Overworking During Quarantine

Since quarantine began, I’ve seen articles preaching “Use your time wisely — Isaac Newton only achieved his breakthroughs when he was forced into quarantine” and statements like “If you don’t come out of this quarantine with at least one new skill…” on people’s Instagram stories. It’s true that we have a lot more leisure time with the stay-at-home orders, but does that mean we should be twice as productive? The first few weeks I was stuck at home I certainly bought into the idea that I should be. I wanted to write more, learn more, and explore new hobbies I never had time to invest in before. However, I never factored in the fact that we aren’t living under normal circumstances. It’s not like we are in a stress-free environment with a sudden abundance of time. Trying to be twice as productive during the anxiety-inducing environment of a pandemic, even from the safety of one’s home, can be taxing. Suffice it to say, I didn’t get very far with my initial goals of maximum productivity.

But that got me thinking as to why I was feeling the pressure, the need, to be productive. It reminded me of this article titled, Millennials Are Actually Workaholics, According to Research. In summary, it comes to the conclusion that narcissism lives at the core of why millennials obsess about work, even being titled the “burnout generation”. Work martyrdom is much more common, and even admired, among millennials and much of it stems from the belief that, “No one else at my company can do my job while I’m away.” On top of that, millennials are the first totally connected generation, which makes the notion of finishing and “disconnecting from” work much more blurred.

It’s an interesting hypothesis that narcissism is the crux of why I feel the need to be productive. I mean, if I think about the endless cycles of self-help and self-optimization my peers and I buy into time and time again it does seem quite narcissistic. I don’t think investing in the self is bad, but burnout is real and I can’t say many of my attempts have actually converted to long-term habits. A few interesting articles about this topic I’ve read are Why Self-Help Might Actually Be Making You Less Happy and Improving Ourselves to Death.

We’ve become so obsessed with looking inward and trying to achieve our ideals that it’s actually made us less equipped to be a human on the outside (you know, the type that’s actually connected to other people). Oh, and on top of that, we’re supposed to be happy all the time, which, turns out, is a hard thing to do when you’re constantly being told you can do and be better, and more positive, and more productive.

I expect that growing up with social media and constantly curating our unique, social brand has groomed our generation to be at least a little more narcissistic. Also “participation trophies” and “each of you will grow up to change this world and impact millions” sentiments probably didn’t help the situation. Its possible that work martyrdom and the necessity to be productive is actually a defense mechanism for the fact that most people didn’t end up being that influential, so we work twice as hard to meet our own deluded sense of grandiosity. The truth is not everyone is Isaac Newton, and that’s perfectly okay.

I’m definitely no exception to this and perhaps I wrote all this to remind myself: It’s okay not to optimize every moment of quarantine. And that’s that.

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