Have you ever felt guilty for not being productive? I have. Let’s talk about it.

The office == work?

With more than 10 years of work experience, I have worked in the office, hybrid, and remote. I want to talk about productivity guilt. When I was in the office, I never felt guilty when I was not productive. When I checked in and out of the office those were my working hours. I was there, I was working. There was no guilt, even when drinking coffee with colleagues or smashing a ping pong ball in the office.

Now with hybrid and remote work, I feel more guilty. I have a family with four children and that takes time, and that does feel like I burn time that was supposed to be for working. As a result, I work later in the evening to compensate for my guilty feelings.

The guilt

If you do not experience this feeling let me explain what this does for me. This feeling makes me work more hours, and work more in the evening. I feel like I have to make up for the time I was not productive. For example, after a Thursday full of work, the thought comes up to work more to pre-compensate for the Friday after. But on Friday I work the full amount of hours. In the end, I am working more hours than I should.

Imposter syndrome

I think this productivity guilt is a form of imposter syndrome. I think this is related because the feeling is also about feeling not good enough. We as programmers often talk about the ‘Imposter syndrome’. The feeling that other people know more than you, the imposter syndrome can prevent you from public speaking about your expertise.

Talking helps

I have talked about this with colleagues and they scoped the problem differently. Some quotes came along: “Work never ends”, and It does not mean the inner voice will stop talking. I think it is important to talk about this and share your feelings with others. It helps to get instructions to stop, or to get compliments on your results.


To get control of your productivity guilt, my approach will be to work on habits. Because i think habits will help you to regulate working hours and feel productive. Work on habits regarding your work. Habits will help you to regulate working hours and feel productive. Some tips I have gathered are:

  • Start and end your workday at the same time.
  • Make sure you have a dedicated workspace.
  • Shut down your computer at the end of the workday.

In the book ‘Tiny Habits’ by BJ Fogg, he talks about the MAUI habit. This habit is saying when your feet touch the floor in the morning: “It’s going to be a great day.”. This helps you to start your day with a positive mindset.

I suggest another habit to enclose your working day. I will try and make this my habit:

After I shut down my computer, I will say to myself: “I did a great job today.”

Final thoughts

I am still struggling with this feeling. If this is what people mean by Work-Life balance, I have to learn daily to balance this correctly.

If you experience this too, I invite you to share your thoughts with me. I am curious how you cope with this feeling.

Further reading

While fetching feedback from friends and colleagues, Jan mentioned he fixed his imposter syndrome by using the ‘Circle of Influence’ by Stephen Covey. He wrote a very simple tool to make you think about a concern. You can find the tool at CircleOfInfluenceTool. The circle of influence is from the book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey. It is a great book to read.