Clicking on any YouTube video titled “Productive Day in My Life” takes you on pretty much the same journey. The first few seconds set the mood with an aesthetic morning coffee montage and soothing lo-fi music. Productivity vloggers will walk you through each ingredient in their recipes for a perfect day — studying, exercise, healthy food and errands. Over the next 20 minutes, you can sit back and watch each task carried out to completion, leaving you with a lingering satisfaction by the video’s end.
Throughout quarantine, I have noticed the days bleed into one another, with the potential of each afternoon squandered in a haze of Netflix and TikToks. I can hardly even list three things I accomplished yesterday. And while it’s completely okay to be gentle with yourself in the midst of a devastating pandemic, some, like me, might thrive off the sense of achievement that comes with structure and productivity.
As someone who is fueled by the presence of other people, I have become thoroughly drained by the pandemic’s isolating effects. Without the rewards of social interactions, I didn’t have the motivation to complete even the most trivial tasks. I even began to witness my sense of self, inextricably tied to my productivity, slip away from me.
As I aimlessly trudged through the ceaseless marathon of quarantine, I found solace in the recorded lives of productivity vloggers.
Watching a productivity vlog has the same effect on me as studying at the library. Seeing my peers diligently working holds me accountable and rids me of distracting temptations. I’d feel guilty for watching Netflix if the person next to me is 10 pages deep into a research paper. Similarly, watching others be productive in their vlogs — despite the challenges of the pandemic — puts me right next to them in the metaphorical library of the Internet.
When I watch productivity vloggers organize their space, suddenly, those same tasks that felt impossible to me in my isolated bubble seem achievable. In witnessing others fulfill their responsibilities, I can visualize myself doing the same and manifest that into reality.
I also identify with the lifestyle vloggers I follow. Many of them are college students trying to make the most of their time at home as the pandemic rages on around them. Having that shared experience makes it easier to project their sense of direction onto my own lost days of the past few months.
If you’re in need of that same direction to start off your fall semester on the right foot, here are a few of my favorite productivity vloggers whose videos will get you ready to tackle your day.
Although she’s a relatively newer YouTuber, Lauryn Doan has mastered the art of the productivity vlog. Her videos, which garner hundreds of thousands of views, star her beautifully written to-do lists that intensify the viewer’s satisfaction with every crossed-off task. Plus, the soft acoustic background music and Lauryn’s soothing tone of voice make her vlogs honey for the ears.
Lauryn’s online college vlogs, aside from being a pleasant viewing experience, are especially helpful for students feeling imbalanced in their home lives. She executes a healthy routine of completing assignments, spending time with family and making time for self-care, without painting an unrealistic portrait of productivity.
In one video, Lauryn mentioned that, although she may come off as being on top of everything in her life, she actually forgot to complete a quiz and an exam the week before.
“I’m a real person, I forget to do things, I make really bad mistakes and I get caught up in my own stuff,” Lauryn said. “I don’t want you to think that I’m always so on top of things, because I’m not, and it’s okay to make mistakes.”
Lauryn also stands out for her unmatched engagement with her followers. She responds to hundreds of comments to demonstrate her gratitude for her viewership and fosters a community centered around spreading positivity. At the start of each video, Lauryn will invite you to “join the fam,” extending her warmth beyond the scope of productivity and into her personal life.
Kris Hui is one of the only people who can motivate me to get off the couch and move my body. Most of Kris’ vlogs showcase her genuine passion for working out, so that even the average, non-gym-going viewer feels her excitement. When she takes you along for a long bike ride or walks you through a no-equipment home workout, she’s always sure to emphasize how exercise is not an obligation but rather her reward after a long day of classes.
By highlighting her rush of endorphins and sense of accomplishment after exercising, Kris also demonstrates the value in devoting time toward getting stronger. She proves that exercise can be both enjoyable and nourishing, even for college students who might already have a lot on their plate.
“A big tendency for college students during finals week is that you put your body under a lot of stress, and sometimes you neglect it,” Kris says in a finals week vlog. “A lot of people don’t take the necessary steps to just give [their] body what it needs. [Stay] active, take some breaks here and there, eat a good nutritious meal.”
If you’re looking to get your life in order, Hannah Elise is the productivity vlogger for you. Hannah’s meticulous organization in her academics is a breath of fresh air amid the chaos of quarantine. You can feel peace as she color-codes her planner, labels her notebooks with course titles and gives her desktop a visual refresh.
Although each task is small, the cumulative effect of watching Hannah organize for a challenging semester ahead is a sense of relief that preparation is actually possible. Instead of feeling overwhelmed at all the uncertainties the semester presents, we can focus on completing concrete, actionable tasks that provide us with a reprieve from everything we cannot control.
Hannah’s videos of her productivity through quarantine also offer guidance on how to make this time more manageable, such as by adjusting one’s view of what is considered “productive.”
“One thing that I’ve really needed to change my attitude about is the whole concept of productivity,” Hannah said. “Before, I had such a toxic view of what productivity should look like, and I held myself to this really insane standard. [If] I don’t do as many things as I should have, I get very down on myself…so I’ve kind of tried to reinvent my view of productivity.”
All of these productivity vloggers strive for their own personal standards of productivity while remaining grounded. Every single task might not get checked off the list, and sore muscles may call for a day of rest. But each individual still demonstrates that obtaining structure and a sense of accomplishment in quarantine is a real possibility, not just an abstract idea. And while the steps to achieve productivity might be different for everyone, you might find that the motivation you need is just one YouTube video away.