Do you feel guilty when you’re not doing something productive? Are you overly self-critical when you don’t manage to tick off everything on your daily to-do list? When was the last time you took a moment to congratulate yourself on a past achievement, however small? If the answer “yes” presented itself firmly in the mind’s eye for the first two questions, whilst for the third you are still fervently scouring your brain for an answer that doesn’t sound alarming, do not fret. It’s not you, it’s hustle culture.
Loosely defined, hustle culture is a fast-paced environment that feeds off long working hours and thrives on the restless sense that we should always be striving towards some type of goal. Chances are, if you live in this day and age and identify yourself with having a toxic relationship to productivity, you are a victim of hustle culture.
Scientifically, there is no such connection between working more hours and higher rates of productivity. In fact, increasing working hours only serves to increase fatigue and stress, which not only limits productivity but also boosts the probability of errors being made. That is, of course, without mentioning the correlation between higher working hours and burnout. Dissatisfaction and loss of motivation are not uncommon symptoms of increased working hours. No wonder we’re sometimes labelled the ‘burnout generation’.
Given the cold-hard facts, the prevalence of such a self-destructive method to productivity seems strange. However, hustle culture is ingrained into every aspect of society. For some, treating it like a shawl and just letting it drop would seem like a bigger mental challenge than enduring it. It is, after all, a culture.
Significantly, it is a culture that social media has only exacerbated. The digital age has allowed hustle culture the opportunity to seep its way into our screens and dominate the social media platforms that occupy much of our lives. Hustle culture in social media takes form in many ways, be it an inspirational quote for “Motivational Monday” reminding you that “ a year from now you’ll wish you had started today!” or a post from that childhood friend who’s just earned their PHD, captioned “all the hard work finally paid off – don’t give up on your dreams, you guys!”.
These constant virtual affirmations and reminders to utilise every possible opportunity for productivity could motivate us, but, in reality, is much more likely contributing to a sense that we aren’t doing enough. We are, in some way, behind or failing. Yet, the idyllic life that social media deems “just another day’s grind” away provides hustle culture just enough appeal to make a life of high productivity seem worth its sacrifices. But, then this sacrifice inevitably comes in the form of burnout, to end all aspiring productivity. Thus, the cyclical nature of hustle culture thrives.
The solution, you ask? Until society’s general relationship with work culture changes, we need to change our mindset in order not to fall victim to hustle culture. There are two main realisations that we need to make. Firstly, we must work smart, not hard. Yes, this does sound like the perfect cliché for an inspirational ‘Monday Motivation’ Facebook forum, but, ultimately, there is a lot of truth in it. Prioritise getting the most important things done, not absolutely everything. Equally, recognise that reserving time in your daily routine to relax is, from a productivity viewpoint, beneficial. To give another quote fitting for ‘Motivational Monday’: self-care is productive. The second piece of advice would be to enjoy the process. Try to make your boring tasks and chores as enjoyable as possible. Learn how to appreciate the process of working towards a goal as much as the end goal itself. Focus on inset goals, instead of outset goals. And, hey, if all else fails, just delete your social media. I heard that’s kinda cool nowadays.