (and connected) cause of productivity shame. Yes, achieving goals may be a great motivator. But only if they are appropriately adjusted.
It’s simple to get disheartened when you don’t see actual progress toward your goals when they are too great. And the more disheartened you feel about your lack of advancement, the more embarrassed you feel.
Goals have the unfortunate tendency to focus your attention on the outcome rather than the process of reaching your objective, which is one of their major drawbacks. In other words, you don’t feel successful until your goal has been achieved.
Even worse, if you’re ambitious and have set numerous big goals for yourself, this sense of failure compounds. With every goal you haven’t completed, you feel at least some shame until you actually achieve it. And once you achieve your goal, you set another one for yourself, which starts the cycle all over again.
Cause #3: You’re stuck in the false belief that everyone’s doing more than you are
Shame over one’s productivity doesn’t merely originate from within. We are always surrounded by instances of people who appear to do more than we do.
“Comparison is the thief of joy,” Theodore Roosevelt once observed. This is especially true in the area of productivity. You experience a profound sense of shame about your seeming lack of productivity when you contrast your life with the lives of others.
Overcoming productivity shame
In order to stay motivated and focused on meaningful work, we can’t let productivity shame take over. So how do we overcome this vicious cycle?
By following a few simple steps, you can reframe how you look at your daily progress and start to feel better about your daily productivity.
Step #1: Disconnect your self-worth from “productivity”
Disconnecting your feeling of self-worth from your productivity is the most crucial step in overcoming productivity shame. Here, output serves as the most traditional definition of productivity.
If you exclusively evaluate yourself based on how many chores you can complete in a day, you’ll either have productivity guilt all the time or focus entirely on the wrong things (low-value, easy-to-do tasks).
There’s always more you could do, it’s a fact. Additionally, obstacles to completing them will always exist. There are a variety of factors that prevent you from working on what is most important to you, including interruptions, meetings, exhaustion, and distractions.
If you want to be free from productivity shame, you need to understand what your personal definition is of “enough.” This isn’t easy, but the first step is to disconnect your personal identity from your to-do list.
Then, take a second to understand your baseline. In other words, what does a good day look like to you? Using a tool like RescueTime, you can quickly see trends in your productivity, total work time, and even the tools you use each day.
The monthly dashboard in RescueTime shows you in-depth trends about how you work and what a good day looks like.
Having a baseline like this will help you see the progress you make every day, rather than feel like you’ve never done enough.
Step #2: Set effective, yet realistic goals for yourself
The second step in overcoming productivity shame is to set realistic goals for yourself.
If your goals aren’t realistic and achievable, you’ll operate under a perpetual cloud of shame. On the flip side, if you set realistic goals, you’ll be able to make real progress on them, which will reinforce your sense of productivity and achievement.
What does this mean in practice? Goal-setting is an art form, but at a basic level there are three elements to every effective goal:
- What do you want to achieve: Is this reasonable? You should be stretching yourself, but not so far that you’ll never feel like you’re finished.
- How you’re going to get there: What are the individual steps you’re going to take to hit your goal? Again, these need to be actionable and reasonable.
- Why you want it: You must have a big, compelling reason why you want to achieve your goal. If you don’t have a compelling why behind your goal, you won’t have the necessary motivation to achieve it.
Step #3: Appreciate progress more than achievement
When it comes to productivity, consistent progress is more important than achieving your goals.
“When it comes to productivity, consistent progress is more important than achieving your goals.”
This doesn’t have to be massive amounts of progress every day. Rather, small, incremental progress repeated day after day will add up to big achievements over the long run.
When it comes to tracking your progress, you can follow a number of methods.
If you want a simple, low-tech option, try tracking your metrics on a calendar. Pick one or two metrics that really matter and every day you hit those metrics, mark it on the calendar.
Alternatively, you can RescueTime can automatically track progress on specific goals. RescueTime automatically tracks the time you spend on specific apps, websites, and projects, and allows you to set daily goals for each. You can even get notified when you hit them and track your streaks to stay motivated.
RescueTime Alerts let you know when you’ve hit your goals for the day.
When it comes to making progress, you want to use the tools at your disposal as well. RescueTime’s FocusTime feature will block distracting websites (Facebook, notifications, email, etc.) so you can focus exclusively on making some progress on one of your goals.
Stop the shame cycle
In our society, we treat productivity like a badge of honor. The more productive we are, the better we feel about ourselves. The problem is that the more productive we are, the higher the expectations, and the more work we get dumped on us.
You’ll never be 100% productive. And without recognizing that, you’ll always succumb to productivity shame.
To fight back from this harmful mentality, disconnect your worth from your achievements, set realistic goals for yourself, and appreciate the process more than the final results. If you do, you’ll find yourself surprisingly more productive.
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