A mother working on smartphone with two bored kids crowded round her.

When Personal Productivity Makes Things Worse


This post was written before I fully understood landscape of neurodiversity.

My earlier posts on a productivity system are still relevant. The system works well for autistics and for people with ADHD who need a structure.

The internet is full of information on how to be more productive. There are tips on how to construct your task lists, how to manage your emails, how to create time and how to model yourself on busy people.

In my post about when to use personal productivity, I said it wasn’t always needed. In this post, we’ll explore how personal productivity can hide, or even create more problems in your life.

I remember a conversation where a client was talking about her stresses. One stress she felt was always being flat-out busy, just trying to keep up with everything. We reflected on how standard productivity advice could be counterproductive if used in the wrong way.

For example, there is advice to use your smartphone to respond to some emails if you find yourself waiting for a meeting to start. Yes, I admit, I’ve given that advice in the past. These days my thoughts have ‘matured’. You’re much more likely to hear me suggest you take the time to stare out of the window until the others turn up, and here’s why…


Overwhelm has several distinct levels. If just one aspect of your life is overwhelming, for example too much to do at work, then productivity tools can help you get back in control. If you are struggling with overwhelm at home, personal productivity can alleviate some of this.

It is worth looking a little deeper if you feel overwhelmed both at home and at work. If all your life seems out of control, are there some underlying issues that need solving? Is personal productivity just papering over the cracks?

Already Stressed?

If you are so overwhelmed with everything that you’ve left your sense of self behind, then I would advise you to stay away from productivity as a Holy Grail Solution. Stick with any productivity system you may already use, as no amount of productivity will bring you back to yourself.

At an elevated level of stress, you’ll only add more pressure by trying to get more done, more quickly. People in this situation start to believe that working harder and clearing their to-do lists is the most important thing in their lives. Trust me, it’s not. Ever!

Check out my post Too Busy Overwhelmed and Stressed Out if you want to understand more. Alternatively, you can request my free download on How to Reduce Stress and Overwhelm for more help.

Ease Back to Get More Done

Have you ever heard the phrase ’Slow down to speed up’? It sounds wrong but picture this scene for a minute.

You are frantically trying to get everything done. You have lost sight of what’s important in your life. You feel that once you’ve dealt with everything (that everybody else expects you to do) then you’ll be able to relax and be happy. Now ask yourself whether you have lost yourself in the busyness of life. Are you doing anything that’s important to you? Are you enjoying your life right now?

My advice to you is to slow down. Make time for yourself. Make time to think about what is important to you. Then you can decide what you need to do, and what you really don’t. Once you’ve cleared out the unnecessary, the things that are important will happen more quickly.

Put Personal Productivity in its Place

Productivity has its place. It can ease your stress levels and make more time for yourself once you’re clear on your priorities. However, it’s not the answer if you’ve lost sight of yourself amongst all the noise.

If you haven’t already read my post on when to use personal productivity, then I recommend it as the flip side of this post. You can also download my set of 34 personal productivity tips to see which ones will help you.


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