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The Paw Print

The Paw Print

Pressure to passion: summer productivity reimagined

Cici Liu

As we start to say goodbye to the fourth and final semester, we welcome the beginning of a well-deserved three-month hiatus. For students, summer represents a chance to catch up on sleep, relax and recharge after a rigorous year. Some feel liberated. Some feel lost. But quite a few students face the pressure to stay “productive.” Students constantly and traditionally compare this term to high academic achievement and padding college resumes. I believe we should expand this perspective to include promoting well-being and pursuing genuine passions.

A month ago, my father recommended that I read a book about personal development called “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” by James Clear.

Three pages into the first chapter, I learned that the author improved his baseball skills by breaking down large goals into manageable habits that can lead to significant progress. By consistently going to sleep early and practicing, he ended up playing college baseball. Reading the first chapter reminded me that productivity is more about sustainable, focused effort than cramming as much as possible into a limited time frame. Right then, I realized summer is the best time to make meaningful progress toward goals without overwhelming myself.

During the summer, students should seize the opportunity to develop passions and prioritize self-care in an enjoyable way that doesn’t have to result in another achievement to add to our Common Apps. As a community, we need to start prioritizing seeking fulfillment in areas not related to academics or college applications.

Upper School Counselor Andrea Fleetham shared, “If you’re trying to think of what to do in the summer only to build a resume, try to gear your thinking into finding nice, enjoyable moments and do those activities because you’re truly interested.” Being productive this summer can mean finding what brings you true joy and fulfillment. What experiences or projects allow you to express your unique talents and interests?

After asking yourself these questions, you can begin to explore your interests by cultivating daily or weekly habits — like what James Clear did with baseball.

Last summer, I developed a journaling habit as I’ve always had a passion for writing. While it didn’t seem monumental at the time, I’m glad I started journaling three times a week and have continued to do so this year as it has allowed me to express my thoughts, emotions and ideas without a filter. Because journaling felt like a pastime to me, I learned that being productive doesn’t have to mean feeling constantly busy or avoiding boredom at all costs.

Since everyone is different, there’s no universally productive schedule, so the key is to find a rhythm that works for you. It’s important to tune into your own needs and be flexible with yourself along the way; for me, I found that sleeping in every three days and journaling three times a week worked for me.

“The best way to be productive is to be balanced,” Fleetham advised. “That means allowing your brain to rest when it needs to, engaging in activities you genuinely enjoy and taking time for self-care.”

As stressed adolescents going through high school, we must listen to our bodies and minds and remember that productivity should not mean sacrificing our well-being to keep ourselves active. Pushing too hard can lead to burnout, a feeling of persistent mental and physical fatigue as well as overwhelm. We should strike a balance between active hobbies and downtime, so we can maintain a sustainable pace that still leaves us feeling energized and fulfilled for the next task at hand.

If you want to pursue a passion project or activities, think about how they align with your interests.

Student Community Engagement Coordinator Renée Larios shared, “Something I love to do is singing. Throughout the summer, I gathered the courage to sing onstage at open mics, and learned, as a result, that I should always be trying new things.” Furthering a passion into action can be a start to laying the foundation for a summer filled with productivity.

As you gear up for the break, keep this in mind: the best summer isn’t about cramming it with endless activities or padding your resume. Be productive at your own pace, dive into things that truly matter to you and enjoy simply being. This summer is your canvas, so paint it with moments that resonate with you.

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