• Jordan Abbruzzese

Toxic Productivity and the COVID-19 Pandemic




A quick Google search would pull up every think-piece that has already been published on toxic productivity, and how the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the problem. But that would 1. Take time away from writing and I’ve already gotten a late start because Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist drained me emotionally and 2. Make me think that I have nothing original to say or put out into this world, and that I am actually a terrible writer and what am I even doing right now?


So, sparing me (and you) the mental spiral that comes with #creativity, let’s get to the point: I have a serious productivity problem. And at first glance, that may sound like a good thing. I am always working! Always doing *things*! But what I mean is - I have gotten myself into a deep cycle of constantly feeling a compulsive need to be productive, and that is how I measure my worth. I have mostly lost the ability to relax, and am over-analyzing every choice I make throughout the day.


And what does this have to do with the coronavirus? Absolutely everything. If you’re still social distancing, then you know what it’s like to spend every day, all day, in your home. I get out to walk the dog. I have visited my parents a couple of times. I will walk and grab food to-go to support local restaurants. But other than that, I am at home. I work at home, I exercise at home, I socialize with friends via video-chats from home, which further perpetuates the feeling that I should always be doing something since a majority of my life now takes place on my couch or at-home office.


No more commute time? Let’s take on another freelance project or new workout regimen. Less social obligations? How about more structured creative time to write and submit my work? I first realized that I had a serious problem when I was getting anxious and down on myself for most likely not hitting my “reading goal” this year. But who is that even for? So I can brag about it and sound impressive? How much of my life am I really living for me, or just to prove something to...well, no one, because everyone else has their own stuff going on.


I’ve consumed many videos and articles on how to break free from the mindset that you must always be productive, or on the different types of productivity (there is good and bad). All I can say is, it is easier said than done. Especially when we are bombarded by LinkedIn hot takes and beautified Pinterest quotes on “the hustle” and the idea if you’re not working hard, someone else out there is.


Well, existence is not a competition. And if I spend my whole day binging Younger on Hulu, or doing yard-work and writing the next great American novel - my inherent worth does not change. And I know, I know. Typing it out is one thing. Believing it is another. But this lifestyle isn’t healthy, and I am trying to heal. I also feel like I am not alone. Maybe someone else needed to hear (read) this. Relaxing and giving your brains and bodies the space to rebuild is not lazy, and there is nothing wrong with decompressing for survival.


So, if you’re caught up wondering what you *should* be doing today, ask yourself what you *want* to be doing. What feels good? What does your brain or your heart want? I’m going to write a little more, do some yoga, then hopefully watch an ungodly amount of television for the rest of the day. I’ll inevitably beat myself up for it, but hey - baby steps. Sink a little farther into your couch and take a deep breath. I know you can do it too.


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