Are you productive?
I’ll ask a different way: Do you merely get things done or do you get the right things done?
For years I considered myself a productive person. I’ve always been both early to rise and late to bed. I had lists, projects, and goals I wanted to accomplish and aimed my life at them. And while I was accomplishing much and in some ways feeling productive, I also felt that something was missing, that there was something I should be doing that I wasn’t. But I was too busy to stop and figure out what that was.
The question that was running circles in my mind was this: I am being efficient, but am I being effective? I know I am getting things done but am I doing the right things?
Often we make lists and assemble schedules for our day. But we often skip the most vital question of true productivity: What kinds of things ought I be doing? Are the things I am doing the most important or am I letting what is urgent crowd out what is vital?
You can shoot 50 arrows a day but that doesn’t make you an effective archer if you aren’t hitting anything in particular. Sure, you’ll get good at the mechanics of shooting arrows but those arrows will be scattered randomly around your yard. Archers don’t just shoot arrows – they hit targets.
So, in order to hit targets, you have to know where you’re aiming. If you want a productive life, you must first set your targets and then consider the best way you can hit them. Productivity is determining what is ultimate in your life and then making sure that pursuing those things fill your hours and days.
These are two essential questions that I have learned to ask myself in cultivating a truly productive life.
1. What is the ultimate goal of my life?
The Westminster shorter catechism famously asks, “What is the chief end of man?” Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. For every Christian, that is your ultimate purpose in life.
Thus you must ask yourself, “What is true of a person whose life is characterized by a joy-filled glorying in God?” As I was worked through that question, here’s what struck me as necessary: bible study, prayer, a pursuit of holiness, church involvement, evangelism, hospitality, and personal health. So when making my weekly schedule, I make sure that I block out sufficient time to pursue those goals. If these are the things that I have determined will help me pursue my ultimate purpose in life, they need to be in my schedule.
2. What roles has God given that I need to carry out faithfully?
Each of us have different roles that fall uniquely to us. For me, I have three main spheres of responsibility: family, ministry, and school. What does it look like for me to be faithful in those areas?
Within the family sphere, for example, I am a husband, dad, home-owner, son, and brother. So I need to ask, “What would it look like for me to be a faithful husband? What kind of dad do I want to be?” and so on. Once I answer those questions, I make sure that the essential things get planned out.
Some times there will be conflicts. You won’t be able to make everything fit in every week. But if you review these things on a weekly basis (I made out Life Planning for Dustin Coleman to help me do this), your arrows will get closer and closer to the bullseye. You won’t just get things done-you’ll get the right things done.
Ask yourself on a weekly basis, “How can I live for the glory of God this week? What do I need to do to be faithful in the areas God has called me?” If you answer these two questions and then make sure those answers are etched on your schedule, your life will be effective and productive. You will see yourself start to become the person you know that you should be. And the impact you can have on others will blossom.