Not every day has to be productive

St. PaulSummer is strange the way time and light stretch on, the way I lose track, unsure what hour it is, whether it’s Monday or Thursday, May, June or July. Yet I often feel like I should be doing something else, something productive. Homework or reading or job hunting for next summer. Or, maybe I’ll finally attempt the recipes that sit abandoned in an email folder.

In undergrad, I often found it difficult to transition from the stress of finals into the profound lack of structure summer provides, relatively speaking. That difficulty is particularly pronounced in law school, where I struggled to structure my time in the first few weeks after 1L year.

Much of the toxicity of law school is rooted in the competition, in the persistent feeling that I’m not studying enough, reading enough, briefing cases enough, preparing for class enough. I’m settling into my summer externship at the Minnesota Department of Services, and I’m happy to have some structure back in my days.

Still, I find myself feeling the pressure to be productive every moment I’m not working, whatever the hell that means.

Not every day has to be productive. It really doesn’t. I have to remind myself of this often, give myself permission to watch bad TV for an entire day, reread my favorite essay from the collection I’ve already read four times and, to quote Cardi B, “Put it on airplane mode so none of those calls come through.”

I’ve started writing three things I did each day that I can be proud of, and rather than my usual expectations that I should have read and briefed 30 cases, written my own treatise and like, hit 10,000 tennis balls before 10 a.m., I write down a mix of small and big accomplishments. I made tea. I read a chapter of a book. I did some light job searching for next summer. I watered my plants.

Not every day has to be productive. Even for someone like me who has zero net chill.

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