7 Tips for Being More Productive

Living Productively

Productivity is not just for students or high executives; it is not only for YouTube entrepreneurs or knowledge workers. Productivity is for everyone, for everyone lives within time and wishes to live well within that time. In the end, that’s what productivity is about—a life well-lived, not wasted. The Christian knows that a truly productive life is a life lived for the glory of God, striving to use every resource he has placed in our hands with wisdom, walking with joy and dedication in those good works our Lord has prepared for us (Eph. 2:10). What many Christians don’t know is how to go about living that way.

Here are seven thoughts that might help you:

1. Pray about it, and get to work.

We sometimes act as if God is up there in the sky waiting for us to make the right choices, ready to smite us or at least shake his head in disappointment when we eventually fail. This view of God is poison for our souls and for our productivity. We won’t get far before we feel defeated and give up. Fortunately, this view of God is a lie.

We’ve said that God is the one who prepared the good works we’re supposed to be walking in. This reminds us that our Heavenly Father is the one who’s most interested in our obedience and holiness (he has provided everything we need for it, including the sacrifice of his Son!); God is the one who’s most interested in our productivity. He not only prepares good works for us but he also makes our path straight, promises to give the wisdom we need to please him, and assures us that he’s working all things together for our good.

As we strive to live a productive life, we can turn towards God in confident prayer, asking him for guidance and strength.

Make the Most of Your Productivity

Ana Ávila

In this user-friendly guide, Ana Ávila teaches 6 principles to help you honor God with all you have and reflect his character through your creativity.

2. Get some tools, and stop trying to find the perfect app.

We are going to need tools to manage in wisdom the resources God has given us. A calendar, a good filing system, and a to-do list app or notebook are more than enough to start to put your responsibilities in order. I recommend starting by doing a “brain dump” on a piece of paper. Take fifteen minutes to write down everything that’s on your mind, and then categorize each element of your list as either a meeting, information (data, files), or action item (projects, tasks). Add meetings to your calendar, file your information, and add your action items in a task manager tool.

A common productivity pitfall is trying to find the perfect tool for your organizational systems. There is no such thing. Playing around with habit-tracking apps or calendars with fun features is a very respectable way of procrastinating, but it’s still procrastinating. Don’t fall into that trap. Use what works for you and focus on walking faithfully, no matter what tools you decide to get in your productivity toolbox.

3. Plan your week, and don’t be discouraged when your plan falls through.

Now that you have your tools, you need to establish a regular time to go through them and make sure you are moving forward in those good works that God has prepared for you. I usually do this on Friday afternoon, since Saturday is my day of rest. I check my calendar and my projects—what got done and what didn’t—move things around, and decide what tasks will need to get done next. I usually come out of these planning sessions with my priorities for the following week and a meal plan.

Does everything in my plan get done by Friday? Sometimes. Not terribly often. Things come up during the week— meetings that come with little notice, tasks that take much longer than anticipated, kids that get sick and require nursing. In those moments I need to remember that, although things can be unexpected for me, they are never unexpected for my Lord. My job is not to cling to a plan made by an imperfect human, but to surrender to the plans of my perfect God, adapting and walking faithfully in these new circumstances.

4. Have a set time to work, and a set time to rest.

Productivity and rest are not two things that you are supposed to balance. Rest is a crucial part of your productivity. You can’t work well if you don’t rest well. If you neglect your time of sleep and refreshment, you are effectively neglecting your time of focus and effort.

Productivity requires wisdom to discern when it’s time to work and discipline to work when it’s time to work. Productivity also requires wisdom to discern when it’s time to rest and discipline to rest when it’s time to rest. In our modern age of screens in pockets and permanent connections, the lines between work and rest are usually blurred beyond recognition. We can change that, and we should. Make sure you know when it’s time to be “on” and when it’s time to be “off”. Praise God both through your effort and through your surrender.

True productivity is not about results but about faithfulness.

5. Be inspired by productive people, and stop comparing yourself to others.

Biographies are a great way to take a closer look at the lives of godly people and understand how they used the resources God placed in their hands for his glory. But we shouldn’t limit ourselves to learning from famous saints. Our local communities are filled with exemplary but often overlooked people who can teach us how to live productive lives. Spend time with them, ask them questions, and emulate their rhythms when it makes sense.

While you do this, though, be careful not to forget that you are a unique individual. Your strengths, weaknesses, gifts, passions, and struggles are not the same ones as those of the people you admire. There is no one way to live a productive life. There are general principles of wisdom, but your walk might look very different from the people who surround you.

6. Forget about multitasking, and enjoy every different thing you get to do.

You can’t multitask. I’m (not) sorry to tell you that God is the only person who can be in multiple places at once. You can’t do it—not in your body, not in your mind. When you “multitask” you are switching rapidly from one object of focus to another. This is an ineffective way to complete a project since your brain takes time to refamiliarize with the activity you are working on. It is better to focus on one task at a time, from beginning to end, as much as possible.

Much of our stress comes from having one responsibility before us and having another one lurking in our minds. I’m washing the dishes but I should be answering emails; I’m answering emails but I should be playing with my boys; I’m playing with my boys but I should be writing that article. When we are good stewards, though, we plan and determine when it is time to do each thing, and then we can fully enjoy the task that is before us at that moment.

7. Rejoice in the Lord through planting seeds, and recognize you may not get to see the fruit.

True productivity is not about results but about faithfulness. We have little control over the outcomes of our efforts. We can pray and plan and strive and rest but still have nothing to show for at the end of the week. That can be discouraging until we remember that our offerings to the Lord are not only the fruits of our labor but also our prayers, our planning, our striving, and our rest. We are productive when we are walking in the good works God has prepared for us, whatever the results of those good works are.

So let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up (Gal. 6:9). That reaping might be tomorrow or in the age to come. Either way, we can rejoice in God, continuing to use everything he has given us for his glory and the good of our neighbor. That is what productivity is all about.

Ana Ávila is the author of Make the Most of Your Productivity: A Guide to Honoring God with Your Time.

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