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  • Writer's pictureClairene Tan

Hustle Culture: To hustle or not

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

I’ll be honest – this article was supposed to be published about three and a half weeks ago. Ironically, it is because of the exact topic of discussion of this article - hustle culture, that you are only seeing this article now.

What exactly is hustle culture?

After scouring the net for the exact definition of hustle culture, I realise that writers tend to write about the reasons for this phenomenon without prescribing an actual definition to it.

One article pointed to the 2008 financial crisis as the catalyst of hustle culture. In the wake of the unstable economic climate, overworking gained popularity among youths. Longer hours and more jobs seemed like the only way to achieve success and stability. The problem was exacerbated when social media normalised working harder, faster and longer as people saw the positive depictions of hustling on their friend’s accounts.

I think we can largely agree that the claims of wanting to do more because your friends are doing a lot is relatively true, but at least from a university student’s standpoint, I think there is more to uncover about hustle culture.

Hustling since Year One

Source: Vietcetera

Personally, I truly believed in the notion of “new year, new me” which made me a lot more determined to take up many CCAs and different jobs in order to lead what I thought was the most fulfilling university journey. I was involved in at least three CCAs (exco in one) and working three jobs to sustain the social life that I also wanted to have. As a result, I sacrificed sleep and a lot of family time because whenever I was free during the weekends, I was either working or going out with my friends.

This did not improve in Year Two. Even though I dropped one of my CCAs due to a conflict in timetable, I continued working at least two jobs, had tournaments almost every weekend with another CCA and was involved in orientation activities across both semesters. The monetary strain and stress from studies did not help with the situation, but I continued hustling nonetheless. I also know that I am not alone in this situation, because I know many of my peers started interning during the summer and are usually only free to hang out at night.

Now embarking on my Compulsory Internship Program (CIP) Year Three, I am still giving tuition and still participating in tournaments. This got me reflecting on the past two years and wondering why I am stuck in the exact same place. Here was where I reached two questions and answers that I find difficult to reconcile.

Would I do it again? I don’t think so. Did I regret it? Not really.

The problem with hustling is that the concept of productivity has drastically been skewed, and it has taken almost a “spiritual dimension” according to New York Times. The value of optimizing one’s day and fitting in more work (or jobs) whenever possible is therefore not just a want but is seen as a positive asset to one’s life. People no longer do work to get what they want; the work itself is everything.

This means that no matter how tired you feel, you override that with the perceived sense of fulfilment from the things you accomplish, and that mentality by itself is toxic in the long run as you might feel burnt out eventually. I now find myself unable to detach from looking for more work to do and simultaneously claiming to people that I can finish work for them even though I logically know that it may not be quality work. Statistically, working longer hours is associated with issues like anxiety, sleep disturbance, job-related accidents and injuries.

n general (and in particular the freshmen), I would advise that you try your best to set a solid plan and goal for your university life, and work towards that (more below). It is okay to try and drop it if it gets too overwhelming. You do not need to conform to what the “ideal productive person” is on Instagram or feel like everything is a competition – just slay in your own way 😊

How to balance hustling and wellness

Source: Choice 360

That being said, I do recognise that sometimes, people do not have a choice about this whole hustling situation. In that case, here are some wholesome things that you can consider doing whilst hustling to keep yourself healthy.

  1. Setting clear boundaries - learn to say no when you know that you cannot do this particular work assigned to you, make it clear that you are only available on certain days at certain times. Obviously, this does not mean that you get to skive, but setting these expectations right from the start will greatly help with future communication about work.

  2. Schedule rest time AND rest days – do not feel guilty that you are utilising your leave days or rejecting your manager for working more shifts. But more than that, carve out time for yourself to rest and watch Netflix, read a book, hang out with your family etc. As long as it is non-work related, you are probably on the right track!

  3. Narrowing down which tasks are actually meaningful to your life – it just cannot be that everything is equally meaningful; what touches your heart the most? Why are you doing this, and is there something else that you wish to prioritise?

  4. Create moments of genuine connection with others – having a solid support network is very important for moments where you are down and you need a listening ear, and vice-versa of course! Also, you start to see each other as peers instead of competition 😊

Fundamentally, I think hustling in theory sounds fine, but in actuality, it picks at you slowly. If you really must hustle, then remember that moderation and balancing are important.

All the best for the new semester everyone, we’ll be back with a lot more articles very soon!

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