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What is productivity guilt? 

Have you ever felt like you were not doing enough? Perhaps you did not get through as many items on your to-do list as you may have wanted or maybe you did not work out as long as you had hoped. On the other hand, have you ever felt deep remorse for taking time off? Maybe you felt bad for spending the afternoon in bed on your phone or maybe you felt really bad or nervous for needing to take a sick day. All of these are signs that you might be experiencing productivity guilt (a.k.a. productivity shame) or the nagging feeling that you should be doing more. Productivity guilt is a symptom of living in a capitalist society and stems from the idea that you can achieve perfection.

How does productivity guilt affect me? 

Productivity guilt is unfortunately quite common and affects many people. It is more than just a nagging feeling that will not go away, productivity guilt affects our mental health in a variety of ways. For one, the increased pressure to meet our goals can lead to a persistent feeling of inadequacy as well as a feeling of worthlessness. Additionally, it can lead to feelings of fatigue, shame, and burnout. Moreover, it has also been associated with persistent anxiety and depression. Finally, productivity guilt has also been associated with decreased productivity. This is because when we spend time feeling anxious or stressed, we may try to make ourselves busy with stuff to do — none of which is actually productive.

How can I overcome productivity guilt?

There are many ways to combat productivity guilt. One of the first things you can do when dealing with productivity is to stop comparing yourself to others. This can cause unrealistic expectations for performance. Another thing you can do is learn the difference between being busy and being productive — just because you are doing things, does not mean you are being productive. You should also develop a healthy relationship with yourself: learn to practice self-compassion, understand that your worth is measured. By your productivity, and take breaks when needed. Finally, if you feel that you are persistently experiencing guilt around productivity, you should consider bringing it up with your therapist. Chances are that it may be stemming from deep rooted self-esteem issues. 

This page is also part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.

While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.