Redefining Productivity: Quarantine Thoughts of a Yalie

Cassandra's cheesecake

What does productivity mean for a Yalie?

Over my last three years at Yale, I’ve learned what productivity is. Productivity feels like a never-ending grind. Productivity looks like a slew of projects on my radar–from opening nights to cultural events to academic deadlines–all of which I deeply enjoy, but can be overwhelming at times. Productivity sounds like a heartbeat invigorated by a strong burst of HIIT exercise. Adrenaline-pumping, life-giving, but over an extended period of time, burnout becomes inevitable. There comes a time when you have to learn how to say No in a culture full of Yes, And.

These last few months in quarantine, however, feel like the exact opposite. Life moves in a haze where time is just a construct. Days blur into each other. I pen extensive To-Do lists in the morning and frown at them at night. Why aren’t there more checks in my checkboxes? What happened to all my waking hours? And the question that haunts me the most: why am I not productive?

In this uncertain period that demands flexibility, improvisation, and self-forgiveness, I believe the definition of productivity needs a do-over. My preconceived notions of productivity make me feel small, and weak, and worthless in what was supposed to be a summer full of invaluable internship experiences and travel. So I’m reinventing what productivity is:

Productivity sounds like birds chirping through the night (have they always done that? or am I simply more observant?) or my friends’ laughter over Zoom, as we share powerpoints and Pinterest boards of our favorite celebrities. Productivity doesn’t look like producing one paper after another; it looks like a loaf of banana bread or a deliciously burnt Basque cheesecake emerging from the oven. Productivity feels like peace. Every day I check in with myself mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically. Self-care and getting to know myself better takes work.

Productivity doesn’t look like taking bows to raucous applause in one of the residential college theaters; it looks like the little pat on the back you give yourself for doing one more push-up than yesterday. While I can’t wait to race across Yale’s campus from one meeting to the next, for now, I’m celebrating the private, quiet victories (a short journal entry! a chapter read! an email sent! a perfect macaron shell!) in our quarantine life that to me, redefine productivity.

Stop and smell the flowers… literally


purple macarons
Literally my proudest creations of quarantine

banana bread
Let’s get this bread!

basque burnt cheesecake
a Basque Burnt cheesecake