Work to Live Don’t Live to Work: Productivity |

Work to Live Don’t Live to Work: Productivity Doesn’t Define Self-Worth


Technology never sleeps, and apparently, neither do many of us. We have an endless to-do list that is in control of our sense of accomplishment. We’ve all been there. You are working, and working and working; suddenly, its midnight, you’ve hardly moved a muscle all day and had no meaningful contact with friends or family. And sleep? Fugeddaboudit!

Here is a shocking revelation: Productivity does not equal self-worth. Consider instead this thought from Henry David Thoreau, “It is not enough to be busy… The question is: what are we busy about?”

Set a work limit, and stick to it, no matter what you have to do. Take some breaks, get some exercise and eat a vegetable or two.

Even in his day, Thoreau knew it’s all about quality over quantity. Why? According to Kyla Roma’s blog Hey Overachiever! Five Reasons why Productivity does not Equal Self-Worth, you are better than your to-do list. Let’s check out the reasons.

1. Rushing leads to poor work and time lost. Cramming your day full of tasks only does one thing: It takes you out of the moment. You are always looking to the future and planning what you need to do next. How does this hurt you? You are missing out on the events around you, and worst of all, aren’t focusing on the task at hand. That can directly affect your work quality. Roma suggests focusing on your senses for 5 to 10 minutes as needed throughout a day to ground you back in the here and now.

2. You buy your own BS. No one is better at fooling us than … well … ourselves. If you tell yourself you are crazy busy and don’t have time to even breathe, it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Tame the Neurotic Nelly within. Set boundaries and make decisions with your best interests in mind. Set a work limit, and stick to it, no matter what you have to do. Take some breaks, get some exercise and eat a vegetable or two.

Consider this: working more than an eight-hour workday can result in a 40 to 80 percent greater chance of heart disease

3. Like it or not, work defines our lives. The majority of our day is spent working. But, working 12 hours a day or until you get a certain amount done will absolutely wreck your personal life. You will be tired, stressed, over-caffeinated and malnourished (man cannot live on microwave meals alone). You better believe that takes a toll on your health and relationships. Not to mention that the point of diminishing returns on your efforts is at about 10 hours of work, anyway, according to Laura Stack, author of How Much Work Is Too Much Work? What Is the Limit to Productivity?  And sadly, no matter how much you work, there will always be more to do tomorrow. Defining yourself by how productive you are is just a no-win situation. “No amount of work will make you more productive than a reasonable work/life balance,” says Stack.

4. Getting a lot done doesn’t mean much. Last time you worked 13 hours a day to check off your to-do list, what impact did you make? Was there anything truly meaningful behind what you did? Your work, how well it is done, and your intentions behind it all build your character. And a good character goes a long way to both work success and personal happiness.

5. You are more than your productivity. What you bring to the table is unique and different than what anyone else has to offer. We all have the potential to make big differences in the world. Why bury it under a mountain of tiny tasks and expectations that keep you stuck in your own head?

And if you need you are still not convinced, consider this: working more than an eight-hour workday can result in a 40 to 80 percent greater chance of heart disease, as discussed in the Forbes article Why Working More Than 8 Hours A Day Can Kill You. So, take it from experts and take a break already! Work to live, not live to work!

  • Thank you for this Freshgigs! As someone who is constantly stuck in the vicious cycle, its great to gain some perspective of how I can change my ways to increase self-worth.

  • sthrendyle

    Someone, somewhere, has made you feel this way. Insecurity generally comes from a sort of ‘winner take all’ mentality that dominates business and an emphasis on “productivity” that can very soon turn into an obsession. However, we also need to look at larger socioeconomic issues. What is the ‘spread’ between the median family income and the cost of housing, groceries, transportation, child-rearing and (good luck to you with this one) – leisure? Which way are the trends heading? Well, virtually all research shows that they are diverging – that people are in fact getting poorer while their cell phone bills are increasing.

    In Canada, rising housing markets and stagnant wages have led to an enormous increase in household debt, while at the same time (hello, Blackberry!) people are driven harder and harder at work to enhance a bottom line so, what, so that they can keep their jobs. I also notice that a lot of the so-called experts who are tapped in these sorts of stories sound like business school/liberal arts profs who have cushy, tenured, well paid positions at major educational institutions (I’m looking at you, HBR!) who are as far removed from the realities of the marketplace as anyone could possibly be.