Dear Students, It's Okay To Be Unproductive
Welcome back! Let's talk about those unproductive days.
Often, in a world like this, we are made to feel as if we have to live extremely productive lives, in which we sit and work for 9+ hours each day, have little time to relax, end the day feeling burnt out, and still feel as if nothing has been accomplished. I am saying this from personal experience, as a university student who is guilty of working around 10-11 hours each day because that's what everybody else is doing right? How can I be slacking when my friends are probably working hard too? How can I even think of taking a break longer than 30 minutes when I have so much work left to do? 'I should carry on working after dinner too because my lecturer said I need to work hours and hours in order to pass'. These are all thoughts which pop into our minds on a regular basis I'm sure, and believe me, every student goes through these feelings of guilt when they feel like they haven't done enough work in the day.
Up until a few months ago, I would work from 9am until around 7:30pm with minimal breaks in between only for lunch or a quick cup of tea. Clearly, this is unhealthy for the body and mind, but I couldn't get rid of this habit all throughout my Undergraduate degree and my Masters. My family would nag me every single day to take a break and rest because all they saw was me exhausted at the end of the day, bags under my eyes, and most of the time a sad look on my face. Why was I doing this to myself? I don't remember the exact moment but at the beginning of this year, I knew that I couldn't continue like this because it was seriously affecting my mental and physical well-being.
I began with taking one day off every week from any type of university work, and this may seem like a normal thing for some of you, but for somebody like me, taking a whole day off to do nothing, gave me feelings of guilt rather than joy, which is why I'd never done this in the past. On this day off, I would plan something with my family, such as go to a cafe or spend a few hours at the park, anything that I would normally take for granted, became a big part of my life. Another thing that I decided to change about my days was how many breaks I had and how long they were. I went from having only a few 5-10 minute breaks to having a break after every hour of working to clear my mind, grab a snack, or simply stare into space.
The biggest and most important change came from within though - instead of beating myself up for not getting enough work done or not writing 1,000 words of my essay like I said I would, I praised myself for trying as best as I could on that day. I'm sorry if this sounds cliche to some but it's the truth. Life is short and unpredictable, so frankly in my opinion, there are more important things in life than stressing over an assignment; family, friendships, your physical and mental health, just to name a few. If you want to spend your mornings watching TV, that's fine. If you want to sit and listen to music instead of writing, that's fine. If you want to facetime a friend even though you have work to do, that's fine too. The important thing is to find a balance and as hard as that can be, I have faith that you can all do it!
- It's okay if all you got done today is one paragraph, or even one sentence.
- If it is getting too much, log off and take a break, it's not the end of the world!
- Know when to stop working. If you have regular headaches, feelings of sadness and you're not enjoying your days, it's time to take a break (you choose how long you want this to be).
- Stop thinking that the whole world is being productive except you because this isn't true at all. Everybody has unproductive days and it's completely okay to.
- Life is more than just essays, exams and presentations. Life should be cherished and lived just as you wish to live it, so please stop punishing yourself over a piece of work because the only person harmed in this will be yourself.
Take care and stay safe.