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It’s Okay To Be Unproductive

It’s Okay To Be Unproductive

Something I’ve recently noticed about myself is that I’m not the best at relaxing.

It’s a very strange flaw to have, especially since most people I know would not hesitate to trade an arm and a leg for one day of being able to do absolutely nothing. But for some reason, when I engage in any kind of unwinding activity for too long, whether it be reading a book or watching TV, I start to feel guilty. I feel as though I’m wasting my time doing something unproductive when I could be utilizing it to get ahead. Even on days when I have little studying to do or errands to run, I feel as though my time would be best spent reading ahead, looking over materials, or planning out my week. In short, I’ve subconsciously decided that too much time for myself is a waste of time.

However, I’m definitely not alone — the “anti-relaxation” attribute is something I’ve been seeing more and more of lately, even among other college students. It’s as if getting things done functions as a form of validation for us; we can’t feel good about ourselves or content with how our day went unless we did something productive (by our own unique definition.) The strangeness of this concept really baffles me; why do we feel uneasy about relaxing even when we know we won’t be at any disadvantage if we don’t spend our time checking items off our to-do list?

Maybe it’s an “information age” thing. Maybe the internet has changed society’s perception of time in a way that makes us feel as though if everything is not done now, it won’t be done soon enough. Maybe we’re so used to a lifestyle of constant action that it simply feels weird to be at a standstill. We can even blame technology — it seems to be the go-to scapegoat of the century anyway. Our phones and the internet are often deemed responsible for an all-too-real concept called “instant gratification,” in which people have come to expect responses to their actions or requests immediately in order to be gratified by them. So it could be that the small (but growing) percentage of people who feel unsatisfied by a lack of productivity are struggling with instant gratification the most.

Granted, people like me are a minority. It seems as though most college students would have no problem taking a few hours off to binge The Office (for the third time) or taking a three hour nap between classes. And I of course do these things as well, just not as often as others. I tend to limit the amount of time I spend winding down to just a few hours at most, so that I feel like I was able to be productive throughout the day while also kicking back a little.

Despite all of this, I personally feel that the month of January has helped me see relaxation as something productive in itself. As a student, I tend to associate productivity most with academics, but I’ve realized that as long as I am doing something that is important to me, it’ll make me feel productive. Over my month-long winter break, I’ve had no schoolwork to complete, so I spent my time doing things I love like reading, catching up with friends, painting, playing instruments, and watching TV shows. And the best thing about it? I didn’t feel guilty because I was giving myself and my hobbies as much agency as I would give to my schoolwork during the semester.

In all honesty, it felt amazing getting an entire month to do absolutely anything at my own leisure. I intend to go into next semester with a slower, more relaxed mindset, and to erase the shred of guilt I tend to feel when taking time for myself — my mental peace is just as important as schoolwork. We all deserve a few hours of Netflix here and there!

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