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“Productivity” in COVID times

A couple of weeks ago, I received a forward which read “If you don’t come out of this quarantine with either a new skill, your side hustle started, or more knowledge gained, then you never lacked the time. You lacked discipline”.

How do you feel when you read a message like that? Do you feel motivated, ready to sign up for those online courses you have been meaning to take, or pick up that book you have been meaning to read? Or do you feel guilty that a few weeks of lockdown have gone by and you haven’t “accomplished” enough?

While it’s nice to say that “We are all in this together”, the truth is each of us is going through something different during this lockdown period, and it isn’t something we can generalise into a common experience. Some of us can take for granted that we can maintain social distancing with our own personal space. Others may not be able to. Some of us are left bereft of work, while others are working harder than ever. Some of us may have the support of family and friends, while the rest are trying to get by on their own.

Need to cope

This is not an extended summer holiday harking back to our school days. It’s a time of stress. An unprecedented event that most of us are experiencing for the first time. The same “rules” that applied to our lives in the pre-COVID era need not necessarily apply today. Just like governments and economies are adapting to the new situation and designing new ways of working, so too should our societal norms and beliefs.

In this context, the pressure we typically feel to be constantly productive and have something to show for our free time could be hurting us, rather than helping. Each of us cope differently when faced with stressful experiences. Some people may take a little longer to bounce back than others, and that is completely okay!

It is important to acknowledge and accept the mental roadblocks you may be facing when you’re trying to develop knowledge, a new skill, or build up a hobby. Focus on learning how to manage these blocks first. Seek professional help through online counselling if you need to, rather than shaming yourself for “wasting” time so far. (In fact, that’s another societal belief to overturn now, more than ever: getting help for mental health is perfectly normal, not taboo!)

This lockdown isn’t some sort of divine test of your productivity. If you have opted to focus on your own or your family’s wellbeing and just want to emerge from this period as a healthy and happy individual, that is a great goal! It doesn’t matter how you have spent your time or whether you have added extra lines of accomplishments to your CV.

What if your goal was, in fact, similar to what the forward at the beginning of this article promoted? To learn new skills, gain knowledge or start up side businesses? In that case, you will be more successful when you are genuinely interested in and energised by these activities, rather than when you are driven to doing them out of fear or guilt.

In many of our cities, the lockdown may be extended for a longer period. You may have to be in this state for the foreseeable future. So remember, be kind to yourself and do what appeals to you and what feels right to you, not what you think society expects you to do.

The author is a psychologist and management consultant. krithvis@gmail.com

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 7:08:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/productivity-in-covid-times/article31547493.ece

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