Why the Productivity Movement is Toxic

Plus size Bristol blogger The Owlet in Bristol

 Hey Owlets,

This past year has been the year of the side hustle. Saving hours of commuting time every day, multiple lockdowns and not being able to be social in our down time has led people to question what we do with all this free time? And the answer seems fairly obvious on the face of it. There’s so much content online about creating financial freedom and being your own boss - you’ve got all free now so why not start working on growing your brand/business/freelancing career so you never have to go back to the office when this is over with? It seems like an ideal plan, but it’s toxic.

Humans are not machines -  we don’t have the capacity to be endlessly productive. Just like a car can’t run forever without being given some fuel, we have needs and wants and we can’t keep endlessly working without taking care of ourselves. There have been a multitude of studies looking at the impact of long hours and if they’re all worth it - the short answer is no. 

Travel themed home office

Just last month the WHO published their results from a study looking at the effects of working long hours on our health. The study concluded that people who worked more than 55 hours per week had around a 35% higher chance of suffering a stroke, and were 17% more likely to die of heart disease, compared to people who worked 35-40 hours per week. Couple this with the various studies that state that productivity drops after you’ve worked a certain number of hours, or the incredibly well documented impact of high-stress jobs on mental health and I honestly don’t understand why “hustle culture” is still a thing.

Aside from the toll on my mental health, I’ve noticed that when I’m trying to be productive I just get stuck with “blank page syndrome” where I’m desperate to produce content but there are absolutely no words in my brain. I keep a spreadsheet of ideas for each platform and even at my most productive there are still more ideas on there than I could possibly talk about in a week, and yet when I’m burnt out I look at the list of lightbulb moments I’ve had and despite loving the idea I can’t find the words to write.

Plus size blogger The Owlet in Bristol with pink flowers

Burnout is something that a lot of online workers and content creators talk about and before the pandemic it was quite often met with the attitude of “look at these privileged people complaining about their dream job” but it’s the fact that you never quite switch off that’s so damaging, and I feel like people with more traditional jobs can empathise a little after months of working from home. When you listen to people preaching about side hustles they’re often telling you how you can build your side business in just a few months, what you should try doing or how to make money straight away. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to build up a business in your free time, but pushing that hard will lead to a total loss of creativity or enthusiasm, and you just won’t have the motivation to do pursue your side business anymore, and it’s failed before you started because you worked too hard.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a goal in life, crave freedom or even just want a bit of extra income, but good things take time and there is no magic formula that can shortcut this. Find something that truly brings you joy and that you’re passionate about. Work on it when you feel inspired and have the mental capacity to do so. I know the “enjoy your job and you’ll never work a day in your life” is cliche, but it’s true. When you truly enjoy what you’re doing it will show in what you produce, it’ll be more sustainable and people will come to you because your work will be better.

Hustle culture isn’t inherently evil - it has it’s time, place and reasons for existing - but the constant productivity movement is the killer of creativity, and it’s just not healthy. If you want a side hustle find something you’re passionate about, work on it when you’re inspired and then you can watch the rest fall into place.

Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet 💜 
You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

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