Words of Encouragement for Those with...

Words of Encouragement for Those with Low Productivity Levels during COVID (French version available)

by Rochelle C. Pangilinan
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

During the early stages of COVID in the spring of 2020, when most of the world experienced lockdowns, were confined to their homes, and only went out to shop for essentials, there were plenty of individuals who suggested the alleged free time be used to pursue passion projects or work on self-improvement. After all, as the meme that went viral suggested, William Shakespeare wrote the masterpiece “King Lear” while isolating because of the bubonic plague.

What’s more fascinating is, Shakespeare also wrote two other masterpieces (“Antony and Cleopatra” and “Macbeth”) during the plague according to research.

So if Shakespeare then, without any aid of technology and modern medicine, was able to work on three of his greatest works, we shouldn’t have any excuse for not trying to create or produce something, right?

For a lot of people, the answer was a resounding YES. As we were bombarded with health statistics and news of the rapid development of COVID vaccines, there were people who channelled their inner entrepreneurs, bakers, writers, filmmakers, songwriters, artists, and what-have-you, and showcased to the world their beloved endeavours, under the guise that the pandemic resulted in high productivity levels.

Who could forget those two Toronto-based sixteen-year-olds who founded their own confection company in late 2020 at the height of the global health crisis to produce smash hearts, or chocolate geometric hearts you can smash to get the candy filling and messages or gifts inside it? That was a novel venture, and it probably inspired lots of teens to think of similar business ideas that would be a hit in the market.

But every coin has two sides, as they say, and for every individual who turned themselves into Marie Kondo and redesigned their homes like a pro, there’s an individual who chose to not embark on any new project and instead opted to take it all in.

And of course, since our social media pages were overflowing with posts and stories about others’ newly discovered talents or reignited passions, and Jeremy Haynes, the CEO of one of the top digital marketing agencies in the world telling us that if we didn’t make use of the free time we have during lockdown to start a business or learn a new skill, then it meant we lacked discipline. It was inevitable to feel the pressure to do something like everyone else seemed to have done.

But according to Jessi Gold, a professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, it is completely normal to feel anxious during a pandemic and not feel up to being productive. Not only did the pandemic interrupt our normal lives, but it also further magnified already existing issues like job insecurity, underprivileged communities, and limited healthcare access, and with these, it is perfectly reasonable to feel anxious.

Gold says that there’s nothing wrong if one wants to take up a project or grab opportunities for learning or growth in the middle of the pandemic. However, the issue is when they force this so-called standard to the people around them, be it family, friends, or classmates.

But psychological experts suggest that those who try to overachieve during tough times are probably overcompensating for the things beyond their control. If vacation plans or summer job plans went awry due to the pandemic, it’s natural for people to take on something they can easily control as a way to cope.

Doing so can be harmful though as it can result in stretching themselves too thin. It’s akin to juggling too many balls. At some point, you’ll lose a handle of one, then everything is bound to come tumbling down.

If you’re thinking of pursuing something, don’t think in terms of its grandiosity (like starting a business) or its popularity (like an influencer). It should be something that fulfills you as a human being and has meaning for you. But cut yourself some slack if you’re not thinking of pursuing. Don’t put pressure on yourself merely because you feel you need to keep up with everyone else.

“There’s nothing you’re supposed to get out of this,” as Gold reiterates. “If what you get out of this is, like, you’re breathing, congratulations.”



Lightfoot, Scott. “16-year-old sweethearts create their own sweet company.” CTV News. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/16-year-old-sweethearts-create-their-own-sweet-company-1.5278871

Livingston, Mercey. “You’re not just lazy: Why it’s hard to be productive right now.” CNET. https://www.cnet.com/health/why-you-dont-feel-as-productive-during-the-pandemic/

Lorenz, Taylor. “Stop Trying to be Productive.” The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/style/productivity-coronavirus.html

North, Anna. “Lockdown was not a sabbatical.” Vox. https://www.vox.com/22536756/covid-pandemic-quarantine-lockdown-productivity-hobbies-work

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