The need for constant productivity in lockdown wears you down
If you come out of this with no new skills, hobbies or interests, don’t beat yourself up
I come from a typical Indian household of overachievers — the concept of personal success is based on their ability to get things done. A 90+ mark sheet is what earned you praise, which I mentally linked to love. Productivity turns into an obsession when you grow up with such a mindset.
In the lockdown, I’ve become very anxious. I find myself waking up at dawn with a few hours of sleep through the night. My heart sinks and mind runs with odd dreams of school races.
This anxiousness comes from me not being able to be still. I’ve always had a goal or task at hand, hustling to achieve something big.
Late-night studying to get good grades, after-school rehearsals and practice for sports, debates and other extracurricular activities, after-hours paperwork with colleagues and conference calls with the bosses. My achievements defined me. Productivity got me praise, appreciation, validation and gave me self-worth.
Life was always moving full-speed ahead from one thing to another. It never stopped, until the 21-day lockdown was announced.
The first few days, my feed was filled with the ‘yay productivity!’ posts.
I had a job that let me work from home. How could I not use that privilege? I owe a constant output of ideas and tasks checked off the list to others and myself. I had all this time now, but work slowed down and the pressure started to build.
Toxic productivity in the age of hustle
From decluttering my desk drawers and kitchen cabinets, cooking every meal, trying new workout routines and exchanging lockdown reading lists with friends. I had done it all. I had to have a good response to my parent’s daily question – “Aaj kya kiya beta?”
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My urge to overachieve is rumbling in my belly. It’s a knot I have to push down daily to keep anxiety at bay. Even in this time of crisis, I’m sitting here worrying about being useless – that I’m not doing enough.
As a millennial, I’m a part of the ‘always-on and hustling’ generation. Every minute has been scheduled to optimise productivity in some form. We’re multitaskers that are now trapped in our homes, running out of things to do.
I’ve only now come to recognise how toxic ‘the grind’ can be. You’re always told that your 20s-30s are for putting in the work, stretching yourself to the limit.
I always thought that notion was true, inspiring even. Maximum productivity = maximum gain.
But this notion of constant productivity wears you down. I’ve realised that I can’t hold myself to such high standards, especially when the world is struggling.
Talking to a therapist changed my perspective. Taking this time to expand my understanding of what I place value on beyond what I can put on my CV is productivity, in its own way. It’s going to take time to unlearn a lot of my childhood thinking.
To other overachievers struggling right now, give yourself a break. Your productivity in lockdown doesn’t determine your worth.
If you come out of this with no new skills, hobbies or interests, don’t beat yourself up. Nobody really cares about how many asanas you’ve mastered, anyway.