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3 Ways to Avoid the Toxic Productivity Trap for Busy Entrepreneurs

RiseWithSmae | Productivity Roadblock Quiz
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3 Ways to Avoid the Toxic Productivity Trap for Busy Entrepreneurs

Sarah Mae (SMae) |
3 Ways to Avoid the Toxic Productivity Trap for Busy Entrepreneurs

It’s late afternoon on a Wednesday, you’ve finished a project that took you ALL day and you’re wiped. But you have an hour until your call with a client, so you try to squeeze in as much work as you can before it starts… Even though you know you have a busy evening after the call.

Raise your hand if you’re guilty of doing this 🙋‍♀️ 

I’ve been there!

Thing is, in the moment it feels like you’re being productive when you push on to get more done. Yet, when you look back on your day, it doesn’t actually feel productive.

That is because productivity is NOT about getting shit done. This is the Toxic Productivity Trap, and today I’m sharing 3 ways to avoid it so you can create more biz+life balance.

Two Types of Productivity

1) Toxic Productivity

Toxic productivity is always being “busy” and feeling like you’ve never done enough no matter how much you’ve accomplished. It’s being stressed out and checking everything off your list without connecting to what you’re actually doing.

It is looking at productivity as just getting sh*t done as fast and efficiently as possible – yet still being inefficient.

It’s going down rabbit holes setting up productivity apps that you don’t need and reading productivity blogs without taking any action.

Toxic Productivity is a “trap” because you never truly escape the feeling that you should be doing more. Unchecked, it leads to burnout.

Escaping this trap is not about being less productive or lowering your expectations. It’s about creating a healthier, more sustainable relationship with productivity. One that gives you the time and the space to achieve what you truly value in life and business. In short, it’s about Mindful Productivity.

2) Mindful Productivity

Mindful Productivity is the awareness of what’s happening inside and around you. It’s being non-judgmental and present in the moment as you move through your days.

It involves being intentional with how you use your energy, time, and focus.

With Mindful Productivity, the previous example would look different.

You finished a project that took you all day. You’re mentally tired, and there’s an hour until your Zoom call with a client. So you take a break, get some sun, do something that makes you feel good, and give yourself time to prep before your client call.

Now, when you look back on your day, you’ll have a greater sense of accomplishment because you balanced your time.

3 Ways to Avoid the Toxic Productivity Trap

Now that you know the difference between Mindful Productivity and Toxic Productivity, here are 3 ways to avoid falling into the Toxic Productivity Trap.

1) Understand your Productivity Roadblocks

Mindful productivity involves being intentional with how you allocate your energy, time, and focus. If you’re lacking any of these, your productivity is going to be unbalanced and you’re going to start spinning your wheels, feeling distracted, overwhelmed, and exhausted.

When I decided to be more productive so I could start my business, I lacked all three. I’d drag myself to the couch and pass out at 4pm (no energy), after a demanding day teaching high school (no time), and feel totally lost about my direction (no focus).

To become more productive and launch into entrepreneurship I first tackled getting my energy levels up, then creating more time in my days (yes you can do that!), lastly, I dialled in my focus.

Knowing where your roadblocks are will help you boost your productivity by focusing on the techniques and apps that will actually work for you… and which ones won’t. For example, if you have lots of time then spending hours setting up systems like Asana is just a waste of your energy and focus.

Take this Entrepreneur EQ Quiz to learn what your biggest productivity roadblocks are!

2) Stop Mindless “Doing”

A while back I noticed myself running on auto-pilot as I completed my morning routine. I was going through the motions and knocking things off my never-ending to-do list, without connecting with what I was doing. Hello, toxic productivity trap!

It was during meditation that the words came to me… I needed to be more mindfully productive.

I contemplated what this would mean and decided that being mindfully productive is being present and aware of what’s happening as you go through your day. It’s not checking things off a list for the sake of checking things off a list.

For everything you do, do it with intention. Ask yourself WHY am I doing this? Do I really need to do it? Is it something I like doing?

There is more to life than doing all the things.

3) Reflect at the End of Each Day

At the end of each day, write a Note to Your Next Day Self (NTNDS)

If you use Roam Research you’ve probably heard of this idea that Tracy Winchell adapted from Shawn Blanc. The idea, as the name suggests, is that at the end of the day you leave a note to your next day self.

You can have this in an app that’s open on your computer when you start your day, I use Roam Research. Or you can just write it on a piece of paper and leave it on your desk.

The method I like to use is 2 Stars and a Wish. It looks like this:

Good Morning Sarah!
Two things that went well today are...
One thing to do differently today...
Have a wonderful day!
Love, Yesterday Sarah

There is only one rule… No negative self-talk!

By doing this you not only give yourself the opportunity to start the day motivated, but you’re also consistently reflecting on ways you can improve.

Take Action

Avoiding the toxic productivity trap is not easy. Our entire society is built on the idea that the more we do with our time, the more successful we’re going to be.

However, I challenge this backwards notion. Instead, it should read: the more we BE with our time, the more successful we’re going to DO [life].

A hallmark of the toxic productivity trap is reading productivity blogs like this one and feeling like you’ve been productive without actually taking any mindful action.

What did you get out of this article? What is one thing you are going to start doing today to avoid the trap?

Rise With SMae

P.S. Are we connected on Instagram? No? Well new friend, let’s fix that now! Come hang out on my favourite social media platform. Follow for inspiration and send me a DM to let me know we’re connected.

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Free Resource!


Your Mindful Productivity Roadmap

With This Roadmap You'll Learn:

✔️ My BaseCamp Framework to Mindful Productivity, so productivity starts to flow naturally.

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