Why our sense of productivity should not be solely dependent on schoolwork

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Josh Kahen/Senior Staff

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As spring semester takes its toll on my mental health, I find my weekends playing out in the same repetitive fashion. I wake up on Saturday morning, tired and exhausted from the week, so I allow myself to spend time doing what makes me happy: I exercise, watch a movie, make myself a good meal and sometimes, I even do a face mask. However, at the end of my day, I am left with the heavy guilt of unproductivity. This guilt picks at my conscience until I force myself to do a class reading or a homework assignment. The truth is, like many of my fellow college students stuck in a quarantine life crisis, I am constantly burdened with the feeling that I am not productive enough. I feel as if I am running in place toward a finish line I will never quite reach. I know productivity shouldn’t be limited to what I was assigned in my classes, but why do I feel like it is?

I quickly realized that this was a direct side effect from our school system. In school, we are constantly taught that our success and our futures are contingent upon our grades, and when we fail to uphold a good GPA, the school system threatens to abandon us. This effort to make us excel at school trains us to value homework and grades beyond anything else. Although some students are immune to this and are able to value other aspects of their lives — family, work, travel — equally as important as school, sadly, some of us are not. We fall into the trap of valuing school over every other aspect of our lives, and our productivity becomes solely tied to academics. Our lives become a race to finish assignments, bulk up resumes, get internships and receive 4.0 GPAs that will earn us admission to bigger schools, all so that we can do it all over again. However, at some point during this race to our future, we lose sight of the other things that should matter in our lives, too.

This is not to say that we become robots that just finish assignments but that we begin to prioritize our lives differently. Mental health days or exploring hobbies have become activities to do only when there is “time to spare” rather than activities that are just as valid as our next reading assignment.

It scares me to think this way because it feels as though my life lies in the hands of my academic future. However, I try to remind myself that school is a relatively small part of my life and my grades are not as fragile as I believe them to be.

Humans are multifaceted. We have multifaceted desires and ambitions. It should then follow that what defines our productivity should not be limited to just one aspect of our lives. Taking a mental break, organizing your room or even reading a book you genuinely enjoy should be considered just as important as doing a school assignment, and we should start treating them as such.

Contact Isabella Carreno at [email protected].