The Productivity Problem
An Apple a Day

Charlotte Glasser

Charlotte Glasser

The ever-popular production possibilities frontier, or PPF, puts productivity in the terms that I’m confident many Georgetown students are familiar with. Picture the top-right quarter of any circle — like an Eat & Joy pizza. What this wise pizza tells us, in terms of guns and butter, is that we cannot produce more butter without decreasing our gun production because we have finite resources. (What manufacturer is producing both dairy products and weapons, I cannot fathom.)

For the Georgetown community, time is our finite resource. It is a common adage that college students can only pick two of the following: good grades, a fulfilling social life or a healthy sleep schedule. In terms of the pizza, this makes sense: we have finite resources, and the additional time we put into our academic performance must be offset by time taken from other activities such as sleeping or socializing.

This is wrong. The pizza tells us only half of the story, using one limited view of productivity. This productivity is focused on a narrow range of outcomes that ignore how multifaceted individuals are and all the important — but not necessarily socially designated as productive — things we do throughout the day.

When someone asks what I’ve done in a day, I am happy to list out what I’ve done, and if I haven’t put the requisite hours into community-approved productive tasks, I’m quick to add my own disclaimer: “you know, not too much.” I do lots of things, including the socially approved amount of studying and cocurricular activities. I’m employed. But, these activities do not always take up all of my time. What drives my impulse to defend how I use my time? What makes me feel like my time commitments just aren’t good enough?

The answer is culture. I am not going to berate the Georgetown community for being “too successful” or “too driven” because those are excellent traits, and I’m proud to be a member of a community so noted for them. Still, I would ask my fellow community members: what do we define as success? What are we driving towards?

The answer for me is simple: a job. I want my Georgetown experience to culminate with a rewarding job offer. I want to be fully independent.

But do I think that subscribing to the narrow definition of “productive” that seems to include only academics, cocurricular activities, internships and hitting the gym will directly result in a rewarding job? There are so, so many ways to live a life, and there are so many ways to go about the college experience. If I want to call my mom, draw a picture, lend a friend a shoulder to cry on, learn how to fry an egg without turning it into rubber, discuss the meaning of life with my best friend or get on a random Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle, that’s what I’ll do. And it is productive. All of these experiences and activities contribute productively to my growth, reminding me that there’s more to life than academics, more to college than climbing a ladder and more to activities than resumes. I am not going to deny the importance of these activities, but I do know that when I tackle them with a fresh perspective, with a clear mind, I am more interested in them and I perform better.

There are likely those in the Georgetown community that would attribute my attitude to laziness; I think that is a short-sighted misinterpretation of my view. I am not advocating for a Georgetown culture without driven and productive people. Rather, I am advocating for a Georgetown culture that appreciates the applicability of drive and productivity in all their forms, including relaxing or interesting activities that promote a healthy level of self-care. The pizza PPF tells us that time spent on one activity necessitates decreasing the time spent on another, but the pizza doesn’t offer any insight into the value of time spent modeling every glamorous dress in Rent the Runway, so I don’t place a lot of stock in it.

Charlotte Glasser is a rising junior in the School of Nursing and Health Studies. An Apple a Day appears every other Wednesday at

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>