What Is Fake Productivity?

There’s a big difference between the thing we call productivity – doing more for the sake of doing more – and the real deal. It’s not hard to find examples of fake productivity. What would #MondayMotivation posts on Instagram be without latte art, bullet journal flatlays, or makeshift coffee shop offices? All captioned something vaguely inspiring like, “Stay humble. Hustle hard.”Or that girl you work with whose calendar – work and social – is literally filled to the margin. Or maybe that girl is you. Adding tasks to your to-do list faster than you can check them off. Filling every second of free time with stuff to do – social plans, side hustles, self-improvement projects. I get it. I’ve been that girl before, too.

But how productive are we actually being, if we’re so focused on doing more that we end up doing less meaningful work – the stuff that matters? If you’re unapologetically that girl, I’m sorry to break it to you, but chronic busy-ness is not a substitute for genuine, real-deal productivity. Plus, nbd, but being busy all the time is probably destroying your health and happiness.

Note: Real quick before we get deeper into this topic, I should let you know that this post contains affiliate links. I may receive a commission if you buy something using these links at no additional cost to you. However, I only recommend products that I think you’ll love. Cool? Great, now that that’s out of the way, on to the rest of the post!

What’s Wrong With Being Busy?

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A lot, as it turns out.Pushing yourself to be productive all the time is a death sentence for your health – physical and mental. Your body and mind need rest to work effectively. Not to mention the importance of doing things you love and having fun(!) on a regular basis. Productivity isn’t everything, after all. Life satisfaction matters, too.Ignoring your need to relax and enjoy things will buy you an express ticket to Burnout Central, at the intersection of Stress St. and Exhaustion Ave. (Yeah, I know it’s lame. Go with it – it’ll be more fun that way.)And no one’s perfect. I’ve spent the past year learning how to prioritize my health and wellbeing over my work. Despite my efforts, I still managed to work myself into a stress cold and a few bad mental health days last week.It’s a work in progress.

But here’s where we get a chance to do better. Try these ideas to say goodbye to fake-productivity and hello to the real thing.

1 | Listen to Your Body

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Fake-productivity will make you work 24/7, pushing through hunger, sleep deprivation, and sickness to stay busy at any cost. But consider these questions:
  • How much of your time is spent on busy work – tasks that take up your time, but don’t really benefit you?
  • How good is your work, really, when your body or mind aren’t healthy?
  • Do your accomplishments even matter if they land you in the hospital?
At the bare minimum, work on meeting your basic physical needs: Try to get enough sleep, eat regular meals, stay hydrated, and make an effort to fit some physical movement into your day where you can.Next, spend some time each day checking in with yourself. Are you over-tired? Do you need to grab a snack? How’s your breathing – are you taking full, deep breaths, or are they short and shallow? If you need to, set a reminder for yourself to check in with your body a few times a day until it becomes a habit. You could also try carrying around something like these Stress Less cards to help make deliberate stress-relief exercises a part of your daily routine.Yes, taking care of your body takes time. But a functioning body and brain will boost your actual productivity better than any time-management tool out there.Bonus thought: Don’t forget that you’re worth more than just the stuff you get done each day. Make your self care a priority – seriously. Here are a few products that can help you get in the habit of making your wellbeing a priority (minus the self helpy-ness). 


2 | Keep Your Goals to Yourself

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It’s almost second nature for us to complain (or humble-brag?) about how busy we are. Our overbooked calendars and endless to-do lists are badges of honor – signs that we are Busy and Important people. Or, at the very least, we share our goals with others, hoping that a bit of social pressure will keep us accountable.Here’s the problem: When we talk about all the stuff we’re gonna get done today, it can make us less likely to actually follow through. There’s a lot of research backing this one up, if you’re interested. But here’s an easy way to improve your follow-through: Keep your goals to yourself. (Share your successes, instead!)
Related: The Quick + Dirty Guide to Setting SMART-er Goals
If you’re looking for a better way to keep track of your goals, try using a designated goal planner like one of these well-rated ones from Amazon:

3 | Practice Better Habits

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If you have a favorite app, planner, or other tool that works for you, awesome – keep using it. But the most important tools in your productivity toolkit are your habits.If your self-management skills could use some improvement, check out these simple workplace habits to start practicing now – from taking breaks without compromising your productivity using the Pomodoro Technique to finally ditching multi-tasking.  

4 | Prioritize Your Tasks

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Do you treat your to-do list like a brain dump exercise? This is a common mistake that can cost you hours of productive time, if you get caught up running random errands and doing busy work, instead of tackling the most important projects on your list.When it comes to prioritizing tasks, there are as many different systems as there are people out there. Feel free to experiment with different ideas until you find a method that works for you! If you struggle with this, here are a few strategies you can try:
  • Assign each task a numerical value to help you prioritize the most important tasks first
  • Start with a brain dump to clear your mental clutter, and then create your to-do list
  • Ditch the to-do list altogether and focus on a single task at a time

Productivity Is Personal

Something that works for someone else might not work at all for you, and that’s totally fine. Keep experimenting with different tools and processes until you find what works for you! Here are a few daily planners and to-do lists you might want to check out, if you’re still on the lookout for your one true productivity love –


Do More Stuff That Matters

Doing more for the sake of doing more isn’t enough. And trying to do the most isn’t healthy, either. Productivity tips and tools are only useful to the extent that they help you work more efficiently. Why? Because working efficiently will help you make more space in your life for the things that matter to you. Sound good?Now, go make it happen!

I hope the ideas in this post were helpful to you. If productivity is kind of your ~thing~, make sure you download your free productivity planner here!

Until next time,

♥ Meg

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