Toxic Student Hustle Culture
As a student I believe that ‘productivity and hustle’ culture is fed to us 24/7 – whether we come across ‘Top 10 Tips to Stop Procrastinating’ on YouTube, images of finely aligned notebooks and stationary on Instagram or snippets of conversations in which we hear how other students are working an ungodly number of hours. Even when we finish our current problem sheet, coursework or piece of reading, there is always more to do in terms of internship preparation, planning society events and completing extra reading. In comparison to school, in which we were able to finish our homework and forget about studying until the next day, university work seems endless. This seemingly infinite to-do list can trick us into believing we need to be working as much as possible in order to do well.
I do agree that being productive can immensely help our mental health through making us feel accomplished and afloat, however there is a difference between working to achieve a goal and working just to work. In my opinion, the latter is more likely to lead to burnout and loss of purpose while the former helps us to complete a task, then step away and do something else we enjoy. I do recognise this is easy to say, but may be hard to put into practise due to other reasons we may overwork ourselves, including:
- Feeling as if working long hours will help to outperform everyone else
- Feeling as if we can only be productive if we spend x number of hours studying
- Feeling as if we are not clever enough and need to work more to reach the same standard as everyone else
- Pressure from parents or other family members
- Putting too much onto our plates
These mindsets can often lead to feelings of anger, frustration and disappointment – leading to getting further behind on work and reinforcing these negative emotions which can be a difficult cycle to break. The normalisation and glorification of this burnout culture adds to the issue, as we begin to idealise sleepless nights and caffeine overloads – encouraging others to follow the same path.
To combat this glorification, we need to be honest to ourselves about the consequences of working to our mental and physical limits. These include excessive stress, increased irritability, withdrawing from friends and many other effects. I believe that when we think about working long hours in this way, it flips the script and we realise how detrimental this is to our health.
These reasons are why it is important to ensure we don’t allow ourselves to fall into this ‘ultra-productivity’ trap in the first place. To encourage healthier habits, you could follow a couple of the tips below:
- Increase your self belief – you would have only been selected for this course if the university thought you had the necessary skills!
- Have a strong support network of friends – if you are beginning to enter the ‘ultra-productivity’ cycle, your other friends will notice and stop this before you go too far.
- Have other hobbies or activities scheduled for the day that have no relation to your work – this will help you realise that studying is not the only part of your life.
- Make sure you take care of the basics – have enough sleep, eat healthily and try to get in some exercise every day.
- Order your work by priority – this will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and as if you are constantly trying to catch up.
Hopefully implementing some of these tips will help to keep the workload and our perception of our workload under control. Let me know if you have any other thoughts on this topic or any other tips!