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Reducing Your Guilt About Not Being Productive

4. Confront your guilt.

“We can reduce our guilt by taking it on directly,” said Elizabeth Sullivan, a licensed marriage and family therapist in San Francisco. For instance, make a date with yourself to sit at a café, drink a cup of tea, and people-watch for 30 minutes, she said. Do this without any distractions, such as your phone or even a book.

“This little experiment sounds simple but for many of us it is excruciating.” Similar to Bregman’s assertion, Sullivan noted that if you build up your rest muscle, you’ll be more creative, energetic and present with your loved ones.

But if you’re constantly focused on staying busy, “it is difficult in this frazzled state to open up to inspiration, creativity or renewal.”

5. Challenge the idea that not being productive makes you worthless.

For instance, Hanks knew that she wasn’t going to make the submission deadline for a chapter of her new book. She had several ways of interpreting this:

“I could make the fact that I am missing the deadline mean that I am a loser, a failure, and don’t deserve to have another book published anyway. Or I could make it mean that I am human, that I needed a break, and that I haven’t wanted to or had the energy to work on the book. My worth is untouched.”

6. Reevaluate your expectations.

Are your expectations actually attainable or more like unattainable ideals? According to Hanks, “You may fear that if you shift your beliefs to allow for less than ideal productivity that you’ll become a ‘slacker’ or ‘lazy’ or ‘less productive.’” However, she’s found that when her expectations are more realistic, she has more energy to be productive.

How do you know if your expectations are realistic?

Pay attention to your mind, body and spirit. For instance, you’ll feel a sense of peace (in your mind and heart), Hanks said. You’ll naturally breathe easier, think more clearly and recognize and label your emotions, she said.

Again, productivity requires respite. According to Sullivan, “we must alternate between times of action and times of reflection and rest. It’s just the way organisms work.” But if you’re having a tough time resting your brain and body, try meditation, yoga or psychotherapy, Sullivan said.

Man relaxing photo available from Shutterstock

Reducing Your Guilt About Not Being Productive

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Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). Reducing Your Guilt About Not Being Productive. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 31, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 12 Jul 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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