Opinion — The dangers of toxic productivity

Olivia Dunn

In the world of higher education, we are constantly encouraged to be productive and achieve our goals. While productivity is important, the idea of needing to constantly be productive and always on the go is deeply ingrained into our way of living. 

One could say all of that productivity is … toxic. 

Toxic productivity is when the relentless pursuit of productivity and success becomes harmful to our mental, physical and emotional health. We are under the impression that working long hours, skipping meals and sacrificing sleep are all necessary to succeed in our careers. 

However, this mindset comes with a cost. Toxic productivity can have serious consequences on our mental, physical and emotional health – especially as students. This kind of productivity leads to burnout, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. This kind of productivity can really take a toll on a person, even if they do not realize it. It can also strain relationships with family and friends, impacting our performance in a negative way more than a positive one. 

Despite these negative consequences, many people continue to engage in toxic productivity because they believe that it is the only way to succeed. Some people fear that if they take a break or slow down, they will fall behind and lose the progress that they have made so far. In higher education, the competitive nature around us can push us to feel the constant need to perform at the highest level. 

But the truth remains to be that taking care of ourselves is just as important as working hard. We need to prioritize our well-being and set healthy boundaries. This means learning to say no to excessive workloads that we cannot handle and prioritizing self-care activities that recharge our personal batteries. 

It is about our capacity to do work, not our capability. Creating a work-life balance that allows us to be productive while also taking care of ourselves is of the utmost importance.

It really is time to break free from this toxic cycle and embrace a healthier and more balanced approach to life and work. We have to shift our focus from achieving constantly to achieving sustainable levels of productivity that allow our lives to be enjoyable and maintain our well-being. Taking care of ourselves is not a luxury, it is a necessity. 

In sum, toxic productivity is so dangerous to us young adults in higher education. I know that I fall victim to it on a daily basis, and this article might make me sound like a hypocrite. But maybe it’s what I need to hear too. By prioritizing our well-being and setting healthy boundaries, we can achieve more sustainable levels of productivity and live happier, healthier lives.

Editor’s Note: The North Wind is committed to offering a free and open public forum of ideas, publishing a wide range of viewpoints to accurately represent the NMU student body. This piece is a guest column, written by a Northern Michigan University student, faculty member, or community member. It expresses the personal opinions of the individual writer, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the North Wind. The North Wind reserves the right to avoid publishing columns that do not meet the North Wind’s publication standards. To submit a guest column, contact the opinion editor at [email protected] with the subject North Wind Guest Column.