It’s okay if you’re not productive during this COVID-19 outbreak

We all respond to difficult situations differently, so let's not feel guilty if we're not doing as much as we normally do.

Anis Nabilah
Anis Nabilah

Published: 15 May 2020, 12:01 PM

If you’re active on Twitter or TikTok, you might’ve seen a somewhat controversial video by TikTok user @doujiang.youtiao.

In the video, she expressed the opinion that if you haven’t accomplished your goals or learnt a new skill by the end of the circuit breaker, “You never lacked time, you lack discipline”.

Her video sparked debates on TikTok and Twitter about the need to be productive during this circuit breaker.


Her video was reposted with many comments criticising what she had said. PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM TWITTER


One netizen disagreed with her statement, saying everyone adapts to the circuit breaker differently. PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM TWITTER


The TikTok user later explained on her Instagram story that she had heard the quote online and was merely reminding herself to get things done, even if they’re small.

While her intention was to inspire people, I felt that the quote had the opposite effect.

It made it sound like everyone is in a position to use the circuit breaker for self-improvement or turn it into something fun when that’s not the case.

Here’s why I think it’s okay to not be productive during this stay-home period.

1. The circuit breaker can mean more work for some

While staying home and having some downtime may make it feel like we’re on a break, schools are still conducting home-based learning (HBL) and many continue to work from home.

As someone who’s working from home for the first time, I had to overcome many challenges while adapting to the circuit breaker measures.

One of my biggest issues was not having a conducive environment to work in at home. Before the May holidays started, my sister would barge into the room where I was working and ask for help with her HBL. This happened multiple times throughout the day.

As a result of constant interruptions, my train of thought would get disrupted and I had to put in extra effort to get back into the groove.

I felt mentally and physically exhausted by the end of every day.

I can only imagine how hard it is for our frontliners, those who are struggling financially or emotionally to keep afloat during this time, and the parents who are juggling work and caring for their children.

I don’t think we have to bombard our schedules with activities just because we have a little more downtime on our hands. For many, there’s actually more work to be done. It’s okay to rest every now and then.


Many social media accounts have posted reassuring messages that it’s okay to take a break. PHOTO CREDIT: NYC SG’S INSTAGRAM


2. We're constantly stressing about the virus

When was the last time you lived through a pandemic? I’m pretty sure most of us haven’t been through anything like this before. We’re all just adjusting to the new normal as we go along.

COVID-19 is a new and scary experience.

We’re bound to feel stressed when we’re constantly hearing bad news every day about infections and how uncertain the future is.

Our lack of control and fears over the virus situation cause us to feel stressed for extended periods of time. This makes it harder for us to concentrate on anything else, even when we’re not consciously thinking about COVID-19.

If you’re struggling to focus on day-to-day activities during this time, cut yourself some slack and remember that it’s a normal response. It’s even backed up by science!

3. Productivity does not look the same for everyone

What does being productive actually mean? All I know is that what’s productive for me may not be the same for you.

I feel that when we assume everyone lives life the same way we do, it’s easy to invalidate somebody else’s experiences and struggles.


For me, being productive means finishing my tasks for the day and completing at least a five-minute workout. PHOTO CREDIT: AVEL CHUKLANOV VIA UNSPLASH


There’s also a tendency to compare ourselves to other people on social media.

For instance, I feel guilty for not doing more during this circuit breaker whenever I see my friends post videos of themselves cooking elaborate meals or sweaty selfies after completing a Chloe Ting workout session.

I think it’s important to remember that what you see on social media is curated content; people don’t often post about their failures.

While seeing other people’s accomplishments on social media may motivate you, negative social comparison can make you feel insecure.

One thing I’ve learnt is not to measure myself against others’ standards, especially when it comes to work and achievements. After all, where’s the fun in life if we’re all exactly the same?


Check up on the people you love and offer help wherever you can. PHOTO CREDIT: SOPHIA.JOAN.SHORT’S INSTAGRAM


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should come up with excuses to get out of doing work. I just think we shouldn’t be quick to judge someone just because we have different ideas of productivity. Guilt-tripping somebody might only make them feel worse.

Instead, we should do our best to look out for one another. Pay attention to your friends and see if they’re doing okay, rather than find reasons to compare yourselves with them.

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