Students Should Use Free Time to Stay Both Relaxed and Productive--By Nina Gerardi
Many students have found an abundance of free time now that social distancing is in place. For some, the push to be more productive during this time has also surfaced, whether it is through picking up extra hours at work or building up extra credit at school. However, thoughts of being productive during free time are often associated with lose-win situations, where you give up things—like time for extra work hours—to get things—like more money.
However, many don’t realize that productivity doesn’t always mean activity and grueling costs.
Since it may be beneficial for students’ health, passions and overall well-being, relaxing or enjoyable productivity may be a valid priority when students are able to choose what takes up their free time—especially for those students who often experience burnout or feel the need to overwork to be “productive.” Unless they are obligated to do otherwise, students considering less strenuous ways to be productive may benefit in the long run.
For this article, we will define productivity as the process where we put time into something to experience gains, often to benefit oneself in the long run.
Productivity obtained from grueling or strenuous tasks isn’t always a detrimental thing, and oftentimes, it’s necessary to achieve personal goals or one’s set forth by school or work.
However, when students constantly undergo these strenuous activities in their free time, not allowing much breathing room for relaxing, it may start negatively impacting their health. One impact that may occur is burnout, which according to helpguide.org, is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that can occur from constant, overwhelming stress. While undergoing burnout, people are more prone to illnesses like the flu and may also have low energy, which may leave them feeling helpless, hopeless, and cynical. To avoid these health concerns, students, if they have the choice and time for it, should probably make sure that free time doesn’t solely consist of work that may overwhelm them and inevitably hurt.
Taking time to relax and give ourselves breathing room from the worktable is arguably productive, if the end-goal is specifically to maintain a healthy mind and body. In the article “Make Time for Self-Care During a Self-Quarantine” on geisinger.org, Geisinger Medical Center psychologist Dr. Laura Maphis discusses the importance of self-care during this period of social-distancing. According to Maphis, taking care of ourselves mentally and emotionally plays a large part in maintaining good health. In the same article she’s featured in, it lists that we should make time for activities that make us happy. As a result, putting time into taking care of ourselves with enjoyable activities—from watching some Netflix to picking up a good book—may be just as meaningful as the extra hours we put into our arduous activities, as long as this time spent isn’t abused and we actually need a breather. Focusing on things like taking care of our overall health may be just as important as saving up for college.
However, working and making an effort in your free time isn’t exactly the plague, either, and it doesn’t have to diminish feelings of relaxation and enjoyment to be considered “productive.” There are many forms of work that can be deemed enjoyable and satisfying while at the same time being beneficial. People are often motivated to do these types of activities with intrinsic motivation, a psychology term for doing something because it’s enjoyable and worthwhile to oneself. In tasks that are intrinsically motivated, people don’t do things for paychecks or grades; instead, they do it because they enjoy it or it satisfies them personally. For example, senior Natalia Quinn has been using much of her free time to do art, which is her passion and something she wants to pursue later in a career. According to Quinn, she wants to improve her art because it is personal to her, and the recent increase in free time has helped provide time to do so.
“Now that I have all this free time, I can feel productive without feeling like I’m slaving away at mindless work,” Quinn said. “Before . . . I would still have all these assignments due, but it’s so much easier to enjoy without some sort of guilt that I should be doing other things.”
Pursuing passions and pursuing growth that makes us content and satisfied is a great way to be productive while also avoiding the overbearing aspect of some extrinsically motivated work. When scheduled in a student’s free time, sharpening skills or even creating new ones without the pressure of due dates and set assignments may ease some tension and be less stressful than doing more extrinsically motivated tasks.
For many, free time is easier to come across these days, and having extra time may grant the opportunity to do things we wouldn’t have had the chance to do before. In order to maximize this time, it may be important to focus on what our own personal circumstances call for, while also making sure to save time for focusing on overall health. If students feel ready and energized enough to take on a challenge, starting new projects or pursuing passions is a great way to spend leisure time. But if students are struggling or need a breather from outside mandatory things, taking a few extra moments to reevaluate, rejuvenate and relax could be just as necessary a route. Just be sure to relax productively!