LHS & Productivity

Austin Li

Productivity is a treasured quality amongst Lexington High School students. You can find freshmen spending hours under a desk lamp on the third floor of Cary Memorial Library, or a group of students scrambling to finish their homework before the bell rings in Commons I. Regardless of the situation, the goal is to complete as much work as possible in the most efficient way. However, sitting in the school library during a free, one student takes their eyes off their YouTube video to see the kid next to them hard at work on next week’s Chemistry homework. What’s the difference between these two students?

The most common approach to increase productivity comes in the form of strategizing and using various studying methods proven to increase “focus” and “work rate”. I’ve dabbled in my own share of productivity tactics: creating a delegated study space, attempting the Pomodoro study method, setting up Notion to organize my workspace, downloading Google Keep to keep track of tasks, and installing an endless list of chrome extensions. Each of these additions aimed to eliminate as many small distractions as possible. 

Every time I learned a new “strategy” of focus, I became excited to implement it: I planned two weeks ahead for my English essay, brainstormed study guides with multiple subsections, and overbooked myself everyday. Shortly after using the new strategy, it would lose its appeal. Notion simply became a visually pleasing environment with nothing beyond that. The Pomodoro technique lost its fervor in the 25 minutes of intense focus. Each small distraction returned to the surface, leaving the same unachievable desire for productivity. 

Surprisingly, it was the “newness” of these strategies that made them effective; contrary to the way they improved my studying approach. What restricts productivity isn’t the ability to see the work we do in a new, fun light. Everyone in their lives will have to be able to work through moments where they are not passionate about a subject—discovering the ability to be productive in these moments is a true skill. 

Finding some sort of inner motivation for work is a far greater challenge beyond completing daily homework assignments. Students’ interest in eliminating all distractions to their productivity is useless working towards an impossible goal. Maybe a better mindset is one of resistance: rather than trying to get rid of a distraction, we can work on preventing our minds from being tempted by it. True productivity arises from an understanding that we aren’t just checking off boxes in a to-do list, but that there must be a greater idea about what we want to complete.