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The Fear of Not Being Productive Enough

by Candice Galek about a year ago in work
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What used to be 'FOMO' is now 'productivity anxiety'

What used to be ‘FOMO’ is now ‘Productivity Anxiety’

Rupi Kaur, in her book, Home Body, expresses one can become full of impatience and self-doubt thanks to capitalism. That your self-worth can be tied to how much you produce for people to consume. If you’re a writer, artist, or business owner, you may recognize these feelings.

As if her written word weren’t proof enough, I can substantiate her claims as my fingers swim swiftly across a keyboard while seated at a cafe on a tree-lined street. I’ve felt happy lately but have not been focused on career growth for quite some time. Instead, I’ve been soaking up the small moments that make life worth living.

Still, the urge to do more or be more creep into my mind like an unruly vine scaling a historic building. As many of us retreat to home offices and remote work, finding work-life balance seems simple enough at first glance. The truth is it’s a slippery slope of stagnation and overworking that ebbs and flows over time.

I admire what Kaur says about anxiety and how she compares herself to others, which is a harmful habit we all sometimes suffer.

Consider this quote from her book:

“I have this productivity anxiety

that everyone else is working harder than me

and I’m going to be left behind

cause I’m not working fast enough

and I’m wasting my time

-Productivity Anxiety”

Rupi Kaur: Homebody

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” In the age of overextending ourselves to appease our families, bosses, and even social media followers, it is entirely possible to dodge expectations and live a fulfilling life.

The solution is to be so satisfied living your own life that you don’t have time to be distracted by how someone else goes about theirs. Take a moment to jot down the purpose for all of your hard work. Ask yourself:

What goals are am I working to achieve? Then, write down what your life could be like at this moment if you weren’t hyper-focused on meeting the expectations of others.

Is it possible to make small changes now to enjoy your day-to-day life more? If so, take the leap. You have the opportunity to make changes as you see fit. The reality is that when something feels off or broken, it can always be fixed.

Procrastinating to Manage Your Emotions

Many behaviors classified as laziness, such as procrastination, are often driven by anxiety and perfectionism. When you don’t get started on an important task, it could be because you’re super anxious and don’t know how to begin, even though you are well versed in getting the job done.

I recall my mother telling me to stop procrastinating when I was a young girl. I’ve created many excuses throughout my life as to why I do it, but the reality is that I know I’ll get things done on time. Unfortunately, other times I am not so lucky.

One of the major causes of procrastination is not wanting to deal with the emotional toll it will take. I remember during a particularly stressful time in my life, I couldn’t even handle opening my mail. So instead, I let it stack up.

A toll violation went late. I found a card from my grandmother hidden in there and missed a friend’s wedding invitation. I remember wishing someone would open it for me and just tell me the important bits.

There can be much more serious scenarios and repercussions to procrastinating. One thing I’ve learned is that ignoring responsibilities won’t make them go away.

How to Stop Procrastinating

Have you ever felt like there are a million things bouncing around in your head? I have gotten in the habit of writing out to-do lists. One of my favorite personal productivity hacks is the Getting Things Done method. Here’s how it works:

1. Collect what has your attention

Write, record, or gather any and everything that has your attention into a collection tool

2. Process what it means

Is it actionable? If so, decide the next action and project (if more than one action is required). If not, decide if it is trash, reference, or something to put on hold.

3. Put it where it belongs

Park reminders of your categorized content in appropriate places.

4. Review frequently

Update and review all pertinent system contents to regain control and focus.

5. Simply do

Use your trusted system to make action decisions with confidence and clarity.

Consider this quote from his book:

“Being creative, strategic, and simply present and loving don’t require time — they require space."

David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Once I began implementing the GTD method, I had less clutter bouncing around in my head. Give it a try. It might help you to manage productivity anxiety and stop procrastinating.


About the author

Candice Galek

Miami based entrepreneur turned environmental non-profit founder. Forbes 30 Under 30 Honoree. Inc. Magazine columnist. Always learning.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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