What is Toxic Productivity and Which Personality Types are Likely to Get It?30 March 2023 / By Cianna Garrison Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on February 23, 2023
Productivity is more than a buzzword: it’s a way of achieving all the things you want and need to achieve while retaining a healthy mindset and balance. But what happens when productivity becomes toxic? When instead of helping you, it causes you to constantly be on the go at the expense of other things in your life?
Sometimes it isn’t easy to see that you are working too hard and ignoring your needs. Here’s what toxic productivity is all about and which personality types are prone to developing this harmful habit.
What is toxic productivity?
Toxic productivity doesn’t mean you’re a toxic person – it means you’re driven to always be productive and feel guilty for taking breaks, resting or “wasting” time with family and friends.
There are many definitions, but this one from LinkedIn nails it: “Toxic productivity is a mindset that manifests as the need to constantly ‘do.’”
In today’s fast-paced workplaces, “doing more” is always considered positive. But what if it becomes detrimental to your relationships and physical, emotional or mental well-being? This is when productivity becomes a toxic part of your life.
You might have toxic productivity if:
- You have trouble relaxing after working hours.
- You feel guilty watching television or spending time with loved ones because you “could be doing something productive.”
- You have accepted tiredness or workplace burnout as a way of life.
- You work from home and find yourself working all hours.
- Multitasking is an all-day, everyday occurrence.
- You take on extra shifts or responsibilities even when you don’t want to, simply because you want to be “the best.”
- You skip dates, social outings and workouts because you have “too much work to do.”
- You skip meals and don’t get enough sleep because of your long work hours.
Why toxic productivity is problematic — even in the workplace
Some Type A personalities might say, so what’s the issue? Is it so bad if I’m being productive all the time? Well, yes it is. You’re human, and when you ignore your health, relationships and life outside of work, you may experience burnout, broken relationships and more.
As counterintuitive as it sounds, you need rest to be more productive at work. Per Medical News Today, sleep is essential for your performance and memory, and too little sleep can lead to a lack of focus, poor decision-making and higher emotional reactivity. Researcher Alex Soojung-Pang corroborates the importance of rest (whether sleeping or simply taking time for yourself). “When you learn how to balance work and rest, you can sustain a higher level of productivity and creativity,” Pang told Scientific American. So while you might think working all the time will help you get ahead, it can also create problems in your job performance. Creativity is necessary for many jobs that involve problem-solving — and there are brain hacks to boost your creativity, but rest is still the most important building block to increasing creativity.
Relationship problems and health issues can easily crop up if you don’t care for yourself. If you’re constantly overworked, you may experience mental exhaustion. This can have serious physical implications like headaches, chronic fatigue, insomnia and frequent illnesses.
Which personality types are likely to get toxic productivity?
Ultra-high productivity levels may have something to do with your level of perfectionism, which means certain personality types are more prone to developing toxic productivity than others.
Enneagram Types that may be victims of the toxic productivity mindset include Type 1 Perfectionists and Type 3 Achievers. Of the 16 personality types, toxic productivity is more prevalent among ENTJs and INTJs, though it can occur in other personality types. Similarly, Type A personalities are also likely to develop toxic productivity.
Enneagram Type 1
If you’re an Enneagram Type 1, you always seek “the best way” to do things and hold yourself to high standards. Your standards are sometimes too high and lead you to take on too much work and feel like you’re lesser than others when you can’t keep up with the glaring hustle culture of the working world.
Enneagram Type 3
If you’re a Type 3, you’re at risk of toxic productivity because of your drive to overachieve. Your greatest fear is to be a failure, so you take on extra work tasks and push yourself to do more than your co-workers. This can become toxic if you don’t remember to balance your hard work with some well-earned rest.
ENTJs, known as “The Commander,” often thrive in leadership positions. Because they are likely to climb the corporate ladder (or take some other leadership position), you may recognize an ENTJ as a personality type that is always “go, go, go.”
If you’re an ENTJ, you likely seek power and prestige in your work, and you put so much effort into it that you have difficulty relaxing. ENTJs rank among the least likely to report being unemployed and among the highest earners because of their tenacity. It’s easy for these types to fall into the toxic productivity trap and ignore other aspects of their lives.
Not far from ENTJs, INTJs are the second least likely to report being stay-at-home parents because of their drive to carve out a place for themselves in the working world. If you’re an INTJ, you like a career that provides an intellectual challenge, and your problem-solving skills are among the most fine-tuned of the 16 personality types. Unfortunately, your drive for complex problem-solving can make it almost impossible to relax when you’re off the clock. Your insatiable thirst for finding solutions makes you among the types who are more likely to take on a lifestyle of toxic productivity.
How to overcome toxic productivity
There is no set formula to overcome toxic productivity, but you may find some of these recommendations helpful in changing your habits and mindset.
The most important thing is to tell yourself you have earned breaks. These breaks may feel unproductive, but remember that rest periods will make you more productive in the long run and keep you healthy, so your performance at work and home stays top-tier.
Here are some tips for beating your toxic productivity mindset:
- Make a list of priorities by the level of importance. Priorities shouldn’t be work only — look at the urgency of personal relationships, family time, home tasks and miscellaneous items. For example, your significant other’s birthday should rank higher than scheduling a routine dental exam. If you have something that can’t wait, it should come first. Allowing yourself to leave some tasks for later will lessen your burden.
- Leave less pressing things for later. You can wait on that task that has a deadline of two weeks. Don’t stress. Don’t try to tackle everything on your to-do list in a single day.
- Force yourself to do nothing. It’s hard, I know, but sometimes you need to reflect. Ask yourself when the last time you did nothing was. If you can’t recall, that’s a good indicator that it’s time to pencil in some relaxation time. Make this a priority for yourself at least once per week.
- Try to leave work at work. You shouldn’t be taking the office home with you. Even if you work from home, give yourself a designated office space. Don’t take work into other rooms associated with rest (like the bedroom). Keep your mind off work and focus on family, friends and the home projects at hand. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but if you need to, schedule blocks away from a phone, computer and other technology that could lead to workplace communication. Your time away from work is your time away from work.
- Take your breaks at work and utilize them. It’s easy to skip 10-minute breaks or even an hour lunch to keep working, but when your body and mind are overloaded with stress, take advantage of these breaks. Use them to clear your head. For example, go for a quick walk or call a loved one.
Many people in the workplace are at risk of developing toxic productivity, including some personality types like ENTJs, Enneatype 1s and Type A personalities. Society pushes everyone to work and work harder, but if you let productivity take over every aspect of your life, you need to reassess. Your health and relationships are essential — make sure you have time to devote to all parts of your life so you don’t become exhausted, sick or burned out.