24/7 productivity is counterproductive

Illustration by Kaitlyn Tran/Daily Campus

It’s slowly getting easier for me to admit that I was a stressed-out overachiever all throughout middle  and high school. I used to tell myself I was just a hard worker, but I know now I really overworked myself. Working my way through my third semester of my undergraduate degree at the University of Connecticut, I like to think that I’ve relaxed a bit upon reaching college. This has rang true especially since March of 2020, when I very quickly realized that there were bigger problems in the world than getting a perfect score on every test, quiz and assignment given to me.  

Understandably, this time spent focusing solely on academic performance has been beneficial to me in some ways. For example, I would consider myself a good student, and I have decent time management skills built up from when every second of my day had to be meticulously planned. 

However, there are lasting negative effects of being a former overachiever that I still struggle with daily. Most notably, I have somehow conditioned myself to believe that if I’m not sitting at my computer actively working on the next assignment that’s due, I’m wasting my time entirely. Even during the summer when I’m not taking any classes, this mindset still lingers. Instead of hyper-focusing on assignments and due dates, I start believing that if I’m not clocked-in at work, I’m once again just wasting my time.  

I know that this productivity-focused mindset is not the healthiest way to live. Why can I not allow myself to simply enjoy my time, rather than worry about whether or not I’m wasting it? Personally, I find it most upsetting that I have inadvertently abandoned the creative hobbies that used to bring me so much joy. I stopped painting, reading and drawing because I convinced myself that anything that wouldn’t be a career in the future wasn’t worth doing; which is not true at all! In fact, engaging in artistic activities such as drawing, dancing or playing music can have multiple health benefits, including boosting your mood and alleviating anxiety and stress. This is significant, but it is also important to remember that any activity is worth doing if it brings you joy.  

We can’t expect ourselves to be productive 24 hours a day, seven days a week; it isn’t realistic or healthy. Societal pressures obsess over productivity and look down on free time. Initially, we may find comfort in completing task after task, checking off the to-do list one by one. Productivity can masquerade as a purpose in life, something many of us are so desperately seeking already. But there can be purpose found in leisure activities, if only in the fact that they spark creativity and build happiness.  

We can preach about self-care eternally, but it won’t do us any good if we aren’t actively taking time for ourselves and our hobbies. Yes, there are deadlines to meet and yes, there are assignments to complete. But if these are all you ever do, or all you ever think about, what’s the point? We may have to work to live, but we don’t have to live to work. Finding your personal passion and creative outlets needs to be a conscious effort.  

If I don’t start breaking down this constant productivity mindset, I’m going to burn out. After all, if all I do this semester is study, at the end of it I won’t have a semester to look back on at all. A degree is certainly not the only thing I came to UConn for, but if I never stop working I won’t have any time left to create memories. 

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