At the end of the workday, do you ever feel like you haven’t achieved enough, even though you’ve put out several fires and crossed multiple items off your to-do list? If so, you may be suffering from “productivity dysmorphia,” an emotional state that lies at the “intersection of burnout, imposter syndrome and anxiety.” Lindsey Ellefson, a features editor at Lifehacker and CNN, explains this modern phenomenon and offers advice on how to combat productivity dysmorphia with a few easily incorporated strategies.
- “Productivity dysmorphia” is the discrepancy between your perception of your productivity and how much you actually achieve.
- Avoid productivity dysmorphia by creating a task list to stay on track and to remind yourself of all that you accomplish.
- Take stock of all your responsibilities, and include them in your daily to-do list.
- Don’t downplay positive feedback.
- Productivity dysmorphia is not solely a function of the work environment.
“Productivity dysmorphia” is the discrepancy between your perception of your productivity and how much you actually achieve.
A deluge of newfangled terminology has emerged in recent years to describe the negative emotions that many people associate with work. “Imposter syndrome” and “burnout” are just two such labels to enter the lexicon.
“It’s important that you see your successes and wins.”
In 2021, journalist Anna Codrea-Rado coined another term – “productivity dysmorphia” – to describe the phenomenon of feeling as though you are unproductive or failing, even when you clear many tasks from your to-do list each day. Productivity dysmorphia is a combination of burnout, imposter syndrome and anxiety, all of which contribute to feelings of inadequacy and failure.
Avoid productivity dysmorphia by creating a task list to stay on track and to remind yourself of all that you accomplish.
To overcome productivity dysmorphia, you need to acknowledge all that you do and achieve. To get a visual overview of your daily accomplishments, frequently write down a to-do list. The list may seem unwieldy at first, but don’t let its length overwhelm you. Check off each item upon completion, and revel in the number of items you eliminate each day.
“The key to battling productivity dysmorphia is recognizing intellectually that you’re meeting your goals and doing good work.”
If at the end of the day you are disappointed with the number of items you checked off your list, take solace by focusing on the ones you did complete.
Take stock of all your responsibilities, and include them in your daily to-do list.
Recognize that in addition to your day-to-day work duties, you shoulder many other responsibilities: Perhaps you have kids, care for an elderly relative or need to cover for a colleague who is sick. Acknowledge these duties when taking stock of your achievements. Add them to your task list and recognize them as successes.
Don’t downplay positive feedback.
When someone takes the time to thank you for your hard work, don’t brush it off. Rather, soak in the appreciation. Take a minute to absorb the positive reinforcement and to diminish productivity dysmorphia. This keeps you motivated to continue being productive.
“We get a lot of feedback during the workday that can go unappreciated because of the pace at which we work. Stop letting positive reinforcement pass you by. That’s what the productivity dysmorphia wants.”
File any written positive feedback in an easily accessible folder, and review those messages when you need emotional support. Glancing at these positive notes boosts resilience when you feel particularly unproductive. Ideally, you don’t want to depend on external sources for validation. However, use your positive reinforcement folder to remind yourself that others appreciate and value the work you do.
Productivity dysmorphia is not solely a function of the work environment.
Don’t fret when you miss a personal goal due to time loss or exhaustion. Missing a day’s workout to recharge your batteries doesn’t invalidate prior workouts. Breaks from routine offer important respites. Staving off burnout by taking breaks from routine is a productive use of time and energy. Add breaks to your task list, and embrace them as self-preservation, another way to be productive.
“Celebrate everything you do as a step toward productivity.”
Re-evaluate your definition of productivity. Action and inaction both have a purpose. Use them to your advantage.
About the Author
Lindsey Ellefson is a features editor at Lifehacker and CNN. She covers myriad topics, including health, relationships and home life.