Madeleine Crutchley and Brian Gu try to talk about productivity while consistently getting sidetracked on a Zoom call.
Brian: Before we start, I’m really impressed that we’ve both managed to start work before 11am, without completely falling apart at the seams.
Maddy: Sorry to break it to you Brian, but I have been starting work at 9am AND falling apart at the seams. I didn’t expect week six to kick off so intensely. The deadlines are hitting hard. I’ve been seeing endless posts about self-care and taking it easy during lockdown, without concerns for productivity, but it doesn’t seem like uni structure quite allows for that.
Brian: My apologies, I hope for your continued strength. I’ve got to agree with you on the stress though – one of our lecturers has been firing non-consensual lecture recordings at us over the mid-semester break, taking advantage of our semi-conscious lockdown state. As a result, I’m starting to wonder where my break even went.
Maddy: Yeah, it does feel like our twelve-week semester has been transformed into a fifteen-week assignment nightmare. Even when I tried to sit down and chill during the break, I wasn’t able to get out of my work ethic mindset. Usually, my friends and I try to escape Auckland for a bit when we aren’t at uni, and that distance helps to break the productivity spell. There’s something about being confined to the same room as your workspace that doesn’t give you the same room to breathe.
Brian: The word productivity is one that I hear being thrown around these lockdown times, almost as much as baking, stress and hydroxychloroquine. Unfortunately, this isn’t a problem that can be solved by one massive bleach injection, so it really does beg the question of how we can remain productive during lockdown with KFC. I guess as much as we link productivity to that ‘head down study hard’ mentality, our ability to remain productive decays naturally over time, and therefore self-care is important to restore our mind and body to being productive.
Maddy: Productivity is definitely a buzzword right now. Everyone on Instagram seems to be either pushing away from it or embracing with vigour to smash through work or learn a new skill. It honestly makes me a little uncomfortable, just because the term is so closely linked to work and maximising profits. It’s a quality demanded of us because it increases our value economically, with little to no interest in individual and community based social wellbeing. Self-care, working on your mental health and learning to cope with the pressures of COVID-19 are productive acts (ew, that word is so icky).
Brian: Putting aside my lack of self-control not to craft a punchline for a second, I definitely empathise and relate to what you’re saying Maddy! I feel guilty, during semester especially, when I take time off to watch a movie, exercise or even cook (I promise, I do). In my mind, I’m not operating how I imagine I should be when ‘productive’, however, I also forget to appreciate that I’m feeling more stress and anxiety than usual because of social isolation. I guess what I’m saying is we shouldn’t feel terrible for not hitting our normal standards of productivity.
Maddy: For sure, that guilty feeling is the worst! I feel like my shoulders are hunched and tense every time I try to watch something on Netflix, with my brain still frantically scrolling through my emails. To feel guilty about not smashing work out of the park during an emergency lockdown is just ridiculous. However, I also totally understand how uni work can be a release or method for channelling nervous energy for some. I feel like if you’re studying something you actually enjoy, that’s an especially good time to focus on something that isn’t crisis-related.
Hopefully, everyone’s lecturers and supervisors are understanding of that pressure at the moment. Mine are super encouraging and understanding, it’s more the uni structures that stress me out. Have you noticed lecturers cracking down a bit more on students, or are they keeping it chill?
Brian: I feel like this is a time where lecturers have to be sympathetic of students else there’d be no plain way to put it – they’re assholes. Thankfully, across the board, teaching staff have shown courtesy with dialling it back, and if they haven’t, it’s probably an unconscious resistance.
During a difficult time like this, we have to assume the best of people, not the worst, and I think the uni has done a reasonably good job towards executing that mantra. Keeping in mind they have an academic reputation to protect, so compromise is difficult, I think 24-hour tests and a C+ to C- pass on our transcripts are a step in the right direction. Granted, there’s a lot else they aren’t doing so well at the moment, and there’s a long way more to go here. Still, considering academic pressure solely, I feel reasonably comfortable continuing my studies.
Maddy: That adjustment to the academic transcripts is going to be a game-changer, especially for undergrads just starting. I remember being so intimidated by the essay criteria and relying heavily on my tutors to get through the very new pressures. To you young folk, please don’t be too hard on yourselves and take the pass option if you need it! No one in the future will demand to know why you weren’t achieving A-pluses during a national emergency. If grades are something you have an unhealthy relationship with then push that guilt away, don’t let it squirm its way into your brain. Don’t be apologising for your situation of living at the moment, everything is SO weird, and people should understand that.
Brian: I love that message Maddy! We definitely should assume the best in ourselves during times like this, and not to beat ourselves up over our shortcomings. If I could be Karen for a second and complain about something…
Karen: I’ve been having patchy connection to Zoom calls recently, which has been a pain in group meetings, one-on-ones with lecturers and pretty much any social interaction in my life right now. And I guess I feel guilty when I ask people to repeat what they said or leave people waiting while I frantically rejoin the call. Don’t worry, I’m not fishing for your GoFundMe donation for better internet here; point is, I realised after a while that it was stupid for me to feel guilty or embarrassed – it was out of my control for my internet to be cutting down.
It’s a small-scale reminder that we need to be realistic about what we expect from ourselves during these crisis times. Because whether it’s shitty internet, the mental stress of isolation, or perhaps most worryingly financial or medical issues, we need to recognise we’re not at blame for things in life being harder right now. For lack of a better term, it’s just unproductive. If there was ever a time to assume the best in ourselves, it’s now.
Brian: Anyways, that was a lot of talking from me, and I’m pretty sure my internet cut out at least twice throughout it. Are you still awake Maddy?
Maddy: I may have been dozing off, but I’m here! No, Karen is totally right, as cliché as it might sound, giving yourself the benefit of the doubt will take so much of the pressure off. Reach out to your family, friends and lecturers, let them know if you need help (seriously get an extension!). Everyone deserves to have some time to relax and switch off, so don’t let that productivity bug creep in to bite you.
???: Kay Aura, I’m Soimon Bridges, and I approve this message.
Brian: Goddammit not this again. Are we password protecting these Zoom calls?