Ten Myths About Productivity pt.1

Matt Perman | October 14, 2013

I spent way too much time in my twenties working 90-hour weeks and pulling all-nighters.

I loved what I did and, working for a ministry, I saw it as a way to serve in light of the tight staffing budgets that most non-profits and ministries have to deal with. But this pace was obviously not sustainable. I was relying too much on brute force and high energy to get things done.

As leaders, it’s especially easy to fall into this trap. Sometimes, it slowly creeps up on us without our even realizing it. That’s why every so often we need to step back and assess the way we go about our work.

So, if we are going to get things done in the way God wants us to get them done, here are ten of the top myths we need to bust.

Myth#1: Productivity is about getting more done faster

When most people think of productivity, they think of efficiency—getting more things done in less time. While efficiency is important, it is secondary. More important than efficiency is effectiveness—getting the right things done. Efficiency doesn’t matter if 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. According to the Scriptures, the foundation of effectiveness is not first techniques and tools, but character. The only way to truly make the right decisions is to first be the right kind of person (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 5:15-17; 2 Peter 1:5-11).

Truth: True productivity comes first from character, not techniques.

Myth#3: We can approach productivity without making God explicit

I certainly don’t want to imply that a person has to be a Christian to have something to say about how to get things done. Much of this is the realm of common grace and we have a lot that we can learn from people of all perspectives.

But the problem is if we stop there. For example, we often go about our planning as if it was just like any other activity. But the Scriptures teach that to make plans without acknowledging God is not just wrong, but arrogant (James 4:13-17). We do not have the leisure, then, of thinking about these things without making God explicit.

Truth: We cannot be truly productive unless all our activity stems from love for God and the acknowledgement that he is sovereign over all our plans.

Myth #4: We can approach productivity without making the gospel central

The way to become productive is not first of all to try harder—even if the focus of our efforts is the development of our character. The true power behind our productivity comes from realizing that, through faith in the gospel, we are accepted by God in Christ apart from what we do (that is, apart from our productivity!). This puts wind in our sails and unleashes the power of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 3:5) so that we are then able to excel in doing good for others.

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 getting things done need to be ultra-organized, rigidly scheduled, and inflexible. But nothing could be further from the truth.

You are actually most productive not by seeking to tightly control yourself, but by seeking to unleash yourself. The best productivity comes from engagement, not control and mere compliance. This is why operating in your strengths is so important. Further, this approach to productivity is very much in sync with a right understanding of the gospel, which has freedom at its heart (Galatians 5:1, 13) – not rigid constraints and rules.

Truth: Productivity comes from engagement, not tight control, and when you are motivated, you don’t need to tightly control yourself.

 

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of Matt's article. 

Matt Perman is former director of strategy at Desiring God and is currently launching an organization to equip Christian leaders in the developing world. Follow his Blog.

This is an excerpt from his forthcoming book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done.

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