Productivity: yielding results, benefits or profits. During the school year, my main focus is on school and all the assignments I must get done each day, week and month. This leaves limited time for relaxation and fun. My busy lifestyle has become a normal routine and when I do have free time it leaves a strange and feeling of wasted time.
I am so used to knowing what to do with every minute of the day that when I have the chance to relax I have the sudden urge to find something productive to do. This need to do something productive can be a motivation to finish another assignment in a time of weariness or resignation. However, it can also be a source of stress, pressure and guilt. For me, it serves to prevent me from at times, having fun and doing activities I enjoy.
The pressure to be productive can help with efficiency and avoiding procrastination. It can create initiative to push someone towards a goal. However, when there is an absence of a healthy balance between being productive and being content, it can lead to more negative effects.
The drive to be productive is like a hamster on a wheel. There is the tantalizing carrot in front, symbolizing the gratification or closure to work, that the hamster is constantly working towards. The hamster can never reach the carrot, thus it must keep working. In the the time of the fatigue, there are two options: go to sleep or to continue to work towards the food.
This system can create anxiety and nervousness when there should be time for rest. Of course hamsters do not share our feelings of guilt and pressure caused by competition with other peers and comparing test results, class difficulties, extracurriculars, etc. This extra stress could lead to less concentration, the opposite of the intended effect of focus and achieving goals.
In the education system it is taught that finishing homework and studying hard leads to a successful life which feeds insecurities about perfection and being the best. Some people also feel that if they are not working their hardest and are not at the top, they have failed. These mainstream values teach people to normalize the excess pressure of a competitive world of school and work. There is the notion that relaxing is being lazy and if you are not stressed then you must work harder. This stress can also come within the home not only from school and peers; family members who have been successful in the past and parents that expect their children to go above and beyond.
So much value is placed on the number of AP classes and/or the number of extracurriculars. As we acknowledge that those aspects of school are important, we should also be questioning the definitions, goals and values that we place on our amount of success and productivity. Are we being productive or keeping ourselves unnecessarily busy? Do we not deserve to feel proud of achievements and relax?
We have been trained by the school system to focus more on grades and the amount we learn rather than what we learn and our interest in the subject. We have been conditioned to value our grades and use that worth to define ourselves, but we should differentiate between school and our own personal worth. To minimize these feelings of guilt, nervousness and pressure, move beyond comparing with others. Competing will force you to focus on the progress of other peers instead of concentrating on personal learning and development.
The result of shifting the attention from others to our own personal growth allows us to give our previous accomplishments credit and not immediately move on to the next challenge. Know that relaxation and sleep are necessary. It is healthy emotionally and physically and without it the mind will not function as smoothly and efficiently. For instance you are finishing an essay late at night, your mind is preoccupied with thoughts of sleep, and every setback is even harder to overcome. Gathering ideas and transforming them into a coherent sentence takes twice as long.
So a new way of defining productivity is finding a healthy balance between work and enjoyment. We are worthy of rest and have time in the day to take a break, talk with friends and not experience remorse for that.