Feeling pressured to be productive during this COVID-19 crisis? Same.


Is it just me or has anyone else tried to achieve almost unattainable levels of self-development amidst this COVID-19 crisis? Even if you have not tried to you have likely seen the push for productivity that has graced our emails, social feeds, and publications since this crisis kicked off.

So far, I’ve enrolled in a coding course, a TAFE course (it was free so the question boded, why not?), I’ve downloaded a meditation app, I’m trying to learn Italian (but not really committing), I have been in search for flour and yeast to bake bread for the first time in my life and I’ve been cooking each day as if I was trying to prepare the last supper. All on top of my full time job, with dashes of Pilates and walking thrown into the mix there too. Have I kept up with doing all of these things day-to-day? Of course not. I haven’t even looked at the TAFE course, I’m not paying attention when the lady in the video is talking about html and code language and I have so far managed to learn as much as ‘pleased to meet you’ in Italian. To tackle all of these thing at once? That would require me to be on the clock, and operating at a fairly high-functioning level for majority of the waking hours of my day constantly focused, paying attention and learning. 

Sure, the days are seemingly going slower and each are merging one into the other (the length of March felt like 365 days), and you’d think that would mean less pressure, more time to move slowly and focus on that fine art of crafting a perfectly cooked sourdough. However, for some reason our new ‘at home’ work and study life is increasingly creating a new problem – the urge to focus on productivity performance and to develop ourselves into something/someone we have not yet encountered. As if we will reach the end of this crisis and emerge wiser, more intelligent and fitter than ever. The search to retain a sense of normalcy amidst a crisis is of course, a natural state for many of us to seek out. Is there a danger however in extensively seeking the performative during a time like this when time seems to have almost gone out the window?

It has been sighted in many articles of late that I have been reading that this whole global crisis is one that will live with us for years, perhaps decades to come. Some even likening it to a major war in terms of the lasting effects it is likely to have on the way we build, move, learn and connect. If that is the case and personally, I think it is, should we not be taking a moment to reflect on this and prepare ourselves for these probable changes? There is bulk noise at the moment circulating across our screens to ‘do’, to ‘sign up’, ‘to enter’ to do something, anything that you can, to somewhat improve your current condition. Whether it’s signing up to daily Zoom workout classes or learning more than you could ever have imagined by accessing online courses, up-skilling, doing professional development or getting as many study items ticked off throughout the course of a day, it’s important that someone tells you it’s OK if you’re not doing these things.

Maybe you are not reading that new groundbreaking piece of literature, maybe you are binge-watching Netflix instead. Perhaps you are eating more baked goods than you ever thought possible and healthy eating is a distant memory. It is ok. You might be struggling to operate facilitating classes online or accessing them as a student. Maybe research is not all of a sudden bursting out of you, new ideas might not be appearing. It is ok. If you are in that place and you are struggling to keep up with the call to action around you (and believe me they are coming out left, right and centre), I repeat, it is ok.
This is not to say that if you are running marathons each week, creating works of art or successfully completing online training courses, that you should not be doing those things. That is fantastic. Keep running, keep creating, it is wonderful that you are able to! What is not ok though is any intense pressure we might be trying to place on ourselves to operate at a level that may be having a negative impact, emotionally, mentally and physically. You can let go of those ideas of what you should be doing right now and focus on what you need right now. That might be having a cup of tea in the morning, spending time in your garden, calling a loved one who might not be around physically, or sitting in the sunshine quietly. That may be all you ‘do’ one day and that may be exactly what you need. Of course, we all have our responsibilities in life that we cannot just ignore. What we can do is try to approach them instead with acceptance and kindness for ourselves, regardless of where we are at right now. Embrace the authentic and try not to focus on the performative with such intensity.

Remember it is ok to spend a day that does not produce crazy levels of productivity. Do what you need, take care of yourself first and when you are ready, you might find you can embrace a new normal. It might not look the same as before but you can shape how it looks from here on out.


Author: Alexandra Cook