Let me guess... you feel like you don't have enough time for all the things you'd like to do.

You want to accomplish more at work, enjoy your hobbies, spend time with those you love, volunteer for your community, travel the world, hit the gym, keep learning, read more, and, and, and, and, and. So do we all.

The obvious solution to this sense of time poverty is greater efficiency. If you feel your hours are limited, then why wouldn't you endeavor to squeeze more activity into each day? Well, while continually chasing productivity might sound like the common sense solution to your constant "busyness," plenty of experts warn that good intentions often totally backfire.

Busier and more exhausted.

First, focusing on productivity often causes people to become constant clock watchers, slicing and dicing their time into ever finer slivers and constantly juggling multiple priorities. Not only does that put the emphasis on tiny and often less meaningful tasks, getting in the way of flow, but it also adds to your general sense of feeling frantic and overwhelmed.

"Research does show that if you increase people's time awareness - by placing a big clock in front of them, for example - they do more stuff," business psychology Tony Crabbe has written. Sounds good, but there's a fatal flaw: "When we complete more tasks, all that happens is more appear to take their place - send more emails, get more replies. In essence, if we do more as a result of better managing our time, we don't get it all done - we just become busier."

The second problem with excessive productivity (yes, there really is such a thing) is that it often pushes us to draw down our resources, depleting our energy so that even if we're working all out, we're accomplishing less than if we gave ourselves more time to rest and recharge. Study after study shows that those who take more breaks get more done in the long run.

Are you too focused on productivity?

None of which invalidates the idea that most of us could benefit from a sensible focus on productivity. Goal setting, time management, and establishing thoughtful routines can not only help you get more done, but also enjoy your life more. So how do you know when you've taken your commitment to getting stuff done a little too far?

On Medium recently, career coach Melody Wilding offered a helpful list of six surefire signs your focus on productivity has tipped over from helpful to harmful. Here they are in her own words:

  1. Are you acutely aware of when you are "wasting" time? Do you beat yourself up for it?
  2. Are you reliant on technology to optimize your time management?
  3. Is your #1 topic of conversation how "crazy busy" you are? Do you think "hustling" sounds impressive, while "doing less" sounds lazy?
  4. Are you a slave to your email inbox? Compulsively checking it or feeling like your phone is an extension of your arm?
  5. Do you feel guilty when you only cross one item off your to-do list or find you're kept awake at night by work stress?
  6. Have you ever rolled your eyes when your friend says she'll finally get started on that side project she's been talking about for months, yet you do exactly the same thing and rationalize it by thinking you're too swamped?

Do you recognize yourself in any of these signs? If you do, Wilding goes on to offer a handful of common sense tips on how to get your life back in balance. Check out the complete post for her suggestions.

Published on: Oct 27, 2016
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