How to Normalize Rest When Hustle Culture Promotes Overwork

Don't fall for productivity guilt.
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Rhovin Luke Maglaqui keeps Netflix in the background for most of the day to make sure that he gets a reprieve from writing scripts and designing social media cards. By regimenting work and play, he hopes to remove the guilt out of resting when there's so much to do.

In a work culture that puts a premium on multi-tasking, the 24-year-old digital marketer feels time spent resting could be better spent accomplishing more tasks because idleness doesn't bring in money.

"I feel guilty when I complete my tasks early and I still have some spare time. It feels like I am getting paid while doing nothing. I always look for something to do when this occurs," he told reportr.


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Meaning to unwind, Maglaqui opens one of 20 books in his pile or starts the new season of "Stranger Things" only to be overcome by productivity guilt mid-way.

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"I multitask bigla.... I hate na walang ginagawa. Kahit wala na akong ma-gets sa pinapanood ko, or 'di ko na maintindihan 'yung sinusulat ko na script, I enjoy doing them at the same time. Like may progress or umuusad."

Productivity guilt pushes people to feel that time resting is time wasted, said clinical psychologist Joseph Marquez. Prioritizing productivity over self-care because of guilt could lead to an unhealthy relationship with the self and work, he told reportr.

What is productivity guilt?

It means failing to meet one's ideal of being productive, said Marquez. "Feeling mo you have a lot of time and yet you're not doing anything, you're not using your time well," Marquez said.

People with productivity guilt keep busy to feel in control of the situation. They have difficulty sleeping or staying focused on the tasks on hand. They stress over to-do lists and do tasks that are not urgent, he said.

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People measure themselves against an invisible metric of going above and beyond, and "the constant fear of failing to achieve beyond – the new "enough" – is driving anxiety," anxiety therapist Joshua Fletcher said

There's also that nagging voice in your head saying that your boss or coworkers feel frustrated by your performance, psychologist Heidi Grant told Harvard Business Review

"Nagiging unhealthy siya 'pag persistent, 'di ka tumitigil. 'Pag inuuna mo palagi work mo, nagkaka-anxiety ka na because of that... You're beating yourself up for something na kailangan mo. You need to rest," Marquez said.

Compensating for the guilt by focusing on multiple tasks can be harmful as it can lead to decreased productivity, severe anxiety, and lower self-esteem when left unchecked, said Marquez. "'You feel na 'yung value mo sa sarili mo bumababa [kahit] nagwo-work ka naman. 'Parang di ko matatapos, 'di ko naman magagawa,' umaabot na sa ganun."


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How to overcome productivity guilt

Aside from talking to a therapist about it, here are some tips on how to break the toxic cycle of productivity guild, according to Marquez

Check your deliverables

Are you achieving your daily tasks? Outlining work expectations for the day helps you to see what you've achieved, reducing the feeling of unproductivity.

"'Wag mo bibiglain na dapat lahat magawa mo within the day kasi 'pag marami, you're gonna bite off more than you can chew, mas mahihirapan ka lalo makatapos," he said.

Celebrate small wins

Keep track of the things you've accomplished for the day and appreciate your wins, no matter how small. Train yourself to look at all the small achievements as one big daily achievement, said Marquez.

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"Minsan nao-overlook kasi natin 'yan and dahil don, we feel bad na wala tayo natapos, 'di natin nagawa."

Be kind to yourself

If you fail, don't beat yourself up, said Marquez. "Imperfections are normal. Kung magkamali ka, okay lang 'yan."

Struggling with productivity guilt also means working through it consistently, and that's part of the process, said Grant. "You have to be a steward of your own well-being," she said.

Recognize your limits

Be realistic about the tasks you need to finish, said Grant. “Pick your battles and let the rest of it go," she said.

Know when to start and stop working too, especially after work hours, said Marquez.

Normalize rest

Resting is not laziness, and it helps reenergize oneself for a new day of work, Marquez said. "Meron kang karapatan magpahinga, there's nothing wrong with that."

Maglaqui said he feels rested when he bonds with his family, or stares at his pile of books and arranges his bookshelf. Doing things for yourself apart from work is also rest, the psychologist said.

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Learn something new

If staying in bed is not your idea of resting, take your mind off work by learning something new. Diverting your attention to new things can help reduce anxiety, said Marquez.

"When you try something new, nakaka-lessen siya ng guilt feeling. Try mo gumawa ng something na para sa sarili mo naman, not for other people."

Clinical psychologist Joseph Marquez is based in Taytay, Rizal. His services can be accessed online. You may contact him through his page.

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