The Paradox thinking of Productivity

While watching Gossip Girl, with a glass of red wine and the Christmas lights flickering in the periphery, she thinks to herself “omg, I should really be doing something productive… but I know I’m not about to get up and do something right now... this episode is too good! Okay, maybe after the next episode I’ll read a book”. Fast forward to a bottle of wine and six episodes later… but the entire time thinking “F@#*, I need to be productive!!!!”… 

Unknowing Stressful Thinking… 

NO productivity = STRESS --> anyone else agree? 
FACT: 10 hours of my day is spent at school. FACT: I’m trying to live my life and have fun. FACT: I want to be successful. 

I always told myself, “as long as I’m utilizing my time - aka being productive, I can get everything I need to get done in order to accomplish my goals”. But what I didn’t realize was that THAT MENTALITY lead me to believe that when I wasn’t being productive (not doing school work), I wasn’t contributing to my future… and that stressed me out! But it’s hard to motivate yourself to constantly do the work you have to do, and then some extra work on top of that after already a long day. Even on holidays, it’s the perfect time to binge watch my favorite shows, eat and hang out with friends! And it’s important to take that time to relax and reconnect with friends and family.  But there’s still somehow always a small voice at the back of my head whispering “YOU SHOULD BE DOING SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE!!!!”. 

Now, what is being productive? School work, of course (as I use to think)! So any time I wasn’t doing school work, I’d feel stressed out! And it absolutely sucks when you’re trying to have a cool conversation with someone, cooking, or working out, but all you’re thinking about is what assignment or task you should be working on! It’s impossible to be PRESENT at whatever you’re doing when the only thing on your mind is making an agenda for what you have to do next! 


Wake Up Call...ments  

Then, the comments started rolling in… “you look worried all the time” and “you always look busy and in a rush”. If you’re getting comments like this, take a step back and think about what’s constantly on your mind! I think having that work ethic is important, but there was definitely a gap between my mental dialogue and my actions; people thinking I’m always doing work, but me constantly frustrated because I felt like I hadn’t done enough work. 

Hearing those comments enough times made me realize that I don’t want to be stressed out about this! It’s exhausting! It doesn’t contribute to being in a happy state and I was constantly under some low level of stress because I was always worried about doing something else. Funny thing is, I don’t even think it made me do more work!

Possible paradox

I think the disconnection from thinking about being productive but not feeling like it is from a sense of false reward. When making plans and telling yourself you will do something, there is a release of dopamine (happy feeling) that mimics the reward center in your brain. The same thing happens when you tell someone your plans, like “hey friend, I’m going to finish this assignment tonight” - then BAM, release of dopamine and you already feel good about it, which actually might make you less likely to accomplish what you said you would (because you already feel good about it). That’s a very small aspect of it; of course laziness and lack of motivation goes along with not accomplishing something. But over planning can actually back fire on you because it makes you somewhat feel like you’ve already accomplished what you said you would


the last list

I couldn’t stand having that feeling of built up guilt about “not being productive”. So naturally, like any super organized overthinking student, I decided to MAKE A LIST! And made the promise to myself that if I was doing any of the things on this list, then I wouldn’t have this agenda like mind going on. 

Things on my productivity list included:

  • Working out
  • Reading (any kind of book! Seeing that I barely read in the first place and that’s something I wanted to change)
  • Baking (one of my hobbies!) 
  • Cooking healthy food/meal prep
  • Trying a new activity (like rock climbing or break dancing)
  • Journaling 
  • Ted talks! Documentaries 
  • Having new types of conversations
  • And of course… STUDYING 


This list is very different from my previous thinking of productivity = studying. I decided that whatever I am doing, if it’s something that’s contributing to building myself as a person, my health or school, then I AM BEING PRODUCTIVE and will NOT let myself feel GUILTY and think that I should be doing something else.

Paradox the paradox

And well well well… if has that changed things! That’s a lot of awesome stuff to do on that list! And the weird thing was that my grades didn’t even go down… they stayed the same (I mean, honestly they went down a little, but definitely not a significant difference)! 

It’s so motivating to be trying new things, and know that you’re not wasting your time! Especially if you have a busy schedule. But changing the way I viewed “productivity” has made me accomplish WAY MORE than when I just thought about it being straight up studying. It’s about developing new skills and pushing yourself to trying new things, that ultimately make you grow. And now, growth to me, is being productive. I feel way better about spending time meal prepping than watching youtube videos (even though I’ve learned to do both at the same time). It’s about replacing useless habits and incorporating absolutely ANYTHING that will benefit you as a person, or add something that you could use later. I can now be present when doing whatever I am if I stick to this list! And since I don’t feel bad about doing any of it, I choose to do things from the list, and spend less time dozing around on youtube and facebook (and even when I do that, I don’t feel as bad). Win win for all! (Me, myself and I, and for others when you can be present with them)! Growing when I challenge myself with the multiple things to do on this list, and less stress because it’s become fun! 

So go ahead, redefine the things that stress you out in order to benefit from it. Make that stressful habit in your life your B*#%H.