Healthy productivity in the time of COVID-19

May 17, 2020, 7:13 p.m. | By Victoria Xin | 4 years, 2 months ago

How toxic hustle culture has permeated this pandemic

Headshot of Silver Chips Ombudsman Victoria Xin Photo courtesy of Victoria Xin.

Now is the time to learn a language, make a YouTube channel, and start your next big coding project. Now is the time to create a garden, paint the next Mona Lisa, and write a book. 

From the internet, newspapers, and even TikTok, we’ve been hearing these sentiments over and over again: We must maximize the efficiency of our quarantine time.

A rampant phenomenon even before this pandemic, toxic productivity culture threw itself into quarantine mindsets with a resounding bang.

Toxic productivity has monikers like “hustle culture” and “workaholism.” It preaches that exhaustion is a sign of success, that we should measure our self-worth by how much time we dedicate to “productive tasks.”

It shames us for feeling slow and lethargic when we have every reason to be. It criticizes inaction. It interjects with a “well, Isaac Newton developed calculus in quarantine” or with a “you know, Shakespeare wrote King Lear in quarantine.” And it has permeated this pandemic. 

Let’s remember that Newton escaped to his family estate during quarantine. He had the resources to stay isolated without worrying about food or shelter. And he was already working on his theories before quarantine.

Right now, something feels off. There’s a nagging anxiety at the back of our minds. It could be because hundreds of thousands of people are dying, or it could be because a friend or family member has contracted the coronavirus.

It’s only logical to feel scared. Every day, the numbers climb. Emotionally, it’s exhausting to keep up. 

We shouldn’t feel ashamed if we can’t accomplish our life goals during quarantine. In fact, our goal right now shouldn’t be to achieve greatness in isolation. It should be to establish a new daily routine we can live by, to stay connected with friends and family, and to keep a clear head. 

Even for those of us privileged enough to stay home with adequate resources, it’s important to remember that we are not obligated to churn the wheels of toxic productivity culture right now. 

Take as much time as you need to process this situation. After all, our lives have turned upside down in the span of a few weeks. 

Our duty is to stay sane, stay healthy—not to do everything we can to keep working from our bedrooms. 

After you have a handle on your situation, maybe reach out to that teacher you haven’t been able to respond to. Maybe try to re-engage with your old hobby you’ve been neglecting. Remember to eat regularly and drink water. 

Instead of trying to accomplish a dozen new achievements in quarantine, let’s focus on staying well during this turbulent time, mentally, physically, and emotionally. 

Last updated: Nov. 23, 2020, 7:16 p.m.

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