“No amount of money ever bought a second of time” – Iron Man
In recent years hustle culture has permeated our lives. On any given day while scrolling on social media, you will see posts from people celebrating the fact they’ve spent every moment of the day being productive. Being busy all the time is seen as a badge of honour and the pressure to always be doing something is real. Prior to the pandemic I would almost feel embarrassed when my friends would tell me about their lives because when I left my job at 5pm, I didn’t bring it home with me. My days off were spent doing the boring errands that I couldn’t do during the work week because of my 3 hour daily commute. When I would hear that other people had fun activities planned for their days off or were busy studying while working full time, I would sometimes feel that my life wasn’t as interesting, but I truly didn’t have time for anything outside of work.
And then Covid hit and everything changed for everyone. Some people lost their jobs, others had to work from home with housemates sharing the kitchen table, some tragically lost loved ones. What hasn’t changed is the expectation for people to constantly be productive. Despite the fact that we are all living in unprecedented times the pressure people put on themselves hasn’t waned. I worked for a major tourist attraction in Ireland and while we were closed to the public I was working from home. Obviously we were quieter than normal so I came up with various projects to show my boss that I was still being productive despite not being in office. (This was all for naught as massive redundancies were announced four months into the pandemic).
What this last year has taught me is that someone else’s level of productivity is not a reflection on your life. If you want to work longer hours because you know it will lead to a promotion then go for it. If you want to turn off your computer at 5pm and not think about work until 9am the next day, do it. If someone started a new business in the last year while you binge watched Netflix that’s ok. You did what you needed to do for you, you survived a global pandemic, you don’t need the validation of strangers on the internet to feel good about this.
Being productive is obviously a good thing (it’s why I wrote this post!) but being over-productive can have a negative effect on your health. It’s important to slow down and listen to your body and what it needs. If you’re tired then rest, and don’t feel guilty about it. Just because the world is slowly starting to get back to normal, doesn’t mean you have to make yourself sick with productivity.
Girl Museum Inc.
My dad always says “showing up to work is half the battle.” Not everyday is going to be a super productive day, and that’s okay. It’s better to forgive yourself for not being your usual self and try to start fresh the next day, then getting bogged down in the guilt and self-hatred and stay late or skip lunch and try to power through.
I also think knowing what you’re capable of and proceeding to not achieve your own high (and probably perfectionist) internal standards is a common trap lots of young professional women fall into. We may think we’re failing or floundering in our careers when in reality, we’re doing just fine! We should take in account other stressors in our lives, and you’re totally on point- the COVID pandemic has been a HUGE stressor.
I’d like to add another source of this productivity-shame, and that is our current society which is relentlessly critical of women and girls. They’re critical of our bodies, looks, capabilities, and intelligence. And we in turn, internalize these criticisms and develop low self esteem and impossible standards for ourselves that we wouldn’t apply to anyone else in our lives or at work!
That’s my theory anyway 🙂