How to Overcome “productivity Dysmorphia”
Working in the capitalist system has always led to a unique emotional sludge. These self-perceptions and feelings have names, some of which, like ” Imposter Syndrome ,” were familiar to us before the pandemic, and some, like “burnout,” that have become more fashionable in the last two years.
A new term coined by Anna Codrea-Rado has entered the lexicon and may explain why you feel overwhelmed by your productivity even when it’s clear to everyone else that you’re doing a great job. This is called “productivity dysmorphia” and, according to Codrea-Rado, is at the “intersection of burnout, impostor syndrome, and anxiety.”
Let’s say you run a coffee shop. In one day, you placed all orders with your suppliers, cleaned all the machines, launched a new advertising campaign, scheduled your employee shifts for the next month, and responded to every review and email. In this hypothetical scenario, you did a great job! You completed all of these tasks and were attentive to the needs of your employees for time off and a fair schedule. So why do you still feel like you didn’t do enough and fail? Productivity dysmorphia.
But don’t worry. There are ways to combat this feeling and reduce some of that anxiety.
Write down your to-do list
The key to combating productivity dysmorphia is the intellectual recognition that you are achieving your goals and doing a good job. It can be helpful to see how these facts are presented in a tangible form. Write down your to-do list regularly, but don’t get overwhelmed if it’s long. You will do everything on time. You are more than capable.
It is important to mark each goal as it is achieved. It is important that you see your successes and victories. At the end of the day, even if only half of the items on the list are checked, you will see how much work you have actually done. If you still feel like you haven’t done enough, don’t worry. Try to focus on the list of things you’ve done and remember that it’s quite huge.
These days, we still operate in an adaptive, ever-changing environment. We could be back at the office one day and then work from home the next day. Worrying about finances, family members, and the general state of the world can also affect our productivity, and all of these are exacerbated when a colleague is sick, which is of course often the case these days. You are probably taking on more responsibility than usual, so be sure to keep an accurate log of everything you do. (Bonus: These written notes can come in handy when you go to your boss to ask for a raise.)
Take positive messages to heart
The next time you receive an email or Slack message thanking you for all your hard work, don’t just say “No problem.” Sit down for a second and think about the message, whether it’s from your boss or a third party connection. During the working day we receive a lot of feedback, which may go unnoticed due to the pace of our work. Don’t let positive reinforcement pass you by. This is what productivity dysmorphia wants.
Create a folder on your phone or computer where you can save screenshots of positive ratings. Every time you get a Slack message praising you for a great job on a project, paste it in a folder. The same goes for a message from a friend saying they’ve noticed you’ve been working hard lately, or a comment from a consumer saying they love your product.
Don’t rely entirely on third party approval, but remember that people notice your work and their lives would be harder without it.
Redefine your idea of ”productivity”
Productivity dysmorphia can affect you outside of your job as well. Let’s say you’re aiming for a seven-day streak in your Peloton, but you’re too tired or had too much work on your last day. You may feel like a failure for not exercising that day, but that’s not true . You worked six days before. Missing one goal doesn’t invalidate everything else you’ve done up to this point. We all get overtired and overworked.
Try redefining what you consider “performance”. Do all your work productively, yes, and work out productively or dedicate a certain amount of time each evening to your part-time job or hobby. Also productive rest. Relaxing and refreshing your mind and body will allow you to achieve more in the near future without risking dreaded burnout. Celebrate everything you do as a step towards productivity. Also write down your rest periods. They consider.
Finally, you are not defined by your accomplishments. Your achievements should be determined by you. You are more than the deadlines you meet, the number of subscribers you gain, or the money you earn. And that’s good news, because you’ve accomplished a lot, no matter what your productivity dysmorphia tells you.