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  • Writer's pictureDr. Christine Senn, PhD

Productivity Addiction

Have you ever heard of dopamine addiction? Well, from what I've read in neuropsychology is that it's not a real thing. You can't be addicted actually to dopamine. But there are some things that we do habitually that can interfere with our lives, I think a little more than we realize, and you've probably heard people talk about it, and maybe you think it doesn't apply to you. I'm going to talk about what I discovered while I was on my vacation recently that came as quite a surprise to me, and I'm only thinking that perhaps this could help you in some way. So, years ago, many years ago, I got rid of Facebook because it just felt to me like it wasn't really adding to my life. If I'm friends with other people, and if they have news to share, they could text me, and if I have news to share, I'd text them. Otherwise, we're not really friends, so why do I need to know these other, these things about people aren't close enough with me to share them, right? So that was my thought. And I'm like, well, based on that, I'm not addicted to technology and LinkedIn, I check once a day when I'm working.

But on vacation, I found myself still checking it once a day, whereas my intention was twice a week. So that was weird. I also went ahead and in advance of my vacation, put an out of office notice that I was unavailable, that I was on vacation. And I really want to be clear that this is not my employer's fault that I checked my email and teams while on paid time off. You're really not supposed to do that as an employee. My employer didn't make me do this. No one made me do this. I did it. And I always encourage my employees, please do not do that. Take your time off. It's really good for you.

In addition to the out of office note, I moved all my work-related apps to the second screen of my phone so that I would only see the first screen and not see the work apps. Despite that, nearly every time I opened up my phone, it was on the second page because the last thing I had done before leaving my computer or my phone was to look in Teams. And I did a really good job of not actually contacting people for the most part. So there didn't become an ongoing engagement, but I needed to keep up with everything. I needed to keep up with everything. What I could say is, well, I technically oversee it, so that's a really important thing. What if someone needed me? But I had told everyone in the IT department, if something's really important, text me because I'm not checking Teams. I mean, I said it to people but didn't believe that they would do this. And sure enough, there was no emergency they needed to text me for. I could say it's because I'm technically over HR, but I have very capable HR people who handle things all the time. Those are excuses. I felt that I constantly needed to check my phone.

And do I think this is a technology problem? I mean, we could just debate that in different ways that they gamify everything. But really, I think what it goes back to is this is where I'm asking you to introspect as well in case this applies to you. For high achieving people like this, me included, it meant that I had to go to therapy many years ago, maybe 25 years ago, for perfectionistic tendencies. I just always felt that everything needed to be perfect. I needed to be perfect. And I think what I saw on my vacation was that that was still there. Like I couldn't take this time off of work and people still think I'm competent at my job. Maybe not competent is the right word, but like that I was dropping the ball, or like they needed me, and I wasn't there for them.

And I take that very seriously that my team has access to me, but again, my team leaders have my cell phone number and could text me if there was an emergency. So I think in that we really have to look within and say, if we aren't able to take a break from work, is it our workplace's fault? In my case, it's absolutely not. It is absolutely not. We respect time off greatly. It was me and something inside of me that says, work harder, achieve more, don't let people down.

Also, there's the big five traits of personality characteristics, and I'm very high in conscientiousness. And just the idea that someone might need me and I wasn't there for them was kind of painful for me. So I have some work to do on that because getting rid of Facebook wasn't enough. Limiting my time on LinkedIn wasn't enough. Limiting the hours I text people wasn't enough. Doing these videos on my weekends, so I'm not interfering with work is something that happens so that I'm always present for my work. Anyway, it was interesting, and I wanted to share it with you. You might relate and have something to do about this now and to practice this on yourself. Take care and I hope you introspect well. Ciao!

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