The Productivity Myth
If you ask me, November is absolutely the worst month. Not only is it rainy and cold every day, but all the leaves have died and fallen off the trees, it gets dark at 5pm, Christmas is still too far away, and, if you’re not heading into round 2 of midterms, you’re drowning in the 8 million papers, group assignments, and in-class finals headed your way in the next couple of weeks.
But then this one, small, sweet thing: fall reading break.
UVic is one of the few Canadian schools to offer a fall reading break. This year, the University of Alberta joined in as a response to rising student suicide rates. The implicit message of reading break is this: take this time to take care of you. In reality, UVic students use these five days to do whatever they want: sleeping in until 1pm everyday, partying, catching up on assignments and papers, or going on a trip to one of BC’s gorgeous adventure spots. How did you spend yours?
Like the rest of you, I’m busy. I feel the wave of fourth-year fatigue catching up with me, and with six classes, work, climbing, and an impending co-op abroad to prepare for, I have been feeling November-itis coming on. This whole semester, I have been working as a productivity-machine, filling every waking hour with some kind of chore — making dinner, getting my required exercise, writing a paper, applying for visas — so much so that I kind of forgot to breathe. I remind myself that there is this key word in reading break, and that is this: ‘break’.
After about a week of coming home, sitting down, and not being able to move for hours while starring at a blank word document, I realized that my system was crashing. Instead of staying in Victoria and writing all my assignments as I had planned to over the break, I knew I needed some time off. My boyfriend and I spontaneously booked an Airbnb in Pemberton, hopped on the ferry, and within hours I was hiking Joffrey Lakes in the pouring rain, eating Chinese food, watching movies, wandering aimlessly around Whistler, and eating pastries. Miraculously, I did nothing productive for two days. And I don’t even feel bad about it.
So, I challenge you to take a break, fellow Vikes. Take a break from getting up early and going to class, take a break from that workout routine and meet up with some long-forgotten friends, take a break from putting that pressure on yourself to finish that paper and grocery shop, and remember that you are not a productivity-machine, you are human.
The next time you find yourself crashing, don’t be afraid to take a little bit of time off. Of course you’re tired. You’ve been working hard, and you deserve a break. Don’t be too hard on yourself — go for a surf, eat terrible food, skip the workout — and forgive yourself afterwards. Chances are, you needed it, and you’ll come back stronger.