It's like my default setting is "busy" all the time.
I’m reaching the point in the semester where everything feels stagnant; academics seem to be coming to a lull, not because there isn’t much going on, but everything starts feeling very routine and monotonous. Wake up to the sound of a blaring alarm, lazily drag myself to the bathroom to wash up, roll down the stairs to eat breakfast, fall asleep in my bowl of oatmeal, and then slowly make my way to class. And when the day is finally over, it’s time to continue to work, work, work until the late hours of the night and repeat everything the next day.
I’ve always found myself to be a fan of routine, because when I have one, I can confidently say that I have found a rhythm that works for me. However, doing things in such a way can be extremely draining for me, especially because I feel like each step of my day has to always be productive, like I always have to produce something at each point to prove to myself that I am using my time wisely.
Papers to write, books to read, exams to prepare for - I admit that sometimes, it is really hard to silence the noise in my head that tells me I need to be doing something related to academics every minute of every day I know I am not alone on this - I overhear conversations in the dining halls on Sunday nights, “I was just not productive at all this weekend” and the conversation continues where each person proves how little work they did over the weekend for their classes.
Of course, performing well in my classes is important to me, but I have also seen for myself how much harm I can do to my body and mind when I constantly feel the push to be academically productive 100% of the time. And by that I mean I force myself to constantly produce something - a new essay, a new set of notes for class, getting ahead on classwork, etc. Even on days where I am emotionally and mentally drained, I tell myself that I have to push through and work on something for a class, even when the quality is compromised because my heart just isn’t in it from being so tired.
After mulling over these thoughts, I realized that an alternative way I could approach the idea of productivity is to see that productivity is not always only about production. On slower mornings, isn’t it productive to simply sit, take a few deep breaths, grab a coffee, and mentally prepare for the day? Isn’t that more productive in the long term than to hastily wash up and eat, open up my laptop, and get straight to work? Not only does the former just sound better at face value, but I’ve taken the slower, more laid-back approach and it makes for a more fulfilling, happier day. I feel more productive when I’m in a good mindset because I want to be able to learn about myself outside of just academics, and I know that takes a lot of active learning, questioning, journaling, and talking to do. So yeah, I can be productive every day - and the kind of productivity is up to my own definition.
Some steps I’ve been taking to see productivity in a new way is to allot time to writing a bit every day, reading over some quotes that are meaningful to me, making sure my room is tidy enough to be comfortable, or simply taking a walk around campus to clear my head. Sitting in classes for more than 3 hours a day can be very draining in itself, and getting some fresh air has always been therapeutic for me (especially now with the crisp autumn air!). I know how stressed I can become during the semester and what an extreme toll that stress can have on my body, so I am actively taking steps to change the way I see productivity. In such a way, I can be more level headed for myself and not just for academic production. Because I am worth so much more than that and I deserve to make the most out of my time in school without damaging important parts of myself.Someone recently asked me what I would want to do if money was not an issue. Truthfully, I’d love to pull a Laura Ingalls Wilder book life and live in a small cottage in the woods, surrounded by sunshine and books with no external stimulation from technology. And I could be productive every day, on my own terms.