No Rest Until the Work is Done: Why Are We Programmed Like This?

October 30, 2023

Have you found yourself in the spiral of, just one more task to complete and I will rest? If you have, let’s discover together what are the reasons behind this behaviour.

One of the reasons I know for myself is the fact that I love checklists and completing tasks. Also, the other reason I am aware of is that after I spot working and if I don’t complete the task right now while I am in a flow state, I will most likely have a hard time going back to it after the rest. Hence, I will procrastinate the **** out of this task. 😄

Woman relaxing on her back on the beach
We should schedule our breaks as we do our tasks. — Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash

Evolution

If we have to go way back and do some root-cause analysis, perhaps we should consider the evolutionary perspective. Throughout human history, survival often depended on completing tasks and meeting basic needs first. This imprinted  drive to work diligently and ensure our well-being and that of our family has been embedded in our evolutionary past.

Society and culture

Hopping back in modern days, societal and cultural expectations have shaped us as well. Our modern society places significant focus on productivity and achievement to the point of making it a lifestyle. These societal norms can definitely contribute to the understanding that rest is earned only after work is completed. From school and career expectations to the “hustle” culture, external pressures often shape our behaviour. That’s why when you don’t meet your goals or complete your tasks, you might feel like you haven’t done enough. And to make it worse, the whole comparing lives and careers on social media doesn’t help us at all in finding the balance.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” — John Lubbock

Your brain chemicals

The brain’s reward system, particularly the release of dopamine, is closely linked to goal achievement. This chemical reward reinforces the pattern of working until a task is complete. That’s why once you start and complete a substantial amount of your task you want to complete it fully so you can enjoy your deserved reward. The pleasure associated with task accomplishment can overshadow the idea of taking breaks which leads to postponed bathroom breaks, skipped meals, ignored pain and dry eyes or fatigue.

Consequences

Sometimes the reason can be on the negative spectrum. Many people fear the potential outcomes of not completing their tasks, whether it’s job security, academic success, or personal commitments. This fear can be a powerful motivator to keep working without rest. Also, the feeling of being productive keeps them away from the feeling of being behind and irresponsible which brings another wave of feeling guilty.

Technology

In our modern, connected world, technology has created a 24/7 work environment and non-stop consumed and created content. The constant access to work-related tasks can blur the line between work and personal life, making it even more challenging to disconnect and rest. You go on social media to post about your business services and end up in the trap of doomscrolling. Been there, done that.

Your Personal Values and Habits

Here it comes the culture, your family and what they have taught you via their discipline or the absence of it. Some people are raised with a strong work ethic and prioritize completing tasks, while others may place a higher value on work-life balance and self-care. It all depends on factors on which you most likely didn’t have any control over.

But what are the reasons that make you feel you don't deserve rest before your work is done? Let me know, and reach out on Instagram. Sharing is caring. And I would love to know. 😊

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