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Redefining Productivity – Quarantine thoughts of a student

What does productivity mean for a college student at RGBS?  

It is Tuesday afternoon, October 6, 2020, a beautiful day hinting at a cloudy sky and gentle winds, the flowers beginning to bloom. The city that is known for its restlessness is alive with many of its residents either incredulous about the growing urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic or fully committed to preparing for quarantined life indoors.   

This seemed impossible here where domestic life typically spills out onto front stoops and into city parks and crowded restaurants. In Bhubaneswar, one sacrifice among the residents are making unfolds. One that has us locked in our homes bored out of our minds.  

One of us tweets, “The first time I am this helpless in 22 years. The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting us all in many ways. Let’s all be part of the solution.” Our institution, RCM Global BSchool of Management, officially closed that day.  

The decree by our college, RGBS, and city to shut down all non-essential operations became a necessary inevitability. The college administration, like that of many other institutions, delivered a positive tone addressing the students through an email communication.   

The message was about its commitment to “protect and sustain our community with the goal of being as productive as possible while off-campus to ensure that we are in the strongest possible position to return to normal operations at the earliest opportunity.”  

We soon came face to face with reality. The new normal of being as productive as possible from our homes was more of a challenge than we could imagine.  

Redefining Productivity

And, we the students of RGBS, we ready to take on the challenge.   

Over the last five months or so, I’ve learned what productivity really is. Productivity feels like a never-ending grind to the mortar. Productivity looks like an array of assignments on my radar. From fests to cultural events to academic deadlines–all of which I deeply enjoy, but they can be overwhelming at times.   

Productivity sounds like a heartbeat vivified by a strong burst of cardio. Adrenaline-pumping, life-giving, but after functioning for an extended period of time, burnout is inevitable. There comes a time when you have to come to terms about your limitations and learn how to say No in a culture that prefers Yes, And.  

These last few months staying in quarantine, however, felt like the exact opposite. Life moves in an excruciatingly slow pace where time is just a construct. Days blur and merge into each other.  

I pen down extensive To-Do lists in the morning and promptly forget about them by night. Why aren’t there more checks in my lists? Where did the day go? And the question that haunts me the most: why am I not productive?  

In this period of uncertainty that demands flexibility, improvisation, and innovation, I believe the definition of productivity needs to be redefined.  

Society’s preconceived notions of productivity make me feel unaccomplished and weak, and worthless. It makes me feel constantly underachieved. So, here I am, reinventing what productivity is:  

Redefining Productivity is doing all those little things that bring joy to you. It is waking up in the morning and making breakfast for you and your roommate, parents, siblings or partner.  

Productivity doesn’t look like producing one paper after another; it looks like a loaf of banana bread or a deliciously burnt Basque cheesecake emerging from the oven. It is when you turn the final page of that book you kept pushing back and that painting which had been staring at you unfinished for so long.  

Productivity feels like peace. Every day I check in with myself mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically, I knew that I have been productive. Self-care and getting to know myself better takes work.  

Productivity doesn’t have to look like taking bows to raucous applause in a theatre. It looks like the little pat on the back you give yourself for doing one more crunches than yesterday. While I can’t wait to race across RGBS’ campus, for now, I’m celebrating the private, quiet victories in our quarantine life that to me, redefine productivity.