As I've come back to campus for my spring semester, I can't help but feel looming guilt of productivity upon my shoulders. My workload has definitely increased as I'm taking much more difficult classes. Coupled with a job, doing extracurricular activities, and keeping a social life, I feel that there aren't enough hours in the day to complete everything. It feels like I need a 30-hour day but I'm operating in a 24-hour world. Although I try to manage my time, scheduling to the exact minute of what I'll be doing in a day, I can't help but feel I wasn't productive enough since I didn't complete one or two tasks. Recently, I finished my review paper about glucose-stimulate insulin; the paper took me around 12 hours straight to write and once I finished, I went to the gym. When I returned back to my dorm, I felt bad that I hadn't completed my biology homework even if it was due in three days time.
One voice in my head was telling me to "relax and unwind" but a smaller, much naggier voice was saying "just finish it, be productive." That little voice is productivity guilt. It's the constant nag that you should be doing more. And if you aren't doing everything, then you're lazy and will never reach your goals.
At first, I thought it was just me who was suffering from this guilt. But, I noticed nearly all students have this contagious attitude of "productivity guilt" which infiltrates our lives. As over-scheduled students, we are obsessed with efficiency. It's as though we fear that if we allow ourselves to relax for a few minutes, opportunities will pass us by and we will be but a shadow in the changing world.
On almost any website, blog post after blog post, there's an article telling us how to be more "productive." It's become an epidemic that productivity has become ingrained in our minds, mainly because we have so much "stuff" to accomplish in our daily lives. Scouring across social media platforms, there's always a new "hack" or "DIY" every day so that we can cut time on menial tasks. While the pursuit of productivity is healthy and beneficial, having the mindset that you aren't working every minute of every day isn't.
We operate under the notion that we can slice away from this inefficiency and function at an optimum level. By pushing ourselves to overdrive mode, we neglect to take care of ourselves. Not to mention, that the extreme mental and physical stress that comes from pushing ourselves to the limit can lead to burnout. And while the innate drive to succeed should never fleet, we should change our approach to productivity.
The best way to beat the productivity guilt is to stop comparing yourself to others. Yes, we all have the same 24 hours as Bill Gates. But, our workloads differ drastically. Not everybody is ideal and we can't be working all the time. Sometimes, doing simple tasks can be enough. This doesn't mean that you should be doing mundane tasks, because what's the fun in that? You should actively be seeking challenges and pushing yourself to some facet, but if you begin to feel bad about your lack of "productivity", then you aren't going to be productive at all.
Even taking an hour to meditate, run, or just doing "nothing" can benefit us all. We could use a few moments to relish in the moments where we aren't contemplating what to do next, but focusing on ourselves. We need to carve time out for ourselves and place it as an appointment within our schedules. We need to lean away from the idea that personal time is embarrassing and view it as valuable. We can become more productive by "wasting" some time.