Escaping the Productivity Trap: How to create a healthier relationship with achievement

We all want to be better than we were yesterday. Our drive to succeed, to improve, to achieve, is in our nature. But while we want to keep striving, we know we can’t continue to wake up frazzled, race through the day and and still not feel on top of our to-dos.

Escaping the productivity trap that so many of us are caught up in, isn’t about being less productive or lowering our expectations. But it isn’t about doing more, or holding ourselves to increasingly higher standards either.

What we need is to unfold a healthier, more sustainable relationship with productivity – one that gives us the time and the headspace to achieve what we truly value in life.

Sound too good to be true? It really isn’t. With the insight and practical guidance of our experts, we’re unpicking the unhealthy habits, biases and beliefs that derail us. Allowing us to focus on the things that help us live more meaningful and fulfilling lives and using our technology to reconfigure our relationship with achievement and reinforce more positive routines.


The fact is that stress and anxiety disrupts our working memory and cognitive flexibility, impacting our ability to remember information, organise our thoughts and get things done. So, ironically, our productivity anxiety is our biggest achievement enemy.

​That’s why, when we think we have no time to rest, it’s actually the most critical time to take a break.​ As Chartered Psychologist Dr Rajvinder Samra explains: “Self-care and compassion can be challenging for perfectionists used to constantly prioritising and meeting others’ expectations. But if you don’t prioritise yourself, you won’t have the energy for anything or anyone else.”

Two-thirds of us (66%) use technology to stay in touch with friends and family to seek and offer support, while half of us (49%) game, browse or use apps to recover from daily stresses. Whether it’s creating, connecting or streaming, making room to recharge is one of the best things we can do for ourselves – and our productivity.

It’s also something the most accomplished people in the world have long known. Just think about former President Barack Obama making the time to play Call of Duty at the height of his presidency. As anxiety management specialist Joshua Fletcher (aka @AnxietyJosh) counsels: “To maximise our productivity potential, we need to become as much of a perfectionist about our relaxation time as we are about our work time.”

Learning to value progress rather than perfection is also key to recharging. Because we’ll never be able to truly relax if we’re still beating ourselves up about the things we didn’t tick off our to-do list or the ways in which we “failed”. Dr Samra advises: “What you tell yourself at the end of each day is so important. Unskew your mind. Instead of trying to work out what you didn’t do or could have done better, celebrate growth and reinforce positive messages about yourself to counterbalance the negativity. Make it part of your routine to remind yourself of three things you’ve done that you’re proud of.”


While striving to achieve our goals is natural and healthy, three quarters of us (72%) have developed an unhealthy relationship with achievement. Rather than helping us to aim high, this preoccupation with failing stops us enjoying our achievements and could increase our risk of burnout.

Challenging these behaviours is the first positive step you can take towards building a healthier relationship with productivity. Dr Samra advises: “Try to engage in perfectionism only when it is really necessary. It can be a useful tool to have but you don’t have to apply it to all areas of your life.”

While we work out where to loosen our grip, it’s also worth us taking the time to examine how our routine has changed over the past 18 months and the impact that’s had on us. What’s currently draining your battery? This could be anything from poor tech habits like doom-scrolling social media, or never saying “no”. ​Now think about what energises you. What’s most meaningful to you? How can you reconfigure your routine to focus on what matters most and can use inspiration – rather than obligation – to power you through the day.


Used in the right way, technology can be a powerful tool to help us reduce stressors and enforce the good habits we put in place, once we’ve reconfigured our routine:

  1. Reinforce your boundaries

Dr Samra recommends establishing clear boundaries between our work and home lives as a priority, “because disconnecting one from the other is important to promote both wellbeing and productivity”. With the Surface Duo 2 you can create distinct and different browser profiles for your work and personal time to help maintain those all important boundaries and stop intrusions from one sphere affecting your happiness and productivity in the other sphere.

  1. Lighten the (cognitive) load

With half of us feeling like we never have enough time to get everything done, anything we can do to reduce our cognitive load and create mental space for what matters most is valuable. Dual-screen technology like the Surface Duo 2 has been proven to reduce cognitive load by making it easier to multi-task, with 42% of people seeing a productivity boost when using two screens.  Being smart about setting up calendar alerts and blockers can also help to conserve our headspace and allow us to focus.

  1. Create rock solid routines

Familiar schedules that we can actually stick to reduce anxiety immediately by helping us feel more in control. Changing our settings to Do Not Disturb for key periods in the day or placing restrictions around emails, so they don’t disrupt work rhythms or downtime, are all simple but effective ways to turn your chosen routines into successful habits.

  1. Use technology to make the most of the time you have

Flexible, portable technology like the Surface Duo 2 also helps us to get into routines that better reflect our values, priorities and interests, by enabling us to make the most of the time we have. In fact, three-in-five Millennials say they rely on technology to help them be more productive with the time they have. Whether it’s idle moments on our commute, waiting in the car for the kids or taking a moment while we enjoy our coffee, engaging with the right thing at the right time helps us juggle the many hats we wear and improves our performance, too.

We can’t banish our anxiety altogether. It can even – in small doses and in the right conditions – help us achieve our goals. As Joshua explains: “If I’m running 100m and I’m in the starting blocks, I want that anxiety. I want that adrenaline. I want that cortisol.” But in the race of life, we can’t go on absorbing the levels of anxiety we currently are. We have to recharge, reconfigure and reinforce to unfold a healthier relationship with productivity and enjoy our achievements once again.

To find out more about the benefits the Surface Duo 2 can bring to your productivity routine, visit the device website here.