Ten Myths About Productivity pt.2

Matt Perman

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 #6: The aim of time management should be our peace of mind

Peace of mind is a good thing, but there is something even more important. The reason we should seek to be productive is to enable ourselves to serve others more effectively to the glory of God, and not for the sake of personal peace and affluence. Ironically, however, true peace of mind results when the good of others is our chief 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 first and crush others. It turns out that not only is that an un-Christian ethic, but it also doesn’t work. The biggest trend in the marketplace is, 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: To-do lists are enough

I made this mistake for years. I read Getting Things Done and created all sorts of next action lists, project lists, and someday maybe lists. Yet, I rarely achieved “mind like water.” Instead, my typical state could have been described as “mind like tsunami.”

What I came to realize is that time is like space. If we don’t think in 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 as support material for your basic schedule, not as sufficient in themselves to keep track of what you have to do.

Myth #9: Productivity is best defined by tangible outcomes

We often think of productivity as getting concrete, physical things done—emails sent, widgets made, and assignments completed. These things are important, but they do not exhaust the scope of our productivity.

More and more, productivity is about intangibles— relationships developed, connections made, and things learned. We need to incorporate these things into our definition of productivity, or we will short-change ourselves by thinking that sitting at our desk for a certain number of hours equals a productive day.

Truth: The greatest value comes from intangibles, not tangibles.

Myth #10: The time you spend working is a good measure of your productivity

Being at your desk doesn’t equal being productive, and organizations should no longer measure an employee’s productivity that way. At the same time, other things take far longer than you would think: sometimes the best way to be productive is actually to be inefficient.

As a corollary to this, deadlines work well with execution tasks (the realm of personal management), but they do not work well with creative tasks and ambiguity (the realm of personal leadership). If you use deadlines and the efficiency paradigm there, you will often kill productivity rather than encourage it.

Truth: We need to measure productivity based on results, not time spent working.

Click Here to read part 1 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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