Are You Too Productive? Let's Re-Evaluate

Around this time last semester, I was at what I considered to be peak productivity. I was waking up early every day, going to all my classes, actively involved in clubs and even getting a workout in most days of the week. Although I was exhausted by the end of the day, I felt great. For me, there was a sense of importance that accompanied feeling busy. But that all changed when quarantine began. Nowadays, attending even one Zoom class is usually followed by a much needed break, getting work done takes longer and I just find myself doing less than I used to. And I’ve been in my head about it, feeling like I have taken a step backwards in terms of how accomplished I am – how productive I am.

However, I’ve come to realize something that should have been obvious from the start: my self-confidence and mental health should not be reliant on how busy I am. It's taken time and some self-reflection, but I am working on being comfortable with my new, slower-paced lifestyle. And now especially, in the midst of a global pandemic that’s held us all back in a lot of ways, it’s important to be able to recognize when striving to be as productive as possible can become toxic.

Anna Schultz-Girl On Computer Stress Anna Schultz / Her Campus

Toxic productivity is when you prioritize being “productive”/working to a point where you’re behaving in a harmful way. Not eating, losing sleep or not spending time with your loved ones is unhealthy, but sometimes we fail to recognize that as busy college students with tunnel vision for academic success. The bottom line? If the prospect of resting or taking breaks makes you uneasy, you may need to reevaluate your priorities.

Hustle culture, workaholism, toxic productivity… Whatever you call it, it’s all around us every day. Recently I saw a clip of Steve Harvey talking about what it takes to be successful. “Rich people do not sleep eight hours a day! That’s a third of your life!” he shouts. Meanwhile on social media, I see a flood of inspirational quotes along the lines of “the grind doesn’t stop” or “work harder.” Living in a culture that promotes pushing yourself to your limit and avoiding failure at all costs, it can be easy to get caught up trying to be as successful as possible.

So, if you find yourself being less proud of your achievements now compared to before Covid-19, really think about why. Why do you associate self-worth with productivity? If you didn’t lose 20 pounds, start a side hustle or read 10 books in quarantine that’s perfectly okay. You were surviving. And if your schedule isn’t as busy right now as it was last semester, that’s also perfectly normal.

Here’s some advice I’ve found to be helpful in rewiring my brain to not be so concerned with productivity. Setting realistic goals is the first step. It’s also important to set boundaries and be able to say no to certain things when you have too much on your plate. Finally, reframe your mindset–focus on all your other qualities that make you worthy, besides how busy you are. True productivity is accomplishing the things you wish to accomplish, while maintaining a healthy work/life balance.