Lost in the hustle: What happened to our productivity?

'Extreme productivity’ or so-called hustle culture has made a name for itself with well-known and outspoken advocates like Elon Musk telling us that ‘nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.’ Messages like ‘Do more, sleep less’ and ‘Wake-up. Kick arse. Repeat’ are prolific on social media. In a world that demands 100% all of the time, we’ve become obsessed with these ideas like ‘rise and grind’ and measuring our success in levels of productivity and busy-ness. It’s a vicious cycle that many of us know can lead to burn out. So how has the push for productivity got to be counterproductive and how can we get back on track to being truly productive?

1. Don’t confuse productivity with being busy.

Busy has become synonymous with good. If someone asks about your day at work, often the reply will be ‘busy.’ But being busy isn’t being productive. Productivity is measured by outcomes whereas being busy is more like setting short deadlines, overloading yourself with more than is humanly possible, and rushing out the door without breakfast. If you’re so busy that you consistently wish for more hours in the day, then you’re not in control. Being busy might be ruling you. One way to overcome the toxicity of ‘busy’ is to remove it from your vocabulary. So, the next time when someone asks about your day, tune into the positives and what you achieved rather than dismissing it as just busy.

2. It’s not a competition

Real productivity isn’t measured by how many 10+ hour workdays you’ve consecutively worked. Nor is it measured by comparing who left the office last. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Research shows working fewer hours a week makes people more productive, more committed and happier than working full-time hours. The positive benefits of flexible work like these are why New Zealand PM Jacinda Arden has recently flagged the four-day week as a solution to the country’s post-coronavirus workforce. It doesn’t make sense to work harder when we could all be working smarter and living better.

3. It’s okay to resent Mondays

Even if you love your job, there are always going to be days when you wish you were doing something else. That’s normal! Like everything else, there are going to be good days and days where it doesn’t go how you’d like. But if you consistently dread going to work, there might be something more at play that is killing your productivity. Chat with a Flex Work Coach about how you can unlock the flexibility in your job in a way that can let you thrive.

4. Your dogged devotion to productivity doesn’t benefit you

The very people who promote extreme productivity are the ones who reap the financial benefits from it. Research shows the average Australian works an extra six hours unpaid overtime a week, which adds up to $106bn of free work given to employers every year. Hustle culture has crept into all kinds of industries and professions. It pushes employees to the limit and creates an unempathetic work culture that treats people like commodities. In the long term, a ‘don’t stop until it’s done’ mentality undermines everyone because a burnt-out office is not a successful one.

5. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is rest

If you’re feeling mentally and physically exhausted, it can be a sign from your body. The belief that we always have to be ‘on’ can have very real and harmful effects on our health. When you’re stuck in the middle of hustle culture, it’s essential not to lose sight of your inherent worth. It’s far more valuable than the hours on a timesheet or the number of items ticked off a to-do list. Your wellbeing is one of your biggest assets. And as Arianna Huffington discovered in her research “the way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is getting enough sleep.” So why not try it?

Life has slowed down in a way recently with lockdowns across the globe. One of the silver linings to the Coronavirus pandemic is that many people are rethinking how they spend their time, what’s important to them and enjoying more time at home. Workplaces are rethinking the way they work, how they view productivity and realising the benefits of flexible work arrangements. This is a positive move for people, productivity and profits.