The Christian life should be a productive life.
Jesus Himself was the picture of productivity – everything He did, He did with intention. Why then do we struggle to be productive? I think the Enemy knows that distraction (even in the form of good things) will keep us from living effective lives for the gospel.
That’s why productivity isn’t just for self-help gurus. We tend to treat being productive like it’s incongruent with being spiritual, but the two are vitally connected. A productive spiritual life – achieved through discipline of mind and heart – overflows into a productive career, home, and life at large.
Since December’s theme is “grace-driven productivity”, I have a deluge of awesome posts headed your way! But before I give specific tips to boost your productivity and achieve your goals, we need to talk about what hasn’t worked in the past. Progress can’t be achieved if you don’t know what the problem is. So if you struggle to be productive, chances are it’s caused by one of the following reasons:
You Won’t Tell Anyone “No”
You might struggle to be productive because you won’t tell anyone “no” – including yourself. Some of us are “obligers”, a term coined by habit expert Gretchen Rubin for people who are largely motivated by pleasing others. Without healthy boundaries, your time will be completely taken up by impulse instead of intention.
It’s not rude or selfish to set limitations on your time. To the contrary, your time is extremely valuable! It is a precious commodity of which you only have a certain amount. Time, like money, must be told where to go. If you won’t tell it where to go, someone else will.
Productivity begins by assessing your priorities: what matters most in your life? Now tell your time to focus on these things. Say no to anything that doesn’t fit those priorities. Ask God to tell you when to say “no” and listen for His voice. And most of all, start developing the self control to tell yourself “no” – something we will talk about in detail this month.
You Look for Loopholes
Another thing preventing your productivity is the human tendency to look for loopholes. Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before has several chapters dedicated to the different loopholes we entertain. An example: you know you need to clean the house, but you tell yourself you deserve to sit down and watch Netflix because you worked all day. You created a loophole to avoid being productive, even though it was a false choice. Working all day doesn’t entitle you to Netflix; work is good and healthy and should be done regardless of reward.
When we create loopholes, we train our minds to associate work with instant reward. This isn’t real life, and it creates unhealthy patterns in our behavior. Sometimes we have to do things that we don’t like. We have to act the way we want to feel, not do things when we feel like it. Productivity is a lesson in self control and delayed gratification.
You Have a Negative View of Discipline
If you cringe when you hear the word “discipline”, it’s time to reframe your view of this word! While discipline can be associated with punishment, that’s not its foremost definition. Discipline is literally “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character”. Wow!
Do you see why Christians should actively pursue disciplined lives? The pursuit of discipline runs parallel to the sanctification of Christ. As God forms us into His image by His Spirit’s influence in our inner being, we discipline our outer lives in accordance with that influence. Discipline works in hand with God’s Spirit to “correct, mold, and perfect” our minds and character. Discipline is the most positive thing you can pursue!
Finally, discipline is central to a godly life:
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Heb. 12:11)
“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” (Prov. 12:1)
“But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Cor. 9:27)
You Think Being Productive is Unspiritual
My Facebook feed and Pinterest are bombarded with productivity posts by “leadership bloggers”. But how often does the church talk about this topic? With the word “discipline” relegated to the world of punishment, Christianity has become increasingly feelings-based. We think productivity and spirituality are separate entities. But as I stated earlier, these two are vitally connected.
If you think being productive is unspiritual, you probably won’t feel obligated to pursue a disciplined life. If you don’t make discipline a priority, don’t be surprised if you struggle to achieve your goals, make positive life changes, take control of your health, or develop lasting relationships. All these things flow from a life of gospel-centric productivity.
Start looking at discipline through the right lens: as a means to honor God and live effectively in the limited time you have on earth. Because it is indeed limited:
“When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” (Psalm 146:4)
Let’s flip this on its head: do you think leading an unstructured, undisciplined life is more spiritual than a life of order and purpose? You might think that avoiding structure and schedule gives you more time for people, but it doesn’t. When you refuse to order your hours, impulsiveness robs your relationships. You spend your time putting out the urgent rather than fulfilling the important.
Choosing a productive life isn’t just a spiritual issue. It’s a sin issue! When we refuse to take control of ourselves and live out God’s purpose, we’re dishonoring our bodies, our relationships, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
You Use Personality Type as an Excuse
Finally, you might struggle to be productive because you were “born this way”. Maybe you’re Type B. Maybe you didn’t have structured parents. Maybe you’re a night owl. Whatever it is, I’ve heard them all!
God has created each of us with individual strengths and passions. But while our personalities explain much of who we are, they do not excuse us from responsibility. When we commit to follow Christ, we’re committing to be His disciples. Note the similarity between disciple and discipline! Living an effective life for Christ doesn’t happen by accident. It requires constant pursuit of His holiness and presence. It requires walking in step with the work God’s Spirit is doing within us, letting our lives reflect His influence.
I’m Type A and an ENTJ in Myers Briggs. But I’m also a natural procrastinator, emotional eater, stress shopper, and excuse-maker. Every day I actively choose to deny myself and my impulses to achieve the things on my list. I say no to self and yes to God. If I can do it – so can you!
God created you for a purpose. You won’t find that purpose watching Netflix every night.
If you’ve struggled to find passion and contentment, I guarantee you it’s connected to the level of discipline in your life. That’s why I’m excited for what lies ahead this month! As you implement the tips I’ll give you, your life will develop a structure specific to your calling from God. You’ll see change. You’ll get excited. You’ll build momentum.
And you’ll start advancing the gospel while achieving your goals.