Productivity: The Cousin of Anxiety

I am a highly productive person. Every morning when I wake up, I examine my to-do list, prioritize each item, block off the time necessary to complete each task, and hack away at them one by one. The feeling of crossing an item off the list is akin to peeling an orange by keeping the rind in one continuous piece: pure satisfaction. At day's end, I create a new to-do list for the next day, including any unfinished tasks from the day as well as new items that have come up that need to be completed. This system has worked for years. From an engineering degree to a restaurant to a sock startup, this method has gotten me to where I am today, one step at a time, one day at a time (and just a few sleepless nights). For periods of time I've even turned this method into a digital collaboration between team members, utilizing tools like Asana, Slack, etc.

But what happens, as it so often does, when the number of items on the list is greater than the available hours in a day? What happens when even the most productive, efficient, and intelligent of us are unable to get through the tasks? For me, it's that feeling that causes you to sit up suddenly in the night and add some unforgotten task to your list. Your ever-growing list of to-dos. It's that feeling that haunts you as you sit down to read on the weekend and become immediately distracted by work.

Productivity is most often seen as a strength. Employers are always looking for the most productive employees; articles are always touting the latest productivity apps. Is it possible that productivity can reach a point of diminishing returns? A point where it dances on the verge of psychosis, eating away at the beholder's sanity? At what point does productivity no longer act as a strength, and instead become a weakness?