How To Overcome Productivity Addiction

People working

Dear Selfless Esteem,
I’m curious about your thoughts on those of us who are addicted to being productive and always trying to tackle too much at once (including self-improvement initiatives)? How do we center and focus on one thing at a time to ensure what we’re pursuing is meaningful and lasting? Thanks!

Perfectionist Peggy

Dear Perfectionist Peggy,

Thanks so much for bringing up this important topic. Too much productivity can be detrimental to both our mental health and physical health because of the inevitable stress and possible injuries from trying to accomplish too much at once. For example, moving the computer mouse too fast could cause mouse shoulder. Ironically, the consequence is less productivity.

For a description of productivity addiction, see the article “When Productivity Becomes an Addiction” by the BBC. (And you may be interested in the article, “Productivity Addiction,” by Dr. Mark Griffiths about whether “addiction” is a misnomer.) It also includes a few tips, such as creating a “not-to-do list,” taking 5-minute technology breaks outdoors, and spending time with loved ones. Please read on for more suggestions. 💡

The Cause of Productivity Addiction

One of the ways to tackle this problem is to determine what caused it in the first place. Usually, the base of this addiction is the belief that something isn’t valuable unless it’s productive. Thus, the more a person makes use of their time, the more valuable they feel. Otherwise, they tend to feel somewhat useless and worthless. (See the post, “Defeat Self Criticism” if you have negative thoughts about yourself.)

Receiving God’s unconditional love is essential for changing this belief. Dr. Timothy Keller said in his sermon, Better Than Miracles, “In the Gospel, God comes and says, ‘I love you, not because you’re good, not because of your activities, but because of my grace.'” (See “Why Selfless Esteem Is Better Than Self-Esteem,” and “The Real Truth About God” for details about God’s unconditional love.)

5 Ways To Overcome Productivity Addiction

In addition to receiving God’s love, here are 5 more suggestions.

1) Redefine Productivity.

Woman resting on a bed

Doing nothing is actually doing something. For instance, practicing mindfulness increases brain tissue involved in attention, stress response, learning, and memory. (See the Semel Institute’s Open Mind Event “Fully Present” with Dr. Sue Smalley and Diana Winston for more information).

Resting is productive too because it strengthens your immune system and restores your energy. Although God doesn’t need to rest, He set an example for us by resting after He created the world (Genesis 2:2). Therefore, be sure to get enough sleep, take breaks during the day, and have a weekly Sabbath. See the post, “The Art of Slow Living: How To Incorporate Slow Living Into Your Daily Routine” by for more suggestions.

2) Use Your Support System.

Spend time with friends and family, who love you for who you are and not just for what you can do. Regarding your work, focus on what interests you most and then consider delegating and outsourcing the rest.

lemons and pitcher

3) Take Care of Yourself.

Practice self-care by eating healthy foods, staying hydrated, enjoying nature, doing positive activities, and exercising to increase endorphins and release dopamine (after consulting your physician). Whenever possible, don’t keep close track of time during your leisure. (See “6 Effective Ways To Manage Stress” for more on this subject.)

4) Break Down Projects Into Steps.

Again, God set an example for us. He could have created the world in one day, but He broke it down into six days. Therefore, divide your work into steps with realistic deadlines, and then do them one at a time. Focusing on each part of the job produces better results than multi-tasking. And remember to pause and celebrate each accomplishment before starting the next task.

5) Pray.

There’s a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV). Even though something’s good (i.e., the “self-improvement initiatives” you mentioned), it may not be the right time. Ask God for wisdom (James 1:5). (See “How To Pray in 5 Simple Steps.”) He can help you discern the right timing as well as what can be eliminated altogether to save time.

In closing, God discourages busy-ness. Jesus visited two sisters named Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). While Martha was “distracted with much serving,” Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to Him (Luke 10:39-40). Martha requested Jesus to tell her sister to get up and help her. However, Jesus told Martha that she was “worried and troubled about many things” but Mary had recognized the eternally, most essential and best thing (Luke 10:41-42). Instead of going into overdrive like Martha, let’s emulate Mary by spending time in God’s presence. 🌄

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version®. Copyright © 1984 by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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  1. Kristin

    I’ve never thought of productivity turning into an addiction. Very interesting and will definitely be evaluation some things in my life! Worry less, pray more!

    1. Gina Leggio

      I think we’re all guilty of worrying at some point. 🙂 Thanks so much for your comment. I’m glad you found it interesting— Glory to God!

  2. TC

    When this current season is over, I think I will have to make use of that Not-To-Do-List idea. I really like that. 😄

    1. Gina Leggio

      I agree. It’s in interesting concept I’d like to look into.:)

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