Mental Health, Opinions, Wellness / Self-Care

Should I be over-productive during quarantine?


words by: Sahar Khraibani
Apr 5, 2020

It’s 10am and I’m still hitting the snooze button. Thirty minutes later, I’m up and trying to get ready for work – establishing a semblance of normalcy. I make my bed, have breakfast, leisurely enjoy my coffee while scrolling through social media, and then I change into an outfit that provides the comfort of working from home but retains a certain presentation that signals that I’ve not totally given up yet.

Next, I make my daily to-do list, a habit I’ve kept for years now. Work assignments are jotted down, along with a timeframe of when I’d normally be at work, and then I add things to catch up on later: emails, deadlines, personal goals. At the end of the “workday” I end up feeling beaten down, as only a quarter of this list gets done (and that’s on a good day). As the gears of the modern world grind to a near halt, one question is likely on the mind of many who thrive on the hustle: should I be over-productive right now?

Scrolling through social media first thing in the morning is probably not healthy for me, but it provides some comfort. I check on my communities and laugh a little. After all, I don’t think that now’s the time for me to be changing my ways, or undergoing a social media cleanse (I did, however, impose a limit on screen time per day). Two weeks into this, and I began to realize that the current recommendations floating around about how to “make use of this” are giving me waves of – perhaps unnecessary – anxiety.

Now more than ever, I don’t really want to be told what to do, how to spend my time, how to be productive (or being reprimanded for not doing so), or what I should or should not accomplish while being quarantined. And though I may at times have been responsible for some of this noise – being a content creator and calling myself on occasion a cultural producer – I have decided to excuse the naiveté of the early days of the pandemic. 

I have always prided myself on my ability to see through the hustle, working hard and managing long to-do lists for multiple gigs and projects. I’m trying to put that on hold. I am hardly able to maintain a list of things to do, and when I cross 2 items off of that list I feel accomplished. I am one of few who are lucky to be able to work from home – to not have my workflow or rate of production reach a halt, but this comes with its own hurdles.

How do you establish work/life balance when everything seems to be thrown off?

Is it even realistic to maintain a schedule?

Is it enough to get ready for work as if you were physically going there? 

Are FaceTime calls enough to mimic an office environment full of pitches flying around and important conversations, coffee breaks, and brainstorming sessions?

I’m not sure that these coping mechanisms will work for the long-haul, but for now, they seem to somehow do the trick. This is unprecedented (surely, this the most popular word these days), and the idea that we can and should achieve a sense of order in how we go about our day, work, or general well-being is unrealistic. Each day, I am trying to learn new ways to silence the judgmental voice in my head that’s telling me I’m not doing enough. It’s a daily, continuous struggle, but it’s made me reevaluate many of my priorities: do I need to produce this much? What value does my work hold nowadays? I am allowing myself to sit with these questions and allow the unfolding of days to answer them. Uncertainty is uncomfortable, but it might hold some pockets of clarity.

We’re all doing our best – and that looks different for different people. Everyone deals with anxieties in a unique way, while some find that being productive helps nourish the feeling of fulfillment, others just want to tune out and get lost in a binge-watching spiral, or doing other feel good activities.

I’ve been searching the web for recommendations, something to hold onto to ease the pressure that capitalism imposed on us: the pressure to be constantly producing, creating content, being proactive. But what happens when you suddenly find yourself swimming in a pool of noise? Everything becomes overwhelming, even the articles telling you what to do and not to do during a quarantine. So I’m working on accepting certain limits, that I may not be able to do everything I used to do, and that this might be okay. 

It boils down to this essential, pertinent, and probably unanswerable question: is hustle culture toxic? I have resigned myself to trying to feel okay about not being as productive as I normally am. Now, I add this to my to do list: don’t beat yourself up about not getting through all of it. 

As we turn to our communities for comfort, I will leave you with the most uplifting thing I read this week: 



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