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A Productive Day

The view from a street corner I walk by almost daily.

9:30 a.m. The view from a street corner I walk by almost daily.

7:30 a.m. I hear a loud noise which I quickly identify as my alarm clock. I wake up at an earlier time than I would have wanted to. The guilt of not having been productive on the previous day gets me out of bed.

10:00 a.m. I finally manage to get myself out of my studio in the West side of town. As I walk downtown, I decide that the windows at Literati would inspire me to get some work done.

10:30 a.m. Literati is unsurprisingly full. I can’t get a table there. I feel a quick rush of jealousy for the people who have managed to get themselves to work earlier than me. I am forced to think of a plan B.

11:00 a.m. The grungier coffee place a couple blocks down never lets me down. I get a table in front of the big window. People watching makes for a good reading break.

3:00 p.m. The only words I have uttered today have been: “Can I have a small chai latte, non-dairy please”. At this point I wonder if texting counts.

4:00 p.m. I haven’t read nearly the number of pages I had told myself I would read. However, I believe I deserve a new record. I buy a five-dollar used record from Encore Records store.

4:30 p.m. Walking down Fifth Street, it has been a really hot day and I can barely walk. Every time I walk by a mirror-like material I want to catch a glimpse of what I want to believe is my own reflection.

5:00 p.m. I finally make it back home. I contemplate the idea of just laying on my bed for an indefinite amount of time. This lapse into wishful thinking is interrupted by the fact that I haven’t even written my assignment for my class the next day.

11:00 p.m. I couldn’t get done as much as I would have wanted to. My guilt is not stronger than my desire to sleep this time. I shall try to be productive again tomorrow. The only words I uttered today were: “Can I have a small chai latte, non-dairy please.”

While I recognize I am not the best at motivational speech, I don’t want to seem disenchanted by my life as a graduate student. Rather, I am questioning my constant obsession for “being productive." This desire for productivity gets me up in the morning, it follows me throughout my day and it is often the last thing I think about at night. Yet, it isn’t clear to me what I actually mean by “being productive” or what an ideal “productive” day would look like for me.

It appears to me that the life of a graduate student does not seem to fit the common conceptions of labor in our society, in the sense that our labor cannot be defined by spending 40-hours of the week at a specific place performing a very specific task. As graduate students we have a number of tasks—in the form of reading, writing and teaching—that need to be completed during the week. More often than not we can decide where and when we want to dedicate time for these activities. However, it is common that the amount of reading and writing that we aim to accomplish during any given day isn’t humanly possible. This might lead us to a constant feeling of unfulfillment and a questioning of our time managing skills. By grounding this piece in specific times of my day, I hope to capture the feeling of letting myself down by the setting of unrealistic goals while also showing the possibility of moving through places and engaging in other unique experiences that my life as a graduate student offers.

The views expressed in this post are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of Rackham Graduate School or the University of Michigan.