Student Life

Ditching busy culture for wellness

Conversations around campus are often focussed on the busy nature of our lives, with a subtle competition on who is the busiest; being busy has become a major status symbol in university culture today. At a prestigious institution like McGill, ‘busy culture’ is certainly not an uncommon phenomenon. There always seems to be a constant pressure to have overloaded course schedules and engage in a long list of extracurricular activities. 

Busy culture is a product of several factors—necessity, FOMO, escapism, and the digital era in which we live. It becomes an issue when it gets in the way of wellness. Engaging in busy culture can mean sleeping less and having little time for self-care, which are essential for a healthy mind. With midterm season already here, here are three ways to prioritize your wellness as the semester gets busier.

Say No

Don’t feel pressured to always say yes. Contrary to popular belief, being busy is not equivalent to being productive. While being busy focusses on the number of activities one is engaged in, productivity is measured by the quality of the results produced. Prioritizing your wellness means choosing productivity over being busy.  It is so easy to get caught up in the countless opportunities to get involved and beef up your resume. However, being productive means limiting the time you spend on things that matter, because it is important to be intentional with the little time and energy you do have. There will always be clubs to join, projects to latch on to, and positions to apply for. 

One way to prioritize what is urgent is by eliminating what’s not with a  “To-don’t list,” a list of engagements and commitments that are not beneficial. Set boundaries and take only what you can handle. It is okay to be choosy and say no. 


Guilt always finds a way of creeping in when time is spent resting or recharging. With days of consistently jumping from one commitment to another, there is little room to slow down and be mindful. Using apps like Morning! allows students to set reminders throughout their days to practice gratitude and reflection. Even amidst the constant grind, you should spend time to focus on satisfying all aspects of life. Taking care of yourself could mean going to the gym when you don’t feel like studying rather than forcing yourself to get through your work, having regular days off, or simply squeezing in time for a nap. Make space to check in with yourself, connect with people, and recharge.

Let go of perfectionism

Busy culture is a manifestation of perfectionism. It is easy to feel disappointed when you don’t finish every item on your to-do lists. Despite what the loud voice of perfectionism may say, this is the reality of most days: Unfinished tasks, glaring deadlines, and feelings of unproductivity festering even after hours of hard work. To fight this, you must realize that your definition of a productive day might look different from yesterday’s, just as it might look different from others’: Some days,  the schedule could be full of club meetings, classes, and work, while other times, it can just be a tough day you need to push through.

While the pervasive notion is that the amount of work one puts in defines their worth, this is not the case. Fighting busy culture means going against an ingrained norm which can be difficult, but it can also be empowering. A successful person is someone who is content, not someone who has the most commitments.

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One Comment

  1. It is important to sit back and intentionally sort through the growing lists of to-dos.. It will reduce stress and make one perform optimally.
    I wish someone had given me these practical tips years ago… thank God it’s still relevant for me today.

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