The Dark Side of Productivity

Do you beat yourself up for not being productive enough?
Or are you constantly thinking of ways to increase your productivity?

One of the things I often tell my clients is: “There is such a thing as too much of a good thing!”

And this is especially true if you are Neurodiverse or have ADHD. Because our neurodiverse brains tend to like EXTREMES.

So…what I see in my clients and experience myself is this oscillation between being “unproductive” and then experiencing a surge of Guilt, Panic and Anxiety as if the time police is about to show up to arrest you for being “unproductive”.

Often we are also internally “fighting” labels and stereotypes we’ve heard throughout our life such as:
  • LAZY
  • CRAZY and

I find that the “LAZY” one is the one we are most afraid of getting and we are constantly trying to prove ourselves and others how “non-lazy” and “productive” we are.

Unfortunately, because ADHD brains don’t have a “SLOW DOWN” switch, we can  easily spiral into what I call “THE DARK SIDE OF PRODUCTIVITY”.

To be clear Neurodiverse people are NOT the only ones that can fall pray of this, but our hyperactivity, hyper focus and anxieties over how others perceive us and negative beliefs form the ideal concoction for us to be FAR MORE SUSCEPTIBLE than neurotypicals.

As all things there is a DARK SIDE to PRODUCTIVITY that can slowly build up, and quickly become an insidious obsession that left unchecked can lead to devastating consequences to your achievement, health, and well being. 

In a culture where HARD-WORK IS PRIZED, and slogans to "keep going", "never stop", and "just do it" all all around, it's easy  to begin to see "busyness", sleep-deprivation, and over-time as badges of honor. 

And while I am ALL ABOUT FINDING EXCELLENCE, this doesn't mean, that you SACRIFICE YOURSELF in the process. While the idea of BALANCE, or SELF-CARE, can get talked-about, seldom do companies create the container for this to happen, which means that it is OUR RESPONSIBILITY to CREATE THIS BALANCE AND TAKE CARE OF WHAT MATTERS MOST: OUR PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH. 


  • Working on things (whether work, school, home or even exercise) intensely and to an extreme. (For instance if a work day is 8 hrs doing it for 10,12 or more)
  • Sacrificing self-care in an attempt To finish a product or project (skipping meals, breaks and even sleep)
  • Sacrificing time with family, friends or loved ones
  • Declining social gatherings or interactions in order to “achieve” more or tick more things off your “to do” list
  • Never ending “to do” list
  • Feeling anxiety, restlessness or guilt when taking time off, vacation or resting.
  • Difficulty relaxing and enjoying PLAY or REST
  • Difficulty sleeping due to guilt or anxiety over not having finished a task or project.
  • Expecting others to work as hard as you do, and growing resentful of those that don’t.
  • At times this “hyper-productivity” can show up in one area while actively PROCRASTINATING another less desirable task.
  • Irritability or resentment with family and friends who seem to have “time off” or are enjoying play, rest and recovery periods.
  • Keeping an ACTIVE TALLY of the tasks and work you’ve completed and what still needs to be done.
  • Abusing coffee, ADHD meds, energy drinks or some other stimulant in an attempt to keep going when your body or brain is naturally hitting a saturation point. (in some ways this reminds me of Dr Hallowell saying that “ADHD is like having a Ferrari brain with bicycle breaks” meaning that we have a super-engine but we don’t know how to STOP adequately.
  • Feeling “lazy” the moment your body gives up and gets injured, sick or overly tired and needing to take time to recover.

Inevitably if you are experiencing this DARK SIDE OF PRODUCTIVITY you will be over-taxing your adrenal system and over time can lead to:
  • Burnout
  • Adrenal Fatigue
  • Adrenal crash
  • Or Develop Severe Auto-Immune conditions that could be IRREVERSIBLE.
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

On the other side constant stress can also lead to other SEVERE HEALTH CONDITIONS:
  • Heart Attacks
  • Heart Arrythmias
  • Stroke
  • And other Addiction related disorders. (From coffee and stimulants to sleeping pills and pain killers).


Why are you sacrificing your HEALTH, HAPPINESS AND LIVELIHOOD?
  • To avoid being called “Lazy”
  • To get affirmation or recognition
  • To get approval
  • To avoid shame and guilt?
  • To get a raise? A promotion?
  • A pat in the back?
  • Sense of self-satisfaction?

I ask this, because it’s helpful to identify the CULPRIT of your Obsessive Behavior.

And is any of this worth the sacrifice?

I say NO!!

However most of the time we don’t even stop to consider WHY we do what we do, let alone consider the CONSEQUENCES long term.

We are so consumed running away from the “invisible Saber-toothed Tiger” that we don’t see the VERY REAL, SLOW AND INSIDIOUS KILLERS WAITING AROUND THE CORNER.

And UNDERSTANDING THE UNCONSCIOUS DRIVE that’s behind the behavior is SUPER helpful because then you can either:
  • Release the baggage around the root cause
  • Change your Beliefs to something more empowering
  • Or find healthier ways to fulfill that unconscious drive.
  • Change your habits and behaviors.
Here are some ways to start:
  • Set limits
  • Dial DOWN
  • Get a coach, buddy or accountability partner or group
  • Put pleasurable activities in your “To do list”
    • Such as take a bath
    • Meditate for 20 min
    • Spend 30 min in nature
    • Call a friend
    • Etc... you get the picture
  • Create a structure in which you determine a stopping time and SET AN ALARM
  • USE TIMERS when starting work

Most of us can use the help of a coach to bring greater awareness and accountability when making changes. 

Want more personalized help and finding a structure that would be helpful in beating this obsession?

Check out our Productivity Playground(a great program to be productive and also playful!)

Or reach out to us for individual or group coaching.


”If you keep doing what you have always done, you will only get the same that you have always gotten.”


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