The Pursuit of Productivity: Why Quarantine is a Guilt Trap

Have you ever felt guilty for spending a day binging on Netflix? Have you continuously tried and failed at establishing a consistent schedule? Have you felt like an underachiever in this time of quarantine? 

Well, guess what? You are not alone. 

In my newly formed opinion, we’ve over-hyped quarantine to be a time of jam-packed productivity. It seems like everyone around you is knocking their assignments out of the park, practicing healthy habits, creating a productive routine, or striking a new balance in their lives, and you’ve just spent a day lying in bed rewatching The Office for the third time. 

Recently, I’ve been getting discouraged because I have not been able to fall asleep and wake up on a reasonable sleep schedule, or had the willpower to put away clean laundry for weeks, or reach the goals that I set for myself. 

I am definitely the planner type person, or at least I used to be before this coronavirus thing went down. I used to plan out my afternoons down to the minute and, believe it or not, I’d follow whatever I wrote from 3:40 to 8:00, and that worked. I kind of assumed that I would be the exact same person in quarantine and I just got so frustrated at myself when I wasn’t. I didn’t know why timestamps all of a sudden repulsed me. I didn’t know why reading books for fun didn’t have the same appeal. I didn’t know why everything was so different. I think one of the things I hated most about this new me was that I couldn’t just remember what I needed to do off the top of my head. If I was told an assignment, I would not remember to do it without writing it down. It felt like my once sharp mind deteriorating and there was nothing I could do about it.

It seemed that I kept hearing about what everyone else was doing: art, music, fitness, health, etc. and I couldn’t even get past square one. I tried all of the above and I just continued to feel tired. I got tired of doing art. After playing music, I felt too tired to work. And who isn’t tired after working out? And I derailed from eating healthy, digging an even deeper hole for me to sleep in when I was tired. 

Thus, I think quarantine is a guilt trap. Even the Common App for students applying to college this fall now includes a section for students to discuss what they did during quarantine or how it may have impacted their high school career. In some ways, this section will allow for students who have faced loss or significant financial burdens because of the coronavirus to explain how this has impacted their situation. But this may also cause other students to feel guilty about not accomplishing much more with their time. Although some would be eager to share their accomplishments on the Common App, others feel that it adds unnecessary pressure. Hustle culture, too, although not healthy (but quite popular) in the previous norm, is close to impossible in quarantine. 

So how can you avoid this guilt trap? The answer is simple: God. 

God is really the only thing keeping me grounded in these unpredictable times. When I fall into unhealthy, guilt-trapping ways, I somehow find my way back to balance with God’s help. When things aren’t going the way you planned, or you don’t get as much work done as you had hoped, it is important to go back to God and have faith that he will make everything right in the end. 

And this is coming from someone who, at the start of quarantine, did the bare minimum faith-wise with the simple weekly Sunday service. So trust me when I say that God is fool-proof. Simply remembering him throughout my day has made all the difference, and I’m so glad I made a greater effort to include Him, even if I was a little late to start. The biggest difference that I see from day to day is that I am never at a loss for why I am doing something. Everything has a meaning and an intention that makes fulfilling the task even more gladdening, even the little things.

So to summarize, I’ll say that quarantine is not a time to see how much you can accomplish or how big a trial you can conquer. It’s a time to see how much meaning you can make out of the small things with God by your side.


Elyza Tuan ’23, Clubs & Classes Editor