August 22, 2017

How Does the Gospel Transform Productivity?

Like most of you, I live a busy life with too many things on my to-do list and not enough hours in the day to get it all done. Poor planning, unforeseen interruptions, and just life in general all combine to make productivity much harder than it should be. And one glance at the personal development section at Barnes & Noble reveals that many of us feel that way! In fact, a quick search for “productivity books” on Amazon returns over 36,000 results. I guess we have a problem with getting things done.

Is the answer simply learning various methods and strategies to streamline our work and do more in less time? I don’t think so. To be sure, those methods can be helpful — almost anyone can benefit from learning how to plan out their week, block out distractions, or set up their workspace more effectively.

But I think the root problem goes deeper than that. You can employ all the productivity strategies in the world, and still not accomplish anything of value. You can read all the books, follow all the experts’ advice, and still end up not achieve contentment with your efforts.

The root problem with our lack of productivity is not inefficiency but ineffectiveness.

What are we really trying to accomplish with being more productive? Only when we know our reasons for pursuing a goal can we capably evaluate methods and strategies for getting it done. Determining our “why” is crucial to being effective at anything.

So why do you want to be more productive? What is your root motivation for wanting to do more in less time?

  • Relaxing or having time to do more “fun” things?
  • Advancing to higher positions in your job?
  • Feeling less overwhelmed by your to-do list?
  • Earning more money to save for the future?
  • Feeling more successful by accomplishing big goals?
  • Streamlining your day to make it less chaotic?

None of those are bad motivations in themselves. There’s nothing inherently wrong with enjoying life, being organized and efficient in our tasks, preparing for the future, or achieving great things in life. But what happens when we allow any of those to be the sole determiner of how we structure our days, handle interruptions, or plan for the future?

If we focus too closely on any of these reasons to “get more done,” our attention will turn away from what pleases God to what pleases ourselves, and our desires will turn from how to serve others to how we can be served by others.

For a Christian, that’s unacceptable. The world can reach for success, comfort, or status as much as it wants; but we are called to a higher purpose. For us, to live is Christ — not fun, convenience, comfort, fame, or fortune. We are not to conform to this world’s aims and desires, but to be transformed into living sacrifices for the sake of Christ. That means we will have to sacrifice certain desires or goals that are close to our hearts for the sake of accomplishing God’s commands and purposes.

Remember what God said were the greatest two commandments? Love Him, which we do by glorifying Him in obedience — and love others, which we do by serving them wholeheartedly.

Loving God and others should be the foundation of how we think about productivity! {tweet this}

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t find meaning in our jobs, or take time to have fun, or save money to make life a little more comfortable. But those should not be our highest aim: they should not dictate our to-do lists.

"We need to look to God to define for us what productivity is, rather than to simply subscribe to the ambiguous concept of 'what matters most.' For God is what matters most." - Matt Perman

When loving God and loving others is our greatest focus, that will determine not only what we strive to accomplish but also how we accomplish those tasks. It will affect our:

  • work ethic
  • core values
  • clarity of purpose
  • long- and short-term goals
  • ability to manage distractions
  • role within the home
  • contributions to society

This is how the gospel can transform our productivity. It tells us to love others sacrificially. It tells us to be humble and servant-hearted. It tells us to be merciful, hospitablegenerous, zealous for good works. It tells us to do all things with excellence, and for the glory of God.

Gospel-driven productivity is first about others — doing good for them, serving them, loving them — rather than ourselves.

“A radical concern for others is to be at the heart of our productivity and at the heart of everything we do every day. Hence, being productive is not just about getting things done. It’s about being a useful person, making a contribution, and leaving things better than you found them.” – Matt Perman

Seeing productivity in light of the gospel is the only way to determine “what’s best next” for our days and weeks and years. Once we understand that the core objective for getting things done is to benefit others, for the glory of God, things will start sliding into focus and we will find it much easier to plan our days, manage distractions, and choose wise goals for the future. Only then can we effectively consider strategies and methods to help us in that aim.

What's Best Next, by Matt PermanSeeking to be productive without God is the most unproductive thing in the world. {tweet this}

For more on this topic, I’d recommend reading Matt Perman’s book, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (affiliate link). It’s not a traditional “productivity book,” although it does include some ideas and practices for working and living more effectively. It’s more like a combination of a practical theology of work and gospel-oriented advice for ordering your life.

The book starts by building a strong case for a biblical view of productivity, and distinguishing it from the world’s view of getting things done. It lays the groundwork for understanding why a good theology of productivity matters, how it will help us become better Christians, and what benefits it will provide — other than getting more things done. [Read more about the book here.]

After establishing a strong foundation of how the Bible defines productivity, it then moves into more practical application of those principles. Some sections I found especially helpful were: how and why to create a mission statement and define your core roles in light of the gospel, how to plan your week with a view for serving others, and how to delegate for the benefit of others (not just for your own purposes).

This book will challenge your thinking! It’s not a fast read, although it’s well-written and engaging. But it requires a lot of thought and calls for some “homework” along the way — for instance, the chapter on creating a mission statement or defining your roles requires taking time out to do just that. It’s not a book worth rushing through. Thankfully, each chapter closes with a box (literally called “The Box”) that includes the chapter’s core point, core quote, and core Scripture passage; a task for immediate application; common questions and answers; and further resources about the chapter’s content.

The book ends with a “toolkit” that can be revisited time and again, whenever you need a refresher on some aspect of gospel-driven productivity. It includes a 500-word recap of the entire topic; an easy reference guide to key issues in productivity (pointing to various pages within the book itself); an annotated bibliography for further reading on key related topics; and a list of tools available for free online, including checklists, bonus chapters, and other helpful articles.

If you’re at all concerned about getting the right things done in your life — the things that will most glorify God and show His love to others — I’d highly recommend it!

 

How do you allow God’s Word to transform your productivity?

 


Comments

  1. I always enjoy reading helps on life management. That sounds like a good book. We probably don’t think much about planning our week based on serving others. I don’t anyway.

Trackbacks

  1. […] This will probably end up being one of my favorite reads from this year. It’s not another productivity book, despite the “get things done” phrase in the subtitle. It’s more like a combination of a practical theology of work and gospel-oriented advice for ordering your life. It not only establishes a strong foundation of how the Bible defines productivity, but offers practical application of those principles. If you’re at all concerned about getting the right things done in your life — the things that will most glorify God and show His love to others — I’d highly recommend it! Read the full review here. […]

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