Do you understand productivity in the right way? Is your approach to”getting things done” rooted in the gospel and its implications?
The things I advocate in my book on gospel-centered productivity What’s Best Next? are supported by the best research and the Scriptures, but many of themmight seem new to you. Here are the top twelve myths the book seeks toovercome:
Myth#1: Productivity is about getting more done faster.
When most people think of productivity, they think ofefficiency—getting more things done faster. While efficiency isimportant, it is secondary. More important than efficiency iseffectiveness—getting the right things done. Efficiency doesn’t matterif you are doing the wrong things in the first place.
Truth: Productivity is about effectiveness first, not efficiency
Myth #2: The way to be productive is to have the right techniques and tools.
Using great tools and the most helpful techniques is a lot of fun.But, like efficiency, it is secondary. One of the central tenets ofgospel-centered productivity is that the foundation of effectiveness isnot first techniques and tools, but character. The only way to trulymake the right decisions is to first be the right kind of person (Romans 12:1-2; 2 Peter 1:5-8).
Truth: True productivity comes first from character, not techniques.
Myth #3: It is not essential to give consideration to what God has to say about productivity.
I don’t want to imply you have to be a Christian to get things doneor write on how to get things done. Much of this is the realm of commongrace and we have a lot that we can learn from people of allperspectives.
The problem is if we stop there. For example, we often go about ourplanning as if it was just like any other activity. But the Scripturesteach that to make plans without acknowledging God is not just wrong,but arrogant (James 4:13-17). There are very significant things that wemiss if we do not give serious consideration to what God has to say onthese matters.
Truth: We cannot be truly productive unless all our activity stems from love for God and the acknowledgement that he is sovereignover all our plans.
Myth #4: It is not essential to make the gospel central in our view of productivity.
The way to become productive is not first of all to try harder—evenif the focus of our efforts is the development of our character. Thetrue power behind our productivity comes from realizing that, throughfaith in the gospel, we are accepted by God in Christ apart from what we do. This puts wind in our sails and unleashes the power of the Spiritin our lives (Galatians 3:5).
Truth: The only way to be productive is to realize that you don’t have to be productive.
Myth #5: The way to be productive is to tightly manage yourself (and others!).
Sometimes we have the notion that people who care about gettingthings done need to be ultra-organized, rigidly scheduled, andinflexible. But nothing could be further from the truth. You areactually most productive not by seeking to tightly control yourself, but by seeking to unleash yourself. The best productivity comes fromengagement, not control and mere compliance. This is why operating inyour strengths is so important. Further, this approach to productivitynaturally follows from a right understanding of the gospel.
Truth: Productivity comes from engagement, not tight control, and when you are motivated, you don’t need to tightly control yourself.
Myth #6: The aim of time management should be our peace of mind.
Peace of mind is a good thing, but there is something far moreimportant. The reason we should seek to be productive is to serve others to the glory of God, and not for the sake of personal peace andaffluence. Ironically, however, true peace of mind results when the good of others, and not our own peace of mind, is the first aim.
Truth: Productivity is first about doing good for others, to the glory of God.
Myth #7: The way to succeed is to put yourself first.
It is often thought that the way to succeed is to put yourself firstand crush others. It turns out that not only is that an un-Christianethic, but it also doesn’t work. The biggest trend in the marketplaceis, as Tim Sanders has put it, “the downfall of the barracudas, sharks,and piranhas, and the ascendancy of nice, smart people.”
Truth: You become most productive by putting others first, not yourself.
Myth #8: You will have peace of mind if you can get everything under control.
The problem is that this never works, and cannot work. It is simplynot possible to have everything under control, and so the quest to baseyour peace of mind on your ability to control everything is futile. Ourpeace of mind must be based on another ground—namely, the gospel.
Truth: Basing your peace of mind on your ability to control everything will never work.
Myth #9: To-do lists are enough.
I made this mistake for years. I read Getting Things Doneand created all sorts of next action lists, project lists, and somedaymaybe lists. Yet, I rarely achieved “mind like water.” Instead, mytypical state could have been described as “mind like tsunami.”
What I came to realize is that time is like space. If we don’t thinkin terms of a basic schedule and having time slots for our main types of tasks, we end up in overload.
Truth: Time is like space, and you need to see lists assupport material for your activity zones, not as sufficient inthemselves to keep track of what you have to do.
Myth #10: Productivity is best defined by tangible outcomes.
We often think of productivity as getting concrete, physical thingsdone—emails sent, widgets made, and assignments completed. These thingsare important, but they do not exhaust the scope of our productivity.More and more, productivity is about intangibles—relationshipsdeveloped, connections made, and things learned. We need to incorporatethese things into our definition of productivity, or we willshort-change ourselves by thinking that sitting at our desk for acertain number of hours equals a productive day.
Truth: The greatest value comes from intangibles, not tangibles.