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Dealing with the Productivity Demon

Have you ever spent your day off feeling like you are not doing enough? Yeah, its a day off - it’s a day that should be completely free of worrying that you should get A, B or C done - but still, you can’t shake the inkling that you are just not being productive. There’s nothing on your to-do list. You are meant to be able to do whatever your heart desires and yet, the feeling remains. I like to call it the productivity demon.

It’s the do-more devil that sits on your shoulder. ‘You can’t binge-watch your favourite show right now, you’ve not done anything worthwhile to deserve it’. ‘Staying in bed past 10? What a waste of a day’. ‘You couldn’t possibly be thinking about rest, there’s work to be done’ He’s there to bestow imposter syndrome upon your well deserved time off and he seems impossible to shake. How are we supposed to put an cope with this unfix-able feeling?

This isn’t a blog post that’s going to offer you a foolproof fix. The most I can do is share my ways of trying to combat the demon. What I hope is that you can find comfort in re-thinking what ‘productivity’ means.

First, it would be useful to consider the absolute mess we’ve all found ourselves in this year. We all joke about 2020 being cancelled or using 2021 as a do-over, but really… How good would it be to just erase that whole pandemic thing from the timeline? The abrupt way we were stripped of needing (read: being allowed) to be anywhere but home was a bit of a waking nightmare kind of vibe.

Of course, some people still had jobs that they could continue from home, or studies to complete.

However, everyone was stuck with a load of time that could not be filled. What a jackpot for the productivity demon within us all. But, what do we do now? What do we do when after months of feeling like we don’t even deserve to think of the word ‘productive’ comes to an end? Working is fine, but will we feel like it’s enough? How do we deal with the precious nature of days off when an empty day will still remind us of that awful time? How do we prove to ourselves that we are doing as much as we can, right now?

Beyond that, for people who can’t get go back to work or even find themselves stuck at home. With things sitting firmly on the fence between bizarre and normal, it feels impossible to let ourselves accept that getting things done in the traditional sense we were used to before is unrealistic.

We can only wonder about how to cope with such an unprecedented time for so long before even that feels like a waste of precious time to be productive. Moving forward and learning how to deal with this demon seems like the natural course of action. What I personally like to do, is cheat the system. There’s something in my brain that feels better about a day when I’ve given myself a to-do list that I can check off as I complete each task. So, when I have a day where I know I don’t need to be productive I think about the frivolous pastimes that I adore, as well as things I’d probably get done without thinking and then write them each down as if they were important bits of work I’d need to complete.

It goes something like this:


• Breakfast

• Watch Grey’s Anatomy for 2-3 hours

• Lunch

• Face mask

• More Grey’s Anatomy

• Tea and biscuits

• Youtube catchup OR more Grey’s Anatomy

• Dinner

See? It looks silly, but it really feels good to check off those little tasks as I go through them. I also really think that even the activity of writing the to-do list fools my brain into thinking ‘Yep, I’ve done something and I’ve got things to do - proceed.’. In all seriousness, I think we all need to make sure that we allow ourselves time to just not be useful.

The last year has been incredibly difficult for everyone in a number of different ways and it is vitally important that we don’t beat ourselves up for not getting things done ALL the time.

Just existing is enough. Despite what social media tries to tell you about how you should /TURN YOUR DOWNTIME INTO MONEY/, you are allowed to use your downtime as just what it is: Downtime.

We shouldn’t beat ourselves up for having a day to do nothing and getting proper things done the next day. So, if that productivity demon is insistent on shouting you down one day when it has no right to. Shut him up with a simple to-do list of your favourite pastimes and enjoy the rest of your day, as you deserve to.

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