The Difficulty of Productivity and The Virtue of Laziness
Issue   |   Tue, 02/27/2018 - 21:01

Sometimes, the thing that gets you out of bed isn’t the hearty aroma of coffee and breakfast food or the refreshing splash of sunlight in your face, but the dreadful realization of how much work you have. Our self-imposed pressure to stay productive keeps life moving at a bustling pace that’s well-suited to the mammoth expectations of an elite institution like Amherst.

A tacitly endorsed virtue at Amherst, and our society at large, is that doing more is always a good thing. Life is short, they say, and our time at Amherst, even shorter. Completing assignments and maintaining grades are obvious must, but the extent to which extracurricular activities and non-academic interests are emphasized in resumes and job applications suggests that this generation is expected to be more efficient than ever.

Seriously, when did hobbies become so centered on self-improvement? Reading, jogging, painting — the spectrum of “valuable” and “time-well-spent” hobbies is mind-bogglingly large. In the meantime, purportedly “brain-dead” hobbies such as video games and Youtube marathons are seen as distractions. With the pressure to always maximize the time we spend, we’ve developed a habit of scrutinizing those very things that help us forget the arduous hours we spend toiling away. A hobby is no longer something we can just do without considering what we’ll get out of it. Society demands to know exactly how our time spent doing “nothing” can still somehow contribute to learning a skill or improving our lives.

I’m no psychologist, but I can personally attest to how feeling pressured to make the most out of your time can sometimes devolve into a toxic sense of inadequacy. You inevitably begin to form unhealthy notions of who you are, or at least on your worldview of life, if you always think the hours you spend not working are “unproductive.” I love those unrecorded and unmarketable hours where I chat away with friends about politics, race, education and a host of other personal matters. At no point in the conversation am I caught up in how productive our talk is, because thinking about it in such terms really misses the point. It doesn’t matter what I’m getting out of the conversation. The true gem of it all is that I get to spend my time according to what my heart tells me and not feel bad about it.

Even as I’m writing this, I can see how someone can chalk this up as the disaffected ramblings of an overworked college student. And such a description isn’t far from the truth either. All I’d like you, as my precious reader, to understand is that it’s a myth to believe that there’s a strong correlation between happiness and how much time you spend being productive. Nevertheless, cheers to a fruitful week.