We talk a lot about productivity especially as part of this #NPCOMLIFE series.

Tips for being productive are sought out across all industries. The nonprofit space is no different (or some would say worse since you often find yourself with fewer resources).

One of our goals is to help you love your job so, of course, we give you tools to to help you work smarter not harder. These posts are designed to keep you from being overwhelmed or prevent burnout. They are often labeled as productivity tips or advice.

But is there such a thing as being “too” productive?


If being “productive” actually means being a workaholic, then you have crossed a line. Do you speak of being “so busy” as a badge of honor? Or conversely are you guilt-ridden when you take a day off or don’t get everything done on your to-do list?

This is where “toxic productivity” comes in.

While we haven’t specifically labeled it as this, we have addressed it before with posts like:

Kivi even wrote an entire book on being CALM not BUSY.

Want to implement the CALM not BUSY approach? Join us for The Keys to Nonprofit Communications Success: The CALM not BUSY Master Class.

How do you know you’re crossing that line?

As with any sort of obsessive behavior, it becomes a problem when it harms either your health or your relationships with other people. (By the way this isn’t just an issue at work.)

Huffington Post’s What Is Toxic Productivity? Here’s How To Spot The Damaging Behavior lists these signs:

  • Being short-tempered with others
  • Exhaustion or fatigue
  • Feeling like you have to put on a show of your hard work (For example, using jargon or talking longer than necessary because you think it will look bad if you are too concise, calling for a meeting when an email would suffice)
  • Running from one project to the next

They suggest you:

  • Ask yourself, “What could I do or create with ease now?” as opposed to “What should I be doing right now?”
  • Realize your boss cares more about the end product than how many hours you worked
  • Practice self-care
  • Understand that your job isn’t your sole identity
  • Be honest with yourself about how much you’ve bought into the myth that you have to be working at all times

Vu le also brings up even bigger issues with buying into this myth related to equity, trauma, and oppressive practices in We Need to Talk about Our Toxic Obsession with Productivity.

This is often an issue with the culture at your organization as a whole. Vu suggests you:

“Take time to check in regularly with one another about how everyone is doing. Discuss what areas of work are stressful, what can be delayed, what can be dropped altogether, and what resources may be need to advance the work in a way that won’t exhaust everyone. Encourage, but don’t force, people to bring up personal challenges and contexts.”

Other helpful resources on this topic:

Published On: May 3, 2021|Categories: Workflows, Processes, and Productivity|